Hannover (1991) by Maik and Dirk Löbbert was one of the works exhibited in a group exhibition called 'Skizze' (Sketch) at Voges + Deisen last year. It is a black and white photograph showing a river and part of the paved embankment. A path zig-zags from the water's edge to the level of the road above. But at the points where it changes direction, the Löbberts have stuck black tape, underlining the absurdity of a track that continuously turns you through 180 degrees yet keeps you moving forward. The tape also removes any element of differentiation from the photograph - the suggestion of space by shading for example - and a certain levelling takes place. A cross between sculptural, three-dimensional works and photography, these 'sketches' are an increasingly important component of the Löbbert brothers' work: they use them to draw attention to the concrete, practical problems of working in public spaces and to visualise projects that they know cannot be realised.
Hannover can now be seen as part of an exhibition of the Löbberts' photographic work, which oscillates between imaginative, witty ideas and concrete drafts for real projects. The two photographs entitled San Gimignano (1996) fall into the latter category. The Löbberts have manipulated a photograph of a stone tower in an old Italian town using red tape to make it taller by about a fifth. This coloured addition to the black and white photograph looms out like a match head, but the glowing extension can also be seen as an ironic projection of medieval architecture into our age, in which the tops of high buildings have to be marked as potential hazards for air traffic.
San Gimignano stands as a possible intervention into public space, but in the other photographic manipulations the artists experiment more hypothetically with pre-existent forms. In Strada del Cianti (1997), for example, they add to the 'dangerous bend' road sign with painted arrow shapes - the triangles now float in space, both as a continuation of the traffic sign and detached from it. In Wesel (1997), they have taken the rectangular form of a garage door in a photograph of a row of garages and stuck it to the ground with tape.
Through the application of monochrome tape the Löbberts both detach the surface from the photograph and draw attention to the graphic structure of the illustration, and thus the structure of the subject illustrated. It is therefore no coincidence that they usually work with simple geometrical figures: the triangle, rectangle, square and circle. The use of these basic architectural and graphic shapes underlines their importance to the appearance of our environment, and represents the Löbberts' attempt to create their own order in the chaos of variations on these forms in reality - or at least in their photographs of this reality.
In works actually executed outdoors, however, the Löbberts demonstrate an awareness of the dubiousness of 'order' and its essential transience. For Circle (1995), they created a circle in one of the inner courtyards of Turin University by soaking a round area with just enough water to make it look a little darker than its surroundings. This intervention, which set the circular shape against the angled arrangement of the car park markings and of the courtyard architecture, started to disappear at the very moment at which it was created - the water on the cobblestones evaporated after a few hours.
Translated by Michael Robinson