Areal is a project about a project. First there’s the urban renewal project centering on a square block in Munich, Germany. Then there’s the ten-year documentary project about this same area conducted by german photographer Joachim Brohm. In some ways, Brohm’s book is about change—from an industrial site to a housing complex, but, in some ways it’s about how things remain the same. The stained concrete, the triangle sign, the gas staton in winter and spring, the vw stationwagon are present in the first and last pages of the book (arranged chronologically). Think of it as a document of transition in which the world never quite transforms but hovers somewhere in the present, always in the act of becoming, always one thing and another. There’s no endpoint here, just middle as far as the eye can see. Cars and trees and girders and girls, all in transition, always in transition.
Like the project itself, Brohm’s method of depiction remains transitory and elusive. Rather than rely on a single visual vocabulary, he breaks down the commonplace into the visual qualities that characterize it: rapturous complexity, unexpected beauty, random color, overlapping style, omnipresent and always broken grids, and the near miraculous power of the most deadpan human interactions. The result doesn’t feel like the story of a singular place or of a singular perception; instead it feels like the story of a someone paying attention--like the project itself, an extended look into a transient perceptual intelligence. That intelligence isn’t about codifying and thus finishing something; it’s about the endless possibilities of human curiosity: Noticing one thing and then noticing another and then noticing something new about what you noticed before. There are no rules underlying Areal, only observations; no final message, only the next message in a dynamic perceptual middle. That’s the secret of paying attention. It’s also the prize.