Kögelsberger is interested in how the built environment and the domesticated landscape become physical and visual manifestations of a society’s ideology and belief structures, and the way photography and lens based media have the ability to pull this mechanism into focus.

image 1 Still from the slide show

Off Road

In ‘Off Road’ Kögelsberger builds on her continuing interest in the notion of freedom as a driving political force in North American culture. The series is part of a larger body of work that looks at what one could call ‘controlled pockets of freedom’ – those places where individuals can go to live out their dreams and fantasies.

Developed over a period of five years, ‘Off Road’ is set at the State Vehicular recreation area of Pismo Beach in California, an area of over 1500 acres of sand dunes open to motor recreation. In stark contrast to this vehicular use, the south side of Pismo Beach, is a nature reserve. The area frequently encounters controversy on account of the ecological impact of its use. Fascinated by the inherent contradictions of this use of landscape, where notions that are seemingly mutually exclusive, coexist, Kögelsberger returned to the area a number of times to explore the paradoxical definitions, and uses, of freedom.

image 2 Video still from the central projection

Representing this complex patchwork of ideas and actions, the work consists of 5 different elements, including a central projection that is the anchor of the piece, a slide show, a set of interviews and five video ‘objects’. Kögelsberger uses very different languages across these elements, from the seductive, sublime qualities of the central projection, to the more documentary slide show and interviews. As a result, ‘Off Road’ occupies a space between subjectivity and objectivity, juxtaposing contextual, narrative and formal concerns.

A re-definition of the role of condensation of time within video, and of the boundaries between photography, video, documentary and fictional filmic languages, ‘Off Road’ was exhibited at the Hotel Bloom, Brussels in September 2013, as a one-person show at Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London in January 2014 and on viral net, a curatorial project of Tom Leeser (Cal Arts).

Urban Myths

image 3 Color photograph from Urban Myths, C-type print mounted on aluminium, 4ft x 5ft

In ‘Urban Myths’, a practice-based photographic research project, Kögelsberger re-thinks the American landscape through the medium of photography to create a critical portrait of America today. The work develops Kögelsberger’s continuing interest in the landscapes of the American West and expands upon previous works, such as ‘Getting Lost’, ‘Road Series’ and ‘Picturing Paradise’, all of which pointed to the complex relationship between landscape and human interaction.

‘Urban Myths’ frames urban environments that have seemingly grown overnight irrespective of their natural environment, juxtaposing visual manifestations of a drive to wealth with an ideal of untouched wilderness that no longer exists. By physically juxtaposing images from urban environments that are so pristine they seem fake with images of the unlikely and often-inhospitable environments that surround them, Kögelsberger sought to create as much a psychological geography of the environment as a document of a physical reality. In the photographs these environments become physical and visual manifestations of a society’s ideology and belief structures.

image 4 Color photograph from Urban Myths, C-type print mounted on aluminium, 4ft x 5ft

The work was shot at night using a large format field camera and a combination of ambient lighting, varying techniques of artificial lighting (e.g. flash light, light-painting) and long exposures, resulting both in a series of images where the experience of time is condensed (rather than experienced linearly) and in a particular image quality that removes the subject matter from its sense of reality. As a result, the urban infringement on the natural environment is manifested through the recording of light pollution e.g. the residual glow of a city, or the flight path of planes overhead. This treatment of photography as a time-based medium transforms the locations from their everyday appearance into something theatrical and strangely void of human presence. Kögelsberger shows how photography can be used to focus on particular mechanisms in a way the bare eye cannot.

Exhibited as part of the Topophobia touring exhibition curated by Eggebert-Gould, at Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London, at Bluecoat, Liverpool, and at Spacex, Exeter, works from ‘Urban Myths’ have been selected for American Photography (Issue 27), included in the Architectural Association’s Concrete Geometries (2010) and shortlisted for the Sovereign European Art Prize, exhibited at the Barbican.

The exhibition at Bluecoat gallery in particular saw Kögelsberger break with the convention of the large photographic tableau, seen so frequently in the last two decades. Printed as black and white inkjet prints on Hahnemuehle photorag paper to give the images a graphic drafted quality, the work was exhibited un-mounted at a small distance from the wall, bringing it closer to its reference of photography of that region, whereas the subject-matter and the printing technique distanced it from the same field.

Current Work

Kögelsberger is currently working on the third installment of her investigation into the political agency of freedom in the United States. This body of work explores the biggest machine gun shoot for private citizens in the US, which happens twice a year in Arizona. At this event, reactive targets are shot with tracer bullets in complete darkness, creating a spectacle that oscillates between wonder, seduction and violence.

Further Information

For more information about Kögelsberger’s work, visit:



For more information on 'Off Road', visit:



For more information on ‘Urban Myths’, visit:







Kögelsberger’s work can also be found in the following publications:

Uta Kögelsberger (with text by Jean Paul Curnier)
Published by Photo North (2005)
Funded by Arts Council London, Arts and Humanities Research Council and The University of Newcastle

Topophobia (2013)
Distributed by John Rule Art Book.
Funded by the Arts Council and the National Lottery.