Don't know whether you have seen works of the photographer/artist Gerd Ludwig before. He's following a path already charted, in part, by American artists like Andy Warhol - although Warhol's approach may be different in so far as it stresses the merchandise quality of things represented in his pictures - this, and perhaps the chance-like quality of the production of the pictures themselves, often in the context of a pattern of repetition/variation.

Looking at a picture like Coke 'n Kola, by Ludwig (1979), I can't help seeing the way it is different from Warhol's work. There is a poetic quality, of loneliness, in this work - something that turns us into viewers present within the space of the picture, although distanced, musing, looking - not "grabbing" and "consuming."  I can't help feeling that Ludwig's pictures are considered effects: well-composed, not chance-like at all. They appear like arranged collages, resulting from the fact that objects have been placed in front of the camera. Not necessarily in a comprehended but nonetheless in a determined way. The artist must have wanted just that KOLA can, just that object on top of it (is it a knife, standing on its edge?). Just that cover of a magazine or whatever it is, showing a woman's face, sun-glasses shifted away from her eyes.  He must have wanted that reflex of a jalousie, of shutters that create a pattern of light and shade on that furry table cloth. A soft pattern because of the cloth.That contrasts, of course, with the metallic glow of the can, its smooth red and white surface. For me, a work like COKE 'N KOLA (drugs and cola, cocain & cola?) is a tender portrait of destruction, of emptiness, of a cold & metallic society, of people consuming and transformed into objects to be consumed, at the same time. The girl as consumer, and the girl - like the KOLA CAN, sort of - as an "adverisement" of herself: fashionable, self-conscious, wondering at the effect her sun-glasses or the rouge on her lips will have. Bringing both - the KOLA can, and the image of the girl - together, Ludwig creates a new quality; something illucidating, something I might call the way one element in the picture clarifies the meaning of the other, and vice versa. This is basically the method of every collage - a rational method. Even when a collage, or collage-like arrangement of objects, in a given take, appears to us as somewhat surrealist. Or when its poetic effect can be traced back, perhaps, to the workings of what Freud called "the subconscious." To decipher it, we may have to resort to what they call intuition. But without a preparedness to think, to use our head, we will not fully understand this kind of work.

What I have been trying to get across, with regard to Coke 'n Kola, perhaps also holds true of 54, Old Hatzper Street (1978-79) - a take capturing, we might wrongly imagine,  "a single haphazard 'look'" focusing on shirts of different greys and blues, as well as a dark coat, hanging from hooks fastened to a door almost in the center of the picture. As I have indicated, I doubt that it is the haphazard work of a moment - although the idea to do this sort of thing may have come, lightning-like, in a single moment. But the colors are, like the distribution of the shirts, "fitting too well" not to be consciously arranged.

The moment of conscious, or pre- (and even sub-)conscious CHOICE may of course be compressed into a single second - as in Fernsehbild [i.e. TV image] (1978). To my mind, this is no odd product, the way one of the Warhol pictures taken in railroad stations or airports would be. It is the codification that enters the image because of the very fact of public screening that is absorbed in the image. The girl, reading the news (or whatever she may be reading) on TV, knows she is being filmed. And she presents herself accordingly, responding to expectations. That pre-given moment of "steering " the event, of "planning" the (quality) of a (public) image (or image for the big public) is subsequently enhanced by Ludwig. It is enhanced by his use of color, the transformation of pre-given colors. And this is traceable to the aesthetic determination of the artist. As I have said, the aesthetic "purpose" embraced may have been felt subconsciously. Still, it is there as an element of selectiveness, or choice. It all begins with choosing the pre-given image, then continues with the choice of a constellation of "unrealistic" GREEN and ORANGE in the picture while also selecting the kind of black frame the artist has opted for. The artist has found his raw material on TV, and he has worked it into an object of art, and art image that can't be found, randomlike, on TV. Not like that. What had to come in were manipulations guided by an aesthetic sensibility. In other words, you are beginning to watch with an artist's eyes the moment you begin fiddling around with your tv set, surprised by the sudden beauty of "unrealistically" strong & fresh colors it can produce, and the new quality this can give even to conventional images. The "meaning of NEWS", of the "purpose of broadcast transmissions" is put in brackets, voided, negated, in such moments, as the imagination takes over, marveling at the "strange" shapes and colors moving in front of our eyes. 

Something very similar seems to hold true of Um 90° gedreht [Turned 90 degrees] (1979). What would, as a raw product, be deciphered as the tv image of a "star"  or perhaps an announcer, on stage, in front of or next to a mike, turns into an image of rippled water, a kind of illuminated swimming pool, with a man floating in it. All of this is surrounded by darkness. The transformation of custumarily used colors typical for tv transmissions into beautiful yellowish and blueish greens is as much part of the artistic operation of making the familar "appear strange" (and aesthetically "strong") as is the fact that that the conventional tv image has been turned by 90 degrees.  The strange white reflections at the edge of the tv image, as much as the blackness surrounding it, enhance this effect. The work is an "amalgam" of seeing/finding and combining/transforming. 

TV Eye (taken in New Zealand, in the summer of 1978) looks strangely fascinating because the sky looks like scratched, or perhaps like "painted," roughly, with colored pencils. In fact, the television medium, its technique of transmitting "line" upon "line" of visual "information," contributes much to the scratch effect. The image has become a lot more expressive (and thus, more painterly) than can be expected of undistorted tv images streaming along, in front of us.

The examples of Ludwig's work I have commented on were first printed in the Sept. 7, 1979 issue of Zeit Magazine (on page 52f.). Peter Sager's interpretation accompanying the reproductions stressed, quite mistakenly, I believe, the "uncontrolled", "haphazard" randomness  we all tend to associate with "snapshots." I believe that Sager didn't comprehend how Ludwig used, in much of this work, his Polaroid camera.  Of course, color effects ARE hard to control; so experience with the medium, planning and preparation have to come in just as much as openness for chance results. In manipulating a tv set that supplied some of Ludwig's "raw material," you act like a composer or musician working with a stuffed, or "prepared" piano.  You create the conditions that will enable you to discover "something," which is to see - and see something new and different. It will still be up to you to "play" this instrument, to be surprised by images that hold a certain aesthetic potential, and to "frame" them. Which is, what Ludwig seems to have done:  to catch them and present them in a way that will transform the raw product that offered the starting point, into an aesthetic object. Here, in this readiness to play with the medium (television) and to watch concentratedly, ready to respond to the chance effects set off by such play, the entire aesthetic process is set off. Let's not mistake the swift condensation into the second of a shot for an act "out of the blue."