Winner of the Baloise Art Prize 2006.
With the transition from analog to digital photography in the early years of the 21st century, the number of photographs produced and archived on a daily basis throughout the world took on previously unimagined and boundless dimensions. For German artist Peter Piller, this was just one more reason to hold back from projecting himself, through his own pictures, into a world already brimming with images. On the contrary, Piller’s artistic raison d’être (and cheeky indulgence) lies in viewing, organizing, and archiving found visual material. In doing so, he can fall back on a substantial reserve of found photographs from German regional newspapers. The images he has archived in his thoroughly idiosyncratic way are published by him in books with titles such as Regionales Leuchten, Noch ist nichts zu sehen, and Auto berühren.
In 2006 Piller was awarded the Baloise Art Prize at the Art Basel fair. The following year, Baloise gave him access to several hundred thousand digital images from the insurance company’s claims archive. The photographic series he subsequently presented in the summer of 2007 at the Kunstforum Baloise under the title nimmt Schaden is the result of his trawl through these images. Nimmt Schaden consists of 60 photographs, all with the same format and white border, and all taken out of their purely functional context as evidence for Baloise insurance claims. The series opens up a vast panorama of the imaginable and the unimaginable alike, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the spectacular to the trivial, mostly photographed within the context of the aesthetic banality of Swiss suburban life. It is not the artist who is telling a story here, but the observer who pieces it all together according to his/her own imaginings based on the images themselves.
Nimmt Schaden is also the result of an exemplary collaboration between artist and corporate culture. The insight into the procedures of an insurance company was, for Piller, the sine qua non in shaping his concept of nimmt Schaden—a work that trawled through the Baloise company’s prosaic images, and recast them as witness to an aesthetic of everyday life and of social history, thus captivating the imagination of company staff and exhibition visitors alike. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that there was a certain mischievous irony in the outcome of the collaboration between the artist and the company. After all, Baloise did indeed end up spending a substantial sum for the acquisition of photographs that were (albeit admittedly in somewhat different form) already in their possession.