In the mid-1970s, Hamburg-based artist Ludwig Schönherr (1935-2016) began to explore the flood of images of his time, admittedly, this was determined not by social media but by television. He contacted television stations in the United States and Germany and consulted scientific analyses to gather information about the effects of television on viewers and its potential to educate or "dumb them down" [Verblödung]. In the exposé for his extensive photographic project Bilderinflation (1978), Schönherr states, "Every German sits in front of the television for 4 hours and 25 minutes a day, every American for 5 hours and 16 minutes, every Japanese for over 7 hours." How many images did these television viewers process per day? How can one distinguish individual images from the constant flood of broadcasts? To provide an artistic answer to these questions, Schönherr conceived an ingenious and ambitious project of so-called "Strukturfotografie" (Structural Photography). Starting from musical structures, he produced twelve scores in 1977 that served as the basis for a photo project in which he took a roll of pictures every day for a year, during the approximately four and a half hours that the typical German TV viewer spends in front of the television. These images were arranged according to the given score in the grid structure of a contact sheet, which Schönherr enlarged to the size of 50cm x 60cm for exhibition. He carried out this project for 365 days in 1978, dividing his time between Hamburg and New York City. With Bilderinflation, Schönherr intended the following: "To record this everyday television life, to photograph the world of experience of the television viewer, this uninterrupted flood of banal images such as series, commercials, sports, violence, daytime news — just the never-ending string of dead individual images." Schönherr exhibited only excerpts from the Bilderinflation during his lifetime.
This research and exhibition project, developed in close collaboration with the ZOOM-Ludwig Schönherr Laboratory (Berlin), presents for the first time the entire Bilderinflation, including all 365 enlarged contact sheets, their scores and concept papers documenting the research and development process of this work; as well as Schönherr's related audiovisual works dealing with the psychological and phenomenological effect of television images on the audience.
Curated by Jonathan Berger, Susanne Sachsse and Marc Siegel