‘The City. Becoming and Decaying’
A group exhibition supported by the Goethe-Institut
This exhibition is made up of works by photographers from the renowned German photography agency OSTKREUZ. These photographs were taken over a
period of two years, during which time 18 photographers travelled to 22 countries documenting cities around the globe. ‘The City. Becoming and
Decaying’ has now been touring internationally since 2010.
About the Ostkreuz Agency
“The agency bears the name Ostkreuz. It is the name of a rail station in Berlin whose form recalls a compass rose because rail lines from all different directions converge there. When seven men and seven women came together in 1990 to form an agency for photographers, they gave it this name. Ostkreuz described where they were situated, the East, where another country had existed until just recently and where they had been some of its most prominent photographers. The founders thus marked a point, an intersection, from which you can head in any direction. Today Ostkreuz is the most successful photographer-run agency in Germany. It has eighteen members. Almost every one of them has been honored with a national or international prize. They come from all regions of Germany and from other countries. The youngest is in his mid-twenties, the oldest in her mid-sixties. Each sees the world through different eyes; each is interested in something different the world holds; each is heading in a different direction. But there is a point where they all set out from and where they always reconvene. This point is called Ostkreuz. Ostkreuz is an approach. It means confronting reality straight on and discovering your working material there. Understanding the essence of things as you work, photographing this essence, and keeping the photograph honest. It means developing a stance toward reality and testing this attitude against reality, without necessarily allowing the one or the other to gain the upper hand. Ostkreuz means being genuine, nothing more, nothing less. Throughout its eighteen years of existence, the agency has repeatedly developed exhibitions. In one of the first, they reflected on the city of Berlin; in the most recent, on Germany; and now this exhibition will be about the world and about the city in the world. No one, no editor or institution, commissioned these photographs from the agency. They come from the agency’s own initiative. This exhibition relies on the individual strengths and perspectives of its members and shows the level the work has achieved—individually and as a whole. This is the idea of a group of individualists who repeatedly struggle to find common ground. This is the idea of the Ostkreuz Agency.” (Marcus Jauer)
About The City
“One day, not long ago, humanity crossed a threshold without even realizing it. Nothing was different after that day, yet something had in fact changed. From then on, more people were living in cities than in the countryside.
The history leading up to this day stretches back over ten thousand years, to the time when the first city was founded. Maybe this city was located in Asia Minor, maybe in Mesopotamia, or maybe it was in India. Certainly, in the beginning, it was nothing more than a speck in the landscape, a place for people who—in their desire for wealth, security, and freedom—did not want to be alone. They sought community because they thought that these aspirations could be better met by living together. That was the idea. That was how it all started.
Today the city shapes the face of the planet, dotting each of its continents. The African city is growing most rapidly, the Asian city holds the most people, and in Europe the city extends furthest into the countryside. Meanwhile, there are thirty cities on earth with over ten million inhabitants—cities that have earned the title of megacities. According to a United Nations’ population report, as of the year 2008 more people live in cities than in the country. More than symbolizing the culmination of a long history, this moment of transformation marks the beginning of a new chapter.
Yet the city has long been more than just a speck in the landscape. The future of the world lies in the city. It is where the fate of humanity will be decided. What happens to the city also happens to us. In the city people who would avoid each other in the country or never even meet confront one another. The city attracts a great concentration of poverty, while at the same time it is often the only way to escape impoverishment. The city shows the power of planning and also how planning can become utterly meaningless. It gives everyone the feeling that they belong to something, but then shows them that the parts have nothing to do with one another. It provides closeness and creates anonymity. The city is everything and its opposite, all at once, in the same place.
Now is the time to get a picture of this city, a city that could be anywhere, a city not shown on any map. It is time to determine the ways in which this city reveals itself, to recognize the forces coming out of the city, time to write the new chapters that are emerging from within. This is the task the photographers of the Ostkreuz Agency have set themselves.
They have brought together images from around the world of the city’s growth and decay. They show how the city of Ordos, in China, is springing up in the middle of the steppes and how Pripyat, in Ukraine, is being taken over again by nature; how the city of Lagos, in Nigeria, is expanding uncontrollably in its tangled growth; how the city of Manila is clustering into slums, and how Detroit, in the United States, is decaying at its core; how Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, can barely keep up with its own growth, and how the city of Gaza, in Palestine, is being leveled to the ground; how the city of Las Vegas lives from appearance, Auroville from ideals, and Atlantis as myth.
What we ultimately have before us is a portrait of a city that brings together all cities, a city that stretches back before memory and extends beyond our imagination. A city that seems timeless, and yet, at each and every moment, is precisely the city we humans have created. People enable cities to grow and decline. They come and flee, build and destroy, press toward the center and remain on the outskirts, seek community, and stand alone—people who want to fulfill their aspirations. They have created a place for this: it is called the city.” (Marcus Jauer)
Photographers : Sibylle Bergemann, Jörg Brüggemann, Espen Eichhöfer, Annette Hauschild, Harald Hauswald, Pepa Hristova, Andrej Krementschouk, Ute Mahler, Werner Mahler, Dawin Meckel, Julian Röder, Thomas Meyer, Frank Schinski, Jordis Antonia Schlösser, Anne Schönharting, Linn Schröder, Heinrich Völkel, Maurice Weiss