Photography Beyond Tele-Babble

Are we really living through a time of major change in our outlook on the world? Is the younger Generation of talented photographers in Germany really serious about the new laid-back photography? Is the squeaky-clean photography of recent years now to be replaced by the failing efforts of free-floating lefties who place less trust in their eyes than in the vibes of their psychosympathicus? It is perfectly possible to conjure up trends from out of thin air. No question, slattern-liness is making a comeback brought on by the Zeitgeist-part of the drivel and tele-babble that third-rate sattelite TV with its mindless, giggling game-shows extrudes into our living rooms.

Much more interesting than all the saccharine highs and apocalyptic lows are the range of other pictures dealing with the younger generation, portraying their lives with some urgency, even acerbity and formal precision – without that childish youth-trained-for-carneval feeling. In view of the astonishing perspicuity behind the questions they rise about the daily denial of certain German realities, it is hard-ly appropriate to techno-generation. All of this applies to the work of Goran Gnaudschun, who lives in Potsdam and is still studying at the Hochschule fur Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig.

Goran Gnaudschun occupies a particularly German position in contemporary photography, which is already starting to cause upset which refuses to be held down under the lid of “New German Photography” because his photos neither qualify for the stamp of national approval nor do they lend themselves to being strung together by sleight of book-market-hand.

“I want concentration, compaction – not dissolution,” writes Gnaudschun, and it almost sounds like a battle cry.

“LONGE – 44 LENINGRAD” by Goran Gnaudschun is a narrative report on the ‘scene’ which brings together an insi-der’s view and a documentarist’s scruting of the punk-world. The photos of the day-to-day stress of the Potsdam band ’44 LENINGRAD’ in 1996 reconstruct the highpoints of tou-ring as the other side of normal life, but also as an excep-tion to run-of-the-mill punk life. Somewhere between Hoyerswerda and Riesa in provincial eastern Germany there is the final farewell to the cloying sweetness of BRAVO – so beloved of its twelve year-old, pop-mad readers – and Gnaudschun, photographer and guitarist in one, is left with no alternative other than to join in the brow-beaten, dead-end fun.

Between 1992 and 1996 ’44 LENINGRAD’ played like a Russian show-bandon drugs. While a concertina still echoes in the imaginary beech grove, folksy melodies are assassinated by a barrage of guitar-fire and a percussionist who is apparently hell-bent on a break-neck pursuit of a demented crowd of drunken Budjonny riders, undaunted by their reputation as the elite mounted messengers of the Russian Revolution. 
I he band calls this form of total invovement ‘Russian Speed Folk’. Of course they like best to howl in Russian and even the dulcet tones of the balalaika cannot mollify these ‘parti-sans from Amur’. What Lenin described as the selfdefence of the proletarian state: here the launch-phase of the rocket-firing ‘Katjuschas’ finds its metal-infested voice. Does this then mean ’44 LENINGRAD’ voluntarily Russified, nostalgic Eastern Bloc group with a tendency to Stalinist platitudes? Is this Anti-Americanism in practice? No, a thousand times, no. Goran Gnaudschun’s photos are a catalogue of the per-manence of stylistic inconsistency, as lived by the band and its friends – as a balancing act between diamond-hard indi-viduality and a yearning for heart-warming group-activities. “I use photography because the reference to reality matters to me. Of course the pictures are a pack of lies. They are just subjective view of the world. But I can’t seperate myself from this direct link to everything outside” says Gnaudschun.

As the artist himself points out, “You can see from the pic-tures that they could only have been made by someone in eastern Germany who had actually been there.” Gnaudschun’s trump-card is the casual, unforced quality of his photographic perspective. Being part of the band gives the photos their raw sound, even street credibility – it’s a distraction, but the same time it sharpens the view and accentuates problem scenarios. These photos have a textu-re which yields much more than an illustrated history of the band could ever do. “LONGE – 44 LENINGRAD” speaks a form of non-corrupt language beyond words and operates on an atmospheric plateau that is both evocative and distancing. Gnaudschun’s pictures, clamped between the camera lens and the guitar strings, need no interpretative feedback, because they are already so unusually musically sensitive to so many links and connections.

Christoph Tannert (July 1998) Translation by Fiona Elliott

 Goran Gnaudschun’s statements are all taken from a letter to the author written on July 11. 1998