No Escape From Paradise

Text: Wolfgang Zurborn (c)
In the pictures of Eva Brunner, the garden of Eden presents itself as a labyrinthine place, a hallucination between naturalness and artificiality, separated from the earthly but yet grounded again in the human body. Can we escape from this eternal happiness? Or are we captivated in the permanent search for happiness? Dazzled by beauty of frequently mystical apparition, we find ourselves immersed in a world which no longer follows any logic of space and time. In a permanent alternation of perspectives and moods of light, photographs of paradisiacal landscapes or enigmatic body presentations are merging with traces of civilisation to form a surreal stream of imagery. By subtle balancing the colours and by compression of the image spaces, the dramatic composition of the sequences unfolds a visual pull which the viewer can hardly elude. Although these themes are having a high aesthetic impact, there is never the danger of walking into the trap of a purely idyllic idealisation of contemplating nature. This is evoked by the suspenseful synergy of the pictures with their contrasting visions of the natural.
On this trip into the borderlands of document, imagination and stagings of reality, we are accompanied by Eva Brunner‘s partner in life, Bernhard Kempen, as the protagonist between archaic nakedness and costume theatre performance. The photographer does not deliver a linear narrative, nor does she portray a person in action. In this series, her husband is a performer who embodies various emotional states in relation to nature. Sleepwalking in a jungle of oversized plants, he emerges for the first time like Adam in paradise. At the end of the sequence, swathed in a green robe, he departs the scenery while striding through a bog. Pretentious symbolism is not known to Eva Brunner. Therefore her pictures, as profound as they are, still display a lot of lightness in the rhythmic interplay of motives. The human body is revealed in quite different states – as an acting person in movement, in fragmentary views which emphasize sensitivity, and ultimately in a perfect merging with nature. The curious gaze of the beholder is permanently kept awake by the measuring of these variations of the human concept in scenic images, abstracting composition and complex visual superposition. No foreground logic curbs the viewer’s fantasy. Therefore, the subjective visions of the photographer can immediately stimulate contemplation of the self’s relationship to nature.
The French semiotician Roland Barthes already spoke of a ‚false nature‘ of photography. The relation to reality which is immanent to the medium often leads us to the erroneous assumption that something natural is produced through photography. But in the moment of the shot, the view to nature becomes a cultural mesh which is designed by individual concerns. In her work ‘No Escape from Paradise’, Eva Brunner is very much aware of her subjective point of view towards the relationship between man and nature in our contemporary society. Her ways of viewing landscapes, trees, plants and blossoms do not culminate in a cliché of idyllic and untouched nature, nor do they constitute an interpretation of a conclusive reality which would be made from the distance of an analytical documentation. The image details are put in place with high precision, so that everything which is depicted can develop a narrative power all by itself, facilitated by a sense of the effective light.
Only the proximity to the chosen subjects enables such an intensity of observation which also means relinquishing any control. Thus we can find entrance into a world of imagery that is not arbitrary at all. It rather reflects the most immediate of human experiences: the realm of emotion and premonition.

Translation by Daniel Aldridge (c)