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Ulrike Ludwig
Spaces, Rooms and Edges

Ulrike Ludwig’s photography concentrates on the precise observation of the cultures of rooms or spaces. The German noun is delightfully, even precisely imprecise and ambiguous. Her typological interest manifests itself in the examination and exploration of rooms and houses that have been abandoned by those who use the spaces.

Ludwig’s photography resembles that of ethnographic field research in its critical approach to its subject matter. Since 1997 she has been following the trajectory of this path and, more recently, from 2005 to 2007, she has intensified her search. Her focus is not just on empty rooms, but rather she has searched out and defined those corners where she finds the “blank spaces” in the most different interior rooms. She consciously excludes all historical or concrete details from her pictures that might otherwise place the rooms in a more specific context. Through this means, these apparently objective, documentary-style photographs take on an abstract, symbolic character which is reinforced by the details examined in these corner spaces.

The rooms are not as such empty, but emptiness is presented to the viewer. Emptiness, thus seen, describes a relationship between an active sense of awareness and a room or space. Emptiness has always a double relationship: a room is not just empty for someone, it is empty of something, all other things beyond its own emptiness.

Ulrike Ludwig departs more and more from her previous explorations and poses more and more questions about how systems are ordered, and she is researching the social systems of surfaces and assembling an archive of the culture of spaces. The rectangle—as mathematically considered—is the basis of most rooms that we humans build, and it denotes an “architectural”, geometrical system of ordering: of points, lines, and planes. These spare relics of a human presence are, so to say, representative of former lives lived at their most basic and formal: bare walls, empty floors, electrical outlets, windows and doors. Ludwig’s rooms and corners enable the viewer to reconstruct the complete architecture in its entirety. Naturally these seemingly empty rooms are never devoid of the traces of presence: the presence of absence is always already there. The structure of a potential system of ordering is always there: Ludwig not only offers up points, lines, and planes as referents in terms of architectural space, but also within the corners she photographs are furniture, empty boxes, and cartons, signs of the same generic quadratic ordering system.

Beyond the merely voyeuristic look into an individual’s private spaces, the artist also examines our own societal spaces and considers at the same time the considerations of space and time in the context of artificiality. Traces present themselves as examples of this emptiness in her photography. Her power and her magic emerge from her ability to convince us, the viewers, intellectually, that there is a connection between this system of ordering and this emptiness so that we may actually hold these coordinates in our own hands and always somehow create our own new spaces.

Ulrike Ludwig shows that with this photographic work one can read surfaces like text and indeed decipher them. Memory and remembering are always already intimately bound up with space, and thus with the minimalist drawings she presents with her photographic works, Ludwig enables the viewer to fill out these spaces with her own memories. With a pencil she makes visual the established system of ordering, point, line, and plane, and offers us spaces to negotiate.

Berlin 2008

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