Michael Etzensperger (1982)

Michael EtzenspergerWith his series Masken, Michael Etzensperger reinterprets photographs from books about masks in non-European cultures. The practice of photographic superimposition enables him to disrupt their initial representations and make them at times elusive. The lines multiply, the colours merge, the hairstyles became more complex, the faces are altered. The eye seeks to distinguish the two images by alternately plunging into them and distancing itself from the photomontage. A fruitful, even hypnotic exercise, in which new images vie with each other to emerge. Each of Michael Etzensperger’s photomontages become the medium for possible spectres. In some ways, we can link this practice of overlaying and deconstruction with those of the Surrealists and Dadaists in the early twentieth century. The artist can experiment freely with transfiguration in the manner of Man Ray’s rayograms, or metaphors as in a collage by Hannah Höch. The images mingle to create an apparently free and independent composition.

But Michael Etzensperger’s series of Masken is also an opportunity to restore these masks to life, after they were frozen in the works of ethnographers, in which photographs usually have no more than a documentary purpose. For many ethnic groups, the mask is part of a ritual for entering into contact with a higher world. They often depict mythological figures, animals, or deities, or they possess an intercessory function. They can be considered, in many respects, as alive. We can make a comparison with certain African statues, to which initiates give food and drink during sacred rituals, constantly enriching them with new symbolic materials. They are released from any kind of immutable shape to finally become perpetually changing forms. Here it is as if the photographer has breathed new life into the masks. And these assemblages seem so much the more dynamic in that they place the subjectivity of the viewer at the centre of attention. The tangle of forms is such that it becomes impossible to master the figures in their completeness, and each viewer ultimately favours one particular dimension.

Text: Léa Tirilly, 2016
Art historian specialising in African art. She has worked on voodoo statuary in Benin and the issue of aesthetics in ritual sculptures.

Dezemberausstellung Übersicht, Kunsthalle Winterthur, 2015
Catch of the Year, Dienstgebäude, Zürich, 2015
reGeneration 3, Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico, 2015
reGeneration 3, Musée de l‘Elysée, Lausanne, 2015
Focus, Dezemberausstellung, Kunstmuseum Winterthur
Carnaval des Animaux, boulev‘art Kunstraum Kreuzlingen
Transphotographiques, Tri Postal, Lille, FR, 2014
aus dem OFF #1, Winterthur, 2014
Dezemberausstellung, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Dezember 2013
17. VfG Nachwuchsförderpreis, Finale“, OSLO 8, Basel, 2013
Poznan Photo Diploma Award, Slodownia +1 Gallery, Poznan PL 2013
17. VfG Nachwuchsförderpreis, Finale“, l‘elac, Lausanne, 2013
Seeds of Color, UPON PAPER Space, Berlin, 2013
EXhIbiTion, VFO, ZHdK, Zürich, 2012
Werkschau 2, Coalmine Fotogalerie, Winterthur, 2012
Diplomausstellung, VFO, ZHdK Zürich, 2012
Alles im Kasten, Collegium Helveticum, ETH Zürich, 2012
Empathy, Photodepartement Hogeschool Sint-Lukas, Brüssel, 2012
Lost in Translation, Stadtgalerie des Kunstvereins Markdorf, 2011
Arbeitstitel, VFO ZHdk Zürich, 2011
Verausgabung=Schönheit, Bermuda Garage Zürich, 2011
Stand der Dinge, VFO, ZHdK Zürich, 2010
stabil-instabil, VFO, ZHdK Zürich, 2009
Jungkunst, Winterthur, 2009

Eclectic Matter, Hauser Gallery, Zürich, 2015
Projekt Jägerstrasse, Guerilla Galerie, St.Gallen, 2011

Kunstsammlung Kanton Zürich
Kunstsammlung Zürcher Kantonalbank ZKB
Collection Musée de'l Elysée, Lausanne

1000Words Magazine, Issue 20, Essay by Martin Jaeggi
Focus, Dezemberausstellung, Kunstmuseum Winterthur(Katalog), 2014
Poznan Photo Diploma Award, (Katalog), 2013
Streulicht Magazine, Issue n°3, 2014
17. VfG Nachwuchsförderpreis, Bentelli, 2013
ZHdK Projekt mit Adam Broomberg&Oliver Chanarin
Lost in Translation, 2011,
ZHdK Projekt mit Prof. André Gelpke