This exhibition certainly has a few surprises in store for those already familiar with Martin Dammann's work, even though the artist does not depart from his favoured means of expression (watercolours, photography and video), and his paintings do not use templates different from his characteristic photographs, which are (usually) taken from anonymous archives. Here, too, pictures form the starting point of his artistic in- vestigation, which is shaped by a preoccupation with the supposed validity (one might say “truth”), reproduction and history of photographs, their development and transition into another medium.
However, this time the artist gives the impression of having distanced himself some- what from his usual sources (photographs of both World Wars), for we see fewer uni- forms and fewer groups of soldiers posing proudly in front of the lens. The watercolours exhibited here show naked men standing in the snow, a young woman pulling her bikini top into place, people lying in a meadow. Abruptly the question arises whether these testaments are old or recent shots: the storm of war has passed, the artist's world seems at peace.
Nonetheless, Dammann's large watercolours give their audience a sense of discomfort, for the protagonists' faces cannot really be recognised as such: abstract strokes of colour provide only hints of noses, mouths and eyes, which thus lose their expressivity. This is particularly evident in the picture of the five sailors, whose faces are artistically “distorted” and whose uniforms are only implied in vague outlines. In 1966 the Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara shot the film The Face of Another, about the existential fears of a man who has lost his face in a laboratory accident and now wears the features of another. This man is obviously suffering increasingly from a personality disorder and slowly but surely loses his sense of reality. Teshigahara's metaphor reminds us that our relationship to the world is not just shaped by our fellow humans; their gaze is just as important.
In his choice of picture formats and his frontal representation of bodies, Dammann succeeds in staging a disturbing confrontation between the viewer and the respective characters represented. The abbreviation “POV” (“point of view”) is used to denote a technique, commonly used in cheap porn movies among others, of filming scenes from a subjective perspective in order to give the audience the feeling that they are participating in the action. Dammann uses precisely this technique in two large-format pictures, drawing us into the centre of the action. This means that viewers lose their faces in the same way the people depicted do. (Text: Thibaut de Ruyter)