“I once ruled the worlds. Not just one, but many. I ruled them with mirrors and lenses. I ruled them with light and shadow and time. Sometimes I ruled with a trick of the eye. Through my camera, an entire cosmos took shape, and each world within it seemed to operate by a certain unfamiliar logic, like a sort of magical clockwork.”
Born in 1977 in Cologne and brought up in the southern German countryside, Jan von Holleben lived most of his youth in an alternative commune and identifies a strong connection between the development of his photographic work and the influence of his parents, a cinematographer and child therapist. At the age of 13, he followed his father’s photographic career by picking up a camera and experimenting with all sorts of „magical tricks“, developing his photographic imagination and skills with friends and family and later honing his technique in commercial settings. After pursuing studies in teaching children with disabilities at the Pädagogische Hochschule in Freiburg, he moved to London, earned a degree in the Theory and History of Photography at Surrey Institute of Art and Design, and became submerged within the London photographic scene, where he worked as picture editor, art director and photographic director. He quickly set up two photographic collectives, Young Photographers United and photodebut, followed more recently by the Photographer’s Office. His body of photographic work focusing on the ‘homo ludens’ – the man who learns through play, is itself built from a playful integration of pedagogical theory with his own personal experiences of play and memories of childhood.
Jan von Holleben’s work has been exhibited internationally and published widely throughout the world. His favourite collaborators are: his friends and any pirates, fairies, dragons, monsters and punks that are about. Also the sun behind some tiny clouds, Zeit Magazin, Neon Magazine Dazed&Confused, Geo and Steidl Publishers. Otherwise he greatly fancies loads of cups of green tea, Bircher Müsli, colourful socks & sneakers, his bike and walking in the mountains, Yo yo yo! [Official Website]
HOMO LUDENS 5000
How to disappear and other existential tricks. I once ruled the worlds. Not just one, but many. I ruled them with mirrors and lenses. I ruled them with light and shadow and time. Sometimes I ruled with a trick of the eye. Through my camera, an entire cosmos took shape, and each world within it seemed to operate by a certain unfamiliar logic, like a sort of magical clockwork.
Today I am a photographer and I am still playing my games with anything that comes my way. Games are my routine. For the last few years I have not only been playing for myself or with my friends anymore, but also for people from all over the world.
They want me to play for them. Usually I don’ t know these people at all; however they seem to be very happy with my results. I have learned that playing is an essential way of seeing things differently, seeing things better, and making great friends! Hermann Hesse writes in his Steppenwolf, “ let’ s play with each other and then we’ ll learn from one another!” In essence, that’ s what I do. I conceptualize the rules for any given challenge that I want to play at any given time and when needed the most. The best time for my creativity is the morning though, when I am still in bed and half asleep! That’ s when the best games surface. And after a good cup of herbal tea and a bowl of a Swiss style müsli with fresh fruit, I am ready for what may come and what there is to be done.
The homo ludens is the playing man. Besides the homo faber, the homo socialis, the homo politicus and many other species of human beings, the homo ludens defines a strong and advanced personal and social developing through techniques of play. Johan Huizinga suggests in his 1938 writing of “The homo ludens” that play is primary to and a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of the generation of culture. He continues that, ‘ Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing’ . He describes ‘ play’ as following:
1. Play is free, is in fact freedom.
2. Play is not “ ordinary” or “ real” life.
3. Play is distinct from “ ordinary” life both as to locality and duration.
4. Play creates order, is order. Play demands order absolute and supreme.
5. Play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it.
The culture of developed nations has never advanced so rapidly as over the past 100 years. Never before did technology, politics, social systems and economics advance and influence our personal lives to the extent that it does as I am writing this. Our western civilization accelerated again since the 1980s and keeps on speeding like hundreds of rockets that occasionally explode like mad fireworks! I am truly a child of this hurried and magical time for which I take responsibility. Now the games change by the season, and therefore, the rules must constantly change. Communication itself used to be letters and phones and TV when I grew up. People talked to each other in person. Faxmachines were just invented and emails, twitter, facebook and blogs were terms that nobody had ever heard of.
The human being of today needs super powers to cope with all those changes and I am on a mission to invent tricks and skills to help. Those tricks will not only help us humans in ordinary situations, but they will also make the world a better place – and perhaps even eventually save the universe from all evil!
For a long time I have been working on finding the secret super technique to become invisible. It is not easy at all, but I am working very hard on it – day and night – and honestly, it’ s looking promising. Playing invisible is just one of the many skills that we need to acquire in order to complete our mission. Gaining superpowers, climbing steep walls, finding alternative energy supplies, painting the cities with color, protecting our fragile minds, shooting nasty dragons and other ghosts, avoiding all gibberish, adjusting to all circumstances and developing magic hyper-machines is just a starting point.
My team and I are out to make this all happen. We are equipped with the best and most advanced technology, theories, love, excitement and a bunch of great cameras.
We are documenting every single step of our developments and experiments and hope that we will make it through to the end, so everybody can enjoy our outcome when its needed most or even just for inspiration. We already have results for more than four handfuls of crucial issues and will aim to find at least six more hands full of sense! The images enclosed are a highly reduced essence. If you are interested in seeing more, let us know and we’ ll supply!
One thing is for sure: We will win! The second thing is: Everything we see belongs to us!
And the third thing is:
“ What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I
shouldn’ t have done it”