Axel Hütte • Photographer, Germany

A Dynamically Sublime

Landscape Stories: In the series entitled ‘As dark as light’ you had worked of night time city landscapes (since 1996). You use the landscape theme in his work to explore the borderlines of perception. If such borderlines are to be discerned at any given time, then night is that time indeed. Can you tell me more?
Axel Hütte: One can say that photography more than any other visual medium depends on light. The first night photographs were taken in rural districts where in far distance only one light source illuminated the landscape. It took up to 30 minutes to expose the film. One interesting phenomena working in nearly completely darkness is that you see more details on the final print than in reality. So one can say that my prior interest and the night series is a good example of reflection about perception and limitations of perception.

© Axel Hütte - Sonogno, Svizzera dalla serie New Mountains, 2013 205 x 155 cm Ditone Print

Landscape Stories: Could you expand a little on why you decided to focus with a topic? Your research on the topics of landscape, urban as natural. How you structured it?
Axel Hütte: To focus on a topic is a method of working to avoid the kaleidoscopic idea that everything is possible and everything works as an image. This is only correct if you are working on the topic of banality. Working on a topic means that you look sometimes up to 500 possbilities but you only choose one or two views for a photo. Selection is only possible by experience – learning by doing- but sometimes you fail and the image is not as good as you have thought as your eyes look different than the camera lens.

© Axel Hütte -Raucheck, Austria, 2011 stampa Ditone, 135×165 cm
© Axel Hütte - Fanano, Italy, 2013 stampa Ditone, 125×155 cm

Landscape Stories: Your focus of an idea of pure, a sort of genesis of Nature. In which the precise composition of the images also recalls the style of the German painters of the eighteenth century. Tell me.
Axel Hütte: The style of the German painters of the eighteenth century is called romantic, my work is not linked to religious, cosmic, or lost in the world atmosphere where all hope is gone. The romantic Zeitgeist feeling is expressed in the title of Caspar David Friedrichs painting “Die gescheiterte Hoffnung / das Eismeer.”

© Axel Hütte - Totenkopf, Austria, 2011 stampa Ditone, 170×175 cm

Landscape Stories: What is for you the Sublime?
Axel Hütte:To follow the track of the sublime one should have in mind the statement of Lawrence Weiner “Turned as the world turns” Edmund Burke wrote his “Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful” 1757, only seven years Immanuel Kant wrote “Kritik der Urteilskraft.” For Burke the sublime is linked to fear and fright caused by darkness, obscurity, vastness, gigantic, eternity or certain colours as eg black. Sometimes this horror is tamed eg in art, and then he speaks of “delightful horror.” Kant also describes the sublime as a feeling caused by the encounter and confrontation of large and over powerful nature. Limitless ocean, huge mountains, lightning flashes, drums of thunder, all this natural phenomena appear beyond all measure and the synthesizing power of imagination is lead to its limitations. But thanks to “reason” human beings have a tool to encounter those phenomena. Barnett Newmans essay “The sublime is now” brings up a new frame of reference to the sublime. It is not linked to the experience of overwhelming nature but to the confrontation standing in front of a large monochrome painting, that leads to a breakdown of form synthesis. Thus creating the experience of something “unrepresentable / inconsummetable.” This short summary indicates the change of meaning, as the references have changed.

© Axel Hütte - Glacier des Bossons, France, 1997 diasec, 205×162 cm

Landscape Stories:‘Fantasmi e Realtà’ ongoing exhibition at Fondazione Fotografia Modena, organized in collaboration with Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice, introduce a group of works of Modenese Apennines is observed through the relation with the Alpine landscape. Further works on display lead the observer through other visions of Nature, from the reflecting water of Rio Negro to Norwegian glaciers: sublime and hallucinating places, where the gaze is fascinated by the majestic of the landscape and the perception of reality seems to be uncertain. The combination of different places characterizes the exhibition. Tell me.
Axel Hütte: In my landscape work I am working with the emptiness, avoiding any signs of civilisation or narrative indication, so in best case you are lost in time and space. It is always difficult to reconstruct the point of view, where precisely the camera had been placed and sometimes like in the waterreflection even the landscape seems to be drowned. Irritation of the perception and awakening the fantasy or imagination of the beholder is my aim, as whatever you see is not produced by digital technique and It is not leading into a virtual world but the fantasmi- phantasm of reality you can discover yourself.

© Axel Hütte - Rio Negro, Brasil, 1998 diasec, 157×257 cm
© Axel Hütte - Underworld 3, Usa, 2008 dalla serie Caves Diasec, 157×237 cm

Landscape Stories: What about your next show at Fondazione Bevilacqua la Masa in Venice during 24th Architecture Biennale?
Axel Hütte: In Venice I will show only architectural work I have done in the last twenty years, a series from Venice I did in 1984 some urban night views in asian metropolises, I did in the last four years and my first video work with the title: “ATTONITUS.”

© Axel Hütte - Portrait#19, Germania dalla serie Water Reflections, 2004 135 x 165 cm Diasec

Landscape Stories: How might you describe photography and your research work on it in 140 characters or less (for the Twitter generation)?
Axel Hütte: Photography is a medium that had been linked to the idea of being a testimony of time and place. With the digital virtual world this truth is fading away. Enter through the narrow gate of analog possibilities, Open your eyes, be curious and start working, follow your heart good luck and all the best and do not forget, failure is a good way to succeed.

© Axel Hütte - Portrait 26, Germany, 2007 dalla serie Water Reflections Diasec, 135×165 cm

All works Courtesy of Axel Hütte/Fondazione Fotografia Modena

Interview curated by Camilla Boemio