Annika von Hausswolff, Part of I Am the Runway of Your Thoughts, 2008 © Annika von Hausswolff

Possessed by the Camera


From the 1970s, people have challenged the notion that the purpose of art is to show authentic identities. Instead, the camera is used to emphasise the potential of role-play and how identity can be constructed.

The reproduction of reality in the mass media has radically changed the conditions for our lives. The camera became an especially useful artistic tool in exploring the role-play of existence. The veracity of photography was called into question. By manipulating images and presenting them as authentic depictions, artists warned viewers to be critical and on their guard against how images are used in general.

These changes generated a broad range of photographic practices. Traditionally oriented photographers refined their aesthetic methods towards exquisitely artificial images. Robert Mapplethorpe, for instance, revived classical notions of beauty to undermine social prejudices against homosexuality.

Others experimented with digital manipulations and created new realities out of existing worlds. In the 1980s, the artistic use of photography went even further, in veritably philosophical studies of the many levels of meaning in representation. Since the late 1970s, Cindy Sherman has portrayed herself in stereotypical female disguises as a means of exploring the complexity of specific identities.

As a consequence of the dramatic innovations of the digital era, information and entertainment from far and wide are intermingled. Our formerly distinct notions of time and space have become fuzzier.

Annika von Hausswolff’s I Am the Runway of Your Thoughts from 2008 captures the feeling of trying to grasp and control something that is perceived as a vague threat. The concept of identity is no longer only linked to ethnicity, gender and class. Instead, it can be constructed out of surprising mixtures of given conditions and chosen ideals.

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