Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA, 1996

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Military Eyes - BATTERY WAGNER  Military EyesBattery Wagner, 1996. (camera obscura, light on concrete)


To get the desired images in overlay, John used special covers that turned the observation slits of the bunkers in the lens of the camera obscura which projected the »military point of view« directly onto the concrete walls of the bunkers. These mirrored realities can also be seen as the »eyes« of the »military brain«, upside-down reality in motion and in color in relation to Plato’s Cave.*

By using a camera at long exposure time Franz John »engraved« these moving images such as ocean waves or passing ships on photographic emulsion. The resulting works exhibit a haunting, soft beauty often resembling »Renaissance painting«.

Franz John’s »Military Eyes« is one of the most imaginative and most successfully realized projects to use the unique site and history of the Marin Headlands. It is artistically provocative on many levels, marrying contemporary technology and artistic practice to older human pastimes, states of mind and perception. We are indebted to this artist for showing us how to see, with new eyes, that which was both forgotten and familiar. We will never look at these sites the same way again.
Kathryn Reasoner, Executive Director, Headlands Center for the Arts

*In Plato’s allegory, the limited view of the cave dweller substitutes shadow for the realities in light of day.


Refering link: Franz John – Headlands Center for the Arts

This project was made possible by the generous support of: German Cultural Center of San Francisco (Goethe Institute); ifa – German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations; Senatsverwaltung für kulturelle Angelegenheiten, Berlin; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito (USA)


Ausstellungen zu Military Eyes (Auswahl)
Franz John – Military Eyes (Einzelausstellung), Galerie Schüppenhauer, Köln (D), 1997. Franz John – Military Eyes (Einzelausstellung), Goethe Institut, Warschau (PL), 1998. Franz John – Military Eyes (Einzelausstellung), Galerie Wolf, Berlin (D), 1998. Mediascape 6 (Gruppenstellung), Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (HR), 1998. Franz John – Grenzpassagen (Einzelausstellung), Kunstverein Frankfurt/Oder (D), 2001. Transformationsprozesse (Gruppenstellung), Haus am Kleistpark (Berlin), Kunsthalle Erfurt, Kultur Forum Dresden (D), 2018.

Publikationen zu Military Eyes (Auswahl)
Franz John – Military Eyes (Einzelkatalog), Galerie Schüppenhauer, Köln (D), 1999. Military Eyes, in: Pinhole Photography, Eric Renner (Ed.), USA, 2008. Military Eyes, in: Reframing Photography, Rebekah Modrak with Bill Anthes (Ed.), Routledge UK, USA, Canada, 2010. Franz John – Military Eyes, Manfred Brunner in: neue bildende kunst (D), 1998. Franz John – Fotografische Bilder ohne Kamera, Anne Kotzan in: Zeitschrift Photographie (D), 2011.


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