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Joan Fontcuberta: What Darwin Missed – Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung | 14.09.-22.12.2024 

Editors’ Choice

From 14.09.2024, the exhibition Joan Fontcuberta: What Darwin Missed will show a new series of around 60 works by the internationally renowned Catalan photographer, curator, essayist and lecturer Joan Fontcuberta (*1955), specially conceived for the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation. The artist is known for his play with the public and the boundaries between reality and fiction. In his works, he reflects on the role of photography in the representation of reality. He has repeatedly taken a critical but always humorously provocative look at the image in scientific disciplines such as botany and zoology.

Image above: Joan Fontcuberta, Leptoseris esfoliata, 2023

Joan Fontcuberta has been working artistically with unusual and scientific phenomena since the 1980s. For the current exhibition, he has worked intensively with the Foundation’s archive and continued a research project that Alfred Ehrhardt began in 1938 for the Natural History Museum in Hamburg.

Ehrhardt’s photographs of corals fascinated him, partly because these strange zoological creatures were mistaken for hybrid species from the plant and mineral kingdoms. However, he was particularly attracted by the idea of undertaking Alfred Ehrhardt’s expedition, which had not taken place due to historical events. At the time, Ehrhardt was supposed to search for coral species that Darwin had missed on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s 1842 publication The structure and distribution of coral reefs.

Joan Fontcuberta, Ctenactis fungus, 2024

His photographs were taken both in these remote locations and in the collections of European natural history museums. They show a wide variety of corals, including a newly discovered species called Cryptocnidaria, which shows extreme adaptation to certain environmental conditions. These Cryptocnidaria allow speculation about abnormal genetic effects, possibly caused by chemicals or radioactivity. The speed and complexity of these adaptations challenge Darwin’s evolutionary model that such changes should evolve gradually over many generations through random mutations and natural selection.

Behind the exquisite elegance of nature’s forms, seen through the filter of New Objectivity photography and scientific photography, Fontcuberta’s discovery not only poses a great challenge to Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also challenges the viewer to take a closer look.

Joan Fontcuberta, Leptoseris cucullata, 2023

The research trip is the narrative moment from which the exhibition develops, which is based entirely on the relationship between facts and speculation, science and art – not everything that the eye sees should be accepted unchecked as true, and not everything that claims to be scientific is necessarily correct. In the exhibition, Fontcuberta’s coral photographs enter into a dialogue with original finds from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. The natural history exhibits of the corals are given a new quality by the photographs taken by the artist especially for this exhibition.

WHEN?

Exhibition dates: Saturday, 14 September to Sunday, 22 December 2024

Opening: Friday, 13 September 2024, 7 – 9 pm

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm

WHERE?

ALFRED EHRHARDT FOUNDATION
Auguststr. 75
10117 Berlin

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