“On the pages of Das Berlin Buch we see the traces left by people but we have to squint to see the people themselves. Ben Kaila is not old Marie of The Box: Tales from the Darkroom by Günter Grass, taking pictures with her bizarre camera and conjuring the dead to climb out of their graves in the darkroom. He removes everything that is unnecessary from his pictures.
Nonetheless – or precisely because of this – they step forth, the dead and the ghosts of the city, even without heads, hands or lower extremities, like the heroes in the busts of statue group four of the Siegesallee that wound up in the Lapidarium which operated in a former waste water pumping station. I cannot move on from the skeletal chair frame at Beelitz-Heilstätten without seeing in it two famous patients of the hospital – Corporal Adolf Hitler wounded in the fighting at the Somme and Erich Honecker who spent ten years in the prisons of Nazi Germany and later responsible for building the Berlin Wall. Nor can I close the book and forget that Berlin was a main scene of the violent 20th century, spreading suffering to the rest of the world before the rest of the world spread it back there.
In Ben Kaila’s photographs the moment is not the blink of an eye, the decisive moment arresting while fleeing, but instead a moment when following the traces of memory has led to the discovery something once lost. Jetztzeit, the moment when extrospection turns into introspection, when the perception of the eye arouses a long-dormant image in the cerebral cortex to save it from oblivion.”
Excerpt from Harri Haanpää’s afterword to Das Berlin Buch.
Ben Kaila’s book Das Berlin Buch is available to buy at the gallery, price € 39.
27 Nov –20 Dec 2015
Photographs from Das Berlin Buch
Yrjönkatu 8–10 courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
+358 9 612 33 44, www.hippolyte.fi
Tue–Fri 12–17, Sat–Sun 12–16
Closed 6 Dec 2015
(image: Ben Kaila, Berliner Lapidarium, West Berlin, 1983)