The amateur's one minute critique

Wolfgang Tillmans
2017
Tate Modern, London



While a very large exhibition with no less than 15 rooms, 2017 is not a retrospective as little of the work exhibited pre-dates 2003. Tillmans took sole command of the vast space to display his vision addressing different sets of political and social concerns on a global level. The multifaceted aspect of this body of work reflects his eclectic interests, though perhaps better described as concerns.

Tillmans certainly addresses the brutality of modern life, defined by him as starting in 2003 and the Irak war with claims far and wide of absolute truths, and the coexistence brought on by technology of the personal, private, public and political spheres. Technology enabled him to capture in detail “the excess of information that is often described as a condition of contemporary life. Communal spaces, people, animals, and still-life studies of nature or food [when] all seen together, these images offer a deliberately fragmented view,” as described in the exhibition brochure.

His sense of activism probably appealed to me more than his conceptual three dimensional monochromatic hand-made prints, though some of his abstract expressionism images reminded me of my newfound love Clyfford Still.

The scenography and installations were a topic of discussion with the friend I was visiting “2017” with. While I demurred about some of the choices that Tillmans made, and which he would no doubt arguably justify in a nano-second, we seemed to agree that this may have been caused by our lack of conceptual education.

Tillmans is not for the amateur who delight in easy, accessible photography. His images do not exist to delight the eye but ask questions, they require thought and reflection. And if this is what you are after, you will be served.

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