The Mu­se­um Lud­wig in­vit­ed the artist and film­mak­er Fio­na Tan (b. 1966 in Pekan­baru, In­do­ne­sia; lives in Am­s­ter­dam) to re­al­ize an ex­hi­bi­tion pro­ject with the mu­se­um’s pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion as the start­ing point. Fio­na Tan’s work re­volves around ques­tions of time, iden­ti­ty, and me­m­o­ry. The archive as a time cap­sule has played a role in her artis­tic strate­gies of re­search and clas­si­fi­ca­tion in pre­vi­ous pro­jects.

Fio­na Tan: GAAF takes as its start­ing point the Ag­fa­col­or ad­ver­tise­ment archive—­sev­er­al thou­sand 6 × 6 col­or neg­a­tives and pho­to­graphs which were tak­en be­tween 1952 and 1968. This archive pro­vid­ed Ag­fa with ma­te­rial for ad­ver­tise­ments, brochures, ex­hi­bi­tions, and the mag­azine Ag­fa Pho­to­blät­ter. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing this al­most for­got­ten and un­ca­t­a­logued archive at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Tan be­came in­ter­est­ed in the in­her­ent para­dox of its im­ages: staged and ide­al­ized scenes of mod­els pos­ing for pro­fes­sio­n­al pho­to­g­ra­phers, nonethe­less in­tend­ed to ap­pear spon­ta­neous and au­then­tic, as if tak­en by am­a­teurs. “Th­ese im­ages cause me to re­flect up­on the pose, up­on ar­ti­fi­cial­i­ty ver­sus spon­tane­i­ty and au­then­tic­i­ty,” says Tan who is mak­ing th­ese im­ages vis­i­ble to the public for the first time.

The Dutch word gaaf—an ana­gram, or re­order­ing, of the let­ters in Ag­fa—means “neat” or “per­fect.” In this ex­hi­bi­tion Fio­na Tan fo­cus­es on the im­age and the role of wo­m­en as por­trayed in th­ese pho­to­graphs, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the ide­al as op­posed to the re­al­i­ty of th­ese for­ma­tive de­cades in post­war Ger­many. Jux­ta­pos­ing fan­ta­sy with re­al­i­ty, pro­fes­sio­n­al with ver­nac­u­lar, col­or with black and white, Tan con­fronts this ad­ver­tis­ing archive with doc­u­men­tary pho­to­graphs from the same era from the Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion and with a se­lec­tion of her own works deal­ing with por­trai­ture. Vox Pop­uli Lon­don (2012) em­bodies an in­for­mal snap­shot, a play­ful group por­trait of a ci­ty. In Lin­naeus’ Flow­er Clock (1998), Tan re­flects on the na­ture of time it­self. In­ten­tio­n­al­ly blur­ring the di­vi­sions be­tween film and pho­tog­ra­phy, the six-part in­s­tal­la­tion Prove­nance (2008) ques­tions if it is pos­si­ble to look at a film in the same way as a paint­ed por­trait.