October 10, 2014 – February 22, 2015
The luxury of simplicity. Unconventional lifestyles

People, whether they are environmentalists living self-sufficiently, hippies, recluses or pilgrims, whenever they make the conscious decision to abandon mainstream lifestyles and transgress the bounds of convention in search of a new “home”, do so in the hope of finding those genuine values, meaning and happiness that our affluent and competitive society would seem to deny them.

This quest for alternative ways of living provides the theme for a group exhibition that brings together photographic and video works by contemporary artists from around the world that all examine different types of counterculture.

The people featured in the works on display do not bow to the expectations of our globalized and digitalized world, but embody values such as autonomy, spirituality, simplicity and inner freedom. This exhibition looks at the many different reasons that drive people to withdraw from mainstream society and the different ways in which they do so. It explores lifestyle choices ranging from the decision simply to take a temporary break from ordinary life to the paths followed by contemplative hermits, communities with shared spiritual or political values and visionaries intent on making the world a better place.

The works of Alec Soth (born 1969) and Lucas Foglia (born 1983) both focus on American culture. Soth’s “Broken Manual” creates a collage of wistful images from anonymous portraits of people who have withdrawn from society and close-ups of the places where they live, while Foglia’s poetic collection “A Natural Order” explores the difficulties that lie in trying to live an autonomous self-sufficient lifestyle that shuns capitalism while remaining in a high-tech world which the protagonists are unable completely to renounce. In both collections, the factors that motivate individuals to turn their backs on mainstream society remain implicit. Taking a somewhat different approach, Wytske van Keulen (born 1982), in her slide installation entitled “Sous Cloche”, shows how people who opt to live in solitude often do so in response to personal crises, illness or separation.

Many of the photographers lived and worked side by side with their subjects for lengthy periods of time when working on their projects. Renate Niebler (born 1956) immersed herself in the daily routines of the nuns featured in her collection about the Carmelite Convent of the Holy Blood situated on the grounds of the former Dachau concentration camp.

The photographer’s relationship with his or her subject need not always be that of an objective observer looking in from the outside – they may choose instead to play the part of field researcher and become involved with the people they photograph. Tom Hunter (born 1965) accompanied a group of friends as they spent several months touring around various European music festivals, documenting life as a dropout and hippie on board their double-decker bus.

Some of the works on show in the exhibition examine alternative lifestyles more critically. Timm Rautert’s (born 1941) collection about the Canadian Anabaptist Hutterite community, who live their lives according to strict Christian doctrine, and Joel Sternfeld’s (born 1944) “Sweet Earth” both show the darker side that sometimes accompanies life away from mainstream society. In both instances, utopian visions of a better world go hand in hand with authoritarian attitudes, patriarchal structures and the meting out of beatings to the community’s children.

Finally, Roger Eberhard’s (born 1984) slightly overexposed polaroids reveal how people’s desires to play about “slumming it” for a short while have been exploited to create a cynical business model. He documents the four-star boutique hotels in South Africa that provide tourists with Western-style luxury behind the run-down corrugated iron façade of faux shanty town shacks.

List of artists
Andrea Büttner (D), Roger Eberhard (CH), Lucas Foglia (USA), Tom Hunter (GB), Pau Montes (E), Renate Niebler (D), Daan Paans (NL), Timm Rautert (D), Alec Soth (USA), Joel Sternfeld (USA), Wytske van Keulen (NL), Constanze Vielgosz (D) und Julia Zimmermann (D).


The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Kehrer-Verlag, Heidelberg. It is available (only in German) at a price of € 19.90 from the museum’s ticket office and at our online shop.