Sonja Kälberer


Let it be real -
On the element of insistence in the photographs of Sonja Kälberer

by Anja Brähler
Obliged to their own smooth materiality, the large-format photographs of Sonja Kälberer ineluctably and mercilessly bring forth an abysmal darkness from inner spaces - a darkness where, in disturbing lustre, a room appears, calm and open. A reality comes to light which breathes brute materiality, unordered mass and rapture, and which, beyond all possible narratives, becomes sensuously real.
Dark rooms marked by dilapidation in a torn and run-down state put us under a subversive spell to relish in disgust and terror, a vibrant attraction. The rooms stand in their own fathomless solitude. Manifestly stuck, hopelessly boarded up windows hold the daylight reality at bay. The world is dark and bare. Eternal night inside the room. Barricaded and sealed off, the interior turns away from the world outside and realigns the borders for an expansion towards the inside. Sonja Kälberer stages an interior, that eludes its own limitations, as a refuge.
The image intently leaves out the walls of the room, or only shows part of them. Improvised, self-made walls of plywood, cardboard and corrugated cardboard, carpets, plastic, sheets and other raw fragmentaria play with their constitutive function, they fray substantially, dent, bulge and stack themselves. A rupture cuts through the foundational element of the floor as well as the protective function of the ceiling. Intense, animated surfaces appear which devote themselves, cracked, sticky, to the uncanny, the cruelty of the falling darkness. Time stands still in these rooms. The painterly character of the surfaces and the expansion of time support the impression of a composed image. The viewer and the subject of the picture reach a shared immanence.

Persistence, bleeding.

A longing for a home and for feeling at home guides the angry, creative will in the visual construction of the rooms: to progress from being lost to being at home, in a state that experiences, free and flowing, the counterpart of its immediate presence in earthly existence.
Casting herself as a dilettante, Sonja Kälberer handles the ruggedness and bulk of refuse materials on the threshold of the unknown. Working mainly at night with all her body and all by herself she commits herself to the bulkiness and rawness, an overpowering opponent, actually. She obsessively and passionately exhausts herself, absent-minded, going back to the start each time and taking, challenged by the incredible, by failure and despair, the untempered risk to go astray and to lose herself in instability. The lability created by artistic means pulls us unconditionally into the force field of something marauding subtly, on the margins. The ordering polarities are invalidated - the space between is opened up and won for the imploring suggestion of an identity rapt with itself.
Struggling against the glow of a light bright as day, which defines all things in the harsh contours of their materiality, the room slides into diffuse, unfathomable zones of muted light and gaping shadows. Various hidden light sources cast the room in a modest dusk by indirect lighting.
With its inventory of lifeless lamps, empty picture frames, reflective metals, mirrors and writings the interior refers back to itself – a compression of introspective observation, which leads to the dubious, the transitional. The installation finds its corrective in the view of the positioned camera, and only in the photograph does its reality gain objectivity.

The unsalvageable
My other standing alone
in the widened pores of emptiness you breathe
the flowing indifference of things

In the furtive light, disappearing in the shimmering echo of varied materials, the reality of the other breaks free. A reality which is not beyond or imaginary, but always there in close distance. The impregnable moment of the cathartic turn to reality, to be present now, vents itself in the picture. The event that is shown in Sonja Kälberer’s photographs is the saturation of forms by the incredible. To let it be real.

translated by Gunnar Wendel

  • 1970 born in Stuttgart
    1990-1992 Slavic and German studies at the University of Tübingen
    1992-1995 Nursing education
    since 1997 works at the psychiatry Nürtingen 
    2003-2009 Studies at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig in the class of Prof. Ingo Meller and Prof. Peter Piller
    2010-2012 Master Studies at the Academy of Vidual Arts Leipzig, Prof. Ingo Meller
    lives in Dettingen/ Teck and Leipzig

Solo shows

  • 2010 Bel composto, Gedok Gallery, Stuttgart
    2008 Arbeiten, Gallery young art, Kunstverein Trier
    2004 Air, Oberwelt e.V., Stuttgart
    Arbeiten, Gallery Unikum, Kirchheim unter Teck

Group shows

  • 2011 Auslöser, Kunsthalle der Sparkasse Leipzig
    2010 Hotel Genial, Kunstverein Tiergarten/ Gallery North, Berlin
    Gute Aussichten - Junge deutsche Photographie, Deichtorhallen - Haus der Photografien, Hamburg
    Forum der DZ- Bank, Frankfurt am Main
    Goethe-Institut, Washington
    Foto – Espana, Madrid
    Grid, Foto – Festival, Amsterdam
    2009 Gute Aussichten - Junge deutsche Fotografie 2009/ 2010, Museum Marta Herford
    2008 Junge Kunst, Gallery Kleindienst, Leipzig
    Randbelichtung, Klasse Peter Piller, Kunstverein Glücksstadt
    Stuttgard Artist Exhibition, Pilkington Gallery, St. Helens (GB)
    2007 Fotosommer Stuttgart
    2006 Fünf fotografische Positionen, Gedok, Rathaus Stuttgart
    Kunst regional, Städtische Galerie im Kornhaus, Kirchheim/Teck
    Raumprobe, Schauspielhaus Leipzig
    Applaus, Lindenfels Westflügel, Leipzig
    Bürgerhaus, Sulzfeld
    2005 Kunsthalle Vogtland, Reichenbach
    Galerie archiv massiv, Leipzig