Artist Thomas KellnerPublications

life & style Agosto, 2008, #48

Manipulando Mexico – Thomas Kellner por Karen Migoni

There are those who work to build spaces, many of which, over time, become icons of their city and, as a result, end up as postcards. There are also those who dedicate the same effort to deconstruct and demystify those icons. Thomas Kellner is one of these people.

Although Kellner's photographic work includes Aleppo (Syria), the border of the divided Germanies, spontaneous portraits, still lifes or broken dolls, the mainstay of his career lies in the deconstruction of the foundations. Every day he walks in front of monumental buildings that mark different historical moments of a society or that define a style, and then, with his 35 mm camera, he twists this everyday life and this history to create his own.

Thomas appeared in our editorial office at the climax of the collective gastritis, but I still had time to share with him a couple of walks, dinners and tannins.

The day after his arrival, we took the turibus so he could get an idea of the city and choose which buildings to photograph. I didn't know if he was quiet or tired, but he saw all the monuments without changing his expression. He didn't mind the Carrara marble as much as the work of Barragan and Goeritz. The churches were just another source of inspiration. He photographed some of them with his digital camera, in other cases he simply asked what they were, and then returned to what was ours, to talk about his life, about mine. Later I would realize that not only had he recorded every building in detail, but he had also sketched and charted every camera movement he would make.

Before leaving him to his fate I gave him a scapular with the Virgin of Guadalupe; he set to work with it, his camera, his tripod and an assistant.

Each façade involved a munificent planting. He chose the format according to the building, how much sky, how much base... He calculated the rolls he had to carry and the hours he would spend at each location.

The most important part of his work is the visualization, then the tripod remains fixed and Thomas follows the lines that I draw to know which angle corresponds to each frame. The rest is to watch and pray that it doesn't rain, so that he gets the necessary permission for his next photo. The scapular worked; the public relations department had nightmares but managed to get it everywhere.

After 10 days of work it was time for a spectacular farewell sushi. Thomas returned to Germany to carry out the second phase of the project, the most tedious and precise: developing the rolls, scanning, color adjustments and printing the contact sheets, which are the end of his work. Basically, he spends half of his time building what he had so painstakingly deformed before. But in this stage he is alone and in the first he was enjoying the pleasure of walking through cities, talking to locals and living the moment.

During the last conversation I asked him what he thought of Mexico. I can't quote literally his answer, but I remember that, among other things, he confessed that he had expected more colors and not just literally. I almost ran off to take him to Xochimilco, to the Jamaica market. Later I understood that Thomas had only seen Mexico as seen through his camera, that instead of the sounds of the city he had heard its thousands of gunshots a day, that our tours were his breaks and he wasn't looking.

I tried to call him to repeat the question, to find out if in making these impressions he had found what he was missing. I did not find it, and perhaps it is better this way: it seems to me that for not having found the poetry he did a good job.

To deform monuments, even without making explicit a political or religious stance, is to attack their symbolism. Thomas does it in a harmonious way. It can be simple aesthetic and formal admiration or a fundamental questioning: The Cathedral loses its shape as it loses its parishioners: the National Palace is distorted as our political reality does... The way Kellner captures and constructs his images makes the building lose its authority and therein lies the strength of his work.

 

Spanish original text

Hay quienes trabajan para construir espacios, muchos de los cuales, el tiempo los convierte en iconos de su ciudad y, por ello, terminan en postales. Hay tambien quienes dedican el mismo esfuerzo a deconstruir y a desmitificar esos iconos. Thomas Kellner es una de estas personas.

Si bien el trabajo fotografico de Kellner incluye de Alepo (Siria), la frontera de las Alemanias divididas, retratos espontaneos, naturalezas muertas o munecas rotas, el pilar de su carrera se encuentra en la deconstruccion de los cimientos. Dia a dia circula frente a edificios monumentales que marcan diversos momentos historicos de una sociedad o que definen un estilo, para luego, con su camara de 35 milimetros, tergiversar esa cotidianeidad y esa historia para crear las suyas.

Thomas aparecio en nuestra redaccion en el climax de la gastritis colectiva, pero aun asi tuve tiempo dc compartir con el un par de caminatas, cenas y taninos.

Al dia siguiente de su llegada, tomamos el turibus para que tuviera una idea de la ciudad y eligiera que edificios fotografíar. No supe si era callado o estaba cansado, pero vio todos los monumentos sin cambiar de expresion. Le dio lo misino el marmol de Carrara que la obra de Barragan y Goeritz. Las iglesias no significaban mas que otra fuente de inspiracion. Fotografio algunos con su camara digital, en otros casos simplemente pregunto que eran, para despues volver a lo nuestro, a platicar de su vida, de la mia. Mas tarde me daria cuenta de que no solo habia registrado a detalle cada edificio, sino que ademas habia realizado un boceto y cuadriculado cada movimiento de camara que haria.

Antes de abandonarlo a su suerte Ie regale un escapulario con la Virgen de Guadalupe; se puso a trabajar con el, su camara. su tripie y un asistente.

Cada fachada implico una plantacion municiosa. Eligio el formato en funcion del edificio, que tanto cielo, que tanta base...Calculo los rollos que debia cargar y las horas que se quedaria an cada locacion.

La perte mas importante de su trabajo es la visualizacion, despues el tripie se mantiene fijo y Thomas sigue las lineas que trazo para saber que angulo corresponde a cada cuadro. Lo demas, a mirar y a rezar para que no llueva, para que otenga el permiso necesario para su proximo foto. El escapulario funciono; el departamento de relaciones publicas tuvo pesadillas pero consiguio que entrara a todos los sitios.

Despues de 10 dias de trabajo llego el momento de un espectacular sushi de despedida. Thomas regreso a Alemania para realizar la segunda fase del proyecto, la mas tediosa y precisa: rcvelar los rollos, escanear, hacer los ajustes en color e imprimir las hojas de contacto, que son el final de su obra. Basicainente, pasa la mitad de su tiempo construyendo lo que antes habia deformado con tanto empeno. Pero en esta etapa esta solo y en la primera quecia el placer e pasear por ciudades, platicar con locales y vivir el momento.

Durante la ultima conversacion le pregunte que le habia parecido Mexico. No puedo citar literalmente su respuesta, pero recuerdo que, entre otras cosas, confeso que habia esperado mas colores y no solo de forma literal. Yo casi me arranco para llevarmelo a Xochimilco, al mercado de Jamaica. Despues entendi que Thomas solo habia visto el Mexico f'alseado por su camara, que en lugar de los sonidos de la ciudad habia escuchado sus miles de disparos al dia, que nuestros recorridos fueron sus descansos y no estaba mirando.

Intente llamarle para repetir la pregunta, para saber si al hacer estas impresiones habia encontrado lo que le falto. No lo encontre, y quiza sea mejor asi: me parece que para no haber encontrado la poesia hizo un buen trabajo.

Deformar monumentos, aun sin hacer explicita una postura politica o religiosa, es atentar contra su simbologia. Thomas lo hace de forma armonica. Puede ser simple admiracion estetica y formal o un cuestionamiento de fondo: La Catedral pierde su forma segun pierde feligreses: el Palacio Nacional se distorsiona como lo hace nuestra realidad politica... La forma en que Kellner capta y construye sus imagenes hace que el edificio pierda su autoridad y en eso radica la fuerza de su trabajo.

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