Hallen #4
Wilhelm Hallen, Berlin
9 – 17 September 2023

Since the early 1980s, photographer and filmmaker Annette Frick (*1957 in Bonn, lives in Berlin) has pursued portraiture beyond the popular mainstream. Documenting queer and punk subcultures along with the political atmosphere of Germany before and after the reunification, Frick’s photography reveals moments from the lives of people existing outside the heteronormative orders of urban society. Over the decades, her work has become influential in shaping contemporary transgender identity. At the fourth annual edition of Hallen #4, a selection of her portraits and self-portraits will be on display. 

Hanging in the main hall of the exhibition are the five large-format photographs of Frick’s 1990 work Schlangengöttin (Snake Goddess). These black and white analog photographs were shot in her studio in Cologne, where she first began studying art. In Schlangengöttin, the artist deals uncompromisingly with themes of representative culture, identity, and censorship. While wearing nylon tights torn into a sheer top, Frick references the fabric draping over the Venus of Baldassarre Peruzzi (1481-1536), which was later extended to cover Venus’s finger because the original depiction showed it rested between her thighs. In Frick’s dynamic postures, the representation of the female body escapes from the mold of Venus’s earlier references – citing also Aphrodite, goddess of love as well as war, to further complicate the gaze on women in mythology and art. Handprinted by the artist on silver gelatin Baryta paper, a method of photography that exposes the photograph through light and chemical processes, these prints maintain extensive tonal rages and a silky surface, making them particularly unique. 

Looking through the decades, one can see Frick’s earliest work focused heavily on the act of self-portraits exploring the female nude. Due to difficulties she experienced in finding models willing to pose nude when she first began photography, she decided to use her own body as a model. In the 1980s, these photographs were often met with censorship or disdain, which contributed to Frick’s explorations into other methods of representation. Nevertheless, the depiction of female and marginalized bodies remained an important part of her work, with many of her earliest nude self-portraits paving the way for later serieses like Schlangengöttin (1990), Misfits (1992-ongoing), and Fuck Gender (1997-2003). 

On her work, Frick stated, “Photography was the medium that interested me the most, and it enabled me to articulate this dull sense of unease [the one-dimensionality ascribed to women] in the clearest way possible.” In challenging the image of what a woman was expected to be, she brought attention to the complexity of the body – its sexuality, its politics, its joys, as well as the injustices assigned to it. Often reflecting on sexuality as a method for establishing identity and self-expression, Frick’s photography and films encapsulate the many sides that make up a person.