Taking no heed of the latest technical possibilities or digital worlds, German artist Candida Höfer adheres to an analog photographic concept of the image which has—precisely because it is so straightforward and timeless—lost nothing of its persuasive quality. Höfer has been photographing interior spaces, devoid of human presence, with an unerring compositional approach, since the 1980s.
In their objectivity Höfer’s photographs bear witness to a critical and detached viewpoint that bears comparison with that of a scientist focused entirely on her research subject. What piques Höfer’s interest is the semi-public sphere. Her approach is like that of a sociologist analyzing a test run of cultural devices that condition and regulate the way people interact in our society. Höfer is interested in the spaces that have been created for people to both learn and enjoy themselves in (such as theaters and opera houses) as well as the spaces where people nurture and expand their knowledge about themselves, their history, and their culture (such as libraries and museums).
Höfer already worked in Basel in the 1990s. In March 2002, with a view to her forthcoming exhibition at Kunstforum Baloise in the summer, she launched a new “test run” in Basel. The outcome was a series of 25 photographs created in nine places. They show, for example, the Painting Gallery of the Kunstmuseum Basel, but they also feature interior spaces that are less well known (such as the library of the Frey-Grynaeisches Institut of the University of Basel), as well as other spaces that tend to be on the outer fringes of collective awareness (such as the Anatomical Institute of the University of Basel). In the Baloise buildings, Höfer honed in, for instance, on the staff restaurant that had been designed in the early 1980s. Her photographs document the space in its original state, shortly before its refurbishment in 2006.