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Laconia Gallery


Pipevalve: Berlin

Steven Seidenberg

Friday, June 2, 2017 to Sunday, July 23, 2017

Opening reception: Friday, June 2, 5:30-8:00pm.

Photographer Steven Seidenberg chronicles objects and systems that are both out of sync and integral to the rhythms of modern life. His large format photographs, rich in the saturated colors of worn paint, rust, moss, and decay or filled with the geometric and biomorphic compositions of paint stains, faded adhesives, and found objects, document parts of networks that have lost their centrality. Examining Berlin apartment blocks, Tokyo subway platforms, or Czech cemetery dumpsters, Seidenberg captures features nearly lost in margins of our urban worlds. His photographs uncover the pictorial and the politic of materials that are cared for and attended to, yet often unseen by those who live beside them. As viewers, we are presented with things both foreign and familiar, exotic and commonplace, mesmerizing and readily overlooked — and ultimately offered the feeling of living in a new state of attention to the edges of reality.

Seidenberg trains his camera on objects and surfaces that survive the indifference of their surroundings. He draws upon the traditions of modernist urban and industrial photography, post war conceptual photography, and the anthropological impulse that has fueled documentary traditions from the 19th century to the present. The resulting images remind us that change occurs in the spaces we call home, to the objects we use daily, and is shepherded by the people with whom we share our cities.

rusty moss wood

pink mossy gray

Pipevalve: Berlin is an exhibition of photographs that revolve around a specific body of Seidenberg’s photography documenting a curious vestigial feature in the Berlin cityscape. While in Friedrichshain, Berlin, Seidenberg encountered an odd architectural detail, a cast iron cleaning valve in drainage pipes on city buildings. Fascinated by the uniformly totemic affect and yet radically variable material character of these Reinigungsöffnung, he photographed the five or six located on the same block as his studio. As he walked further he realized the valves were concentrated in an area of only .5 square km that had been confronting the forces of gentrification overtaking the former east. Like the work of social historians or contemporary archaeologists, Seidenberg’s photographs show the transformation of urban life and mark the effort that people put into the care and feeding of the world, whether through makeshift repair, natural decay, or expert maintenance. The exhibition conveys the aesthetic and ethical payoff that comes with looking and understanding the effort of maker and recorder.

The exhibition at Laconia Gallery coincides with the publication of Seidenberg’s book Pipevalve: Berlin (Lodima Press, 2017), with contributions by art historian Peter Kalb (Brandeis University) and archaeologist Carolyn White (University of Nevada Reno). Copies will be available at the gallery.

About the artist

Steven Seidenberg is an artist and writer based in San Francisco. He has exhibited his work throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He is the author of Pipevalve: Berlin (Lodima, 2017), Itch (RAW ArT Press, 2014), and numerous chapbooks of verse and aphorism.