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JVA MAGDEBURG - photographs and interviews from the correctional facility in Magdeburg

For a period of one year Jens Klein followed a discourse with a place that both mirrors the structures, hierarchies and dependencies of our society from within its own microcosmos, and yet seems to out on the edge of that same society: the JVA Magdeburg. The result, the photographs and the interviews which the artist held with both inmates and staff, and which are available in a specially published text report, are each independent elements of the exhibition. 50 C-prints, enlarged from medium format by hand, are presented. They are portraits, photographs of personal possessions and both internal and external views of the JVA Magdeburg. The photographs are more than just a documentation and subtly challenge the observer. The photographs, shot without technical effects or complicated setting up, show the place and its people with their own dignity without moralising or evaluating them. The balanced view is conceptional in form, and can be seen in almost all the photographs. This effect is achieved by Jens Klein through the centrally positioned camera perspective, a lack of additional lighting, the uniform lighting of the shots indoors, which prevents light-shadow effects, a separation from the certain allocation of people from objects and rooms, and the crystallising out of people from their physical environments. Additionally, the intentional step of not naming those photographed, blends out all externally given individuality and identity. These qualities are only given through the format-filling shooting from a frontal perspective. The contextual isolation, which negates narration, takes place in several ways; through the separate capturing of people, possessions, interiors (cells, common rooms) and external areas, and also through the portraits themselves. In these the backgrounds remain unidentifiable as mere coloured areas, or as long hallways and anonymous locker doors which don't allow for closer identification - a prison as a living space is intentionally not addressed. This aspect, the straight look into the camera, the presence of the person being photographed and their open stance, take this work past that of a pure documentary and give it an expression of still intensity and penetration. The aesthetically staged photography of personal possessions also make an allocation to a particular person impossible, and yet they are associated with an individual story. The photographs of the cells have nothing voyeuristic about them. They show various personal rooms without taking away their intimacy. Being locked up is also not made a subject here. The windows are a source of natural light, the bars behind them are only noticed as a fuzzy, dissolved structure in the strong light. The other interior shots, as well as those of the greened courtyard, also show dissolved details of a whole, without giving the viewer a frame or fixed location.

The principle of non-allocation in Jens Klein's work opens up room for thought, which may be filled with ones own associations if one allows a dialogue with the photographed material to take place. This corresponds equally to the principle of accepting others and the preservation of dignity and individuality.

Susanne Knorr