Photo: Juergen TellerEva Herzigova, Mit dem Teller nach Bonn, No.3 2016 © Juergen Teller
If Juergen Teller had a theme song, it would be “My Way,” but not the Frank Sinatra version. No, he would make sure to subvert your expectations at every turn, and cue up the Sid Vicious cover. Like Sid, Juergen is so anti-glamour that he’s chic, always finding a peculiar beauty and joy in the uncomfortable.
His new exhibition, Enjoy Your Life!, currently on view at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, through July 3, 2017, embraces the ethos the unexpected. Because what gives life a greater kick than catching you off guard with the curious and the absurd. Teller loves to hone in on things we usually ignore, or look at them from a new vantage point, demystifying their aura and allure. On the reverse, he finds a queer loveliness in things we might otherwise think a bit grotesque, savoring all of the pleasures of our strange and quixotic existence.
The exhibition coincides with the publication of a monograph by the same name for Steidl, set for release on July 25. With both the book and the show, we are drawn into Teller’s world, into a disturbing yet captivating realm that first unnerves, then tickles, then delights. After just a short time looking at his photos of frogs on plates (perhaps inspired by his recently curated exhibition of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe), of Kim Kardashian climbing in the dirt with her bootie up in the air like we ain’t seen it enough, or simply the donkey forced to carry as massive bale of hay, you begin to think, “Maybe there’s more to this world than I ever dared believe.”
Because there’s nothing inherently rational here: it’s simply a melee of a man who finds happiness looking at the things we would never otherwise see. Teller loves a good gag, nestled deep within his subtle yet exquisite work. He simply allows life to reveal itself, and catches it when it’s reached its most unbothered state. Whereas so many photographs are weighed down by a sense of self-consciousness, Teller’s photographs are lifted up by a feeing that no ones gives AF about the pretenses of the medium and the rules of the game.
And that’s what has made Teller a success since he first started shooting Nirvana on their Nevermind tour in 1991. He observes, “In the end, the only thing that really interests me is the interaction between two people. One of them is me, the photographer. And when these encounters touch me, then that is a good thing.”
Good for him—all the better for us. With Enjoy Your Life!, Teller reminds us: we’re only here for so long. There’s so much to be down about, so many challenges to surmount, so much distrust and betrayal abounds—but in the heart of all the pain and suffering is this little thing called love. It is love for the truth that captivates Teller, love for the truths untold that has him doing it his way.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.