Photobook, photobooks & exquisite issues

2001: Monumente Gerhard Glueher, 2001

[Translate to Deutsch:] Brudna, D., 2001.Thomas Kellner. Monumente. In: Photonews. Zeitung für Fotografie 2001, No. 10, October 2001. p. 25. >>>

title: Monumente

editor (Herausgeber): Burkhard Arnold (in focus Galerie, Köln), Rainer Danne (städtische Galerie, Iserlohn)

authors (Autoren): Gerhard Glüher

artists (Künstler): Thomas Kellner

format: 27,2×21,2cm | 10,7×8,3inches, 63 pages, hardcover

languages (Sprachen): German, English

publisher (Verlag): Verlag Locher

ISBN 3-930054-42-6

published (year): 2001

edition (Auflage): 1000

price: sold out

special edition

a few special editions with a print of the 100 German Mark are still available, at 490 Euros, plus shipping.


Kehsler, A., 2001. collages of the world architecture. In: Der Kunsthandel 2001, No. 5/01, p. 7.

thank you to Burkhard Arnold, Rainer Danne for publishing this important first book about my monuments in contact sheets. Thank you to gerhard Glüher for this illuminating essay and to herbert Locher for printing in Cologne.

Gerhard Glueher: Deconstructed Values, Thomas Kellner: „Monumente“, 2001

Kellner, T., Glüher, G., 2001. Monumente. Köln, Iserlohn: Arnold, B., in focus Galerie, Cologne, Danne, R., Städtische Galerie Iserlohn, a.o. 


A none too serious monologue about altogether serious matters


May we describe Thomas Kellner's works as architectural photographs? Yes and no, for on the one hand they depict nothing other than buildings and after all, buildings are an essential component of architecture while on the other, they put the depicted items into question through the manner in which the photographs are taken. As photographs, the buildings are complete, but as architecture they are a series of fragments. How are we to deal with such paradoxical images? Let us see them first of all as a bit of optical fun that the artist is allowing himself, then the brief laughter will relieve us of such a serious and historically weighty theme as symbols and bank notes. For a while at least. And we should be grateful to him for that. The historical burden and dignity of the monument is transformed into a puzzle or riddle. Do the parts really fit together as well as the image would like us to believe, or are parts not missing and if they are missing, where have they gone to? Possibly into the spaces between the individual pictures in the tableaux. But in any case, this is of no importance to Kellner. Let's be honest for once: the buildings and the notes deserve no better than to be removed from their foundations or put through the shredder of Kellner's lens. They simply have not managed to adapt to the zeitgeist standing there rigidly and wanting to be eternal. In a word, they are a thing of the PAST. Pity really but then there is another aspect.


Kellner is a traveller, a tourist who goes to the world's metropolises (yes, the world, and nothing less than the world, is the object of his longer-term series!), stands with his camera in front of those pass? representative buildings already captured in photographs thousands of times, in order to photograph them for the one-thousand-and-first time. But STOP, dear observers! We must pause here and look more closely. Is it even worth the photographer's while exposing himself to the tribulations of the journey, the rigours of the weather, the risks of the traffic, the police, the suspicious gazes of the locals and the tourists, just to add another image to the canon? It certainly is worth it, because Kellner's are new kinds of photographs of old kinds of things though they are still not "new wine in old skins", as the revealing saying goes. These photographs are as sensational as the sights are worthy of being seen. However, Thomas Kellner tilts the dignity of these noble buildings and the seriousness of money by tilting his camera. When we confront these photographs, we tread on shaky ground, and our oh so stable world and its values begin to waver. Once caught up in the unsteadiness, there is no turning back and everything collapses, like with the Dadaists.


But this bit of fun is not just for fun, it is very serious fun. So let us laughing and ask where the seriousness is concealed in the photographs! It cannot be possible that a traveller, a flaneur in Walter Benjamin's Passages, sets out to "shoot" our civilisation's all-important symbols with neither a theory in his head nor a good ground for his concept. The camera is aimed at the object, the process of destruction begins, the building is shattered into hundreds of tiny splinters pictorial splinters and what remains is one captured moment in the dissolution of something that had stood safe and sound for centuries. In my view, Thomas Kellner's photographs have something in common with halted explosions, there is a slowness about them of a kind that we have not seen so far, an agreeable peace, in the rush and tumble of those standard views of what is being eternally seen. And that is another paradox, for how is it possible for an explosion, that requires a fragment of a second to change a state of being into one of no-longer-being, to bring about peace?


Thomas Kellner brings the time of the dissolution to a standstill, an astonishing, an improbable fact. Big Ben says half past ten in the morning, a serious time of day in terms of British industriousness. His photographs are all true, for he WAS actually THERE (around half past), and what is more, his photographs are real. This involves a strange phenomenon, for his objects are as real THERE as they are unreal HERE in the photograph. So who is right? Should we, as the Germans say, leave the church in the village, that is, the monuments firmly on the ground, or should we pour out the child with the bath water by giving Kellner the benefit of the doubt and calling his photographs monuments to what was not seen. Who thinks in front of a monument no one, because we all just think of ourselves when we want to be photographed in front of one. Even in front of the "Ged?chtnis" Church (Memorial Church) in Berlin, they stand and stare, dull eyed, and then simply press the button on their cameras. Monuments have become transfers of themselves, foils, theatrical backdrops, used to prove the presence of SOMEONE ELSE. The important thing is that they are THERE, so as to show that we too were THERE. This a unfortunate, and perhaps Kellner's Dada-esque photographs are an effective means of sharpening our dulled awareness. It is probably necessary after all to produce such absurd (in the positive sense) images, so as to rid our heads of the stereotypes of pictorial schemata loud and warped like the angle of his camera.


Thomas Kellner symbolically destroys his objects, but he does not stand and grin maliciously in front of the heap of rubble. Instead he creates something new out of that rubble and asks the oracle what the scattered bones (that is the fragments of his buildings and bank notes) mean for him and for us. His photographs give us something to SEE. At last, one might say, at last it is worth looking closely at this quick photograph, after all, the fragments are all complete. Each tiny picture bears within it a WHOLE picture, even if it only shows a blue area meaning a piece of the sky, or two zeros on a bank note which also mean the whole note. The zeros on the note and the blue of the sky stand for something ELSE and yet still remain the fragment that they are. What remains for us to do, and who has to do it? Anyone who looks at these pictures has to carry out the difficult task of completing them.


Architectonic symbols and bank notes have one thing in common: they are used without being perceived. They are simply THERE without us noticing them, because we overlook them. The world is worn out not only by actions, but also by being looked at. We live in a world that is being visually worn out. Thomas Kellner sees it as his task to return to what is VISUALLY WORN OUT the former roughness of its visible surface. Our gaze comes to a halt again on his photographs. It does not glide over the worn down smoothness as it has so often done, but must conquer the uneven surface with a mixture of effort and pleasure. It must overcome the chasms between the fragments, in short, it must get involved in something resembling an adventure. And so the journeys undertaken by the photographer Kellner become expeditions into unseen territory on which we have the opportunity of accompanying him. As we view the works, the tension becomes greater and greater, for we do not know what the next photograph will bring. Will we be treading the safe ground of the familiar portrait of Herr Majesty, will we be feeling our way tentatively along the swaying bridge of the fragment of a steel column, or will we be plunging through the insecure glass window of a skyscraper?

But let us take part in the adventure all the same, for there is a lot to be discovered, THERE, beyond the stereotypes.

(Gerhard Glueher, from: Thomas Kellner: Monumente', published by Galerie in focus am Dom, Cologne and Städtische Galerie Iserlohn, Germany, 2001)