Analogue Events: Apocalypse Then

Can war and its aftermath also be beautiful? For its final show this year, the Pavillon populaire in Montpellier is focusing on an exhibition dedicated to destruction.

Richard PETER, Vue de la tour de l’Hôtel de Ville, vers le sud, Dresde, entre le 17 sept. et le 31 décembre 1945 Epreuve Ancienne © Collection Michael Ruetz via

After the successful Brassaï in America exhibition, the City of Montpellier is now presenting a show dedicated to urban destruction. ‘Apocalpses’ is curated by Alain Sayag who held the position of photography curator of the Centre Georges Pompidou for over thirty years.

Leonard Sempolinski, Place du marché de la vieille ville, Varsovie, mai 1945 © Galerie Nationale Zacheta, Varsovie via

Dresden. A city completely destroyed by three waves of bombing on the 13th and 14th February 1945. But also Reims, Warsaw, Hiroshima, Beirut and Detroit. What is beautiful in a wrecked city one might ask? Really and truly, nothing at all I think. War and the atrocities it comes hand in hand with hold nothing of beauty, and yet, photographers such as Richard Peter, Leonard Sempolinski and Karl Hugo Schmolz manage to bring out a dark, inexplicable aesthetic. Images of debris and destruction: are they exercises in composition, light, shadow and contrast? Or is there something underlying? I think there is.

Richard Peter, Squelette dans une des salles de la Kunstakademie, Dresde, 1945 © Deutsche Fotothek via
Karl Hugo Schmolz, Hôtel de ville, Cologne, 1945 © Collection Wim Cox, Cologne via

Who’d want to visit an exhibition dedicated to times of horror which so many want to forget and completely erase from their memories? I would. I believe that stopping to think about how fragile the buildings and cities which surround us actually are is a healthy exercise. It makes one think about how life can be here one minute and gone the next and how much healthier it it is to live life day by day, to the full because as cliche has it, tomorrow might be anyone’s last.

Catalogue cover via

Apocalypses, la disparition des villes – de Dresde à Detroit (1944-2010) is open until February 12th 2012. For those interested in taking a part of it home, it is accompanied by a publication on the same title.

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written by webo29 on 2011-12-24 #news #war #december #february #january #b-w #exhibition #france #destruction #montpellier #apocalypse #2012

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