Andreas Gefeller

Ministerium, Germany, 2005

C-Print on diasec (Edition of 8), 160x242 cm

Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Rehbein Galerie, Cologne

Andreas Gefeller depicts in his generally large photographs an aesthetic of law and order, a state which affects the conduct of the modern society in which he lives.

Gefeller’s meticulous compositions, like other German photographers, such as Andreas Gorsky and Michael Wolf, are also a meticulous portrait of a society based on dogmatic thinking and centralized authority. The institutions of such a society enable it to formulate rules without raising any civil objections, in perfect order and without deviating from the formalization which it dictates.

The two juxtaposing photographs of Gefeller in this exhibition document the architecture of a governmental institution, and facing it the memorial for the victims of the Holocaust.

Georges Bataille refers to this in the Critical Dictionary of Documents, stating that the lack of classification impairs the concept of monumental architecture which imposes shape and order and is a continuation of the evolution of human order. A refugee camp or the city of the dead are urban spaces that collapse and are reformulated in the zone between “absence of shape” and “architecture”, through various arrangements inherent in them, such as philosophy, aesthetics and anthropology.

From here we proceed directly, and with an inevitable comparison to Nir Kafri’s photographs.

From a bird’s eye view, Kafri clarifies the order in what seems to be orderless, in the concept of centrality and spatial control of the law. His works express the paradox of an environment lacking legal, national and territorial existence facing the need of the population living within extremely overcrowded conditions.

Lacking territory, the refugee camp has its own topography and urban language, one which is often built on inaccessible locations, invisible, and cut off from central cities. The camp has a dense and crowded layout, usually square, containing a basic unit – the ‘Wida’ – a shelter built on a minimal plot, leased to each recognized family. The ‘Wida’ is a demarcation of the land, a measurement unit for the camp, a symbolic space and a building site for the resident all at once; therefore the camp is a series of duplicated ‘Widas’ creating a street.

The camps aren’t recognized by the states, and yet they are vibrant cities, superbly organized, and their chaos and lack of form are their architectural statements