Imaginary Club

The story began with a portrait of a young person imitating a singer from the Japanese Visual Kei band Gazette. It was the last picture in the series and the book of the same name „Character Thieves“. Visual Kei is characterized, among other things, by a gender-neutral appearance, comparable to glam rock, gothic or figures like Ziggy Stardust.

It is interesting to observe how people from different countries develop a mutual understanding of each other through music and different styles of dress codes and meet in small clubs as well as at large festivals around the world. The attraction of music and fan culture is equally strong. In „Imaginary Club“, not only friends meet, but also other artists, musicians and people from the trans and queer community. There are many different ideas of identity, and the term „DIY culture“ perhaps describes this best. The people pictured offer an insight into different walks of life that are not always in the spotlight. With a little empathy, you can hopefully recognize a subtle narrative. Most of the pictures were taken spontaneously and without prior appointment on the street or in places of common interest. In previous works, attempts have also been made to integrate living spaces such as apartments or retreats (e.g. band practice rooms) into the visual dialog.

The city and space with all their signs have an effect on each of us. We are unconsciously influenced by many things. This was taken into consideration when the black and white pictures were taken.. The space behind the people photographed, in the dark background, remains unrecognizable, even though it is there.

The time we call our own« Openeyegallery Liverpool, 2020

Our House« by Florian Ebner
(with Katja Stuke)

[…]For many years Oliver Sieber has been asking young people to appear in front of his camera, people whose clothing is associated with a specific subculture, be it punk, skin, teddy boy, rockabilly, goth, etc.
Many are extravagantly styled, yet while sometimes the look is an elaborate act, other times an individual figure’s appearance strikes the artist’s interest. Despite the narrow frame and the precision of the photographic depiction, the form of Sieber’s portraits lends the models a certain freedom.

Seemingly lost in their thoughts, staring into the distance, they exude an autonomy, a presence within themselves at the moment when the image is made. This freedom also corresponds to the manner in which Sieber displays the pictures in the most recent presentation of hiswork.
In Imaginary Club the figures are not arranged accordingto types, instead the photographer combines the images of different color series with black and white shots of streetscenes or concerts. In these juxtapositions of different styles and locations he creates an “imaginary club”, a co-existence of diverse styles that define themselves by the way in which they diverge from mainstream society.

The fact that the portraits were created in Europe, the U.S. and Japan indicates how the shadowy apparitions of sub-cultures propagate themselves and are modified in the globalized pop underground. When one day these movements have become extinct ,Sieber’s collection of portraits, the form of which evokes associations with the photographs of Native Americans taken in the 19th century, will assume the importance of an urban ethnographic document.

read more >click

Oliver Sieber, Imaginary Club 2005-2012
432 pages, offset-print, 21 x 27 cm
by Böhm Kobayashi and Gwin Zegal
First price »Best Photobook«
by Aperture Foundation and Paris Photo

»Welcome to Imaginary Club« Koji Narumi

[…] These men are engaging in a physical performance to release the wilder instincts suppressed by society and thereby reaffirm their identity.
Fight Club is fiction, and Imaginary Club, as the name itself suggests, is likewise a club founded on fantasy. In Germany and Japan, America and Finland and China, Holland and Britain, Canada and France, Oliver Sieber ranges through city, suburb, and countryside, photographing the characteristic scenes and the young subculture adherents who gather in local clubs. Transcending divisions of age, gender, and race, these young people belong to a confusing assortment of tribes, from punk and heavy metal to fetish, Goth, Lolita—and even Gothic Lolita. The array of fashions they sport is equally complex and disparate: tattoos and piercings, quiffs and mohawks, leather jackets and frocks. Nevertheless, as a whole, they present a curious consistency, so that the overall effect is of a record in portraits of the people who have gathered at a club somewhere on the same evening.
Sieber’s subcultural images are not like other documentary-style photographs of young people in the underground scene, nor do they resemble the snapshots from the street that we see in magazines and blogs. In conventional documentaries, the young people are highly conscious of the camera, often glaring into the lens or strutting in fixed poses. By doing so, continue >click

Kyotographie 2015

Junko« Osaka 2012; pigment print in artist’s frame, 48 cm x 34 cm edition: 8

[…] Nachdem Imaginary Club den Book Award in Paris bekommen hat war das Buch leider sehr schnell ausverkauft und nur noch schwer zu bekommen. Es hat mich beschäftigt, daß Händler das ungeöffnete Buch sehr teuer angeboten haben.Wir waren so beschäftigt mit dem verpacken und versenden daß, nachdem keine Exemplare mehr erhältlich waren, ich bemerkte, wie der Dialog über die Arbeit an sich darunter leidet. Aus diesem Anlaß ist diese Bootleg Version entstanden.

Looking at Imaginary Club« 2018
432 pages b/w xerox print, artist book, 27,4 cm x 20 cm, edition of 3 copies

Sprengel Museum Hannover

Kunstmuseum Bonn 2016

Photobookmuseum 2015, Video 34,06 min in 1080i x 1920/ sound

一無所有 Nothing to my name
including »Nationalfeiertag« by Katja Stuke and »Imaginary Club« by Oliver Sieber CASO, Contemporary Art Space, Osaka 2014

Blonder Engel« Osaka 2006; pigment print in artist’s frame, 34 cm x 48,6 cm, edition of 8

Kodoji Bar« Tokyo 2012; pigment print in artist’s frame, 34 cm x 44,5 cm,
edition of 8

Imaginary Club / Übungsräume« Villa Noailles, Hyères 2014

Danny« Essen 2008; pigment print in artist’s frame, 48 cm x 38 cm edition: 8

Sequence as a dialogue« Kunsthalle Gießen 2019

Exhibitions (selection):
2020: The time we call our own« [G] Openeyegallery Liverpool
2019: Sequence as a dialogue« Kunsthalle Gießen
2018: Festival« Lianzhou (censored)
2016: Mit anderen Augen« [G] Kunstmuseum Bonn
2015: Kyotografie« Festival Kyoto
2014: Festival International de Mode & de Photographie, Hyères
2014: 一無所有, Nothing to my Name« CASO, Contemporary Art Space Osaka
2014: Imaginary Club« Gallery Stieglitz 19, Antwerpen
2013: Imaginary Club« TH13 Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Bern
2013: La Nuit des images« Musée de l‘Elysée Lausanne
2013: Le CLUB 013« Arles
2011: Our House« Museum für Photographie, Braunschweig
2010: Imaginary Club« Galerie Priska Pasquer, Köln