Andrzej Steinbach
Der Apparat
Jan 31 – Apr 4, 2020

Galerie Conradi launches its 2020 program of exhibitions with a solo show by Andrzej Steinbach featuring 26 out of altogether 124 pictures in the series Der Apparat. After Figur I, Figur II (Figure I, Figure II, 2015) and Gesellschaft beginnt mit drei (Society Starts at Three, 2017), Der Apparat (The Apparatus, 2019) is the third and, for the time being, final installment in Steinbach’s extensive exploration of the portrait genre. Each complete series has also been published as a separate monograph released by Spector Books in Leipzig.

Der Apparat shows a photographer taking photographs. We do not see what she is training her lens on, but we do see her every move, see her focusing her gaze on something or someone, see how the camera relates to her body, how the body—the apparatus of motion—turns toward the motif. The floor beneath her feet is covered with office carpeting, and she is surrounded by rectangular objects. Her attire in the photographs distinctly suggests some sort of public setting, while the basic studio surroundings mark the photographer’s professional habitat, in which she simulates various sites and scenarios with different connotations. Now and then, the reference to the scene of the making of pictures and the prosaic interior with wall-to-wall carpeting and props—traces of wear hint at past photo shoots—are oddly discontinuous with the urgency and latent violence of some of the scenarios: in some pictures, for example, the figure takes cover, donning a helmet and bulletproof vest to protect her body from serious injury.

As the title suggests, the central subject of the photos is the picture-making equipment itself—the apparatus. Its place in the logic of the picture shifts depending on how the standing, reclining, or crouching body interacts with it. The majority of the photographs stage the figure in the gear a photo reporter would wear to a major demonstration or in a civil war zone; in other pictures in the series, however, she is casually dressed. The successive changes of clothes, poses, and gestures with which the photographer integrates the apparatus into the scenes imposes a typological structure on the series, dividing it into sequences and, in some instances, sub-sequences. The detailed cataloguing of subtle distinctions renders the question of what or who is actually the object of her attention largely irrelevant; what comes to the fore instead are the signals sent by her moving body as it produces pictures and in so doing exposes itself to unseen dangers.