Katharina John. Talking Heads
On display are two black and white portraits of two elderly women.
Digitally enhanced photography
Thu, September 29, 2022 – Sun, November 20, 2022

Known for her classic analog photographs, Katharina John has portrayed people in concrete life situations all over the world. With the aid of ZKM's reenactment technology, these portraits now come to life digitally.

Escape from the moment: Photographic portraits allow us to encounter people at fleeting moments in their lives – moments that are themselves irrevocably lost, yet leave behind a concrete pictorial trace. How these lost moments come back to life and enter into dialogue with the photographer is shown in the exhibition »Katharina John: Talking Heads«.

In collaboration with the ZKM, the artist is presenting her portraits for the first time as a video reenactment. Instead of remaining static as they were originally created, the photographs are released into the freedom of the animated animus by means of conversion into digital form. Thanks to Deep Fake and the ZKM's video reenactment technology, the sitters begin to speak and thus develop facial expressions and a verbal life of their own. They rebel against their creator and enter into conversation with her. Their voices are lent by well-known actors, including Katharina John's husband Ulrich Tukur.

Every medium points beyond itself. Thus there are also "frozen messages" in the expressions of the portrayed faces, which Katharina John opens up digitally. Thanks to video reenactment technology, we experience a photography that is transformed, that no longer depicts the world solely from the creator's personal perspective. The static portraits project into the dimension of time, moving at the intersection of analog and digital worlds.


Exhibition team
Daniel Heiss (Video reenactment technology)
Jan Gerigk, Daniel Heiss, Felix Pausch (Technical project management)
Beatrice Zaidenberg (Curatorial project management)
Bernd Lintermann (Software Panoramalab)

Renate Backhaus, Wolfgang Crocoll, Gudrun Grossklaus, Daniel Heiss, Katharina John, Natascha Petrinsky, Gregor Scholl, Domenico Sidero, Ulrich Tukur, Peter Weibel

Texts by 
Ulrich Heissig, Katharina John, Andreas Mascha, Ulrich Mayer, Ulrich Tukur

Special thanks to
Painter Manfred Jürgens