Extending Time
Lisa Oppenheim Reanimates the Past

Issue no2
April - May 2019
Magisch Realisme

November 6th, the new exhibition by American artist Lisa Oppenheim Blood of the Ghosts opens at Galerie Juliètte Jongma in Amsterdam. Oppenheim attempts to recapture the photographic images of yore in her work by considerably expanding the photographic moment, once considered so historical.

(fragment uit METROPOLIS M, Nr. 5)

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Although Lisa Oppenheim's conceptual approach is a constant factor in her work, it results in highly diverse works. In The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (2006), she worked with the clichéd image of the setting sun. On the popular website www.flickr.com, she found photographs of sunsets taken by soldiers in Iraq. The soldiers' photographs focused exclusively on the sun and seem to want to shut out everything that might remind them of the war, as if they were just ordinary holiday shots. Oppenheim took 15 of these photographs, held them up against a real sunset in New York and photographed them again. This way, one sunset doubles the other, so that subtle differences spring to the eye. Suddenly, that tiny scrap of dust becomes apparent, perhaps just thrown up by a tank, or the light from a helicopter in the air. While sunsets are inevitably associated with romance, in this work, Oppenheim takes away the magic and shows the banality of such images, which, by linking Iraq to New York, gives them new weight. As she explains, 'Re-looking at such moments allows for transformation. I try to make images that point towards the main event as well as in other directions; the erosion of information through the passage of time, the canned beauty of a sunset, the aestheticization of war, the socially loaded meaning of everyday objects.’

With such clarified attention to the photographic document, the work of Lisa Oppenheim is connected to the art of a generation of contemporary artists engaged with the reworking and manipulation of raw documentary material. In this context, Oppenheim certainly knows how to choose her own path, with her specific interest and focus on the technical possibilities of photography and the implications thereof for our understanding of photography itself. Her oeuvre begins to surface as an opposing force, playing on the traces left by time, such as the rattle of the 16mm projector and the grainy image from the photocopier, which our digital universe seems to have eradicated. This lends her work a sensitive, slightly nostalgic character, in which the past is ambiguously and simultaneously both present and absent. 

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Read on in METROPOLIS M, No. 5. Now in stores!
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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 2 — 2019