Tobias Zielony: The Citizen, 2015
Layout of 22 colour photographs, various sizes, on 11 large-scale pigmented inkjet prints, mounted on Aludibond, framed, 225 x 160 cm each / Installation of newspapers, in 12 hanging displays, 130 x 205 cm each / Newspaper, 16 pages, tabloid format, for visitors to take with them
Tobias Zielony’s series The Citizen is concerned with one of today’s most important political questions – the presence of “the other”, embodied by African refugees. Although the migration movements of our time are often reduced to the tragedies that occur at the external frontiers of the “fortress Europe”, Zielony’s view is directed towards the selfportrayal of these people, their personal stories, their entitlement to be taken seriously as political subjects in Germany. They protest against the restrictions placed on their freedom of movement, against the prohibition to work or to study.
Zielony highlights this new self-confidence in his photographs, which he presents in large wall pieces reminiscent of the layout of the pages in a newspaper – the only thing missing is the text columns between the photographs. The empty spaces point towards the ruptures in the biographies of the individuals, along with all the details that are left out of public media debates. In return, Zielony has asked African authors and journalists to comment on his photographs. The results, in the form of newspaper articles, are on display in large showcases at the centre of the room. The other pages of these newspapers highlight the political and social reality of Africa, in quite a different way to the perspective from which it is seen in Europe. Copies of newspapers containing information provided by the people portrayed in Zielony’s photographs are available for visitors to take home.
Tobias Zielony, born 1973, lives and works as an artist in Berlin. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, and did his postgraduate studies under the supervision of Timm Rautert at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig. The starting point for his work was the observation of a global youth culture—often in the abandoned spaces of post-industrial structures and shrinking cities. In recent years, his photographs and films have focused on marginalized groups in capitalist societies. They reflect on traditional photographic narrative styles and can be read as an alternative to conventional forms of documentary presentation. Zielony sees the camera as a stage for his protagonists.
His work was recently seen in the following exhibitions: Dream Lovers. The Films 2008– 2014, KOW, Berlin / Galleria Lia Rumma, Naples (2015); Vele, Esker Foundation, Calgary (2014); Lichtwark revisited, Hamburger Kunsthalle (2014); Jenny Jenny, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin (2013); Live Cinema / Peripheral Stages (with Mohamed Bourouissa), MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle Arte del XXI Secolo, Rome, and Philadelphia Museum of Art (2012); and Tobias Zielony: Manitoba, MMK Zollamt, Frankfurt am Main (2012).