Media Vita

Media Vita 2019

76 photography books, trestles, wooden planks, 20 microphones with media players, credit list, quotes, 2200 cm x 60 ccm

In the installation Media Vita, seventy-six photobooks constitute an associative story on transience. The books are from the collection of the artist’s deceased father, and are mostly concerning 20th-century classical black and white photography. Meandering past the open books, a story unfolds: a narrative that attempts to capture a life from beginning to end, from conception and birth to death. Or vice versa: from nought to existence back to… nothing.

Whispers arise from certain pages. These are audio quotes from the photographer depicted in the book, on photography, life and death.

The installation is also a stroll through the history of photography. World-famous photographers captured universal moments with their camera. These iconic photos are intertwined with personal memories. Photography is closely connected to transience. It provides a snapshot of the world in a state of perpetual change. Concurrently, photography freezes life and thereby averts decay.

Roos van Geffen: “My father collected photo books by well-known and lesser-known photographers, with an emphasis on classic black and white photography of the twentieth century. I inherited this collection of hundreds of books from him when he died. My bookcase is already quite full. So I decided to sell a few books on After 3 months, one was finally sold: A Photographers Life by Annie Leibovitz.

Before I posted it, I leafed through it: a photo collage with the dead Susan Sontag, laid out in Leibovitz’s house, touched me deeply. In the last months of his life, my father often asked, How should you die? I didn’t know what to answer.

At the same time, I regularly wonder: How should I live? These two questions are essentially related to each other. Susan Sontag wrote in In On Photography (1977): “Photography is an inventory of mortality.” I could not sell this book and decided to keep the entire collection as a starting point for an artistic research.”

Parool, June 4th 2020, Maarte Moll : (….) Now we can again focus on beautiful exhibitions, which reflect on matters related to death. ” For example Eat Love Die by Roos van Geffen (1975). This is a retrospective of old and new work about farewell, desire and transience. There is new work in the main hall of the museum; an installation with photo books, Media Vita (2019). (…) “When her father died, he left a large collection of photo books. A selection of these, 76 books, has been deposited here. Intriguing, because you would think this work is about her father. About his taste, his passion for collecting. But because of the choices she has made, it naturally also tells a lot about her. ” It is a beautiful, meandering route that Van Geffen has set out. The stored books of great photographers tell about the life cycle, from birth – we see, for example, the pregnant photographer Annie Leibovitz – to the inevitable death. In the background we hear statements by the photographers from the books. It is a look back and a look ahead at the same time. Multi-layered, and very recognizable.

Image quotes Media Vita

1. Tribute to Niépce. Ugo Mulas, undated. Germano Celant. Ugo Mulas. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1989, unpaged.

2. Sterne. Henry Frères, 1885. From: Françoise Bariseel et al. Sterne und Stars. Höchst/Keulen/Paris: Galerie Jahrhunderthalle, Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Galerie Alain Paviot, Galerie Heidi Reckermann, 1992, p. 29.

3. Orchid. Robert Mapplethorpe, 1988. From: John Ashbery. Mapplethorpe: pistils. New York: Random House, 1996, p. 167.

4. Untitled. Claude Alexandre, 1981. From: Jean-Luc Monterosso et al. Claude Alexandre. Paris: Paris Audiovisuel, 1986, p. 35.

5. Exploding Seed Pod. Imogen Cunningham, 1963. From: Richard Lorenz. Imogen Cunningham: Flora. Boston, New York, Londen: Bulfinch Press, 1993, unpaged.

6. Pepper no. 30. Edward Weston, 1930. From: Steve Crist. Edward Weston: 125 photographs. AMMO Books, LLC, unpaged.

7. Photograph taken by Susan, London Terrace, West 23rd Street, October 15, 2000. Susan Sontag 2000. From: Annie Leibovitz. Annie Leibovitz: a photographer’s life 1990-2005. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009, unpaged.

8. Tecla, Amsterdam. Mei/May 16, 1994. Rineke Dijkstra, 1994. From: Frits Gierstberg et al. Human conditions, intimate portraits. Rotterdam: Nederlands Foto Instituut, undated, p.69.

9. Mexico, 1934. Henri Cartier Bresson, 1934. From: Henri Cartier. Bresson Photograpie. Paris: Delpire Editeure Paris, 1979, unpaged.

10. Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968. Robert Adams, 1968. From: Cid Corman et al. To make it home, photographs of the American West. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1989, p. 35.

11. Untitled no. 225. Cindy Sherman, 1990. From: Arthur Danto. Cindy Sherman: History Portraits. Paris, München: Schirmer/Mosel, 1991, unpaged.

12. Nude. Peter Hujar, undated. From: Klaus Kertess. Peter Hujar: animals and nudes. Santa Fe: Twin Palm Publishers, 2002, unpaged.

13. Kostbarkeiten. Werner Bischof, 1948. From: Marco Bischof et al. Werner Bischof Bilder. Zürich: Helmhaus, 2006, p. 76.

14. Artemio Colon Gym, Harlem, 1980. Martine Barrat, 1980. From: Martine Barrat, Martin Scorsese. ‘Do or die… we do, we don’t die.’ New York: Penguin Books, 1993, unpaged.

15. Mutter, Vater und Söhne. Diana Blok, 1987. From: Diana Blok, Elena Poniatowska. Diana Blok: Blutsbande. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Contact, 1990, p. 61.

16. Ongetiteld. Peter Loewy, undated. From: Gina Kehayoff. Peter Loewy: Jewishness. München: Gina Kehayoff Verlag, 1997, unpaged.

17. Vloer, steentje, stoel, tafel. Johan van der Keuken, 1970. From: Johan van der Keuken et al. After-image/Nabeeld. Leiden: Fragment Uitgeverij, 1991, p. 118.

18. Red Apples. Irving Penn, 1985. From: Irving Penn, Alexander Liberman. Passage: a work record. Hamburg, New York: Ginko Gallaway, 1991, p. 254.

19. Ongetiteld. Juliette Bongers, 1995. From: Photography Annual of the Netherlands jury. Photography Annual of the Netherlands 1995. Rotterdam: Duo Duo, p. 106.

20. China, 1979. Eve Arnold, 1979. From: Eve Arnold. Eve Arnold: Handbook (with footnotes). London: Bloomsbury Publishers, 2004. unpaged.

21. Mother’s no. 49. Ishuichi Miyako, 2002. From: Ishuichi Miyako. Mother’s 2000-2005: traces of the future. Venice: Jananese pavillion of the Venice Biennale, 2005, p. 45.

22. Untitled no. 93. Simen Johan, 2001. From: Simen Johan. Simen Johan: room to play. Santa Fe: Twin Palm Publishers, 2002, unpaged.

23. Ohne Titel. Hervé Guibert, 1983. From: Hervé Guilbert. Hervé Guibert: Photographien. Paris, München: Schirmer/Mosel, 1993, unpaged.

24. Whiteface intervale, New Hampshire, 1936. Eliot Porter, 1936. From: Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter. New York, Boston: New York Graphic Society Books, Little, Brown and Company, 1987, unpaged.

25. An Iraqi tank shell exploding on a Kurdish position on the road to Arbile. Don McCullin, undated. From: Don McCullin et al. Don McCullin: sleeping with ghosts. London: Vintage, Random House, 1995, p. 192.

26. Arabia. Marc Riboud, 1974. From: Marc Riboud, Claude Roy. Marc Riboud: photographs at home and abroad. New York: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, 1986, unpaged.

27. Atomic bomb expolosion. Harold Edgerton, 1952. From: Harold Edgerton et al. Stopping Time: the photographs of Harold Edgerton. New York: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, 1987, p. 145.

28. Ongetiteld. Eugene Richards, undated. From: Eugene Richards et al. Cocaine true, cocaine blue. Aperture Foundation, 1994, unpaged.

29. Marilyn Monroe in ecstacic ‘dance’. Inge Morath, 1960. From: Inge Morath. Inge Morath: life as a photographer. München: Gina Kehayoff Verlag, 1999, p. 142.

30. Jubilant stone-thrower in the Bogside. Don McCullin, undated. From: Don McCullin et al. Don McCullin: sleeping with ghosts. London: Vintage, Random House, 1995, p. 105.

31. Ongetiteld. Robert Adams, undated. From: Robert Adams. Listening to the river: photographs Robert Adams. Aperture Foundation Incorporated, 1994, p. 68-69.

32. Ongetiteld. Boris Mikhailov, undated. From: Boris Mikhailov. Unvollendete Dissertation. Zürich: Scalo Verlag, 1998, p. 187.

33. Ongetiteld. Ralph Gibson, undated. From: Michel Birnbaum, Alain Coulange, L’aire de Bourgogne: Photographies de Ralph Gibson. Paris: Altinea, 1994, p. 108.

34. Ongetiteld. Ralph Gibson, undated. From: Ralph Gibson. L’histoire de France. New York: Aperture, 1991, unpaged.

35. Paris, Kentucky. William Eggleston, undated. From: William Eggleston, Eudora Welty. The Democratic Forest. Londen: Secker&Warburg, 1989, p.130.

36. Ongetiteld. Nobuyoshi Araki, undated. From: Nobuyoshi Araki. Shijyo: Tokyo-Markt der Gefühle. Zürich: Edition Stemmle AG, 1998, unpaged.

37. Lesbian wedding celebration. Eve Arnold, 1965. From: Eve Arnold. Eve Arnold: In retrospect. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, p. 95.

38. Ongetiteld. Hiro, undated. From: Robert Morton. Fighting fish, fighting birds: photographs by Hiro. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990, unpaged.

39. This photograph is my proof. Duane Michals,undated. From: Marco Livingstone. The essential Duane Michals. Londen: Thames&Hudson, 1997, p. 201.

40. Sitting nude rear. Irving Penn, 1993. Pear. Irving Penn, 1993. From: Colin Westerbeck et al. Irving Penn: a retrospective. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p. 150-151.

41. Four-sided dune, death valley, 1954. William Garnett, 1954. From: Martha Sandweiss. William Garnett: aerial photographs. Berkeley, Los Angelos: University of California Press, 194, p. 61.

42. Protective Clothing, Anti-Gas Masks (unpublished), 1938. Norman Parkinson, 1938. From: Martin Harrison. Parkinson photographs 1935-1990. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1994, unpaged.

43. Gloucester 1H 1944. Aaron Siskind 1944. From: Aaron Siskind. Aaron Siskind 100. New York: Powerhouse cultural entertainment, 2003, unpaged.

44. The Balcony, Martinique, January 1, 1972. André Kertész, 1972. From: Pierre Borhan et al. André Kertész: his life and work. New York: Bulfinch Press, 1994, p.321.

45. Hudson River, 1975. Peter Hujar, 1975. From: Hripsimé Visser et al. Peter Hujar: a retrospective. New York: Scalo Publishers, 1994, p. 107.

46. Chowpatty Beach, Bombay, India, 1945. Ferenc Berko, 1945. From: Karl Steinorth. Ferenc Berko. Zürich: Edition Stemmle, 1991, p. 53.

47. Untitled (8), 1970-1971. Diane Arbus, 1970-1971. From: Diane Arbus. Diane Arbus: Revelations. München: Schirmer/Mosel, 2003, p. 263.

48. Jon Lundberg, wrestler, Colorado Sports Festival, 1983. Bruce Weber, 1983. From: John Chaim. Bruce Weber. Annie Leibovitz: 1989, unpaged.

49. New York, 1938. Helen Levitt, 1938. From: Sandra Philips. Helen Levitt. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1991, unpaged.

50. Bob Fine. Harry Callahan, 1952. From: Sarah Greenough. Harry Callahan. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1996, p. 11.

51. Henry Moore and Maquette of mother and child. Lord Snowdon, 1983. From: Drusilla Beyfus et al. Photographs by Snowdon: a retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, 2000, p. 70.

52. Untitled film still no. 56, 1980. Cindy Sherman, 1980. From: Arthur Danto. Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills. München: Schirmer/Mosel, 1990, p. 38.

53. Ongetiteld. Robert Frank, undated. From: Robert Frank. The lines of my hand. Londen: Sackler&Warburg, 1989, unpaged.

54. Alfred Krupp. Sarah Moon, 2000. From: Moon, Sara Moon, et al. Zufällige Begegnungen. München: Schirmer/Mosel, p. 31.

55. Ongetiteld. Gilberte Brassaï, undated. From: Gilberte Brassaï. Graffiti. Paris: Flammarion, 2002, unpaged.

56. Voodoo Doll. Jack Wellpot, 1961. From: Jack Wellpot. Jack Wellpot: The Halide conversation. Tokyo: Gallery Min, 1988, unpaged.

57. La Caïta, Beauduc, 1994. Peter Lindbergh, 1994. From: Martin Harrison, et al.  Peter Lindbergh Photographs. München: Schirmer/Mosel, 1998, unpaged.

58. 1918. Alfred Stieglitz, 1918. From: Juan Hamilton. Georgia O’Keeffe: a portrait by Alfred Stieglitz. New York: The Metropolitain Museum of Art, 1997, unpaged.

59. Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothy Norman, 1935. From: Miles Barthes, et al. Intimate portraites: The photographs of Dorothy Norman. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993, p. 55.

60. Flor de Manita. Tina Modotti, 1925. From: Sara Lowe. Tina Modotti Photographs. New York, Philadelphia: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1995, unpaged.

61. Malve – plant no. 6. Thomas Struth, 1992. From: Tosatto, Guy, et al. Thomas Struth: Still. New York: The Monacelli Press, 2001, p. 111.

62. Cloud, San Sebastian, New Mexico. Paul Caponigro, 1982. From: Paul, Caponigro. Paul Caponigro: Masterworks from fourty years. Carmel: Photography West Graphics, Inc., 1993, unpaged.

63. Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park. Ansel Adams, undated. From: John Armor, Peter Wright. The mural project: Photographs by Ansel Adams. Santa Barbara: Reverie Press, 1989, unpaged.

64. Chinese in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia. Toni Schneider, 1969. From: Christoph Bauer. Toni Schneider: Fotografie/Photography. Ostfilden, Cologne: Hatje Cantz, Landesmuseum, 2008, p. 167.

65. Holy underwear. Ernst Haas, 1958. From: Inge Bondi. Ernst Haas: Color Photography. New York: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, 1989, p. 10.

66. Georgia O’keeffe in Juan Hamilton’s studio. Todd Webb, 1981. From: Todd Webb. Looking back: memoirs and photographs. Alberquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991, p. 231.

67. Nude Youth in Rocky Landscape. F. Holland Day, 1905. From: Holland Day. Holland Day: Suffering the ideal. Santa Fé: Twin Palm Publishers, 1995, unpaged.

68. Japonais Endormis. Martin Parr, 1998. From: Val, Williams. William Parr. Londen: Phaidon Press, 2004, p. 306-307.

69. Ongetiteld. Sanne Sannes, undated. From: Gerard van Westerloo. Sanne Sannes (1937-1967). Amsterdam: Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, 1993, p. 103.

70. Jacob Israel Avedon, father of Richard Avedon. Richard Avedon, 1972. From: Richard Avedon. Richard Avedon an autobiography. New York: Random House, 1993, unpaged.

71. Mick Jagger, 1976. David Bailey, 1976. From: Neil Spencer. David Bayley’s Rock and Roll Heroes. München: Schirmer/Mosel, 1997, unpaged.

72. Rebecca Salsbury, New York. Paul Strand, ca. 1920. From: Robert Miller. Paul Strand: Rebecca. New York: Robert Miller Gallery, 1996, unpaged.

73. Hopi Butte, Monument Valley, Arizona, 1936. Ansel Adems, 1936. From: John, Szarkowski. Ansel Adams at 100: Die grosse Retrospektieve. München: Christian Verlag, 2001, unpaged.

74. Totenbett von Michele, Cassoli/Toskana. Will McBride, 1972. From: Klaus Honnef, et al. Will McBride: 40 Jahre Fotografie. Frankfurt: Frankfurter Kunstverein, 1992, p. 121.

75. Lighter, white III. Lighter, white IV. Wolfgan Tillmans, 2010. From: Dominic Eichler. Wolfgang Tillmans: Abstract pictures. Ostfilden: Hatje Cantz, unpaged.

76. Blut und Boden. Andres Serrano, 1987. From: Eleanor Heartney. Andres Serrano: America. Cologne: Taschen GMBH, 2004, unpaged.

Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij