On a misty November morning we visited Daniel Gustav Cramer at his Berlin studio in Friedrichshain. He welcomes us into the old building with the sounds of Ink Spots quietly murmuring in the background. His vast studio is brimming with photographic treasures. A few shelves are buckling under the weight of analogue cameras, two of which once belonged to his grandparents as he later explains. Many other treasures have found residence in this space, from antique furnishings to old and new leather-bound books, carefully framed photographs, architectural models, a few publications and scribbled notes hanging on his wall next to photos and letters – all in all everything says ‘this is the home of an artist’.
Originally from Dusseldorf, Daniel started off studying in Münster, then relocated to London’s Royal College of Art to further develop in the field of Fine Art. His own field of work is as diverse as all the bits and bobs found in his studio. His work transcends discipline, covering analogue photography as well as books, text, sculpture and video.
His art assumes a minimalistic character, and has a certain depth that is often so subtle that only on second viewing its layers come to light. At times his photographs look identical – only if you strain your eyes a little more you start noticing a transformation of minute details; a person has disappeared from the visible field or a wave has moved on. These works demand attention and time from the viewer. Sometimes an uneasy feeling lingers in between the works, raising questions. Is this a dream or reality? What happened in the time between the two shots? What are the circumstances of the depicted figure? One would like to zoom into the picture, get even closer to see a little more, go back a little further, let your head turn in search for explanations. Yet with all these thoughts and emotions you are left alone. Daniel Gustav Cramer’s art is not loud, it does not cry out for your attention. It’s more likely to represent a small mark that you discover on a piece of paper, you look a little closer and ask yourself how exactly it got there. From a certain distance Daniel observes his world, our world, in which everything might have a certain relevance, from the infinite expanse of the universe to the smallest atomic particle. For last year’s documenta 13 he produced a book that listed all known objects which orbit the sun. This book summarizes everything that is here on earth and in the solar system. space. While another book is made up of white pages, that are numbered from 1 to 99 and form an endless cycle. His work often involves loops and repetitions, and how life itself is cyclical. The last picture of the installation at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse is an exact copy of the first, making viewers ask themselves: where is the end? And how does the beginning fit in?
Daniel develops his photographs in a darkroom in Kreuzberg, and we join him on a trip there. It’s also the place where his newest work is starting to take shape; the picture of a beach taken from the perspective of a high ledge, and only with closer inspection can you see two little feet protruding from behind a rock as a wave breaks. As he explains to us, this piece reminds him of Caspar David Friedrich’s most famous painting ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’. It depicts a man seen from behind, standing in the middle of the picture, and surveying jagged mountaintops that have been submerged by heavy, low clouds.
When we leave Daniel we are impressed by his work, that with so few words and such subtle means says so much, and we look forward to new pieces that will emerge from his studio in the future.
Text and images by Caroline Kurze | Translation by Jamie Craig