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"I is another." - this sentence from Arthur Rimbaud accompanies the debates about subject in the modern age like no other. In the photography of Bettina Hoffmann, it comes up as a triviality, almost insignificant. Two women on a bed, as though after an argument. Three women in a kitchen, in a tense, demanding atmosphere. Only when one takes a closer look, does it become apparent that the people in the picture are identical. Bettina Hoffmann fits self-portraits into realistic scenes, or the other way around: she unfolds them into a scenery of various, well-calculated roles.
"I is another" - the sentence has lost none of its frightfulness. An unusual mixture of intimacy and foreignness pervades Hoffmann's photo-scenarios. They are family arrangements. The women portrayed, like sisters, know each other so well that there is no longer a need for words. The images generate their tremendous tension through the power gradient between the actors and the ambiguity of the scene, the suspension. The figures occupy exactly balanced positions within the social arrangement. At the same time, the images have the effect of a film stopped in motion: they make reference to an event, an incident, that controls the scene and yet lies outside of the picture.
Bettina Hoffmann works with ambivalence, with the conflict between proximity and distance, identity and foreignness, movement and standstill. This applies to the technique as well: the computer-worked images have the quality of original photos - they appear realistic, and at the same time remain synthetic and abstract.
"Photography destroys people, in that it portrays them," wrote Siegfried Krakauer - "it is not the person that emerges in the photograph, but the sum of that which can be stripped from him or her." As a side note, Hoffmann's collages also show how photography, the medium of similarity and reproduction, can alter our conception of personal identity.
Andrea Roedig (translated by Holly Austin)