Georg Parthen and Geoff Tuck: An Exchange

Georg Parthen, Enklave, 94 x 160 cm 2009, aus "Landschaften"


Hello Geoff,

it was nice talking to you at the show and I would like to continue our discussion at another time, maybe through email.

I do not know if Marcus has sent you installation shots of the show already but if not I attached some for you.



Georg Parthen, Berg, 94 x 179 cm 2009, aus "Landschaften"

Georg Parthen, o.T., 50 x 65 cm 2009, aus "Beaugrenelle"


Hi Georg, this is wonderful. Thanks! I also would like to continue our conversation.

I am now viewing untitled (AFX), 2011: The fuel truck and the baggage loader do a nice pas de deux and this begins a veritable crescendo of activity. Crossings of paths left to right. Fat and skinny planes, a cool white security car with blue light flashing. It all seems to have significance and I am not certain why. Have you removed something from the central field of vision? The film is very good to watch. Can you tell me about this project?

In the Novae at JB Jurve pieces you mentioned foregrounding, or highlighting technologies that soon will disappear, and this draws my attention to the certainty we feel in each moment – that nothing ever will change. I am reassured knowing that while these particular means of communication may disappear, as you said at the reception, “There will be another to replace it (in our lives).” Which is it we require? The abilities that these tools bring us, or the fact of having tools to distract us?

I hope that you enjoyed Joshua Tree as well as the rest of your stay in Los Angeles.



Georg Parthen, o.T., 60 x 50 cm 2004, aus "Beaugrenelle"

Georg Parthen, o.T., 60 x 50 cm 2004, aus "Beaugrenelle"


Georg Parthen, o.T., 21 x 28 cm 2006, aus "Carports"

Georg Parthen, o.T., 21 x 28 cm 2006, aus "Carports"



Glad to hear. And thank you for your interest in my work. I appreciate it a lot.

The video you were viewing is a recent piece I did in May. As most of my work it is a construction that engages with the documentary implications of the medium. I composed it from a lot of  footage and its structure – and hopefully the tone – is derived from a Haruki Murakami short story (“airplane”). I hope that people catch an underlying melancholy but also a sense of disbelief in what they are looking at.

But it is not necessary for the viewer to know my motivation or the story. If you watch closely or more than once you might notice that something is a little “off” or that the same plane might be taking off more than once.I like your statement about not being sure about the significance of the individual elements but realizing that they are not random. It feels you have picked up on the “meta-narrative” (please excuse the artspeak) and pretty much grasped what I was hoping for.

I am not sure I understand your second question right but I will try my best to answer it. [ed. Indeed, on reflection even I am not certain where I was going with that strain of art speak. It’s nice to be called on it.] I think that pointing a camera on something very contemporary and mundane makes the medium become “opaque” and we look at these images like looking at the places I photographed. But there is a such a great difference of looking at a photograph – even one that is less constructed than mine – and looking at the physical world around. So there is a hopefully a strong implication in using photography which tends to “freeze time” and showing these fleeting technologies. I see my work as partly a comment on cultural production but I am also interested in creating smart and compelling art which serves a function in society as well. Did this answer in any way your question?

I have to go now because I am flying back to Germany tonight. Jushua Tree was amazing and the week in Los Angeles as well. I am for sure coming back and hope to hear from you again.



Georg Parthen, NV XII, 52 x 40 cm 2010, aus "Novae"

Georg Parthen, NV VI, 52 x 39 cm 2010, aus "Novae"



I appreciate your patience and I hope you can take some more time with me.

The Murakami reference is very helpful and you manage to present the mystery of Murakami’s story so very beautifully in your video!

Honestly I am not certain now about my query regarding your Novae pieces – your reply is helpful though. Can I tell you that as an observer when first I viewed the Novae photos they resembled to me photographs of sculptures, and also they resembled sculptural objects themselves.

Do all your photographs lack people? As I look at the images on your site I recall how very clean those interiors are! (Good lord, I feel shabby in comparison. Typical response to consumer goods, laughing.)

At the reception you mentioned that all the technologies currently being fetishized that are represented in your Novae work will become obsolete relatively soon. As you pointed out there will be ‘new and improved’ consumer goods to replace them. This scenario offers so many opportunities for despair. And for redemption. Is this a consumer capital critique on your part? I mean – it certainly makes me want to scream a little.

What I think of as a seamless quality to the photographs, meaning a perfection of image, I see reflected in the work of your teacher, Jorg Sasse – if anything some of his photos are even more blank and forbidding than yours. Is it that what I call ‘seamless’ you refer to as ‘opaque”? What did you mean by “medium becomes ‘opaque'”?

In a recent interview ( ) you discuss notions of veracity – of ‘making things look real, or more than real,’ and indeed the work at Jurve does look more real than reality. I appreciate what you say about ‘real life’ having a four dimensional quality that photography lacks – as one who relies often on photographs to help readers ‘see’ what i am writing about I worry all the time that a reader will think that he or she has seen an art work that they have viewed an image of. In photography how much does installation matter? What might I learn from seeing the Novae photos in person rather than on a monitor? How do you hope the installation at JB Jurve will inform a viewer’s understanding of the work? Did you know of the commercial nature of the surrounding neighborhood, with its shops full of objects – messy, busy and cheap?

By the way, I enjoy art that makes me question the veracity of my observations, of the artist, of the world pictured and of the artwork itself. Too many people currently offer what they term “the truth” and I know these all to be liars. Your work presents itself to me as much more complicated than such a simple claim. Aya!!!!

I hope that I am not rambling or taking too much time from you. I have enjoyed reading your responses and what I find online from and about your work.


Georg Parthen, NV IX, 52 x 38 cm 2010, aus "Novae"



There are so many questions in your message that I am going to answer them one by one in order to not miss too many.

Honestly I am not certain now about my query regarding your Novae pieces…

The sculptural quality of the objects and spaces I work about is really important to me. It has been present in most of my works for a long time that I recently began to explore this aspect more rationally. Currently I am working on a series of still life images in which I hope to work about the relationship between sculpture and its photographic representation. While photographing Novae it soon became clear to me that in order to find a photographic solution to these multifaceted spaces with I would need to very strictly compose and frame my images. Perhaps this adds up to the impression you have.

At the reception you mentioned…

I would rather call it cultural pessimism than a critique on capitalism. We want all these technologies because we hope it will make us a better person or enrich our provide us with some level of completion.

So it is comforting to know that all these technologies will eventually fade away and make space for others carrying the same promises. I look at these places with amazement and melancholy. They are perfect in their own right and while I know they are optimized to make customers consume I think there is something else to them. Through the transition into images all functional aspects of these spaces are “stripped away” and only aesthetic and visual features remain. I feel these visual qualities to be highly characteristic of our time and hope to distill them into my work.

Do all your photographs lack people?

Thus far I made two pieces that have people in them. One in a photograph 2004 and one in a recent video from 2011.

What I think of as seamless quality to the photographs…

When I referred to the medium becoming ‘opaque’ I meant that we look at photographs from other times differently than at the ones from the present. Photos of contemporary things or current affairs or even your Iphone photo of that new TV-table are usually very much about and part of the world they depict. When an image shows us the very reality we are surrounded by it seems easier to overlook the fact it is a photograph and not a table. The medium becomes ‘transparent’.  I imagine Jorg Sasse’s photographs of shop displays from the 1980s to be perceived much differently in the time he photographed them than we see them now. If I recall it right he told me once that people sometimes asked him why he would take photos of “that” instead of something more ‘more photographic’. His photos have become images in their own right and also a document of their time. And to say it more extreme:  Today Robert Capa’s iconic image is related much more to the history of photography than to the person it is a photograph of. But it was not by the time he took it.

In a recent interview ( ) you discuss notions of veracity…

In the same interview I also mentioned that I perceive photographic images as an abstraction from the physical world. As cheesy as it might sound I think there is no substitute to genuine experience. If you think you want to know what this guy is talking about go see it!  If I read your blog and your review of a show it just is a different experience than to go see the show in person. Not better or worse, just very different. As a writer and critic you probably are dealing with this experience on a daily basis so I wonder if you feel you are informing the way people see a show when you write and post about it? Will they see it differently through your writing?

Exhibitions and artworks are usually made to be experienced in person and my photos are no exception. They are not made for the screen.  Obviously there are technical aspects like a uncallibrated colors, lack of resolution, etc.  but there are also tactile qualities and spatial relations that you can only experience by being in the space and interacting with the work.

What is your opinion on this? Do you think you prevent people from seeing shows by writing about them? Isn’t it rather a motivation to see a show if there is a well-written review about it?

What might I learn from seeing the Novae photos in person rather than on a monitor? How do you hope the installation at JB Jurve to inform a viewer’s understanding of the work? Did you know the commercial nature of the surrounding neighborhood, with its shops full of objects, messy, busy and cheap?

I think JB Jurve’s space is really the perfect setting for the Novae images and Chris Lipomi’s sculptures. Together with the industrial interior of the space the show itself becomes one large-scale installation where all elements serve as a context for each other. Some details in the space’s architecture even are mysteriously ‘repeated’ in my images. When setting up the show we discussed the way we want people to interact with the work and how the installation could serve to do this. We hope to have set a tone in which the show resonates with viewers. What do you think? Did it work out?

….. wow. So many questions and so many things to think about. Hopefully I came up with anything useful. Still feels like I forgot to mention many important things but talked about other things too much. Anyhow, I feel like I am more skilled in making images than to talk about them.

Thank you for asking me all this and for writing about the show. In Berlin I know of no comparable form where someone writes regularly and in-depth about local art and exhibitions so I really appreciate what you are doing! Thanks.

All the Best,


Georg Parthen, Multiplex VIII, (Village-Cinemas Oberhausen), 30 x 40 cm 2007, aus "Multiplex"

Georg Parthen, Multiplex IX, (UCI-Kinowelt Hürth), 30 x 39 cm 2007, aus "Multiplex"


Dear Georg,

Thank you for this generous, thoughtful and thought provoking exchange – I have learned much, not only about your work and the exhibition at JB Jurve but really much more. I am grateful for your time and deep consideration.

You ask great questions, too! Allow me to respond to yours.

I too am a believer in genuine experience and indeed my first goal when writing is to encourage readers to visit an exhibition and to see the work of any artist about which and whom I write.

To me one of the charms, if you will, of the Internet is that subjectivity is made clear from the moment one begins to pay attention. Readers are aware of my presence through my voice and also aware of the physical place of an exhibition or an artist’s studio because of my references to the geography and psychological space. In this way I deny any hope of an objective reading and I make clear that what one gets from Notes on Looking is my own work about the work of other artists. That said, I work my ass off to explore with each artist their own thoughts and I want as much as possible to keep my writing limited to what I see, hear, smell, feel when experiencing the art and what I learn from the artist. My own ideas tend to express themselves as questions rather than opinions.

Regarding use of images as stand-ins for experience. A big ‘Humbug!’ to anybody who claims to represent an experience using images or text. Recently I have been using images that suggest the work rather than represent it. I am careful only to use ‘representational’ images that the artist approves and in addition I sometimes will use iPhone snapshots of my own sketches and notes or of the neighborhood around the gallery or studio and even pictures of my drive or walk to the space. Again, I think that these strategies can help people understand that the art I write about is part of the world and does not need help or apologies to ‘make it’ in this larger world. And, my fingers are crossed, if I take a picture from an oblique view of a work it might inspire a reader to visit the show to see another view of their own choosing.

I admire and even love the installation at JB Jurve! Your photos remind me of the very shops I referred to as ‘messy, busy and cheap’ and the photographs’ proximity to Chris’s sculptures really enhanced my seeing the photos as sculptures themselves. Hmm, thinking about Chris’s sculptures and the tables on which he has placed them – with their brown paper covering and plain aspect – if his sculptures feel like representations of objects, as in if they are modeled on ‘real’ things, then I think those things must reside as much within Chris’s head as in the world, and I wonder how this informs your photos? On the other hand, Lipomi’s objects feel very intuitive and even emotional, don’t they? They have a mystery for me, like….. remnants from some hallowed ground of another and perhaps a lost culture. Thinking this way makes me wonder what intuitive or even self portraiture place your photos may come from?

Is there a thing that you are working out and skirting around? Often I think that this is what art does, or does well: the work describes the edges of what an artist is trying to do, rather than illustrates the whole. The point as a viewer might be to be left with questions – the asking of which might take one on a similar intellectual journey as the artist. Necessarily each person will take a different path.

Thank you for your kind words about Notes on Looking – I appreciate the sentiment.

All my best,


Georg Parthen, o.T., 50 x 63 cm 2005, aus "Ohne Orte"

Dear Geoff,

I have another trip coming up and in the coming days I have scheduled studio time in which I hope to produce new stil life work. Eventually I hope this will evolve into the new project I mentioned before in which I am working about sculptural qualities more.

All the Best,


P.S.: I was just reading about Peter Holzhauer’s show on your blog. I met him at the show at JB Jurve and had a brief talk with him. After reading your article I am going research his work now.


Dear Georg,

I hope that you will share your work with me as it develops.

Cheers and all the best,


All images © Georg Parthen und VG Bild-Kunst

Georg Parthen website:

JB Jurve website:

Notes on Looking on JB Jurve exhibition:

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