U-ni-ty, 1991 – 1994

In the group of works Ein-heit / U-ni-ty, which took shape during unification, Michael Schmidt concerns himself with history and the universal symbolism of the social systems predominant on German soil since 1933: National Socialism, Socialism and Democracy. This is the backdrop against which the artist raises the question of the individual’s all-decisive role in society and of their choice of the side where they will take their stand.

In Michael Schmidt’s eyes a published photograph was an integral part of objective reality and no less entitled to being photographed than, say, a human being or a building. In Ein-heit/U-ni-ty he subjected this approach to further development. His photographs of photographs, which account for roughly one third of this body of work, comprise in addition to strongly cropped and occasionally inverted photographs straightforward renderings of existing photographic material, which he typically combined with his own photographs. In doing so, Schmidt rephrased the content of the original photographs to suit his own conception, deprived them of their unambiguousness and added further layers of interpretability. In addition, he made use of the strategy of repetition and the variation of motifs he had already
deployed in some of his early works.

Arranged in this way, the photographs constitute the grammar of a highly specific visual idiom. Habituated as they are to the traditional exposure to photographic images, observers are at first kept at bay by the images’ refusal to be read at one fell swoop but are subsequently allowed an individual, associative approach on the basis of collective knowledge.