Wolfgang Tillmans, 2017 – by Silvia Bombardini


Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,


Though it features plenty of the fabled images we’ve come to know him by, Wolfgang Tillmans’ 2017 is emphatically not a retrospective. It steeps in the present, in its detail and grain, our place in history in between echoes of the past and future uncertainty. In the greater scheme of things, order and chaos and all of the minutiae that matter. It’s an immersive showcase: the installation medium Tillmans favours and masters, where the juxtaposition of his works bestows interpretative layers upon each of them but still appeals to the heart before the mind, to an emotional interpretation of what it is we see in its wholesome complexity. It also allows us visitors to come real close: for instance, to Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast – the magnified photograph of analogue black-and-white static as it appears on a digital television, that reveal itself to be extremely colourful when one stands nearby. Abstraction is a constant in various forms – Blushes is an ongoing series made without a camera, by manipulating the effects of light directly on photographic paper. A sort of meta-introspection, some inward lensing that pushes the boundaries of its own medium, Tillmans draws poetry from technology. There will be romance and there will be empathy in the Age of Digital Reproduction: we’re still only feeling our way in. But abstraction also comes in nature – the entirely white image taken from the inside of a cloud invites the viewer to pause and wonder. As do large-scale images of the Atlantic Ocean and its porous, salty borders – here shows Tillmans’ political lyricism and under glass, the posters he made to urge people to vote against Brexit feel today particularly poignant. Also laid out under glass is truth study center, a curated and regularly updated selection of newspaper clippings and pamphlets arranged to highlight a topical issue every time the project is exhibited. In 2017, of course, it’s fake news – and the psychology of self-deception from the perspective of scientists. But intertwined with politics and abstractions, there’s still the intimate, sensual Tillmans we all know and love – drawn to the vulnerability of bodies of feelings, to the courage of humans who love and protest.