cover image Neue Welt

Neue Welt

Wolfgang Tillmans. Taschen (Ingram, dist.), $39.99 (216p) ISBN 978-3-8365-3974-6

A few years ago, German photographer Tillmans came across a sentence that resonated with him deeply: “Life is astronomical.” His captivating new project of digital photographs, taken around the world between 2009 and 2012, reflects this statement in diverse and provocative ways. Locations were both familiar to the artist (London, Berlin, New York) and new (Shanghai, China; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), with his images equally wide-ranging and full of contrast. A photograph of a young boy bolting down a Mumbai street faces the placid image of the star-filled night sky over Munuwata Island, Papua New Guinea; a large vibrant and textured closeup of the interior of crustacean claws faces a set of small photographs of Jeddah shopping malls. Tillmans’s still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and cityscapes probe dichotomies of interior and exterior, nature and the human-made, detail and expanse. He explores juxtaposition through layering photographs of different sizes and genres to form collage-like narratives. The collection is prefaced by a thoughtful and revealing interview with Tillmans by Beatrix Ruf, director/curator of the Kunsthalle Zurich, printed in English, French, and German. Here, Tillmans explains that he is devoted to “the question of what constitutes life on earth today, how one assesses and captures it, and perhaps, too, how a sense of the whole could be revealed”; his images engage with this question most poignantly and provocatively. (Nov.)