Fotograf Magazine

Tillmans’ Jahresring 64

Jahresring (Annual Ring) is one of the oldest, uninterruptedly published
journals focused on post-war German theory and culture. For this
year’s edition, its editor, Brigitte Oetker, invited the photographer Wolfgang
Tillmans to edit the entire publication according to his own contextual
concept and visual design. In 2005, Tillmans realised his truth study centre
installation, which examines the relative perception of the concept of
“truth” – a subject that has a research potential continuously expanding in
scope and depth. One of the results of this activity is research and direct
engagement regarding specific political topics.

The book contains a number of interviews and texts, the majority of which
originated specifically for this occasion. Tillmans is not interested in isolated
research concerning the current state, but rather how things change within
the historical context, as is reflected even in the title of this Jahresring edition
– Was ist anders? (What is Different?). One of the key covered topics is
the backfire effect, specifically the paradox of the positive effects of negative
information, which may be seen in, for example, election campaigns. In a series
of interviews (with Lionel Barber, Carolin Emcke, Sigmar Gabriel, Bianca
Klose, Brendan Nyhan, Stephan Lewandowsky, and Wolfgang Schäuble),
Tillmans strives to discover the causes that have influenced the present-day
situation characterised by growing right-wing populism and the dissemination
of disinformation. The publication also includes analytical texts written by
Philipp Hübl and Michael Seemann, which address a diverse range of aspects
associated with the manipulation of facts and the accessibility of information.
Readers will also find the text by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel, and Sam
Harris to be revealing in the way that it presents new possibilities for visualising
the brain’s neural mechanisms used in the decision-making process.

Of course an integral part of the book consists of the associated visuals,
which create a parallel level that communicates with the reader as well as
the text. These include not only Tillmans’ own photographs and collages, but
also visual and text materials he has obtained elsewhere. Tillmans captures the issues faced by today’s world in visual form, with a perspective that is
compartmentalised, engaged, and meaningful. The book introduces a number
of questions about the present-day situation and the methods that may be
used to defend oneself against the misuse of the information flow.

Štěpán Grygar

TILLMANS, Wolfgang and Brigitte, OETKER, eds.. What is Different? Berlin: Sternberg
Press, 2018. ISBN 978-3-956793-73-8.