Cooper & Gorfer | I Know Not These Hands | Fotografiska Stockholm

11 March — 11 June, 2017

Cooper & Gorfer

I Know Not These My Hands

The world of American/Austrian duo Cooper & Gorfer is as much fiction as it is reality.
With intricate photography collages resembling dreamlike paintings, they document remote places and people by reshaping them into capturing poetic stories. Pictures you never forget, now at Fotografiska.

Cooper & Gorfer are artists who share the love for photography

This exhibition at Fotografiska presents such a unique type of photography. What to compare with? Maybe Renaissance paintings or Byzantine art…

Cooper & Gorfer are artists who share the love for photography. A duo who comes from two totally different professional backgrounds; Sarah Cooper is a classically trained photographer while Nina Gorfer studied architecture under Zaha Hadid. Their collaboration started with a common fascination for visual storytelling and narrative structures and their visual expression stems from their different backgrounds.

– We work a lot with collage, with assembling and reassembling and with combining different techniques, like stitching, scratching, drawing in and onto the image to express the multi-layered and dynamic thing we call life.

Although photography has been the main medium in their work from the beginning, they have always seen it as only a part of the artistic process.

The result: projects that are very easy to fall in love with, carrying both mystic and explicit stories tinted by the duos fascination of clothes and their impact as carrier of culture.

– We usually ask the people we photograph to wear something from their parents or grandparents, or something they have inherited – something with a history or meaning within their family. If you look at humanity in general, we are not only about one storyline nor are we just about ourselves. We are the accumulation of what we carry with us, the different cultures we are part of, our family and heritage. Clothing can reflect this. Intentionally or unintentionally, the clothes you wear are always a symbol. Throughout art history, clothing has always played a huge role in the iconography of images.

– Another aspect we find interesting, is how where you come from influences you. It creates this beautiful cultural diversity we have in the world. But Culture and its traditions have always been fluid, permeable. The more rigid, the less they are able to survive. Culture in all its aspects is such an important building stone for identity. It is interesting to see how easily you feel threatened if you think you lose certain aspects of your culture. You want to preserve, cling on to them. We forget, that the nature of culture is change.

Cooper & Gorfer’s series range from Sápmi in the north of Scandinavia, to the Faroe Islands, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan and Argentina. They take us on journeys through the experimental medium of photography as well as through the multifaceted stories of people and places around the world.

– For us at Fotografiska it is a great pleasure to be able to present this duo’s exciting work and world, says Johan Vikner Exhibition Coordinator at Fotografiska.

Their projects take some years to finish. In order to give the people and themes or issues they encounter justice, they always create a book encompassing not only the imagery but a documentation of the research they undertook.

One of the women we photographed for the Interruptions project said that usually the images taken of the Sámi make her feel like a tourist attraction. Whereas she described the images we took for the Interruptions project, as feeling more real...

...This is very interesting – Here we go and take the photograph apart and collage and alter it, and still, people feel they are somehow closer to the truth. It’s because our minds do that too, all the time, they add, filter, and take away things. No one sees the world objectively. In our work we try to reflect this selective patchwork nature of the human mind.

About the artists:

Cooper & Gorfer comprises the artists Sarah Cooper (US, 1974) and Nina Gorfer, (Austria, 1979). The artist duo is known for their distinct painterly aesthetics and poetic hybrid image collages. Their work often revolves around issues of cultural identity and the genius loci, in search for the connection between people, story and place. Their imagery is often based on, and a result of, comprehensive research travels in close collaboration with the subjects they are portraying, with the photographers carefully directing their productions.

Cooper & Gorfer are photographers in origin but strive away from realistic representation. Using an advanced collage technique, they construct their photo-based works like paintings. They distort proportions and shift time and space, stage rigorously, and use stylized poses and gestures to break up the world into parts and rearrange them into an enigmatic and exaggerated ensemble. Like art history’s Mannerists, Pre-Raphaelites, or Surrealists, Cooper & Gorfer strain observable reality through a complex psychological filter of dreams, moods, fears and wounds, both their own and those they have encountered.

Cooper & Gorfer began their collaboration in 2006. They live and work in Gothenburg, Sweden and Berlin, Germany.

© Ena With Eyes Shut