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Behind the Silver Veil

During 2022, Bela and Hagren have collected unopened boxes of ORWO photographic paper, which they  use in the darkroom. ORWO ceased its production in 1994, hence the paper the artists use is at least 30 years  old. Depending on how it has been stored, its characteristics have been affected—some images become low contrast, others are light-damaged, too bright, or too dark. The properties of the paper are effected by how  the paper has been stored over three decades. Time and the memory of the material influences the appearance  of the final prints, thus becoming a collaborator in the darkroom. 

In October 2023, Bela and Hagren traveled to Wolfen, Germany, the city where ORWO had its production, a  city that emerged in parallel with photographic innovations. Streets with names like Filmstrasse and Filmweg  remind us of the invaluable breakthroughs for photography that have occurred there. They photographed  local nature, an abandoned coal mine, Grube Johannes, which, after it was decommissioned, was used as a  dumping ground for the film factory's emissions. Locally, the mine is known as Silbersee, The Silver Lake.  The artists came across rumors that the factory released such amounts of chemicals into Silbersee that one  could develop film in the lake. 

In this project the artists use photography, video and graphite drawing. The interplay of these mediums raise  thoughts about the properties of photography, such as the moment a picture is taken in relation to the time it  takes to draw, the mechanical versus the handmade, the unpredictability of the aged photographic material in  

relation to conscious decisions in drawing, the precision in factory production versus the unpredictability and  consequences of emissions in the area.

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