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13 May 2021 - 16 January 2022, VILLA MALPENSATA

Discipline and Senses. Hans Georg Berger. A restrospective


Displayed in the «Spazio Mostre», on the first and second floor of Villa Malpensata, the exhibition «Discipline and Senses. Hans Georg Berger. A retrospective» presents 145 fine black and white Silver Gelatin DOP photographs on barytic paper printed from the negatives conserved in the artist's Berlin archive.

This is the first major retrospective dedicated to Berger, whose entire career, from the early 1970s to the present day, is covered in this Lugano project.

For the occasion, the halls of the noble floors of Villa Malpensata are returned, after almost thirty years, to the magic of natural light that fills the architecture, highlighting the sophisticated setting.

Owned by the MUSEC, following the closure of the exhibition, the works will constitute one of the most precious chapters of the «Esovisioni» cycle and will be presented in other European museums.


Foto gallery

Discipline and Senses

Discipline and Senses is the title of the first major retrospective dedicated to the German artist Hans Georg Berger, whose photography has always explored both intimate and cultural identities. The title unites in a single discourse the profound intellectual experiences and research conducted over a period of almost fifty years, from the 1970s to the present.

The fil rouge of the project has slowly emerged through a long dialogue with the artist. As the curator Francesco Paolo Campione states, "Hans Georg Berger has deliberately chosen photography as an existential remedy, as a solid instrument to give form to his own identity and to his universe of senses and dreams; it is something that alleviates, through art, the suffering generated by a hostile social context".

His incessant research has allowed Berger to involve the richness of his own inner world. His exploration has thus progressively widened from the intimacy of his relationship with the French writer Hervé Guibert (1955-1991), to the social dimension of the inhabitants of Rio nell'Elba, and finally, after a long journey across Asia, to the representation of Theravāda Buddhism and Shiite Islam. Both the journey and the destination are marked by the exercise of a strict intellectual discipline that, firstly applied to his own life, has become a language capable of capturing the essential features of his reality.

Berger's approach is based on the ethical, and not only aesthetic, centrality of the photographed object. An extraordinary journey, probably unique, within the field of contemporary photography.


The exhbition

The photographic journey is accompanied by a poetic narration and counterpointed by a selection of works of art that recall Berger's intellectual experience and allow the visitor to experience a highly meditative atmosphere.

The exhibition ends with a projection of about eighty portraits by Hervé Guibert. They reveal an intimate artistic and personal complicity and allow to investigate the original substance that fed Berger's entire photographic experience. This experience is characterised by the sharing of the image between the photographer/subject and the individual and culture/object photographed.


Biographical notes

Hans Georg Berger was born in Trier in 1951. He studied Philosophy of Religions at the University of Munich and at the University of Vermont (USA). At the beginning of the '70s he worked as actor, scriptwriter and director of the group Rote Rübe and, from 1977 to 1983, as director of the Internationales Festival des Freien Theaters in München and co-founder of the Münchener Biennale.

From the end of the '70s he started working on the renovation of the hermitage of Santa Caterina, on the Island of Elba, transforming the ancient Franciscan convent into an international art center and creating a botanical garden dedicated to the native flora of the Tuscan Archipelago. Alongside his experience on Elba, in the 1980s Berger began a series of long-term photographic projects, focusing above all on the cultural dimension of ritual and meditation as a source of spiritual research. The privileged field of his research and training activities are Laos, Thailand and Iran, countries in which he has stayed on several occasions and for long periods, weaving an extensive network of relationships which also fostered the creation of important international cooperation projects. In the city of Luang Prabang, ancient capital of the Kingdom of Lan Xang and, until 1975, residence of the King of Laos, Berger founded in the late 1990s the Archive of Buddhist Photography with the aim of preserving and enhancing a unique heritage of over 35,000 images taken by monks from the invention of photography to the end of the twentieth century.

To date, Hans Georg Berger has produced more than forty books and has had more than sixty solo exhibitions in all major countries in Europe, the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia. His works are included in the collections of some of the most important art museums in the world.

Ritratto HG Berger

A portrait by Daniela Zedda

The catalogue


The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue entitled: 'Discipline and Senses. Hans Georg Berger. Photographs 1972-2020" published by the SKIRA publishing house in Milan.

The catalogue is edited by Francesco Paolo Campione and is part of the "Esovisioni" series, dedicated to photography and launched in 2005 with the project of the same name.

The 400-page catalogue presents 227 two-colour images, 28 articles, the author's biography, the exhibition history, a critical bibliography, technical notes and a complete list of works. 

The catalogue can be purchased from the museum bookshop or by writing to Price chf 50.