Trade Poverty for Champagne! This could be the caption of the graffito that the Swiss artist Beni Bischof sprayed on the wall of a gallery in Düsseldorf in January 2013. Bischof’s installation is less a commentary on the art scene as it is the radical description of a societal paradigm that can be described as a kind of Tyranny of Luck. The promise of luck and happiness has proven itself incrasingly popular as a precept that helps keep the motor of our performancebased system running at top speed. In the western world work has long since ceased to be merely a means to earn a living and is far more a passionate pursuit that defines our identities. Creativity, flexibility, hard work and engagement are the watchwords of a universal quest for self-optimization and success that has blurred the boundaries between working hours and free time. If one begins to question the obscure fruits of purportedly endless economic growth, the same slogan and alibi is invariably repeated: Globalization. In this context even such disquieting phenomena as the formation of a precariat or the burnout epidemic are cast in a positive light. Self-exploitation under precarious living conditions has become the defining trait of an avant-garde lifestyle. Those who forced to take a timeout due to burnout are not so much victims of adverse circumstances as they are individuals who have proven their worth through their total commitment to perform. Exhaustion? A matter of pride! Photography has shown itself to be an expedient, restless bearer of the message that luck and happiness can be had through performance. The sentimental image is after all to be found throughout the historical development of the medium. Advertising and magazine photography are especially able to communicate auspicious visions and exciting lifestyles. And unceasing technical advancement and optimization of production conditions do their part to allow the perfect Ego to create the right impression of itself by means of the perfect image.
Yet photography is more than ever an everyday medium – a reliable means of documenting one’s own experiences, expressing one’s individuality and exhibiting oneself for all the world to see. Currently – in late 2013 – around 700 million images are uploaded to such social platforms as Facebook and Instagram every day! At the foundation of this colorful world construct is a well-known arsenal of staging methods and poses taken from the endless flood of media-produced images to shape a kind of „scripted reality“. Images create or construe identity. And identity produces images.