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To mark the 180th birthday of photography, WestLicht travels back to the early days of the medium and celebrates the Franco-German pioneer Édouard Baldus (1813-1889), a key figure of 19th century photography.

To call Baldus just a photographer is inadequate. He was a painter, a businessman, an inventor and a publisher - sometimes all of these things at once. This multiplicity of roles was typical for the dawn of photography, an era in which roles, techniques and procedures were still being defined, and the field belonged to the explorers. At the same time, his biography is a particularly dazzling example of a photographic rise to stardom, in which the protagonist ascends from the role of forger sought by the police to that of successful entrepreneur and Knight of the French Legion of Honour.

The exhibition offers a view on Baldus' brilliant work Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée, created between 1861 and 1863 on behalf of the southern French railway company of the same name. The album is one of the most important historical photography books; worldwide, only eight complete copies with 69 plates are known to have survived. The large-format prints were one of Baldus’ specialties, much admired by his contemporaries. They follow the railway line - only completed in the 1850s - from Lyon to the Mediterranean. His images juxtapose the modern transportation architecture of tracks, bridges and train stations with the landmarks of the French Middle Ages and the ancient monuments of the Roman Empire - a politically-motivated analogy that celebrates the empire of Napoleon III and its spirit of progress, embedding it in a historical tradition.

Without directly addressing the notion of travel or the railway as a means of transport, the project represents a leitmotif in the photographer's oeuvre: the tension between landscape and construction. Baldus' clear style has been called, among other things, the birth of modern perception. In the artistic position of his imagery and in the structure of his albums, Baldus is said to have anticipated serial concepts of the likes of August Sander or Bernd and Hilla Becher respectively by a half and a full century.

This exhibition shows a selection of 60 prints from the album owned by OstLicht Collection, Vienna. The photographs, taken by Baldus between 1853 and the early 1860s, are albumin prints from paper and glass negatives. Curated by Anna Auer

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Munich-based artist Katharina Gaenssler (*1974) examines the contemporary phenomenon of a constantly-growing flow of information and images with her own digitally-generated and manually-modulated mass of photographs. The trained silversmith specializ es in spaces of art and travel, which she translates into voluminous, sometimes multi-volume atlases.

Parallel to her book creations, she assembles entire walls of photographs. Both formats are preceded by a systematic inventory. According to a strict grid principle, Gaenssler stakes out a space and photographs it over several days from various positions with thousands of shots. This meticulous measurement process is followed by an elaborate transfer. Printed out and pasted into a collage on the exhibition wall, the countless individual images unfurl into a complex, kaleidoscopic general view, in which - cubistically broken - image and real space intersect. Composition and inscription are a reaction to the given architecture, which also is cause for each work. The temporary photo installations, always unique and site-specific, are each complemented by with a permanent book-object, which, as a comprehensive photo archive, contains all of the spatial fragments within itself. The chronological sequence of details embodies Gaenssler's perspective and movement in space - mostly places of collecting, arranging and mediating. In addition to travel, these constitute her artistic focus.

For the first time in Austria, in dialogue with the historical landscape and architectural photographs of the albums by Édouard Baldus, WestLicht presents a view on the conceptual book-oeuvre of this internationally-acclaimed and award-winning artist. With 11 selected objects - from the lexical volumes of the 2004 Trans-Siberian Railway Tour to the expansive Leporello of the Bauhaus staircases in Dessau and New York in 2015 - the exhibition showcases the medium of books as a space of time and a form of analog hard drive in direct relation to their sensual and sculptural qualities. Curated by Rebekka Reuter