9 novembre 1988
Gottfried Helnwein, NUIT DU NEUF NOVEMBRE, Catalogue
Reinhold Mißelbeck
Conservateur photographie et nouveaux media, Museum Ludwig Cologne
Nuit du Neuf Novembre
C'est donc une chance que Gottfried Helnwein, lui aussi, ait eu envie d'échapper aux activités des musées et des galeries pour atteindre un plus grand public. Un lieu comme celui situé entre la cathédrale et le musée Ludwig et un moment comme celui de la Photokina avec ses centaines de milliers de visiteurs offraient une possibilité optimale. Le mur décoré, long de 100 mètres, n'a pas manqué son effet. Il a déclenché la consternation, mais également l'agressivité. Quelques jours plus tard déjà, de nombreuses photos avaient été cisaillées, une volée. Pour Gottfried Helnwein l'exposition de ses travaux et la réaction du public se conçoivent comme un processus qui devrait se traduire et se poursuivre dans des présentations ultérieures. Les photos n'ont pas été remplacées mais rapiécées, de telle sorte que ce mémorial de la persécution des Juifs porte déjà, pour sa deuxième présentation, à Lausanne, les marques du manque de discernement et de l'incompréhension de notre époque.
Selection - Ninth of November Night
1988, Installation between Ludwig Museum and Cologne Cathedral, Cologne
Man has developed numerous variations of this attitude. The most harmless form is the snobby arrogance whereby one's fellow men are treated as pitiful worms, as quantité négligeable. A more dangerous one is that of the self-centred whereby one's fellow human beings are usually ignored or at best viewed as a nuisance. A fatal one is the ignorance which makes it possible to simply not acknowledge the misery of whole nations, be it due to convenience, be it due to negligence. Finally, there is the possibility to institutionalize attitudes of this nature and to legitimize them by law, which led to the establishment of societal hierarchies in the national or international structure of peoples.
In such cases a ratification of this type is mostly scientifically anchored and substantiated.
The National Socialists had combined all these elements in a particularly perfidious way and developed a system from a mixture of arrogance, racial theory, dictatorship and military might which allowed them to define "life not worth living", to discriminate against, and eventually to annihilate, millions of people.
What we see are average faces, identical to hundreds of others that we could meet on the street: children between the ages of six and seven, whose faces are slightly toned white with make-up. Indeed their facial expressions are passive in a way which is difficult to describe: sometimes the eyes are half closed, sometimes the head is photographed slightly from below or just off centre. The portraits are irritating, since the children are portrayed in a way in which children generally would not be photographed. There is no good cheer, no childlike innocence, no sparkle in the eyes. We imagine pictures of children to be different.
Those people had not changed, only their public image.The study of this paragraph in our history brings clearly to light that it is enough merely to alter the way an image appears to the public in order to achieve the reevaluation of a system of values handed down through generations.
Gottfried Helnwein, famous in the art world as painter and politically committed performer, familiar to a wide audience due to provocative front page features in magazines, complimented his work in art with photography from the outset. What had then begun as a documentation of his actions was granted autonomy through the years as he became conscious of how many effective possibilities photography possessed, possibilities which remain outside the realm of painting and drawing.
Whilst it is essential to the painting - especially those which tend to hyper-realism - that it is a product of the imaginary force and fantasy of the artist, every photographic project, however much it has been manipulated, bears a remainder of the authentic force of its daily uses for documentation in both the private and public sectors.
This appeared on a grand scale on the site between the cathedral and Museum Ludwig, and at a time of "photokina", with its hundreds of thousands of visitors. The 100 metre picture wall did not fail to hit its mark: it induced bewilderment as well as aggressiveness. After a few days numerous pictures had been slashed, one even stolen.

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