Note from the editor.
This article first appeared on L’Œil de la Photographie. Republished on Analog.Cafe with the author’s permission.
Learn more about Prof. Dr. Rainer Funke, the author, and Michael Nguyen, the photographer, below.
When will the containers be loaded? Such a question comes to mind when approaching the shopping mall built in 2008 from a distance. But stop! The intense colors of the seemingly stacked cubes and their sophisticated composition immediately give rise to other associations. As if someone had created a special order out of building blocks. One wonders whether this is already the perfect final state, as one tries to create with the Magic Cube, for example.
The variety of combinations seems too great for this. Both that of the colors and that of the surface structures.
Added to this are the manifold reflections and the astonishing visual dynamics. One does not seem to move past the building itself, but its facades begin to run, to turn, to flow. One is almost reminded of the dancing of the facades and interiors of baroque courtly buildings in downtown Munich. Instead of baroque figurativeness, however, here it is geometry.
The closer one gets, the more details become visible. No, these are neither containers nor building blocks. The prismatic shape of the colored and reflective metal plates gives the building shell pronounced plasticity. One would not have expected so much sophistication from a shopping center, especially not here, where Munich hardly has anything typically Munich anymore and is fraying into the landscape.
Whether red voluptuousness with bold blue, pastel sweetness, noble gold, lush, or pale green: the overwhelming power of color is, of course, the basic theme of the series of images, always in powerfully soaring, a contrast-rich vertical sequence of seemingly endless parallels.
Michael Nguyen’s imposing photographs take us very close to this color organ. They make us stand at attention on the parade ground of the verticals. Especially the severity of the composition in detail becomes a theme.
This gesture appears once again mercilessly emphasized by Nguyen’s camera, as refractions and disturbances emerge from close up. Two framed, square blue lockers, for instance, according to their dimensions probably placed on a blue ground with metallic fittings not colored blue - the attempt to hide them has failed. Nguyen places them in the center. The wonderful striped pattern is disturbed in this way, less perfect and also a bit more lifelike. We experience something similar with the door locks (here the hinges additionally form a counter-rotating rhythm), the intercom, and the stickers on two other images. As a photographer, Michael Nguyen is as uninhibitedly consistent as the facades depicted want to be but cannot be in the storm of life and entropy.
The mirrored surfaces evoke almost poetic associations when nature and urban space gently and carefully combine in them (in one picture, the soft shapes of the snow remains are added). Here, too, Nguyen is provocative. One picture is intended to irritate through eight seemingly irregular horizontal cuts in the surrounding colour surfaces.
And, of course, dirt and trash. Such a design focused on geometric color perfection is highly moralistic.
It points its moral finger in full size at the viewers, admonishing us not to disturb order, to preserve perfection and cleanliness. When we then perceive small discarded things and in addition a dirty floor or even dirty facade surfaces, it hits us with full force.
At the same time, we are referred to the particularity and artistic rapture of the facade. Even a traffic sign, placed somewhat askew and in turn, defaced with remnants of a sticker, emphasizes the distance of the art object from life.
Even the clash of different grid dimensions of the facade strips and the paving of the sidewalk draws attention and distances. Here nothing has grown out of the ground, where it has been landed. This impression is further emphasized by the filigree grid structure of the surfaces pointing to the left.
If then still objects stand before the work of art, like a somewhat demolished container for the clothes collection, an ashtray (nevertheless in strict vertical-orthogonal high-grade steel form and exactly aligned), or admittedly color-coordinated garbage can one wished a ban mile for objects around the building.
People appear in two photos. They make us breathe a sigh of relief: yes, the whole thing is made for people.
The two people in a picture, shot somewhat voyeuristically behind a lamppost, could, however, already be a bit tighter, more upright, and perhaps defilade past the facade in step!
The man with his shopping cart, on the other hand, seems to want to save himself from the austerity of the backdrop into the organic world of the leafy settlement.
In an impressive way, Michael Nguyen presents us with this photo series of a building as a work of art and thus points us to the power of design but also to the contradictions between art and life.
About the authors.
Prof. Dr. Rainer Funke researches and publishes on design-theoretical issues from a semiotic, cultural-theoretical and philosophical perspective and works as a design consultant for companies. He teaches design theory at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. After studying philosophy at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, he earned his doctorate in semiotics and subsequently worked in design-theoretical research at Burg Giebichenstein — University of Art and Design Halle. In 1992, he was appointed to Potsdam as the founding dean of the Department of Design. Rainer Funke was the owner of a design agency, chairman of the board of the Brandenburg Design Center, and visiting professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design Linz.
Michael Nguyen is a photo artist and documentary photographer living near Munich, Germany. He takes photographs since 1988. He has been living in Munich since 2007 and moved to Gauting near Munich in 2015. After a long break in the cultural sector and after a sickness he has dedicated himself 2018 entirely to art again. He is an artist and a photographic poet who moves away from the mainstream, at the same time blurs genres. Most of the time, he focuses on small, ordinary things but through the subjective lens, gives them new perspectives, a new soul.
Michael Nguyen’s photography is the art of showing more than you can see. Making visible - worshipping the invisible, he walks with the third eye of a wanderer through the visual adventure of life.
Michael Nguyen roamed various cities in Bavaria during the Corona pandemic. A focus of his works since COVID-19 are urban landscapes as well as urban spaces in different cities. Urban spaces can all enrich a life between buildings. Since COVID-19, social interaction in the Urban landscapes with their spaces has lain fallow. Michael Nguyen conveys this sensitively in his mostly “deserted pictures.” Nguyen enters the motifs of his urban landscapes with a great deal of empathy. He makes the city, urban landscapes and architecture visible and documents them for posterity. With his artistic documentary photography, he refers to a reality that we all know but interprets this reality with his images.
At the BIFA Budapest International Foto Awards 2020, his artwork “Antimatter” was awarded in December 2020 with Gold.
In addition to his artistic activities, Michael Nguyen is in Editor-in-chief of the online magazine for photography and art: Tagree. www.tagree.de