What is Conceptual Photography?
Through the Looking Brain
Book Review by Lucy Soutter
Published by: Hatje Cantz
This book showcases the eclectic international collection of Zellweger Luwa AG, a Swiss corporation specialising in air engineering and gas detection. For those interested in the relationship between conceptual art and photography, the lavish illustrations and detailed catalogue information offer a chance to study an assortment of important works that are rarely exhibited, and often reproduced in partial form.
The short essays cover a familiar trajectory from 60s conceptualism through Jeff Wall-style tableaux – with arguments for avantgarde relevance along the way – yet fail to define conceptual photography convincingly. David Campany and Konrad Bitterli trace parallel histories, with Campany oriented more towards 80s postmodernism, and Bitterli privileging the Düsseldorf School. Stephan Gronert makes a case for the criticality of the work, examining specific strategies and highlighting their original reception. Stephan Berg provides a more abstract contemplation on the role of absence in post-1960s photographic art.
Perhaps most illuminating is Dora Imhof’s account of the collection’s acquisition over the last 30 years, led by the enthusiasms of a second generation of the founder’s family and Parkett publisher Bice Curiger. Here we catch a glimpse of the curious alliance between seemingly anti-establishment artists and the patrons who have supported them.