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The Power of a Single Pinhole

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Jewish cemetery, Alderney Road

In the hands of an expert photographer, a single pinhole can serve to transform the world we normally see into something visceral, something that can play tricks with our sense of time. An exhibition of color pinhole photographs by Karen Stuke called “Wanderhalle: after Sebald’s Austerlitz” opens September 1 in Berlin at Kommunale Galerie Berlin (Hohenzollerndamm 176, 10713 Berlin). Here are the details from the website of the exhibition’s co-organizers The Wapping Project:

The Wapping Project in partnership with Kommunale Galerie Berlin and PhotoWerkBerlin restages its 2013 commission by German artist Karen Stuke responding to W.G. Sebald’s masterpiece Austerlitz (2001). The novel is one of literature’s most haunting meditation on time, loss and retrieval. It tells the story of Jacques Austerlitz, an architectural historian who, aged 5, was sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents in Wales. As he rediscovers his past, Austerlitz embarks on a journey through time and space, from mid-20thcentury mitte-Europa to contemporary England.

Stuke, an accomplished photographer in the use of the pin-hole camera, followed this journey, cross-referencing information from the book with maps and records. At the crossroad between fact and fiction, she found when they existed, the places of Austerlitz’s story: the Prague gymnasium from which his mother was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, the railway journey followed by the Kindertransport, his house in Mile End…

The resulting photographs, all taken with her handcrafted pin-hole camera, are the work of light, time and memory. Elusive images created by aggregated traces of light, they evoke fuzzy memories, and justly lend themselves to both, the layers and recesses of Austerlitz’ mind, and Sebald’s narrative.

This body of work by Karen Stuke, originally entitled “Stuke – After Sebald’s Austerlitz,” was commissioned by The Wapping Project with funding from the Women’s Playhouse Trust. It was first exhibited in Wapping, London, from 12 October to 10 November 2013.

Karen Stuke (b. 1970) completed her studies in Photo and Film Design at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. She took her first theatre photograph in the 1990s. Animated by the desire to capture the spirit of the play and its unfolding in time and space, she used a pin-hole camera and decided to expose a whole performance in a single photograph. Since then, Stuke has earnt an international reputation as an expert on the pin-hole camera, and collaborated with some of the most prestigious directors and theatres including Gottfried Pilz at the Vienna State Opera, Oper Leipzig, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Oper der Stadt Köln, Opéra Comique Paris and the Los Angeles Opera. She founded her own project space called Kronenboden in Berlin, where she focuses primarily on the intersections between visual and performing arts.

The exhibition is on view through October 27, 2019.

More on Karen Stuke here.

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Installation view of “Wanderhalle” at The Wapping Project, 2013.

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