WATERS @haubrok foundaton
May 20 - June 15, 2017

To view the exhibition, please make an appointment with info@haubrok.org
or call +49 163 2479637

haubrok foundation
Herzbergstraße 40-43
10365 Berlin

Are pictures contaminated by the circumstances in which they are made? Do ideologies infest
photographs the way a fungus might? Or can their surfaces be purged of ulterior motives and
affectations of heroism, can whatever is dubious be neutralized? Is redemption possible for the
abused nature in stories of bravery? And we need not even start off with such ponderous questions.
More generally, would we not need a protected zone, a decontextualized retreat for illustrations,
pieces of evidence, propaganda pictures, press and family photographs, for the image as such?

In the course of my artistic research, I happened upon a complete set of printing plates for the book
Waljäger. Auf Walfang im südlichen Eis by Wolfgang Frank, who launched his career as a writer
under the Nazis. During the war, he produced bestsellers about life in the Navy; after 1945, he
turned to a nature romanticism that proved immensely popular with readers. Published in 1939,
the book recounts the author’s experiences on a German whaling factory ship, the Jan Wellem.
It is illustrated with ninety-six photographs showing hunting scenes and life on board as well as
the ocean itself. For Frank, seafaring was a way of life for which he had abandoned a career in law.
The sea was metaphor as well as theme, a perfect foil on which to project fantasies of mastery
and an object of primal fascination.

The Jan Wellem was the first of three whaling factory ships sailing under the German flag. It was
built at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg, in 1936 by converting the combined freighter and passenger
vessel Württemberg of the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG).
It went on three whaling tours into Antarctic waters; after the war broke out in 1939, it was
requisitioned by the German Navy and eventually served the Allies as a breakwater. It was
scrapped in 1947.

For my purposes, I selected ten printing plates from the book that depict nothing but the sea and
compiled them in a series. And if the ideologies do not visibly degrade the pictures, rust certainly
does. Corrosion had eaten white spots into the zinc plates, as though the chemical process were
engaged in a labor of memory. The sea donned a new guise, which I in turn restored, reproduced
in digital photographs, and then edited.

My aim in working with these seascapes was to distill a counter-image to the romantic-heroic
argument of the historic sources and to limn a portrait. A portrait of the sea, of nature. I isolated the
motif of the ocean, stripping away its narrative context and topographic specificity in order to lend
it a separate existence and transpose it into the space of the beholder. I wanted to slow his gaze
down and endow the images with kinetic potential

To my mind, the ocean is a unique space in which to develop an understanding of fluidity. Its depth,
dynamic nature, and material instability loom beneath the surfaces of the pictures. Oceans not only
divide or connect the world, they also suspend or set in motion our fixed and superficial ideas of place
and being. Oceans are a counter-space, a swaying autonomous zone, a refuge from the fixed
and rigid image, the gravity of evidence, and insinuations of visual signification.

Waters is the expression of a hope, a space to escape to, a life raft, an image of resistance.

Marit Neeb, Berlin 2017