Good Year / Bad Year – (english)

Julia Schäfer about Kerstin Flake’s series Good Year / Bad Year


If you travel to America, it is striking how run-down many parts of the country are. The conditions are desolate; behind the façade, everything is crumbling to pieces. Kerstin Flake’s series Good Year / Bad Year is set in the so-called Rust Belt cities of Columbus and Detroit, where vacant properties and shrinkage are a part of everyday reality. This bears strong similarities to the recent past of Leipzig, where Flake has lived since 1997. In the last 15 years, the artist has entered the interiors of the German city’s empty buildings, discovering all their layers and history. Staging surreal scenes in factories and apartments using material found on site, Flake brought the empty halls and spaces back to life for a brief moment. In the USA, the artist turns this procedure inside out. The street becomes the stage set, a backdrop for America!

Certain baffling details add a strong element of fascination to Flake’s pictures. Objects lose their gravity, cupboards dance, cassettes fly, household goods move out onto the pavement! Our attention is captured by this moment of “that-simply-cannot-be“, or “how could that happen?” We look twice, three times. At first glance, the images may be reminiscent of snapshots, although they are planned far in advance and elaborately constructed. We are in fact concerned with three-dimensional stages, on which the scenes are played out during the few seconds of exposure. The artist is the director of a moment that takes us by surprise. Simple as the objects in the picture may seem, with their apparent associations of poverty, there is something poetic about them. They do not stand for an America that is on its last legs. They describe a circumstance without complaining about it. The way in which they come together cancels out the depression behind them. Good Year / Bad Year! – There is a balance. Empty buildings, wasteland, deserted areas, depression, but also optimism, movement, life. Continuation. Yes, even a challenge! Lightness appears on the stage of heaviness. The photographs invite us to see the impossible. They challenge us to do the same, to get moving – just like the objects in the picture.

Julia Schäfer, curator, on Kerstin Flake’s series Good Year / Bad Year
Leipzig, November 2018 (excerpt)