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Lagos in Motion: A Visual Account by Armin Linke

Armin Linke (Italian, born 1966) is a traveler in search of strange, yet familiar frontiers; his photographs spring from a peripatetic practice that has taken him from the slopes of the massive infrastructural transformations rent by the Three Gorges Dam in China, to the technologically crafted snow-globe winters of Ski Dubai’s interiors. Each photograph forms part of what he describes as “an atlas of transformations, both urban and anthropological.” Begun in the 1990s, this body of work comprises thousands of digital files, contact prints, and negatives. Connecting Linke’s diverse subjects is his faculty for recognizing the bizarre, often unsettling constructions produced by the wrangling of geopolitical power, capital, and the raw materials of the natural environment—eerie scenes heightened by close observation of their intersections with everyday life. Exhibited in galleries and museums as large-scale color prints, the photographs are also source material for a multi-pronged production that includes books, installations, a searchable website, and film.

Linke uses the different formats to experiment with the ambiguity of the photographic images, their virtuosic ability to read in multiple registers—from objective documents reporting on the world to fictional representations. The book project Socialist Architecture: The Vanishing Act (2012), a collaboration with architect Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, documents the spectacular monuments and buildings strewn across the balkanized regions of the former Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia, highlighting the close relationship between photography and architectural preservation. The installation Phenotypes/Limited Forms (2007) engages with the status of the image in the age of information distribution systems such as Flickr or iPhoto, presenting visitors with a wall of Linke’s prints, which they are invited to rearrange, and the equipment for producing books of their own curated selections. Linke’s “photographic universe” is at once a set of far-flung coordinates—from Pasadena to Chuquicamata, from the Kola Peninsula to Kinshasa—that aspires to structure a world view and, in his compulsion to surrender the modes by which the photograph is experienced, an emphatic acknowledgment of the limitations of the photograph in terms of representing reality.

Linke’s work on Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, dates from 2000. He trained his camera on the city one year after Nigeria had returned to democracy after sixteen years of military rule. The restless city depicted in his photographs had experienced a half century of astonishing population growth, from three hundred thousand inhabitants to more than thirteen million, a reformulation of the city that was not matched by social investments in housing, public services or infrastructure. Linke’s visit corresponded with a sudden flurry of attention paid to the city by a number of Western architects and artists—characterized by Rem Koolhaas and students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, who cast an aerial gaze over it, celebrating what they saw as its “self-organizing system” of urbanism. Linke’s photographs, by contrast, rarely step back, instead offering views bounded by the walls of a house or the circumference of a person’s movement: In a long exposure, the interior of the Kalakuta Republic, former home of Fela Kuti, is framed equidistantly between wall, floor, and light-catching red lacquered ceiling, transforming the motion of two figures across a threshold into visual vibration and suspending floral curtains sucked outward by an unseen city breeze. In Dancers, the camera has dropped level with the impasse between the sweaty hands and face of a dancer and the floorboards, evoking the performance of the camera (and the photographer) behind the scene. In the larger panoramas, the way the photograph slices through time, isolating a moment in the layering of events native to urban life, simultaneously captures the disappearance of one city and the emergence of another: a pullulating scene of the Oshodi market, one of the city’s major sites of exchange, below elevated expressways congested with traffic; a wide-angle view of a congregation in head scarves observing a televangelist’s miracles beneath the open rafters of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations in Ikotun.

From the vantage point of fifteen years, one is struck by the way Linke’s photographs occlude time and how the convolution of events outside the frame of each photograph has rearranged its meaning: the market was altered by a controversial 2009 cleanup campaign by a task force of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment; the synagogue is undergoing a massive and hectic building project to headquarter its thirty thousand acolytes. Linke’s work is highlighted here in concert with the exhibition Uneven Growth, Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, which features NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas’s speculative vision for Lagos’s transportation, energy, and water infrastructures. His photographs provide a vivid ground against which to engage in a discussion of possible alternative futures for the city.

Author

Armin linke.portrait

Armin Linke

Artist Armin Linke was born in 1966 and lives in Milan and Berlin. As a photographer and filmmaker he combines a range of contemporary image-processing technologies in order to... Read more »
Phoebe photo

Phoebe Springstubb

Curatorial Assistant, Architecture and Design The Museum of Modern Art Phoebe Springstubb is a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art. At MoMA, she has worked on the exhibitions Le... Read more »
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Lagos in Motion: A Visual Account by Armin Linke

Armin Linke (Italian, born 1966) is a traveler in search of strange, yet familiar frontiers; his photographs spring from a peripatetic practice that has taken him from the slopes of the massive infrastructural transformations rent by the Three Gorges Dam in China, to the technologically crafted snow-globe winters of Ski Dubai’s interiors. Each photograph forms part of what he describes as “an atlas of transformations, both urban and anthropological.” Begun in the 1990s, this body of work comprises thousands of digital files, contact prints, and negatives. Connecting Linke’s diverse subjects is his faculty for recognizing the bizarre, often unsettling constructions produced by the wrangling of geopolitical power, capital, and the raw materials of the natural environment—eerie scenes heightened by close observation of their intersections with everyday life. Exhibited in galleries and museums as large-scale color prints, the photographs are also source material for a multi-pronged production that includes books, installations, a searchable website, and film.

Linke uses the different...

Show More

Armin Linke (Italian, born 1966) is a traveler in search of strange, yet familiar frontiers; his photographs spring from a peripatetic practice that has taken him from the slopes of the massive infrastructural transformations rent by the Three Gorges Dam in China, to the technologically crafted snow-globe winters of Ski Dubai’s interiors. Each photograph forms part of what he describes as “an atlas of transformations, both urban and anthropological.” Begun in the 1990s, this body of work comprises thousands of digital files, contact prints, and negatives. Connecting Linke’s diverse subjects is his faculty for recognizing the bizarre, often unsettling constructions produced by the wrangling of geopolitical power, capital, and the raw materials of the natural environment—eerie scenes heightened by close observation of their intersections with everyday life. Exhibited in galleries and museums as large-scale color prints, the photographs are also source material for a multi-pronged production that includes books, installations, a searchable website, and film.

Linke uses the different formats to experiment with the ambiguity of the photographic images, their virtuosic ability to read in multiple registers—from objective documents reporting on the world to fictional representations. The book project Socialist Architecture: The Vanishing Act (2012), a collaboration with architect Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, documents the spectacular monuments and buildings strewn across the balkanized regions of the former Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia, highlighting the close relationship between photography and architectural preservation. The installation Phenotypes/Limited Forms (2007) engages with the status of the image in the age of information distribution systems such as Flickr or iPhoto, presenting visitors with a wall of Linke’s prints, which they are invited to rearrange, and the equipment for producing books of their own curated selections. Linke’s “photographic universe” is at once a set of far-flung coordinates—from Pasadena to Chuquicamata, from the Kola Peninsula to Kinshasa—that aspires to structure a world view and, in his compulsion to surrender the modes by which the photograph is experienced, an emphatic acknowledgment of the limitations of the photograph in terms of representing reality.

Linke’s work on Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, dates from 2000. He trained his camera on the city one year after Nigeria had returned to democracy after sixteen years of military rule. The restless city depicted in his photographs had experienced a half century of astonishing population growth, from three hundred thousand inhabitants to more than thirteen million, a reformulation of the city that was not matched by social investments in housing, public services or infrastructure. Linke’s visit corresponded with a sudden flurry of attention paid to the city by a number of Western architects and artists—characterized by Rem Koolhaas and students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, who cast an aerial gaze over it, celebrating what they saw as its “self-organizing system” of urbanism. Linke’s photographs, by contrast, rarely step back, instead offering views bounded by the walls of a house or the circumference of a person’s movement: In a long exposure, the interior of the Kalakuta Republic, former home of Fela Kuti, is framed equidistantly between wall, floor, and light-catching red lacquered ceiling, transforming the motion of two figures across a threshold into visual vibration and suspending floral curtains sucked outward by an unseen city breeze. In Dancers, the camera has dropped level with the impasse between the sweaty hands and face of a dancer and the floorboards, evoking the performance of the camera (and the photographer) behind the scene. In the larger panoramas, the way the photograph slices through time, isolating a moment in the layering of events native to urban life, simultaneously captures the disappearance of one city and the emergence of another: a pullulating scene of the Oshodi market, one of the city’s major sites of exchange, below elevated expressways congested with traffic; a wide-angle view of a congregation in head scarves observing a televangelist’s miracles beneath the open rafters of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations in Ikotun.

From the vantage point of fifteen years, one is struck by the way Linke’s photographs occlude time and how the convolution of events outside the frame of each photograph has rearranged its meaning: the market was altered by a controversial 2009 cleanup campaign by a task force of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment; the synagogue is undergoing a massive and hectic building project to headquarter its thirty thousand acolytes. Linke’s work is highlighted here in concert with the exhibition Uneven Growth, Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, which features NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas’s speculative vision for Lagos’s transportation, energy, and water infrastructures. His photographs provide a vivid ground against which to engage in a discussion of possible alternative futures for the city.

     

2000, Armin Linke, Nigeria, Lagos

Mdv 000047 196 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 129 c

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 178 c

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002802 21 c

Oshodi Market

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002805 28 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002781 28 c

Waste dumpsite

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 5 c

Barman

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002773 11 c

House

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002737 9 c

Bodyguard

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002748 37 c

Lekki beach

Armin Linke 2000
Ren 002748 15 c

Anthony Village

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 10 c

Medicine woman at Ikeja bus stop

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 25 c

Ikeja area

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 35 c

Photography lab

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 23a c

Anigboro

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 36a c

Internet Café

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 34a c

Hotel reception

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002739 37 c

Bar in Ikeja area

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002737 29 c

Playing records

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002812 26 c

Sheun Kuti, Kalakuta Republic

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002741 33 c

Dancers

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002767 19 c

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002788 11 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, TV studio

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002763 11 c

Policeman

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002777 10 c

Club

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002800 23 c

Eko Bridge

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002805 31 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 196 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 129 c

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 178 c

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002802 21 c

Oshodi Market

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002805 28 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002781 28 c

Waste dumpsite

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Mdv 000047 5 c

Barman

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002773 11 c

House

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002737 9 c

Bodyguard

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002748 37 c

Lekki beach

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 2000
Ren 002748 15 c

Anthony Village

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 10 c

Medicine woman at Ikeja bus stop

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 25 c

Ikeja area

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002817 35 c

Photography lab

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 23a c

Anigboro

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 36a c

Internet Café

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002747 34a c

Hotel reception

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002739 37 c

Bar in Ikeja area

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002737 29 c

Playing records

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002812 26 c

Sheun Kuti, Kalakuta Republic

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002741 33 c

Dancers

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002767 19 c

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002788 11 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, TV studio

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002763 11 c

Policeman

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002777 10 c

Club

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002800 23 c

Eko Bridge

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000
Ren 002805 31 c

The Synagogue, Church of All Nations

Lagos, Nigeria

Armin Linke 10.04.2000

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Lagos in Motion: A Visual Account by Armin Linke

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This Artist Practice is part of: Uneven Growth: Reflections on a Curatorial Process