Raisa Galofre & Marvin Systermans
The artist and photographer Raisa Galofre, born in 1986 in Barranquilla, and photographer Marvin Systermans, born in 1990 in Cologne, live and work together in Berlin. During the bangaloREsidency the two photographers will enter into a visual dialogue combining their different photographic approaches, staged and documentary.
Raisa Galofre studied communication sciences and journalism at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla. In 2014 she obtained a Masters degree in Photography at the Burg Giebiechenstein University of Art and Design in Halle (Saale). Since 2016, she lives in Berlin, where she works as a freelance photographer and lecturer. In 2017, Raisa joined the art space SAVVY Contemporary, the Laboratory of Form-Ideas, founded and directed by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, as a curatorial assistant and researcher. Since then, she has worked on various projects, exhibitions and symposia.
In her artistic work, Raisa Galofre uses the narrative characteristics of Latin American magical realism in order to question prevailing – mostly Western-influenced – visual representations and clichés of gender, identity and historical events by developing new narratives. Her photography explores the tension between real and fantastic, rational and mythical elements, which she translates into staged photographs and photographic sculptures. Her work was shortlisted for the Lucie Foundation's Fine Art Scholarship Award in 2018, and in 2015 she was one of the winners of the Profifoto New Talents Awards.
Marvin Systermans graduated in 2016 with a Bachelors degree in Communication Design from the Burg Giebiechenstein University of Art and Design in Halle (Saale). In 2019, he received his Masters degree in Integrated Design with focus on photography at the University of the Arts Bremen under Professor Peter Bialobrzeski.
Marvin Systermans is currently working as a freelance photographer in Berlin. His work focuses mainly on urban spaces, structural change and the human habitat in general. His work was shortlisted by the Sony World Photography Award and the Felix Schoeller Photography Award in 2017 and has already appeared at the 1ra Design Biennale in Havana and numerous group exhibitions in Germany. His current work on the structural change in the German Lausitz region “State of the Region” is funded by the BFF - professional association of free photographers and film makers.
During the bangaloREsidency, the two photographers will develop a photo series that reflects on the presence of modernity and coloniality in the use, application and presentation of the different materials that can be found in Bangalore’s urban spaces. Based on Aníbal Quijano's thesis: "There is no modernity without coloniality", they will photographically examine the encounters between Western and non-Western, organically grown and hypermodern structures. Their work builds a bridge between documentary and staged photography.
Our project consisted of a two-layered exploration of the urban space, from the perspective of the documentary photographer and the imagination and interpretation of the fine art photographer. That meant that right from the beginning we had to deal with many different challenges, like exploring the city by foot, finding all kinds of different materials and a studio space for the stagings. There were also challenges of a different, more personal kind, that made working sometimes difficult, like for example, the necessity of having to navigate the city differently as a woman.
Just a few days into our residency, I already left the guest house on my first walk through the city to start photographing. At the beginning of every project, I find myself in the same situation of wandering through new spaces with a concept in mind and no idea of how to translate it into images, where to look and what to focus on. Every place offers something different in surfaces, compositions, colours, dynamics, architecture, signs, etc.
So to articulate a precise visual narration, I walked into the city with my mind and eyes wide open, my camera in hand and some water in a bag. Anyone who has been to Bangalore knows how difficult it can be to explore the city by foot, as the traffic is omnipresent, chaotic and most drivers don’t wait for pedestrians to cross the street. This and the lack of sidewalks, hot sun and dust-filled air made every trip challenging but at the same time even more exciting. My reward was the rich variety of situations, compositions, images, structures I found and was able to capture with my camera, trying to live up to not only my own experience but the general feeling, dynamic and framework of Bangalore.
I decided to address the city with more than just one visual approach, shooting the bigger spaces, context giving motifs in a square format that allows the spectator to navigate freely through them and experience the dimensions of the city. On the other hand I also photographed the density, chaos and micro-cosmos of the city in a vertical rectangular format that limits the image, the view and sets stricter rules for the narration of each motif.
Some days I picked a certain neighbourhood and spent a whole day wandering through its streets, while on other days I decided on a starting and a finish point and walked from one neighbourhood to another to explore what lay between them. One of the more challenging aspects of this project for me was the aspiration to cover as many of the different aspects to this city as possible, from its older neighbourhoods to the IT parks, from its crowded places to more isolated ones, from its green spaces to its grey concrete deserts, from rich to poor neighbourhoods and so on.
To complete this challenging goal there are still many places I want to visit and was not able to go to even though we worked for several weeks and spent almost every day on the series. I am looking forward to returning to Bangalore to continue this work. For now my photographic output is thought of as context giving to Raisa's visual journey and interpretations through Bangalore, as well as a documentary and time document about the state of the city's urban spaces as human habitat.
After the warm and insightful introduction week with all the other residents and the Goethe-Institut team, where we had the chance to get to know historic and cultural places of the city, Marvin and I began to explore the city by ourselves. While Marvin was photographing, I was observing in detail the materials used in the different city landscapes we walked through. I was paying attention to the visual compositions they made when put together as well as observing them as single objects or “props” for photographic sceneries. I also observed the combination of colours, textures and most importantly, what ideals of modernity they were “constructing”, representing and where and how the human element and human labour was included or excluded in all of that. On those walks I did sketches of compositions and a lot of lists of the materials I had to get in order to start photographing.
Through the course of the residency we got to know Bangalore from many different perspectives, depending on what our endeavour of the day was. Getting the materials for the stagings was one of them. There is a street with stores for all glass-related materials, others for pipes, or for lights and there is one particular place to buy construction blocks by the piece that we couldn't have found if the driver of the truck we hired to transport the materials didn't know of this place. The different ways to access and navigate the city bring their own dynamics and challenges. We feel that we got to know a lot, but we know that's probably only “the tip of the iceberg”, as Bangalore is incredibly diverse and complex.
With all the materials at hand I started to work mostly in the improvised studio we arranged in the guest house of the IIHS, where we stayed. I immersed myself in the studio and explored other places in the guest house: the garden, the parking space, the rooftop, etc. It was truly wonderful to have the opportunity to have not only the space but the time and especially the means to intensively work on a project in such an inspiring place like Bangalore.
In strong contrast to the many walks we took through the city's streets and traffic, we were very fortunate to have found the IIHS as our collaboration partners, who provided us with a room at their guest house at the side of a lake and in a very green and quiet environment. This allowed us to rest and process all the intense impressions of the day.
As a first outcome from our residency we made a selection of the produced material under the concept of the exhibition "Concrete Discontinuities – Narratives of Dwelling and Becoming in the Urban". Concrete Discontinuities gives a first glance at the non-linear visual narration that unfolds from our photographic dialogue and continuous exploration of the different cityscapes we encounter in Bangalore. The focus is drawn to the spaces between the public and the privatised, between the so-called traditional and modern and the state of endless becoming. Approaching the multitudes of surfaces, constructions, artifacts and materials we encounter with both a documentary and a fictional visual language, this exhibition offers different narratives and interpretations of the urban.
A few days after the opening of the Exhibition, we presented ourselves to the fellow students of the IIHS in the framework of a Masterclass. In this Masterclass, we shared our knowledge and experiences as professionals working with photography and dialogue with a very interested and motivated group of young people coming from different backgrounds – architecture, city planning, engineering – from different parts of the country.
We want to use this opportunity to thank everybody at the Goethe Institut Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore who helped and supported us and is making this residency format possible, it was an amazing and inspiring experience and we hope to stay in touch for future collaborations and shared experiences. We also want to thank Zohrab Reys Gamat and Sandeep Viswanath, the whole team of the IIHS Media Lab team and the IIHS in general for their support and for facilitating our work and stay in Bangalore. Finally we must thank Panjam and Gita and everybody at the IIHS Guest house for being incredible hosts and for taking very good care of us for the whole duration of our stay.