When one talks about Irmel Kamp’s photographs, then a discourse about architecture is inevitable, because only a few other photographers have focused their creative output so intensively on architecture. Irmel Kamp achieved this at the same time as Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose students long considered her to be an insiders’ tip. Already at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling observed that architecture is like frozen music; with that comment, he was in accordance with the widespread opinion that music and architecture preserved something which came closest to the essence of European culture – as it was seen at that time. It was a matter of the ‘compelling power of eternal proportions’ which Europe had carried forth into the world under various names: Christianity and later Rationalism.

With the advent of modernism, those spirits which for so long had exercised a great impact now disappeared; suddenly it was human beings and their needs which became the secret sources for the new mode of construction. The protagonists cited sociology and philosophy as the intellectual resonating spaces for their architectural endeavours. Buildings became affordable and, in a certain sense, more democratic. Architects became artists, and from time to time, their buildings have acquired the same status as works of art.

Irmel Kamp, who became known above all in Eastern Belgium for her photographs of the houses roofed with zinc sheets which are so typical for that region, has a sensitive gaze with which, like an alert tracker, she identifies and documents the relationships between building and builder. Her black-and-white photographs show not only the spirit of the era that breathes through a building, but also the tooth of time that gnaws at it unremittingly. Even if it is only in extreme and exceptional cases that human beings appear in her pictorial world, it is they who are ultimately the centre of concern. It is their very absence which first makes their presence visible. In this dialectic, Kamp develops her personal narratives which only infrequently tell the story of the icons of architectural history. She demonstrates her interest in the buildings themselves; one sees that they were inhabited, that they were altered, adapted and renovated. Her buildings bear eloquent testimony to bygone hopes, utopias and desires which every epoch brings to expression in its buildings.

With BRÜSSEL UND TEL AVIV, the IKOB – Museum for Contemporary Art is the first museum to present a retrospective with regard to this artist. The point of departure consists of two series of works which have occupied Irmel Kamp’s attention for decades. The juxtaposition of both series offers an impressive demonstration of how similar the sources of both building traditions areand how strong an impact the architects who were compelled to emigrate had on the image of the new Israel. At the same time, the Brussels pictures show how vividly influences from Belgium’s former colonies are inscribed into the country’s capital.

To visit the exhibition beforehand you can go on a virtual journey through the exhibition under the following link.

Related Bulletin

Le Bulletin № 12

Exhibition view, Irmel Kamp, BRÜSSEL AND TEL AVIV, © IKOB - Museum of Contemporary Art, Photo: Ludovic Beillard