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Reading Rämistrasse #106: Mitchell Anderson on Paul Niedermayer at Photography Exhibit

In a time when everyone with a camera phone has become an amateur pro, Photography Exhibit, artist Miriam Laura Leonardi’s three-year-old project space, grapples with its medium-based objective’s waning history as much as contemporary production. In Paul Niedermayer’s current exhibition, It’s Always Off, the act of taking a photograph is linked to compulsion. The fourteen small-scale works all depict the knobs of a kitchen range in their off positions, restaged photographs based on iPhone pics the artist takes to ease the anxiety that all is well in her Berlin apartment while she is out. Checking compulsions are a form of OCD and relate directly to harnessing object interactions for reassurance that something bad will not take place. The exhibition's repetition of a seemingly banal subject creates an atmosphere of everyday psychosis. Did I close the ground floor window or lock my door before I came here?

At its true beginning, before we knew Civil war photographer Mathew Brady moved bodies for composition and airbrushing gave way to filters, there was an idea that photography, as documentation, could inform a stable sense of truth in the world. Niedermayer’s reassurances of safety, maybe the final believable use of this medium as purveyor of fact, act as perfect twenty-first century excuses for the production of further photographic content. These desires for certainty, performing the tools of a professional photographer, are highly composed depictions of a confirmation of reality now past. It’s as if the compulsion to create has gently ingested its own justification, leaving an uneasily beautiful art of worry and relief in its place.

Paul Niedermayer, It's Always Off, Photography Exhibit, 2022

Foto: Björn Allemann

Paul Niedermayer, It's Always Off, Photography Exhibit, by appointment till the end of January 2023

Reading Rämistrasse

Geht der Raum für Kunstkritik verloren, müssen wir handeln. Deswegen schaffen wir diesen Ort für Kritik – Reading Rämistrasse – auf der Webseite der Kunsthalle Zürich und veröffentlichen Rezensionen zu aktuellen Ausstellungen. Diese geben nicht die Meinung der Kunsthalle Zürich wieder, denn Kritik muss unabhängig sein.

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