What do Brigitte Bardot, Princess Diana, and Yoko Ono—among other international celebrities, men and women—have in common?
They have each shared an unforgettable moment with Matthias Wähner.
Matthias Wähner who?
Matthias Wähner is the "man" in, as well as behind, Man Without Qualities, an unusual photo-art travelling exhibition sponsored by Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes Manila.
In opting for that title himself, Wähner—a recipient of the 1992 Bavarian state prize for the fine arts as well as grants from several German foundations following his studies in art and philosophy at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximillians University and Academy of Fine Arts—may have unwittingly underscored at least one personal "quality" of his: modesty. As understood, he considers himself a nobody in the company of the distinguished personages with whom he strikes a "pose," with what is unforgettable about it being reckoned from his point of view.
The said poses, of course, never took place, and only the events and the mostly well-known figures that make them memorable are real.
The fictive photographs featured in the exhibit are actually products of what has been described as the modern-day "digital darkroom," through a photographic legerdemain called "electronic image processing." In black-and-white, these have been culled from a huge pile of archival photographs kept at Munich’s state museum.
It is not only with celebrities in politics, culture, and sports—including Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, American tennis player Jimmy Connors, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat—that Wähner makes his seemingly authentic presence felt. He does so, too, in historic contemporary scenes played out by ordinary people, such as that of terrified children fleeing from harm’s way in an episode of the Vietnam War, or that of some Eastern Europeans jeering at an otherwise intimidating Soviet tank in a street of their capital. Wähner adds to his digitalized masquerades, often playfully, by doing a bit of facial and, sometimes, body acting, with aplomb.
Man Without Qualities can be viewed at Hiraya Gallery from April 13 to 30.