From May 16 to November 29 2020 at DISPLAY 01
In 2018, photographer Christian Aschman was commissioned by the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA) to draw up a visual inventory, both intra and extra muros, of the Agrocenter industrial zone. Located in Mersch, it had been serving the agrifood industry since 1959. With a view to safeguarding a heritage site that had played a central role in the Luxembourg agricultural sector for decades, both the CNA and the photographer agreed that it was vital to establish a photographic record of it.
Spread over an area of thirty hectares, the Agrocenter is made up of twenty or so buildings destined for a variety of uses: production, transformation, sales, storage, quality control and analysis, energy supply, maintenance and administration. Today, the site has been zoned for redevelopment to make way for a new residential and commercial district.
LThe "Hors-Champs" exhibition is designed as a photographic stroll through a site which at the time of shooting was already partially abandoned and soon destined to vanish. To capture the spirit of the place, Christian Aschman roams through the tree-lined alleys and rows of buildings which demarcate the various sectors of the site which become his primary spatial references. He allows his gaze to wander freely so as to hit upon the point of view that best serves documentary completeness. Yet his choice of viewing angles and perspectives troubles us. Like him, we strive to visually embrace this expanse, to find our way through this setting of concrete and overgrown vegetation. But in vain! The site is simply too vast! To come to grips with this phenomenon, Christian Aschman relies on plays of light and shade, he creates suggestive images while systematically resorting to an "hors-champ" off-camera approach leading to unexpected framings that leave it up to the individual viewer to complete the picture, as it were... and by consequence, the site.
Following on from this visual and factual introduction, Christian Aschman turns his gaze to the buildings' interiors with an approach worthy of archaeological exploration. He singles out the architectural details as well as the functionalities and particularities of the site's most emblematic food-industry installations: the abattoir, the compound animal feed plant, the cereal storage silos, the seed processing station, the grain reception hall and the meeting room. Yet the photographer's gaze is also drawn to the special interior atmospheres of each of these buildings. As he captures these, he translates them into his own visual language to invite us to an astonishing spectacle of colour and light, forms and spaces, materials and technologies that prevailed for over sixty years in this closed off universe inaccessible to the public.
During the numerous shooting sessions in Mersch, Christian Aschman took a total of around 800 pictures, of which only 87 were exhibited at DISPLAy 01. All of the photographs taken in the course of the project have been incorporated into the archives of the CNA and are today part of the photographic heritage of Luxembourg.
- Digitization & image processing
Christian Aschman, Atelier KZG (Bruxelles), Nelly Lefflot
- Technical crew
Jellyfish (Bruxelles), InOctavo (Luxembourg)
- Archival processing of photographs
Sandy Dos Santos, Francesca Vantellini
- Light installation
- Graphic Design
Atelier Olivier Lamy (Bruxelles)
- Translations & proof-reading
Peter Leonard, Yusuf Samantar
In parallel to the photographic undertaking, contextual research was carried out into the genesis of the industrial complex. This rapidly developed into a veritable odyssey through a wealth of potentially usable sources providing explanations and reasons for the development of the site and the architectural styles implemented. Thanks to meetings, discussions and interviews, this investigation was completed and enhanced with formal, factual and personal information.
Following on from the editorial contributions on the photographic approaches applied by the photographer and the presentation of the genesis of the site and its buildings, pride of place is evidently given to the photographs of Christian Aschman. A first part describes the surroundings and the quest for the site and its buildings as seen from the outside. This is followed by an exploration of the Agrocenter in the form of a photographic stroll through the long avenues demarcating the various architectural complexes. A third series of images takes the form of a dialogue between the photographs of Christian Aschman and the historical photographs of the site taken between the 1950s and the 1980s. The final and most important section of the book is designed as an inventory of the interiors of the various buildings thanks to which we discover the machines and the technical installations, which at times verge on being works of art and mise en scène in their own right.
In her essay "The Mersch Silo - an exceptional example of agro-industrial architecture", art historian Antoinette Lorang, carries out an analysis of all the information gathered and accumulated, presents surprising references and examples that may have influenced the architects and the contracting authorities and shares with us her conclusions regarding the architecture of this site, at times both astonishing and unexpected. She also takes a more specific look at the involvement of the Luxembourg architect Arthur Thill in the initial construction phase.
Christian Aschman, born in 1966 in Luxembourg, graduated from the ERG school (Ecole de Recherche Graphique) in Brussels before embarking on a career as an independent photographer in 1992. He is the author of numerous fashion reportages, portraits and photographic commissions on the theme of the city, with a special emphasison construction and architecture.
Open and curious with regard to photography, his personal and artistic work has developed in a variety of contexts in keeping with photographic approaches that over time have become his hallmark, as testified by his "Kiosque Gigogne" installation and the publication of his artist's book 'The space in between'. The former was presented at the "KIOSK" by AICA Luxembourg in 2011 in a disused kiosk transformed into a pop-up exhibition space, while the latter was created in the course of an arist's residency in 2014 in Tokyo at the Youkobo Art Space, published by Théophile's Papers and supportet by the "Bourse CNA - Aide à la création et à la diffusion en photographie" (CNA grant - Endowment for photographic creation and publication).
Such publications have begun to play an increasingly important role in the photographic work of Christian Aschman as a daring and by turns playful device that allows him to dialogue his images with multi-dimensional supports and graphic layering. Hence the work "747-8" commissioned and published in 2011 by Cargolux and The Boeing Company and the 2012 untitled artist's book presenting a stroll though his own photographic archives were the beginning of a series of studies and experiments that enabled him to explore and exploit the photographic means of expression in relation to the printed medium.
In parallel, Christian Aschman's recurrent interest in architecture and art has led him to projects in which, by turns, he has taken on the role of photographer, researcher, author and even publisher. A passionate participant in numerous collaborations, he was involved in the publication of such works as "Mudam, le bâtiment par Ieoh Ming Pei" (Mudam éditions, 2009), "Lëtzebuerg Moderne" (Editions Maison Moderne, 2013), "Erënnerungsraim" (Editions Guy Binsfeld, 2013), "SOLUDEC soixante-cinq ans" (SOLUDEC S.A., 2014) and "Cité des Sciences-Belval 2015" (Le Fonds Belval, 2015).
Christian Aschman has also taken part in individual and collective exhibitions in Luxembourg, Brussels, Paris, Warsaw, New York and Tokyo. He lives and works in Luxembourg.