After us the Future
Matthias Leupold himself refers to his pictures as scenic photographs. Admittedly, the term is unusual, but it describes the way in which Leupold works more precisely than the established notions of staged or staging photography. The word scenic refers to a particular place; skene was the arena or the stage in antique Greek theatre, while a scene in the modern sense is a short, self-contained part of a theatre play or film.
Transferred to photography, therefore, it means a place where something is presented to us so that we may look at it. And it also means the arena for an event, for an action as part of a narrative or a story.
With very few exceptions, Leupold produces this event - embedded into a story or evoking one - especially for the purpose of photographing and holding on to it – in his picture.
East Berlin 1983 – 1986 The pictures from these years originated in close collaboration with two friends, Andreas Leupold and Andreas Hentschel. Some of the first small shows were presented under the group name “After Us the Future” – a catchy reference to the resigned and cynical motto “after us the deluge” and a rejection of the promise, then notorious in the east, of a “better” future – a promise intended as constant consolation in face of omnipresent hardships.
By contrast, Leupold’s intention is an insistence on the here and now, on self-realisation completely in the present. This also signifies presence of mind – in the situations of staging as well as in his choice of subjects.
Some of the earliest pictures are symptomatic and therefore illuminating with respect to Leupold’s work at that time. An initial interest in series may already be found in the triptych At the Cinema, a kind of variation on the motif of the three Japanese monkeys: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. This triptych involves an outcry against all those who stare silently, not wanting to see what is shown and performed in front of everyone, and we also see the gesture of shooting oneself, shooting oneself right out of the situation. The three-panel picture was made by means of a calculated intervention into the real situation of a 3D film screening, the viewers in the cinema are wearing 3D glasses. The resulting image achieves a symbolic quality: the said and the unsaid, the visible and invisible, what can be voiced and what cannot be voiced are all combined. Indeed, the motif of seeing is important for many of the early pictures: looking, looking around, looking at oneself or covering up one’s eyes. This includes an expression of desire or searching for perspectives and ways out of the stalled, halted social situation.
The developments and gains in Leupold’s work during the four short years in East Berlin may be summed up as three fields of opposing tension: between the static and the dynamic, between contemplation and narration, and between the joke and the symbol. In the pictures, however, these dimensions do not divide up, but – to some extent or even fully – they fall into one.
T.O. Immisch: Matthias Leupold, Fictive Images
Leupold, M., Immisch, T., Kaufhold, E. and Stremmel, K., 2003. The Past Has Only Just Begun. Staged Photographs. 1st ed. Köln: Schaden.
1985 Exhibition in the Gethesemanekirche, East-Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg
Solo Exhibitions (selected)
Matthias Leupold. Szenische Photographien 1983–1995. Photo Edition Berlin
2003 | 2004
Die Vergangenheit hat erst begonnen. Szenische Photographien 1983-99 (Retrospective). Kunst und Medienzentrum Berlin-Adlershof; Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale, Alte Feuerwache Fotogalerie Mannheim; Kunsthalle (K)
Scenic Photographs. Art-School, Portland/Maine
Group exhibitions (selected)
Besetzung der Utopien. riesa efau Dresden (K)
Geschlossene Gesellschaft, Künstlerische Fotografie in der DDR 1949–1989. Berlinische Galerie (K)
Übergangsgesellschaft, Portraits und Szenen 1980–1990. Akademie der Künste, Berlin (K)
Recollecting a Culture Photographic Ressource Center at Boston University (K)
Photographie als Kunst. Kunst als Photographie, Zehn Jahre Photografische Sammlung 1979–1989, Berlinische Galerie (K)
Nichts ist so einfach wie es scheint, Ostdeutsche Photographie 1945–1989 Berlinische Galerie (K)
Out of Eastern Europe: Private Photography Massachusetts Institute of Technologie, Cambridge/Mass. (K) and Rosa Esman Gallery, New York
Leupold, M., Immisch, T., Kaufhold, E. and Stremmel, K., 2003. Die Vergangenheit hat erst begonnen. Szenische Photographien. 1st ed. Köln: Schaden.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale
Foundation Henri Cartier Bresson, Paris
Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, Leipzig