Surreal, Sexy, Sinister: the photographs of Marta Astfalck-Vietz

Event Type:



Ground floor corridor, Mackintosh building, 167 Renfrew Street Glasgow G3 6RQ Mon-Sun 11am-5pm


24 Sep 2012 - 26 Oct 2012
Mon - Fri, 11:00 - 17:00



Marta Astfalck-Vietz
Self-portrait montage (untitled), c.1926-1932 © DACS 2012.

Surreal, Sexy, Sinister: the photographs of Marta Astfalck-Vietz

Event info

Surreal, Sexy, Sinister: the photographs of Marta Astfalck-Vietz

Curated by Dr. Katherine Tubb, Department of History of Art, University of Glasgow

24 September - 26 October 2012, Ground floor corridor, Mackintosh building

Surreal, Sexy, Sinisteris the first solo exhibition of Berlin photographer Marta Astfalck-Vietz (1901-1994) outside Germany. The 21 reproductions featured showcase a range of her personal responses to the social, sexual and political transformations that shaped the German metropolis after World War One. Inspired by film and dance, they are all mediated realities in which human figures imply the figurative: a black dancer embraces a white woman, stirring Germany's fears and fascinations about blackness and the primitive; a woman's decapitated head conjures gutter-press reports of the grisly stigmata borne by victims of Berlin's seedy underworld. Comprising mostly self-portraits, this show is a rich microcosm of creative registers: courage, black humour and sexual passion. In Astfalck-Vietz's erotic images, domestic objects take on a powerful fantasy life - with a piece of lace she becomes a high society lady, a remote goddess, a masked seductress. The erotic atmosphere in these photographs encompasses dream and loneliness, joie de vivre and the mourning of lost love. Berlin, oft mythologised as a mercurial woman, is reflected in this romantic, bittersweet array of female fortunes; through it, Marta Astfalck-Vietz makes the city her own.

Almost all of her archive was lost when her Berlin home was bombed in 1943. What remains was discovered by the curator Janos Frecot in 1989 and is now housed at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin. Sadly, her original photographs are in bad condition and rarely travel. This show, however, is a precious opportunity to see reproduction prints. These works are a valuable addition to the history of Berlin's avant-garde, but they have wider significance. They add a new facet to the practice of female self-portraiture in photography. Like Lady Hawarden before her and Cindy Sherman after, Marta Astfalck-Vietz is model, stylist and creative director in images that provocatively examine the construction of identity. As she once put it:Only when your self is no longer visible, may you be as you are.