70th Anniversary of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Death

Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photography as an Analytical Practice

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most eminent philosophers of the 20th century, who hailed from a bourgeois family of staunch supporters of Viennese Modernism, died 70 years ago, on 29th April 1951. From November of this year, the Leopold Museum will dedicate an exhibition to the philosopher which, rather than focusing on his ground-breaking philosophical writings or their influence on the visual arts, will shed light on Wittgenstein as a photographer – as an author, collector and arranger of photographs. Thus, the exhibition uncovers a hitherto largely unnoticed sideshow which is now analyzed for the first time in detail and with a broadly defined understanding of photography.

The presentation, curated by Verena Gamper and Gregor Schmoll, showcases not only Wittgenstein’s photo album from the 1930s, which has never been shown in its entirety before, but also the famous composite portrait of the Wittgenstein siblings, photo booth pictures and other staged self-portraits, photographs of the Stonborough-Wittgenstein house on Kundmanngasse, excerpts from the “Nonsense Collection”, as well as a representative selection of his picture postcard correspondence, which reveals a communication practice that invariably also includes the image plane of this medium. Against the background of his deliberations on photography, which went as far as his intention to write a “Laocoon for photographers”, these materials invite a contemporary reappraisal of Wittgenstein’s understanding and use of the medium of photography.

In the exhibition, Wittgenstein’s photographic practice enters into a dialogue with works by contemporary artists, including Vito Acconci, Miriam Bäckström, John Baldessari, Gottfried Bechtold, Anna und Bernhard Blume, Christian Boltanski, Hanne Darboven, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Günther Förg, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Birgit Jürgenssen, Friedl Kubelka, Inés Lombardi, Dóra Maurer, Trevor Paglen, Sigmar Polke, Martha Rosler, Thomas Ruff, Alfons Schilling, Cindy Sherman, Katharina Sieverding, Margherita Spiluttini, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gillian Wearing, Peter Weibel, Otto Zitko, Heimo Zobernig, and others. While these works do not refer to Wittgenstein or his views on photography, the juxtaposition seeks to reveal structural analogies through thematic and motivic resonance chambers which highlight the analytical character of Wittgenstein’s photographic oeuvre and sharpen our view of the contemporary artworks.

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