is another." - this sentence from Arthur Rimbaud accompanies the
debates about subject in the modern age like no other. In the photography
of Bettina Hoffmann, it comes up as a triviality, almost insignificant.
Two women on a bed, as though after an argument. Three women in a kitchen,
in a tense, demanding atmosphere. Only when one takes a closer look, does
it become apparent that the people in the picture are identical. Bettina
Hoffmann fits self-portraits into realistic scenes, or the other way around:
she unfolds them into a scenery of various, well-calculated roles.
"I is another" - the sentence has lost none of its frightfulness.
An unusual mixture of intimacy and foreignness pervades Hoffmann's photo-scenarios.
They are family arrangements. The women portrayed, like sisters, know
each other so well that there is no longer a need for words. The images
generate their tremendous tension through the power gradient between the
actors and the ambiguity of the scene, the suspension. The figures occupy
exactly balanced positions within the social arrangement. At the same
time, the images have the effect of a film stopped in motion: they make
reference to an event, an incident, that controls the scene and yet lies
outside of the picture.
Bettina Hoffmann works with ambivalence, with the conflict between proximity
and distance, identity and foreignness, movement and standstill. This
applies to the technique as well: the computer-worked images have the
quality of original photos - they appear realistic, and at the same time
remain synthetic and abstract.
"Photography destroys people, in that it portrays them," wrote
Siegfried Krakauer - "it is not the person that emerges in the photograph,
but the sum of that which can be stripped from him or her." As a
side note, Hoffmann's collages also show how photography, the medium of
similarity and reproduction, can alter our conception of personal identity.
(translated by Holly Austin)