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About Josef PAUSCH † 

The unknown Austrian photo genius and the mixed media artist. Recognized abroad, hardly known in Austria.


In America and Japan, art lovers would have an answer. Josef Pausch - that's the exceptional artist who learned and assisted with the greats and then grew up himself.

He was curator and co-founder of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA, N.Y.)


An Upper Austrian from Micheldorf, born in 1948, died prematurely in Linz in 2010. He lived in Mexico and America, among other places, and his works hang in the Museo de Arte Moderne in Mexico City, in the Museum of Art in Santa Fe, in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and in the Metropolitan Museum in Tokyo.


He was an assistant to John Coplan, founder of Artforum magazine. He worked with Horst P. Horst, one of the most important fashion photographers of the 20th century, celebrated for his portraits for fashion magazine Vogue. He worked with Robert Avedon, one of the first American photo artists who did not photograph haute couture in the studio but staged it in everyday situations. His own talent and inspiration from the great role models gave Pausch a grandiose eye that always worked like a lens. He saw everyday life as a collection of pictures, collages and stagings. What might seem like mania was an immersion in art.


As part of his first photographic solo exhibition in 1983 in Salzburg, he was attested "optical intelligence", his photographs "have landscape and architectural components to the same extent and also a clear affinity to art forms of the avant-garde such as rural, concept and Minimal art. It is a quiet poetry of the objective that we encounter here. He didn't just take photos. He was an excellent painter, draftsman, graphic artist and reductionist when he saw and expressed the dot and the line everywhere. Point and line, primary elements of every design. In all he not only had the ability to see and relate to the created image, but also the ability to select, to omit.

"Distinctive preferences for details and things on the fringes, for the inconspicuous and silence promoted the selection process in Pausch, as Peter Baum found out. Pausch himself called it "the interest in the seemingly irrelevant and the elevation of the banal to the rank of pictures worthy of being exhibited".


Because in the end he addressed “the obvious, namely what surrounds me every day”, he said, “I prefer the trivial. This allows me to show a quality that is usually overlooked.”




Whenever we meet, somewhere, we do not actually meet, Josef Josef said. He is like his pictures, he is there, but something gets concealed or so openly revealed that it appears intangible. It's like a magical force that exerts a strong attraction, but you don't know where to and why - and you don't know how and where could hold on.

Image landscapes (or image spaces), in which the spatial depth could have got lost. Superficial (surfaces), behind which nothing can be expected. Layers, to which the origin of storage, the time of storage might have been lost - you never know for sure, and sorry, the expectation will never be fulfilled, because it was already there before the photo was "taken", but because it only appeared when the photo already "existed". This moment in time, which negates time because there is no before or after but only that which is not there in this moment (which isn't one) - that is what the photograph shows: it shows what there is while showing what there is not.

That may perhaps be art, if one could counter art with a definition (an ultimate end goal); it could already covertly transport the mysterious unhomely (placing it elsewhere, somewhere completely different than one could or wanted to think, to bring it into a completely different "home" from the "unhoused" that is not a home). That would be art if this could succeed; it would always have been art if that had succeeded; it could always be art if that were to succeed: to make visible what is not visible; to make the visible invisible; to make the "concealed" homely, or vice versa to conceal the "homely".

This is how Josef Pausch works - this is what he works for.

Josef Pausch is not there as photographer, the camera (the room, the dark room) owns him as "photographer" (the one who records the light). He works as a "still-photo-grapher" in the same sense as J.L.Godard works as a "moving-images-photo-grapher" (also A. Resnais). In the final scene of the film "Contempt" Godard records "movement" to negate movement (film): you see the camera moving back, Odysseus appears in the "picture" (not welcoming anything), then F.Lang, the director (who isn't one) and the producer (who isn't one), passing all the staffage to show the "filming camera", behind which there is of course the "actual filming camera". Joseph's pictures (as "still-photo-grapher") are void of any identifiable movement - the person is not really there, the photographer is not really there - but one knows that the person must be there, that there must be movement - that there must be "something" and "someone", that there must be a statement, a hope, a despair, a madness (in the sense of madly intense).

Josef Pausch says: his pictures are always pictures that he carries around with him and that sometimes find a counterpart (in reality?) He says: sometimes it takes years, and then a situation is captured, like a snapshot: he says: I want to bring about the "state of being intrinsic" of things. He shows the "being-in-itself" of the photographs of the

photographer (as Paul Klee said: this moment I am not tangible...).

Pascal Schöning - London / Paris - April 2002


about my photography 

my photographs are portrayals of a moment in time - nothing more and nothing less. they are not snapshots. this already suggests too much violence: snap (like a dog) - shoot (like a soldier). that's not contained at all in the real situation in which things are created. there is no arranging or embellishing. perhaps there is a kind of tacit contract between the people, animals, landscapes etc. and myself... there is hopefully still enough respect (and perhaps a coy serenity) that make it impossible for me to hubristically intervene. i cannot elevate every triviality into an event, for instance. after all, openness, spontaneity, fun, lapidary speed do not constitute opposites to that, because precisely in such situations concentration and accuracy is the most important thing for me. this can happen anywhere. i don't need a photo studio.

what continues to interest me are stills from a (my) film runs and runs. single frames from a story that i am and ("carefully") direct, and which i can also take apart and put back together again... the photos must remain free of the lyrical, the symbolic etc.! i much prefer what's called the trivial. i can work with that. showing a quality that's generally overlooked. for me it's still about beauty (in all its guises) and about absorbing something that hardly anyone else sees, touches, takes away. this is not an explanation, which would only obfuscate; rather, they are parallel thoughts (mental leaps), which probably spring from similar roots. 

conversation with walter stuller, publisher n.y.