Anna und Bernhard Blume

Anna Blume was born in 1937, in Bork, Westphalia; Bernhard (Johannes) Blume was born in the same year, in Dortmund. After a crafts apprenticeship (Anna Blume) and an apprenticeship as painter and decorator (Johannes Blume), both studied at the Art Academy Düsseldorf from 1960 to 1965. There they became students of K. O. Götz and Joseph Beuys. They married in 1966. Having finished their studies, their professional ways at first separated: Anna Blume became a crafts and arts teacher at a Gymnasium in Cologne where she taught until 1985. Bernhard Blume studied philosophy and then taught art and philosophy, also at a school in Cologne. In 1987, Bernhard Blume was appointed Professor of »Freie Kunst und Visuelle Kommunikation« (Free Arts and Visual Communication) at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg.

After first independently produced works, Anna and Bernhard Blume began their artistic collaboration in the late 1970s / early 1980s. They developed large-format photo sequences and photo performances that deliberately probe the limits of photography, of perception, and of the real. And the conditions under which the photographs were produced always remain recognizable. Through the blurring of movements, the twisting of the camera during long exposures, through unfocused shots or perspectival distortions, dynamized (also ornamental) formations emerge. Only a sharp gaze is able to make out the familiar and the ambiguously ironic, while at the same time the viewer her- or himself is put to test (Ödipale Komplikationen? (Oedipal Complications?) Fliegender Teppich (Flying Carpet), 1977/78). Seemingly everyday motifs which at first sight may have sprung from the treasure of private snapshot collections or family albums, turn out to be ironical self-stagings of the two artists and their family environment (Wahnzimmer (Delusion Chamber), 1984; Küchenkoller (Kitchen Rage), 1985; Trautes Heim-Serie (Sweet Home Series), 1985/86).
In their unconventional Performances based on constructed events, and in their photographic scenarios relying on techniques of deformation, Anna and Bernhard Blume often deal with social conventions in Germany, with family relations, with domestic life, and gender roles. Ödipale Komplikationen? (Oedipal Complications?, 1977/78) are set up as psychoanalytic studies of actual mother-son constellations in actual realms of human activity. Another example is the Holterdiepolter (Helter-Skelter) sequence of the same year, thematizing family relations and emotional bonds. In this context, the staging of the world of things, provided with a magic of its own through animist life-giving (»Ideo-Plastik«) gains special significance. In photo series such as Vasenekstase (Vase Extasy, 1987) and, in the later seriesTranszendentaler Konstruktivismus (Transcendental Constructivism, 1994), the world of things sometimes turns into a threat for the domestic life of the subject. Always situated on the borders of irony and fright, this is treated as »process of body perception in the moment of contact between body and thing« (Selter, in: Ausst.-Kat. Dortmund 2006). Parallel to the photo series, the furniture shown in the photographs is also exhibited as independent objects.

Yet the fat aunts, jumping on sofas, grandfathers throwing up before the camera, or the well-known slapstick-like snapshots – all are part of these series – turn out to be a deliberate invalidation of normality and conventions of seeing. They are situated between »Gelsenkirchener Barock« (German post-World War II »baroque« style of furniture), and surrealist spatial constructions, between Loriot-like (German comedian, caricaturist, actor) situation comedy and Hitchcock-like set lighting and perspective. Here, the Blumes intensely devote themselves »in an extended self-experiment« to »basic work on the German ›Wesen.‹ Before one goes out into the great wide world, one should look at one’s cozy home to see whether the beginning of the world’s misery can’t be found right here. (…) It was the obvious thing to do to go into the kitchen« (Küchenkoller (Kitchen Rage); Kartoffelschrift (Potato-Writing). The kitchen is the place where the »home-grown potato« rules ((E. Blume,ibid.ebd.). The seemingly absurd-mythical Im Wald (In the Forest, 1980 — 90) again emerges from this concept of objects and figures. In this work, trees and figures engage in strange collaboration and, through the playing with dimensions and the overcoming of logical picture constructions, figures mutate into mythical creatures.

In different series, the photographs create a specific interaction, owing to a careful and just as dynamic composition. Diptych-, triptych-, polyptych-like picture constellations emerge that »grow together« through an installation leaving almost no gaps between the works. Also, the motifs, the lighting, the accentuation of the photo sequences through blurredness, or the segmentation of the motif itself into sequences (Mahlzeit I (Meal I), 1985 — 89; Abstrakte Kunst (Abstract Art) 2003/04) contribute to the unity of the composition.

The Polaroids and Polaroid collages done between 1988 and 2000 go back to the spectrum of themes of the earlier large-format works. At first, the artists concentrated on photos taken of each other (Gegenseitig, 1990). Later, the Blumes developed deforming, deconstructive Polaroid pictures and collage series that may be read as attacks on physiognomy. Again, objects of everyday life – the photos and photo collages are now small-format – are superimposed on, cut up, exert pressure on, beset the distorted faces of the artists.

Aside from photographs, the Blumes also did drawings. There are, for example, the pencil drawings by Anna Blume, deformations of the modern, geometrizing canon of forms. There are also the felt-tip drawings by Bernhard Blume that again reflect back on modernism and on the objectification of metaphysical needs – works that are closely related to the photo series.

Since the early 1980s, the works of Anna and Bernhard Blume have been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, for example at the Dany Keller Gallery, Munich, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1989), as part of the traveling exhibition »Photography in Contemporary German Art - 1960 to the Present,« at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek (1992), at the Kunsthalle Bremen (1995), and at the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (2006).

Anna and Bernhard Blume live in Cologne.

Selected Literature

Anna & Bernhard Blume, de-konstruktiv, Ausst.-Kat. Museum am Ostwall Dortmund, hg. v. K. Wettengl, D. Strauß, Bielefeld / Leipzig 2006

Anna & Bernhard Blume, Das Glück ist ohne Pardon – Joy knows no mercy, Polaroids: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Göppingen, hg.v. W. Meyer, Göppingen 2003

Honnef, K. (Hg.): Transzendentaler Konstruktivismus, Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen 1995

// Honnef, K. (Hg.): Anna und Bernhard Blume, 3 Bde., Köln 1992 — 95

Wieland, A. (Hg.): Anna & Bernhard Blume, Großfotoserien 1985 — 1990, Ausst.-Kat., Rhein. Landesmuseum Bonn, Köln 1992

Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014 Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum

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