The photographic work of Georg Aerni ranges where architecture and nature, where city and landscape meet. Whether it’s large cities such as Paris, Tokyo or Hong Kong, zoological gardens or alpine glaciers, his pictures are always the result of an intense examination of the respective place and its history, and they refer to the constant transformation of these different habitats.
This also describes the new pieces from the Indian metropolis Mumbai, which tell a story about a changing city, about zones that cannot be mapped exactly, and whose shape constantly changes in an ameboid way. Becoming and decaying are close in ‚Promising Bay’, construction sites and unfinished buildings are sometimes hard to distinguish.
Due to a rapid growth caused by internal migration, half of the 14 million inhabitants of Mumbai live in slums. Through its history of more than hundred years, some slums are nowadays located right in the centre of the megacity, where they are in the way of an economy-oriented development of the city with high mobility. In order to push the building of new highways, tracks and skyscrapers, the city is trying to remove these slums, to dispossess its inhabitants and to relocate them to highly concentrated, poorly developed accommodations at the outskirts. Private real estate agencies build there accommodations of minor quality for free for the government and receive in return as incentive the right to concentrate the inner-city, expensive building ground even more. This profitable business led to ghost quarters with empty dwelling silos, whose vertical building structure makes working and living at the same place impossible.
‚Promising Bay’ shows the living circumstances of Mumbai in a respectful, non-voyeuristic way. While in the earlier series only human traces were visible, now the people themselves get involved in some pictures. Stephan Berg wrote in ‚Sites & Signs’, the new monograph on the work of Georg Aerni: „For the first time, the stages are populated. For the first time, not only the conditions of the piece are made visible, but to a certain degree the protagonists, the piece itself“. The artist succeeded in this challenging transition, there might be people in the picture, but those do not play the main role and are part of a precise composition of the image in a natural, subtle way.
Sites & Signs. Photographs by Georg Aerni
Published by Nadine Olonetzky. With texts by Stephan Berg, Moritz Küng and Nadine Olonetzky. German and English. Hardback, 312 pages, 411 colour and 211 black/white illustrations, with complete catalogue. ISBN: 978-3-85881-320-6. Publishing company Scheidegger & Spiess