Rineke Dijkstra at the MMK, Frankfurt

Almerisa series (1994 - ongoing)
Almerisa series (1994 – ongoing)

Back from a trip to Germany, having made the Gernsheim exhibition at the REM in Mannheim the primary stopping point, I found myself popping in to the MMK in Frankfurt before flying home. Here, Rineke Dijkstra has been given free rein of the entire jumpy triangulated space and its contents, to produce a solo show suspended among other works, as chosen by the photographer herself. The Krazy House, until 26th May 2013 is an exhibition named after one of her video works, a four-screen production of young dancers at the Liverpool nightclub of the same name.

Known for her focus on deceptively simple portrait photography, Dijkstra’s work seen in the flesh is mesmerising. With little technical artifice, the place for masks and theatrical gesturing or posturing is found in the subjects themselves. Particularly with teenagers, the thin gauze of defiance and assertion repeatedly wavers in glances or movements of self-consciousness – and even though the real time of film offers this tangible, visible flip between moments of self-awareness (like the lenticular postcard which advertises the exhibition), the still photographs too, express the undecided and uncertain aspects of a young person’s experience in front of the lens.

Much more than just awkwardness, Dijkstra’s work is more broadly about transitions, and the marked effect of life situations on people’s lives. She has produced series of same-subject photographs, including an ongoing portrait of Almerisa (since 1994, when Almerisa was a 6-year-old Bosnian refugee in the Netherlands), and Olivier (2000-2003, a young soldier in the French Foreign Legion). She has photographed the ‘after’ of women who have just given birth, or of matadors who have just left the ring. She has said that she doesn’t always see the differences when working alongside people in this way, but that the photographs themselves tell of subtle change, and of the things ‘given away’ by the body. Photography, in her hands, reveals the invisible.

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