Friday, 24 November 2017, 24:00 | midnight

#89: Tobias Zielony

Tobias Zielony is internationally acclaimed as a photographer; we are delighted to welcome the artist presenting us a selection of his work in video and animated film. Zielony began filming with increasing regularity in 2008, and the medium has come to occupy a central place in his oeuvre. He first trained his lens on the outer edges of Western prosperity in 2000. Many of his early subjects were teenagers, striking poses that imitated the blueprints of the movie and music industries with their meticulously staged dreams of the good life: visions of self-determination and resistance, grand gestures, and communities that stick together; pipe dreams that recur in the aspirational self-conceptions of many of the people Zielony meets. But the gulf between illusions and realities, between fantasies of heroism and the suburban settings remains, and his subject’s faces bear the melancholy mark of the discrepancy.

Tobias Zielony will show:

Alles (Chemnitz), 2002/2017, digitalized Super-8 film, 6 min
When searching his old storage space in Leipzig, Zielony rediscovered about 100 pieces of Super-8 material that he had cut briefly after shooting the film in Chemnitz in order to scan individual frames. The pieces were randomly glued together and the resulting film digitalized. It turned out that its short sequences run backwards and apparently without intentional order or narrative. Showing young people hanging out in the East German city of Chemnitz, formerly known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, the film cube regarded as a predecessor to his later animations and video work in general.

Le Vele di Scampia, 2009, 9 min
In nocturnal Naples, he roamed the sparsely inhabited architecture of a housing project controlled by the Camorra wielding a high-resolution digital camera, his finger permanently on the shutter release. He subsequently compiled the thousands of individual pictures into the photo-animation film Le Vele di Scampia (2009). Depending on the lighting conditions, the camera silently records more or fewer frames per second. Edited as a film, the sequence runs faster, then more slowly than real time, yielding a jumpily nervous mute portrait of the neighborhood, which became notorious after serving as the backdrop for the movie adaptation of “Gomorrah”.

Der Brief (The Letter), 2013, 5 min
In this animated film produced in conjunction with his work on the project Jenny Jenny in Berlin shows two prostitutes in conversation. On the soundtrack accompanying the images, they talk about a colleague who aroused such passion in a john that he started threatening her, forcing her to change places of work. His love letter authenticates the story.

Kalandia Kustom Kar Kommandos (Dream Lover), 2014, 4 min
Zielony’s film reprises Kenneth Anger’s “Kustom Kar Kommandos” (1965) in a very different setting. Anger’s short, a precursor of the music video genre – the Paris Sisters’ “Dream Lover” (1964) plays in the background – turns a hot vintage car into a fetish bristling with homoerotic energy. Two strapping lads groom the no less strapping automobile as though it were the body of their desire. Zielony shot his variation on the theme near the Kalandia checkpoint, a high-volume border crossing in the wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Day after day, it is a flashpoint for the manifold problems and phenomena of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. International journalists report from here on a regular basis, a refugee camp is close by, but it is also where the members of the local VW Beetle club drive on evening jaunts in their vintage rides, which they turn into dream machines with homemade extras. Zielony arranges his Anger remake in a nearby car wash; it stars two young Palestinians lathering and primping a red Beetle. Accompanied by the soothing notes of “Dream Lover”, “Kalandia Kustom Kar Kommandos” is a multifaceted allegory.

Al-Akrab, 2014, 7 min
In 2014, Zielony made two films while working in Ramallah for two months. Al-Akrab (The Scorpion) pays homage to the opening scene in Luis Buñuel’s L’Âge d’or, which premiered in 1930. Four young women huddle in a dark room, their white headscarves and dresses gleaming bluish in the black light. A disco? A laboratory? A hospital? They busy themselves with a scorpion, which is first alive, then dead; its skin dazzlingly fluorescent. The women – they are high school students in a village in Palestine – meticulously photograph the animal; it emerges that they are making an animated film in which the dead scorpion returns to life as if by magic. The fruit of their efforts plays as a film within the film toward the end of Zielony’s surreal production, which crackles with minute passions, subtle eroticism, and nuanced archetypes.

Maskirovka, 2017, 9 min
Maskirovka, Zielony’s very recent film, leads to the techno and queer community in Kyiv. The animation mounts layer upon layer: fighting hooligans, TV news about the war in Eastern Ukraine as well as images of masking, dancing and hiding. Commonly refering to a Russian tradition of military deception, the term “maskirovka” has recently re-emerged to describe the “masked” Russian intervention in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Zielony’s animation achieves its chilling maelstrom force through the deliberate montage of two intertwined processions of images. By doing so it willfully transgresses documentary territory. Meaning and storyline are not a given but constructed from frame to frame, from scene to scene. The resulting hypnotic effect recalls the stroboscopic lights of the underground clubs and raves in which “Maskirovka” is set.

Big Sexyland, 2008, 3min
The film is set in a porn theater in Berlin, where young male prostitutes from Eastern Europe hang out and sometimes crash for the night. Zielony films the face of a sleeping man rhythmically illuminated by the movie projection’s flickering reflections. Shot in a single perfectly steady take, the film unfolds the photographic frame solely along the axis of time and teases out the echoes of the invisible motions and noises on the screen in the man’s tranquil features.

Tamil Stars, 2016, 9min
For the public art festival Emscherkunst Zielony created a film that focuses on the Tamil community in Dortmund, the biggest in all of Germany. Since 2012 the soccer team “Tamilstars” exists in Dortmund, which by now plays in the “Kreisliga B”, the 8th tier of league football in Germany. In the film the familiar grounds of a German soccer field become the setting of eerie and strange incidents. The floodlights go out and on the field the “stars” of Tamil mythology and the booming Tamil film industry appear: From evil spirits, over Tamil Tigers fighters to “Bollywood” dancers. The stereo-animation was first shown in an empty shop in Dortmund’s Rheinische Strasse, the heart of the city’s Tamil community.


Tobias Zielony (b. 1973 in Wuppertal, Germany) studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, before he continued with artistic photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig under Timm Rautert in 2001. Tobias Zielony is known for his photographic depiction of juvenile minorities in suburban areas – a subject he already set out with during his studies in Newport. For his first book project “Behind the Block” (2004) he then extended his research to a total of four European cities to observe adolescents in public spaces often during night times. Themes and social realities his research touches upon include structural change, migration and drug abuse. His critical approach to documentarism – within his photographic work but also in his videos and animated films – manifests in a specific aesthetic and relationship with fiction

In 2015 the Tobias Zielony participated at a group show for the German Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale with his work “The Citizen” (2015). He had group shows for example at Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels (2015) and the 2nd Montevideo Biennial (2014) and solo shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2011) and Berlinische Galerie (2013). He participated in the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York, and was awarded the Karl-Ströher-Preis in 2011.

Thanks KOW, Berlin for the support.