absence of subject: august sander / michael somoroff
Absence of Subject by Michael Somoroff (*1957) is a poignant homage to the legendary German photographer August Sander’s (1876-1964) monumental work People of the 20th Century. It is a thoughtful and passionate meditation on memory, imagination, human resilience and creativity – presented for the first time on the occasion of the Venice Biennale 2011.
Absence of Subject lets you revisit August Sander’s work allowing you to understand the richness of his intent.
In each of the historical pictures, Michael Somoroff has digitally erased the subject, the portrait, retaining only the background. Once a secondary fragment, these backgrounds now become the primary motivator. Seemingly simple at first, Somoroff’s transformations are a complex and ambitious work comprised of 40 photographs and seven animations as well as 40 August Sander original photographs.
In the videos, Somoroff takes the new image as its base and adds an element instead of taking one away. He surprises us with tiny increments of inexplicable movements which are utterly absorbing, potent dramas of time and space – endless in the moment, over before you know it.
The exhibition is a perfect example of a delicate balance of alchemy and inquiry. Conceptually and humanistically oriented, each of Somoroff’s images demonstrates the persuasive power and aesthetic of August Sander’s oeuvre even without the human subject. This is not photography as we are accustomed to, but more about the idea of creativity. What Somoroff celebrates is to establish that post-modern art is not dislocated, but something with roots, tradition and continuity.