The photographer, who was awarded the Günther Klinge Culture Prize of the municipality of Gauting for his work last year, took extensive walks through his hometown of Gauting in the spring of 2020, as he did through other areas in Bavaria, neighboring Austria, and also Italy. In the process, he came across urban places that, at first glance, told of the absence of the people who usually move here in very large numbers and at a pace dominated by everyday life. A shopping mall in Munich. A collection of containers. The large parking lot in front of the Allianz Arena. All deserted. At second glance, however, all the large-format detail shots radiate a profound dignity, as if the places themselves were the actors in contemporary events. As if they were first taking a deep breath in this captured moment, right into the belly of the cities.
There is the picture showing a red bench in the Allianz Arena, bordered on the left by the white information mast with its spherical top. A blue sky that seems almost unreal delimits the red bench above. Clear lines, intense colors offer the eye points of rest and let us look deep inside.
There is a picture showing the facade of the Nuremberg Children's House: red and blue rectangles, over which a white and black rhombus slides and, also rhombus-shaped, cuts out parts of the red and blue rectangles. One thinks of Kandinsky, of Mondrian. And again forms, color, structure create stopping points for a rest in looking, invite to meditation.
Michael Nguyen's photographs direct the viewer's attention to the details in the architecture of our cities, of our living spaces in general, which have been reduced to their essence. By focusing on the chosen detail, the gaze is directed without the chosen detail being exaggerated in its significance. The interpretation and thus the determination of the meaning is left to the viewer, who cannot escape the intense looking.
Visitors to Gauting, in particular, can experience their living space in a completely different way, en detail: at the rear entrance to the bosco, a selection of Nguyen's photographs of Gauting can be seen on a screen under the keyword "Gauting in the window": the train station building, a mannequin on the Würm, various chewing gum vending machines in the districts. If you simply want to take a look at what is special in the omnipresent, you can experience this with "Gauting in the Window" without going inside the Kulturhaus.
But if you go inside, you will see much more. The picture of the abandoned summer pool, for example, where reflections on the surface of the water shift the perspectives into the ambiguous. "Like the rest of us, this summer pool is on hold until the warmer months," Nguyen notes of it, "The reflections on the surface of the water, the bare trees nearby, and the drifting leaves make it seem as if the outdoor pool, like us, is waiting for better days."
Sabine Zaplin lives as a freelance author and cultural journalist near Munich. Her debut novel "Engelsalm" (C.H. Beck) was supported by a literary grant from the City of Munich. In addition to prose, Sabine Zaplin also writes poetry, plays and translates from English. She works as a freelance journalist for Bayerischer Rundfunk, among others.
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Article in German