Jeff Weber

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CAMOUFLAGE   -   lxbxh, EINDOVEN (2020)

The idea of documentation is in some way a crucial point of departure for what I am trying to articulate, that is to say the tension between a documentary/objective status of a photographic picture in relation to the object depicted and the subjective take on the world through the eye/mind of the artist. I feel like a lot of my work is anchored in that tension, and this is the concern of An Attempt at a Personal Epistemology. In that body of work, I attempt to define the paradoxical place of the artist. The artist, in his operations, is always located between objective knowledge and personal experience. I approach art as an empirical method that works on images themselves (with the tool of photography), and it is through this labor that ideas crystalise and emerge...the image is the materialisation / concretisation of that process of formation.

I always have preferred artists that used photography along with or in conjunction with other practices, like Josef Albers, Raoul Hausmann, Nasreen Mohamedi, Sigmar Polke or also Jef Geys and Dan Graham, whose work I adore. I prefer this to a unidimensional tendency, which is in a sense an American modernist construct (based on the discovery of Eugene Atget’s work) around the notion of documentary photography. And I particularly appreciate the imagination (and freedom) that often comes along with such an approach, where documentary photography, in a contemporary context, often seems characterised by a lack of imagination, or/and reveils as some kind of (contemporary) mannerism.

My feeling has always been that artists, like Polke for example, who deal with photography more on the periphery of their own practice are more apt to deal with that kind of tension and even instrumentalise it. Rather than approaching documentation straightforwardly, they often approach the idea of documentation through the mimicry of reportage (or referring to the mode of reportage) in order to build up a certain distance in how they relate to their own work. Such distance can be very helpful for coming up with new ideas, images, work etc... Furthermore, this distance doubles the gap that opens up between the seemingly transparent appearance of a photographic image or print and how this transparency serves, in turn, to conceal at the same time that to which it points or refers. By addressing this gap, the photograph can then emphasize the idea of something being taken for what it is not, or vice versa...


Erna Hecey is pleased to announce Jeff Weber’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Weber works primarily with the mediums of analogue photography and film. For Mimetic Assimilation, he is presenting two bodies of work: a group of photographs made as part of his long-term project Kunsthalle Leipzig and documented in the artist book An Attempt at a Personal Epistemology (2018), and a series of recent photograms (Untitled / Neural Networks). The Kunsthalle Leipzig was initiated and run by Weber between 2012 and 2017 as a conceptual framework in the form of a project space and an expansion of his own practice towards the curatorial.

The consistent, long-term documentation of the exhibitions and events taking place at Kunsthalle Leipzig became a conceptual work of art in itself. Marie-France Rafael describes it as “transforming the essence of photography as representation into an active process, where the participation of the invited artist is required to open up the image towards another image.” (1) Rather than an isolated object, the photographic image is enmeshed in and emerges as a nodal point within a complex of relations, and it is this set of relations that is crystallized in the image.

In the exhibition Mimetic Assimilation, a selection of photographs from An Attempt at a Personal Epistemology, covering the artist’s research on early Christian Gnosticism in Cairo (2013), is juxtaposed with a new series of photograms. The black-and-white grid-like images are generated by a neural network, a program created by Weber to process data that simulates how neurons in the brain connect. The data sets entered into the program in the form of numerical series alter the relations between the artificial neurons. These are subsequently transposed into matrixes and rendered into pixels by an animated sequence, which is then exposed to photo-paper, letting the neural network take over the distribution of shadow and light for the photogram to be made.

The photogram holds a crucial place in Weber’s photographic practice, standing in a metonymical relation to his work as a whole: it functions as a metonym for an inquiry into method, it marks the experimental nature of his photographic practice, and it maps the system of indexical relations which, at various levels from the physical to the conceptual, constitute the image.

(1) See the interview between Marie-France Rafael and Jeff Weber in the book