THE CENTER AWARDS: Project Development Grant: Maximilian Thuemler
Congratulations to Maximilian Thuemler for being selected for CENTER’s Project Development Grant recognizing his project, Born From the Limb. The Project Development Grant provides financial support to fine art, documentary, or photojournalistic works in progress. Assisting a photographer to help complete their project, the grant provides platforms for professional development in the work’s final stages. The Grant includes a $5,000 cash award, Professional Development Workshop Admission, Complimentary participation and presentation at Review Santa Fe, Group Exhibition of Award & Grant Winners at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts Project Publication in Lenscratch & Feature Shoot, and inclusion in the CENTER Image Library & Archive.
JUROR: Karen Irvine, Chief Curator & Deputy Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago shares her thoughts on this selection:
Perhaps due to the trauma of the past two years and the current moment, the works I found to be the most interesting in the 511 applications I reviewed for CENTER’s Project Development Grant were those that addressed topics of immediate, critical importance, such as climate change, racism, the pandemic, migration, LGBTQ visibility, illness, the abuse of power, and mental health. With that in mind, I would like to start by thanking all the artists who submitted to the Grant and for sharing their creative work, which offered important views of the world that are different from what we learn from the media and other sources. Making art and putting it out in public is a gesture of generosity. Much of the work I reviewed was bold and inspiring.
For this year’s Grant, I selected the work of Maximilian Thuemler as I found his project Born From the Limb to be a riveting meditation on race in the United States. Shooting along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia “the vaguely defined point of black origin,” as the artist explains, Thuemler combines self-portraits, still lifes, archival materials, and landscapes to probe the disconnect between long-standing narratives and histories that are too often suppressed. Using his body to execute grueling and evocative performances for his camera, Thuemler underscores the tension between romanticized history, regional lore, and blemished landscapes that hold traces of violence. I could not stop thinking about this work after viewing it. His images are exquisite and spellbinding.
Karen Irvine is Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. She has organized over fifty-five exhibitions of contemporary photography at the MoCP and other venues and specializes in exhibitions with a justice focus. She has contributed her writings to numerous art magazines, anthologies, and monographs.
Maximilian Thuemler was born in Berlin, Germany and received a BFA in Illustration from Parsons School of Design. His work has appeared in Fraction Magazine, Tabula Rasa Magazine, Office Magazine, Ain’t Bad Magazine, and Accessible Objects among others. It is also part of the Yuko Nii Foundation Collection in Brooklyn, NY. He is a recipient of the 2021 Creator Labs Photo Fund and the 2020 Lucie Foundation Emerging Artist Scholarship, both awarded for his ongoing project Born From the Limb. He is also among the 2021 Critical Mass Top 50. Recent group exhibitions include Corona Culture at Alte Muenze in Berlin, Salon #1 at New Collectors in New York, Tabula Rasa Magazine Volume IV: Performance at Usagi NY, and Thank You, Have a Nice Day. at Galerienhaus Berlin. He is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.
Follow Maximilian on Instagram: @maximilianthuemler
Born From the Limb
Maximilian Thuemler utilizes photography and its boundless archive to engage the medium’s uniquely complex and fraught relationship to historical narratives of power, race, and recognition. The collecting and recontextualizing of archival materials forms project specific conglomerates of evidence, which interrogate historical modes of representation, while simultaneously anchoring Thuemler’s photographic image production and performative practice.
His ongoing project Born From the Limb is invested in the correlation of labor, land, and migration. Focusing on the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia, the work touches ground at a vaguely defined point of black origin in the United States. Utilizing a combination of self-portraiture, still life, and landscape imagery, the pictures filter popular culture, folklore, myth, and art history in search of fragments related to the historic and contemporary narratives surrounding our understanding of blackness within the context of Americana. By referencing and reproducing found images of regional romanticism and combining them with photographic traces of a scarred landscape, the work seeks to highlight the discrepancy of local legacies. The interweaving of archival materials sets the landscape of memory inherent to the narrative of Born From the Limb and further amplifies the historic layering of space and time through which Thuemler and his audience move. The performative self-portraits reinvigorate a silent expanse of land with gestures derived from history’s Eurocentric relationship to blackness. Thuemler’s body is employed as a medium and catalyst of memory to the point of exhaustion, addressing the emblematic social and political concerns of a forgotten terrain, while reflecting on the complexities of America’s relationship to its collective past. Drawing from at times competing sources, the work understands narrative creation in spaces of omission and the presentation of splintered evidence as measures of congruent importance. While the project may focus on the narratives of specific geographies within African American coastal legacies, its broad aim is to explore the possibilities of reading and evaluating expansive image landscapes that allow for a critical assessment of official histories, archival narratives, and vernacular traditions.
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