Kerstin Flake

1 – 30 November 2022
Muche House
// Invitation //

Born in Karlsruhe, Kerstin Flake first studied theatre, film and media studies at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, then from 1997 to 2003 at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig in the "Photography and Media" class with Professor Joachim Brohm. 

For the 2023 annual programme, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has invited the Leipzig photographer to show two photo series: Shaking Surfaces and Replaces. In her series, physics seems to be suspended. Things are thrown into turmoil, everyday objects develop a momentum of their own and lose their former functions. People literally lose their stability, they float. Apparatus and equipment vibrate, take on a life of their own and seem to follow their own choreography. Flake's stagings, which precede the photographic shoot, are elaborately planned and extremely meticulously prepared until the scene in space becomes the image. Nevertheless, the photographs exude lightness. The impossible suddenly seems possible. Movement brings change, ends stagnation, allows action. 

Kerstin Flake, Bauhaus Residenz 2022, Haus Muche, 4.11.2022 / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Foto: Kerstin Flake

How would you describe the centre of your artistic practice?

My photographs show objects that are staged like portraits and seem to lead an irritating life of their own. Essential to my artistic approach is to seek out places where legacies of life and work typical of the time can be found. Through targeted interventions, I free the objects found on site from their former function so that new spatial relationships can emerge against the respective architectural backdrop. In addition, I assign unfamiliar properties to the things, which make one think of a bizarre haunting. In the photographs, the objects create a reality in which physical laws no longer play a role. I translate the filigree spatial installations into a two-dimensional image with a plate camera or digital camera. The medium of photography itself is constantly renegotiated with its limits and possibilities between documentation and fake, actuality and timelessness, space and surface, authorship and coincidence.

How does it feel to inhabit an entire cultural heritage?

An echo is created when one walks through the house with its sparse furnishings. Floating would be a better way to move. Up and down the stairs I move through this spacious stairwell, which has a vertical band of windows on the end wall. The view offers an impressive view of nature. Inside and outside are connected, there the pine forest, here the cultural heritage. Recreation and creativity, very close together. A good creative feeling.

How do you encounter a house with this history?

I imagine how everything was in motion in the 1920s and new answers were sought. You "encounter" the ideas that were thinking about better housing for everyone. One of the central questions was "How do we want to live?" The important word was "community". This question has not aged and is gaining relevance again right now. Were the stairs not only connecting elements between the floors, but perhaps also meeting places of communication? The large number of interested people who stroll past here in front of the houses every day is also astonishing. The topicality of the Masters' Houses continues, which is great.

Is it different to work in a world cultural heritage site?

Pulling up the wooden shutters in the morning in the Muche Masters' House and listening to the "chugging" of the slats is unique. I experience the sunrise and sunset in the UNESCO cultural heritage site. In between is the artistic composition of the images. Exploring the architecture, I learn how the light in the rooms changes at every time of day. I can observe something that was already marvelled at in the 1920s. Working and living artistically, united in the same place. Here the small square bedroom, a few steps further on the very spacious studio room opens up with an enormous window front. Flooded with light, the space for thinking, the connection to the outside can always be felt. Glass and wall alternate. The various balconies around the house invite you to take a break, breathe in the resin scent of the pine needles and enjoy the view. Of course, you are also careful in the house and keep the given house rules to preserve this property.

What did you work on at Haus Muche?

Due to the mirroring of the semi-detached house and the simultaneous rotation of the floor plan by ninety degrees, I lacked a real understanding of the rooms and the cardinal points at the beginning. This twisting caused a slight disorientation. This was a good mental and emotional breeding ground for developing bizarre constellations on site, for asking new questions. The semi-detached house with all its rooms & pine forest served me temporarily as a studio. Everywhere I could set up installations in front of the camera, try out new things and discard them again. At some point in the Muche house I arrived at an enigmatic pictorial structure in which the sparse furniture seems to set itself in motion – to the point of dissolving the fixed outlines.

During my stay, I was intensively supported by the entire team of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. This enabled me to achieve completely new pictorial results artistically.