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Thomas Kellner
Dancing Walls

In his large-scale images, the artist Thomas Kellner (born 1966, lives and works in Siegen/Germany) combines photography, collage, and moving pictures.
As early as his time studying art at the University of Siegen from 1989 to 1996, Kellner experimented with self-constructed pinhole cameras and created various pinhole camera work arrays, photograms, and prints using alternate methods, such as cyanotypes or salted paper prints.
After the project "Deutschland – Blick nach draußen" ("Germany – View from inside out") from 1997 along the German border the idea to the work series "Monuments", later titled "Tango Metropolis", was born during a visit to Paris. This series presents fragmented buildings, which seem to be on the verge of collapsing or falling apart. The Eiffel Tower as the first monument was measured minutely by eye, camera, and film material. The result is a form of kaleidoscopic photograph, an overall picture consisting of fragmented single shots – a metaphor of the vulnerability and transience of our cultural achievements and values. The pieces that have followed since then show disintegrated architectural landmarks from all conceivable countries and continents such as the works "San Fransisco, Golden Gate Bridge", "Brandenburg Gate", "Munal, Museo Nacional de Mexico", "Washington – The Capitol", or "Great Wall of Mutianyu".
It is not without irony that Kellner has embarked on the encyclopedic endeavor to photograph the most acclaimed buildings on earth. The series "Tango Metropolis" from 2003 succeeded "Dancing Walls", an array of works that was quasi openly conceived and which showcased interiors rooms. The preferred picture motives of this sequence were stair wells and foyers of museums, libraries or palaces. The programmatic piece "British Museum, 2005" constitutes the first "Dancing Wall", a piece that brilliantly translates the architectural project "Great Court British Museum" by the renowned architect Sir Norman Foster with its detailed construction of single shots. Further highlights from the work series are the sequence of elaborately decorated and irradiant interior views of Genoese palazzi from 2005, which, pars pro toto, create an overall picture of the city. Another highlight is the newer individual piece "Mexico Munal" from 2006, which again deals with the stairwell as a traditional metaphor.
To produce the two current work sequences, Thomas Kellner has developed a unique photographic method in which, corresponding to a preconceived concept, he captures the picture motives with the camera in a manner analogous to the natural act of seeing. This includes the process of construeing a kind of storyboard, which goes back to the time before 1997 when the artist constructed sketches for single, project-related pinhole cameras along with outlines for the succession of exposures.
Each photographic work since 1997 is methodically made up of horizontally placed film strips of up to one thousand two hundred and sixty nine individual pictures. Every single one of these smaller images were taken with the camera from a slighlty shifted perspective and subsequently combined into an overall picture, creating an entirely new image. As an artistic photomontage – originally fused as a group of film strips, then as an exposed contact print, presently prepared digitally – each large-scale color photograph reveals its creation process upon closer inspection. With this his approach Thomas Kellner stands together with traditional procedures in photography history that examine not only the camera as an apparatus for producing images, but also the process in which we perceive images.
"Kellner is closer to David Hockney and his idea of grasping something with multiple pictures, since a single photgraph simply isn’t enough. (…) Thus, Thomas Kellner does not photograph architecture, but perceptions of architecture. He reconstructs our picture memory. He doesn’t document, he archives."
Reinhold Misselbeck, former Curator of Photography, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in: Eikon Vol. 38, Vienna, Austria, 2002
"The language of fragmentation is a modernist trope of longstanding. It is difficult not to think of Duchamp or Picasso when confronting Kellner’s cubist and multifaceted impressions of space, the single perspective confounded, and the moment replaced by multiple moments and points of view. (…) We think of Edweard Muybridge, whose elaborate use of serial trip wires showed us the precise component movements of a horse’s streamlined gallop, or of the stilled beat of the hummingbird’s wing revealed by the stroboscopic experiments of Harold Edgerton. (…) Kellner’s development of this working method shows an awareness of his medium’s past and present. It is self-reflexive, like so much contemporary art. It is even somewhat ironic in its choice of grand subject."
Alison Nordström, Curator of Photographs, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York, in: "Thomas Kellner, Dancing Walls", 2008.
Thomas Kellner was born in 1966 in Bonn/Germany and studied art, sociology, political science, and economics at the University of Siegen. He was awarded the Kodak Young Talent Advancement Award in 1997; since then he has been living in Siegen as an active artist. He held a guest professorship for artistic photography at the University of Giessen in 2003/2004 and is a member of the German Photography Society. Since 2005 Kellner has been curating photography exhibition projects in his home city of Siegen and has been busy world-wide as an expert of photography.
Kellner has participated in numerous group exhibitions, among others: "Mind at play" at the Art Institute of Chicago, 2008, "Pieced Together: Photo Montage from the Collection" at the the Art Institute of Chicago, 2004, "Ars & Archittetura 1900–2000" in Genoa/Italy, 2004, and "Vues d’architecture" at the Musée de Grenoble/France, 2002. Single exhibitions of his work have been shown in Aarhus, Brasilia, Boston, Chicago, Cologne, Giessen, Hamburg, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Portland, Siegen, and Stuttgart, among others.
His most important publications are:
"Thomas Kellner: All shook up", The Boston Athenaeum, Boston/USA, 2008
"Thomas Kellner: Dancing Walls", 2007
"Thomas Kellner: Tango Metropolis", Galleri Image, Aarhus/Dänemark, 2005
"Ars & Architettura 1900–2000", Skira, Genf/Italien, 2004
"Thomas Kellner" in: Aperture, New York/USA, 2003
"Thomas Kellner: Ozymandias", Fotogalerie, Cardiff/Wales, 2003
"Vues d’Architectures, Photographies des XIXième et XXième siècles", Musée de Grenoble/France, 2002
"Thomas Kellner: Monumente", Städtische Galerie Iserlohn and in focus Galerie am Dom, Cologne, 2001 .
Kellner’s pieces are part of prominent private and public collections world-wide:
George Eastman House, Rochester, USA
Haverford Collection, Haverford, Philadelphia, USA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
Schuppmann Collection, Germany
The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, Collection of Photography, Chicago, USA
The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, USA
Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Kunstsammlung, Cologne
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, USA 



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