In her first solo show at Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, the Berlin-based artist Johanna Diehl presents works from her series “Displace” – photographs of empty, converted, sometimes destroyed churches and mosques, photographs in the Muslim North and the orthodox Christian south of the divided island Cyprus.
This series of photographs was made in 2008/2009, when Johanna Diehl was working in Cyprus with a project grant from the German Academic Exchange Service. The ruins she shows us tell about the history of the country and reflect its conflicts: for more than 35 years now, Cyprus has been divided into the southern Greek part and the Turkish-occupied north; the border also splits the capital Nicosia into two parts. And even if this border has been opened more in recent years, both parts of the country show traces of the decades-old conflict to this day: abandoned villages, destroyed houses, including houses of worship that were often abandoned head over heels, and left to deteriorate.
The title “Displace” refers to the absence of people (characteristic for this series) who were forced to abandon their homes and places of worship. At the same time the term also describes the process of rededication and the re-inscription by another ethnic group that has settled in the abandoned villages.
“Johanna Diehl, one of the most interesting photographers of her generation, took photographs of these emptied, unused or differently used houses of worship on both sides. The formal rigour of these photographs is only at first sight reminiscent of the Becher School; they are interesting precisely for their narrative details and deviances from typification. On one iconostasis, we see graffiti, icons have been removed from another. Elsewhere, the floors of churches are covered in carpets, lines of crepe paper point towards Mecca, the mihrab, the niche for praying, is simply painted on the wall of a church. In these inscriptions and re-inscriptions of architecture, the complex political history of the country is revealed in a particularly vivid way. Just as with Johanna Diehl’s works on Odessa, she succeeds here, with an almost surreally precise eye for minimal formal details – the pattern of a skirt, the adhesive tape -, in revealing both the individual as well as collective fate of people. The fact that these people are usually not part of the picture only increases the effect of what is hinted at – just as in Hitchcock’s films” (Niklas Maak, FAS, 25.10.2009).
Johanna Diehl, born in 1977 in Hamburg, today lives and works in Berlin. She studied photography at Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig with Professor Timm Rautert, and she is Meisterschülerin of Professor Tina Bara.
Images and text provided by Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf
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