- Wolfgang Tillmans: The art of Equivalence - Minoru Shimizu

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The politics of everyday life:


Tillmans is concerned with the politics that are an unobtrusive part of everyday life.

“This sort of politics has an inherent tendency to self-concealment. A situation that people regard as natural without thinking deeply about it is actually produced by politics.”

“Tillmans’ political principle is not the principle of difference or identity but the principle of “sameness”. He does not see every person as different but views (not identities) each arbitrary entity as being equivalent to and the same as every other arbitrary entity." “Sameness"’ is a concept that opposes “identity.” "This sameness is scandalous because it subverts the idea of individual character.“

In terms of this concept Tillmans work can be divided into 5 main categories according to Shimizu:


1: Photographs that “perform” the conditions of an alternative, utopian lifestyle 
2: Performative strategies: Adding or inserting something (for example a penis) to a give situation as an element that oversteps boundaries
3: Becoming one, or direct physical expression of a sense of fusion

4: Sameness: photographs in which the same situation is shared by many people
5: Portraits: working concept: breaking down the outlines of identity and personality, leading to a multilayered condition, violating and transforming boundaries between self and others, and making everything “one” and “the same.”


Vulnerability: the fragility and vulnerability of the outlines of a human being, and the vulnerability and insecurity of accepting multilayeredness.
“when asked to who do you photograph it really boils down to that sort of essential sympathy..”

“In his portrait the outlines of identity are distorted. The subject of the photograph is opened up and broken down, turning into a variety of equivalent things.”

“What I always look for are the complexities within people.”



Photographs about Photographs:

Born in 1968: “His photographs have their origin in the act of looking at photographs rather than capturing the real world with them. This essential quality means that Tillmans’ photographs are far removed from snapshots that document reality.” [what does that mean for photographers born later then??]

Tillmans:—“No one now can be unselfconscious of photographs taken before. There is an encyclopedia of representation that is in our heads almost from the day we were born.” (quoted in Shimizu, 2005, p.?? 2 in article but no page numbers in book).


“This statement refers to a synchronicity in taking and looking at photographs rather than visual intertextuality.”



Photographer and subject are one:
“The position that Tillmans takes as a photographer is to be half photographer and half subject.”
“…part of the photographer is always in the photograph.”

Tillmans: - “I am not gathering memories. The point is not to possess or experience something by seizing it with the camera.”


“To Tillmans, photographs that are worth “seeing” are located somewhere between pure snapshots, photographs found in magazines, set-up photographs, or photographs manipulated in the darkroom.”



Shimizu again divides 4 ways in which Tillmans creates photographs that express the meaning of photographs:


1: Photographs including images of the photographer (his body)

2: Framed images

3: Views from above
4: Photographs that demonstrate the basic principle of photography




Equivalence:
Equivalence through transformation and development of expression is the central principle of Tillmans photography according to Shimizu.
So what does this mean?



Shimizu explains equivalence by calling it fundamentally sexual, “meaning, broadly, “the permeation [to pass into or through every part of] of everyday life by the erotic.”.”


And later divides it into 4 qualities:

1: “Phallus: Images of horizontal and vertical protrusion (uitsteeksel). It may be thought that the queer imagination operates in a a phallic way, but these photographs are not simply intended to suggest associations with the penis. They are photographs of equivalent qualities of harness, thickness, and protrusion, the qualities that also make the penis erotic.

2: Tactility

3: Luster, wetness, sheen: shiny surfaces

4: Strong curves, swelling, stretching, roundness



“There is no taxonomy for Tillmans’ works, because his motifs are continuously connected with one another and are not divided into self-content categories. …Tillmans is making his current work according to the central concept of becoming the same, becoming one, and he continues to change and move on to different motifs or abstract images through the principle of equivalence. Politics and esthetics become one in his work through the principle of equivalence.