Aesthetic Self-Defense


“A novel is in its broadest sense a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression.” — Henry James, The Art of Fiction


I like to read my neighbourhood as a kind of contingent, incidental narrative, an ongoing, ever-changing psychosocial reality sculpture – more or less like the French situationists did… or as in the Buddhist concept of the Ten Thousand Things (

Reality features a fantastic, surreal subtext, created by a multitude of largely anonymous authors. A mundane drama of unrelenting social erosion against the backdrop of graffiti, gentrification and architectural ruptures, with the essential driving force of narration at its core – change. The structure in the picture above, that’s a switch tower – a remnant of obsolete technology waiting for demolition. It’s been out of use for decades.


Behold the wishing machine…!


To me, a camera surely is a Zauberding – a magic thing, a wishing machine, just like a gun or a car, as Susan Sontag so ingeniously put it. A camera empowers to transgress the invisible line which the waking mind draws between normative consensus reality and the implicit poetry of its fantastic elements – mysterious messages, transcendental tidings, captured in stills of urban decay. The line is permeable. Take my psychedelic editing, for instance. It’s – cum grano salis – a clumsy attempt to inscribe the Lacanian concept of the overwhelming, unspeakable, abject Real ( into symbolic order ... According to Lacan, this is impossible. So I’m trying to achieve the impossible? For the artist as well as for the poet, that’s a valid, dramatic attitude. You may prefer to practice art as Ausdrucks-Sport, though (Danke, Vincent!). That would be expressive athletics, approximately. Art as aesthetic self-defense. As you all know, it’s all about appropriation.

Standard reality is a bully.

It can be obnoxious and threatening at times.

That’s why I love to overdo color.

To put a spell on reality.


Color, overdone… Watch out…



…the unspeakable Real is going to get you…!

Color is strong medicine. And a highly libidinous affair. You may call my pictures tacky, artless, amateurish – but they communicate, after all. I want to fictionalize, romanticize and epitomize my subject, in which I succeed to a lesser or greater extent, “according to the intensity of the impression”… and according to my limited skill and adroitness. It’s a poetic approach. I just love to take long aimless walks through my neighborhood and take pictures. To be a flaneur in the Baudelairean fashion, walking the streets, drinking in my ambience in order to experience it, accepting gratefully whatever presents itself in my way. As a rule I make use of available light, even at night I hardly ever use a flash light. And no tripod! I cherish my simplistic ways, you see… I like to keep it simple. Every now and then, I load my vintage Minolta (sometimes even, out of sentimental reasons, my Agfa Silette, which is older than I am) with a Kodak VR 400 Plus (2 x 36 exp. for only 1, 79.-€! ALDI discount store!), to have a go in analog mode, for old times sake.


From left to right: Agfa Silette, Kodak VR 400 Plus, Panasonic DMC-FX07, Minolta XG-1.


My neighborhood is basically low crime, but the garbage containers have electronic locks, believe it or not… many students live here, lots of Bobos, lots of young families… the highest rate of male buggy-pushers in the city… street cafés in abundance … crowds of well-to-do, well-adjusted citizens taking it easy in the April sunshine, drinking healthy BIONADE or sipping galao… and with gentrification still advancing rapidly and unabatedly all around, you don’t even seem to feel the crisis here…


Maximum security electronic garbage container, with instructions in German, Russian and Turkish. It probably answers to your voice profile or your iris patterns…



… vigilant law enforcement officers ever ready to protect your BMW…


(BTW – Jochen Hein has blackmailed me into uploading some of my stuff into my portfolio. He accused me of blatantly misusing the blog for presenting my photography, so I must not present my photography exclusively via blog any longer, because that’s not what the blog was meant for, originally… it’s “nicht im Sinne des Erfinders”, not in the sense of the inventor (= Jochen), so to speak… moreover, this would be so unfair to our members and so on… BUT, if I want to show my stuff, I should fill up my portfolio blahblahblah… So, the basic message of his rantings was something like this: I’m entitled to do any future photo blogs only if I finally, at last use my portfolio.


Jochen, exhausted after giving me a piece of his mind…


Well then, if I have to… ladies and gentlemen, here’s my latest artistic endeavour: Mutants!!! ( — Okay, I’ll take a break now… “Gotta carbo-reload…” (W.Gibson). You know, all of my brilliant artistic ideas are based on a healthy, well-balanced diet of caffeine and carbohydrates… you should try it sometime… it beats yoga and muesli anytime… (I guess I’ll do a special… The Artist’s Cuisine…). Note how the genetically enhanced Cadbury Wonderbar becomes a Wunderbar in German! Mutations wherever you look!


Spot Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man in this picture!


Lumix und iPhoto sind für mich Zauberdinge, Wunschmaschinen im Sinne Susan Sontags, wie Schußwaffen oder Autos… Sie erlauben mir, die unsichtbare Grenze zu überschreiten, die Grenze sichtbar zu machen, die das Alltagsbewußtsein zieht zwischen dem Phantastischen, dem Poetischen, und der Normrealität. Diese Grenze ist durchlässig. Ich kann meine psychedelischen Bildbearbeitungen betrachten als Versuch, das Lacansche Reale in die symbolische Ordnung einzuschreiben (was laut Lacan unmöglich sein soll, mir jedoch vollauf genügt als Simulation von Kunst-Theorie – eine Haltung, die mir durchaus liegt). Also versuche ich das Unmögliche. Es ist mir allerdings lieber, die Fotografie und die Kunst als lustbetonten Ausdrucks-Sport zu betreiben – als eine Art ästhetische Selbstverteidigung.


Peter Bies ©