»Objects in mirror are closer than they appear«
The fleeting glow of the moment
Looking in the mirror in the morning before leaving the apartment and going out into the street is a ritual for many. It is used for self-assurance: am I still who I was yesterday and can I be seen outside? Or did I, according to Franz Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis” (1912), become a monster overnight?
We can never be sure. Jenny Hasselbach’s photographs are also about this. A work like Mirror #1 (2021) seems to contradict this. It was created in a washroom, but seems almost abstract: the firmly grouted, sparkling clean tiles are arranged in a square, an architecture of horizontal and vertical lines, whose rigor and stability is underlined by the mirror on the wall, which is itself a rectangle and at the same time reflects the rectangles around itself.
The price of perfection: we look into a room without people and without traces of life. Where organical matter comes into play, the picture changes. In Tulipa cultivars (2021), a black slime spills out of a wilting tulip whose days are numbered. What lives dies. Mirrors create the illusion that we can keep the world at bay. But the reality is different. Jenny Hasselbach shows us this drastically. The lily that occupies the artist’s face in Lilium speciosum (2021) resembles a parasite that has chosen humans as hosts. Monstera deliciosa (2022), a masterpiece, not only in terms of the sophisticated lighting, is reminiscent of expressionist films of the 1920s with its menacing play of shadows.
There are no clocks in Las Vegas casinos. Gambling works best when the player just lives in the moment and doesn’t think about tomorrow. Amazon & Co. have transferred this principle to the digital world: consume as if you were immortal. Jenny Hasselbach’s works question this principle. A photograph like Sky #2 (2021) celebrates the fleeting splendor of the moment with all the power and technical perfection that characterize this artist. The sky photographed from a dilapidated house, that is ruin romance 2.0, but always aware of our temporality and transience.
Mirrors are not innocent. For the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) we as children become adults through confrontation with our reflection in the mirror. At the same time, the mirror image gives us the illusion of perfection and direct access to the world – independent of language and symbols – which is unattainable and which we desire without ever being able to satisfy this need.1 We need images that make this tension visible. Images that do not glorify reality. Images that not only celebrate beauty, but that bring the pain of existence into consciousness. We need Jenny Hasselbach’s photographs.
Rainer Unruh, April 2022
Rainer Unruh, born in 1961, works as an art and film critic in Hamburg. He writes regularly for the magazine Kunstforum International and teaches cultural journalism at the Academy for Fashion and Design (AMD).
Jacques Lacan: The mirror stage as the creator of the ego function. Report for the 16th International Congress for Psychoanalysis in Zurich on July 17, 1949, in: ibid.: Writings 1, selected and edited by Norbert Haas, 4th revised edition, Berlin: Quadriga, 1996, pp. 61-70; on the importance of Lacan for art: Dorothee Wimmer: The disappearance of the ego. The image of man in French art, literature and philosophy around 1960, Berlin: Reimer, 2006, pp. 30-34.
(Translation by PiB, read the German original here.)
Photography exhibitions/events in…
Current print issue
PiB Guide Nº52
Discover great photography exhibitions in Berlin & beyond in PiB’s bi-monthly print issue, the PiB Guide! The PiB Guide Nº52 JAN/FEB 2024 has been published as a booklet, A6 format · 28 pages · English & German · worldwide shipping.
PiB Guide Nº52
Entdecke großartige Fotoausstellungen in Berlin & darüberhinaus in PiBs zweimonatlicher Printausgabe, dem PiB Guide! Der PiB Guide Nº52 JAN/FEB 2024 ist erschienen als Booklet im DIN A6 Format · 28 Seiten · Deutsch & Englisch · weltweiter Versand.