Almost overnight, the New York-based photographer Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968 in Remscheid) acquired enormous media presence and great popularity with exhibitions, publications, and his photojournalistic work for periodicals (i-D, Spex, Interview). His photographs of such diverse events and genres as the Love Parade in Berlin and the Protestant Church congress in Munich, the Hirslanden Clinic in Zürich, still-lifes, landscape shots, etc., seem to tap the pulse of the age, without, however, allowing themselves to be reduced to pure manifestations of a zeitgeist.

Some critics see in Tillmans' work primarily a preoccupation with the themes of youth, Generation X, and rave. Although Tillmans does feel dedicated to his own generation, these are not so much themes as points of departure for a more profound questioning of identity and (re)presentation. Tillmans does not render typologies of social groups or a certain generation, but investigates personal concepts of life. He is not a documentarian of a youth culture or a life-style, but is fascinated by the image people have of themselves, images that are mediated via fashion, posture, and posing. The embodiments of these concepts of the self in the photographic image is created in an oscillating interrelation between the photographer and the mise en scenes and "images" he constructs of the persons he depicts.

Wolfgang Tillmans' exhibition at Portikus combines large-formatted ink-jet prints, original pages from magazines, and photographs in various formats. Newly arranged in different contexts, they convey a parallelism in chains of thought, combining subjects and giving them equal value.

Since the late 80s, Tillmans has been working - apart from his exhibitions - as a freelance photographer for magazines such as i-D, Spex, and Interview. This medium complies with his inclination to time and again rearrange pictures and make them accessible to a broad audience. On the occasion of this exhibition, Portikus publishes a 32-page insert in Spex magazine (issue 9/95), showing that Tillmans' photographs cannot solely be reduced to either an exhibition context or a photojournalistic context.

Photos: Katrin Schilling