Bilderpause, 1996 / 2000
Project for the Schildergasse, Cologne.
Initial considerations:
When in April 1990 I visited what was then still the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to shoot photographs of the Communist propaganda images plastering the so-called public domain, I was initially gravely disappointed. Evidently, the GDR citizens had been very quick to get rid of this propaganda after the first "free" elections. Apart from a few memorials in remote locations and some murals glorifying the proletariat, I didn't find any visual representations of Communism as a social form. Instead, the cities I saw were de-imaged, so to speak, since Marlboro, Lindt, Chiquita and the like had not yet inundated the billboards. The lettering advertising the shops was modest, mostly faded, and scarcely visible to the eye. There were hardly any traffic signs to add colour to the streets. It occurred to me that the first modern cities of the 19th century, such as Paris or Berlin, must have looked something like that. Suddenly I knew what drove the masses to the then annual salon exhibitions in the Grand Palais - they were probably hungry for the images that had not yet started to flood public areas. If urbanity in the 19th century was always an expression of political and social self-understanding, its contemporary appearance is often that of a residual mass of banks, department stores and various means of transportation - devoid of identity, geared towards functionality, decorative at best. The urban realm is no longer a site of identity-giving communal experience, but the arena for delirious consumerism with a narcotic effect on the masses. Anything that interferes with this purpose of movements in public is unwelcome. This is the point at which "Image Intermission", my proposed intervention, sets in.

The "Image Intermission" project: This project is a continuation of my previous work that asks the basic question: what does it mean to create a picture of something? What effect do images have on people? What do they mean to them? The concept underlying "Image Intermission" is located between the private and public realms, and questions the image along the lines stated above.

My proposed public intervention is a conceivably simple act, yet highly complicated in the implementation, since it interferes with rights of ownership and commercial interests. In the centre of a shopping district such as the Schildergasse in Cologne, I would remove all displays of images and text for a stretch of 100 to 200 metres. For instance, the shop windows would contain only merchandise with no printed matter or pictures, and the price tags would disappear, too - along with everything else in pictorial or written form. This "image intermission" would end as abruptly as it starts.

It is likely that this de-imaging of the city would radically change the view of public space, and possibly bring about an impetus of disorientation that allows bypassers to consciously experience both the aesthetic and psycho-social dimensions of the street. Some might instantly be struck by the planless

results of urban planning. The hobo might be lying outside the same doorway still, but would be more visible due to the absence of colourful pictures to distract one's attention.

In this way, the intervention would expose the public displays of visual fast-food to be a bourgeois concealment strategy. Liberated from its apparently fixed functional definition, urban space would become a multilayered and autonomous form of experience.

Disruption of accustomed viewing habits produces heightened attentiveness. And the latter stimulates reflection - I hope!

Andreas M. Kaufmann 1996/2000

Technical data: Photo simulations.