Arnulf Rainer

Since the first photo booths were installed in department stores in 1928, artists have been inspired by this image-making machine, whose original purpose was to produce photos for ID cards. ‘During the years 1968 and 1969 I began to go to the train station nearly every week at night. There is an automatic picture- booth there, which not only makes passport pictures but postcard portraits as well. During the day, people who waited impatiently in front of the booth or peeked curiously through the curtains often disturbed me. I put in a later appearance, when the last trains had left and it was almost time to close the station. After a quick glass of wine under the suspicious glances of policemen at the counter, I went to work. A certain feeling of excitement was necessary, an abundance of expression in the facial muscles and nerves.’ For Arnulf Rainer the photo booth was something more than just a brief affair; it became a proper experimental studio. Facing the mirror and the camera lens, Rainer conveyed with the utmost expressiveness the multitude of grimaces the face is capable of. By contrast, the game we see him play here with his right hand almost seems like a minimalist study, with the twisting and opening of the fingers akin to a sculptural exercise. Some of Rainer’s most celebrated artistic practices are his ‘overpaintings’, whose originals came in part from his photographic portraits.