Heroic memories

"The constant reduction in art",¹ working on the line of the horizon, border crossings where water and sky become one and the islands in the river territory of the Tigris and the Euphrates begin to float. Neither sea nor land, forbidden territory, Verschwundene Landschaft (Vanished Landscape), 1980. The stem of the house of Adam, the resistant reed that outlasts skyscrapers. Yet satellite pictures now show how far the work of drainage has advanced: the rage for unambiguousness against the vexation of the marshes. Firm ground for the deluge. Erinnerungslandschaften (Memoryscapes), 2000-01. Men flying in a dirigible over the North Pole: "30 hours non-stop battling against strong winds, through fog, without a single glimpse of sun or sky".² Unable to see, but over the Pole according to the instruments, "we threw out the Pope's cross that we had brought with us and the national flag of Italy, while Trojani uncorked a bottle of advocaat. The gramophone played the Fascist anthem".³ A plunge, searching for land below. Bivouacking on a huge, drifting ice floe. A rescue plane was dashed to pieces. Waiting. "Every bit of wood in the aircraft had already been fed to the fire, and nothing remained of what had been Lundborg's plane but a sad, mangled frame."⁴ A path was forced through the ice by the Soviet icebreaker Krasin, Gramsci's hope in prison in Turi (Apulia).⁵ Childhood memories of flags hung out for rescue: the red cross in the snow, 1945. A weather station with sledges. Transport machines and crews beneath the red banner, rammed into the drift ice. The realm of socialism: "the undreaming coldness of the ice".⁶ The horizon secured in a showcase in the museum of the exploration of the north.
Back into the catacombs. The construction of a darkness that opens slightly to make light visible.
Sonnenstand (Solar Position), 1991-92, a work based on our position in the cosmos. The grammar of a jagged opening, the deciphering of the resurrection. The Camino de Santiago, the scar shared by dervishes and seekers of the Holy Grail. Or the Near East of the earliest Christians, far from Rome, caves of Syrian monks, 15 kilometres along the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan. Grenzlandschaften (Borderscapes), 1998-2000, until 1995 an area for manoeuvres, with grenades and earthquakes as midwives, mountain faces ripped open and light pouring through, the scrawls of Russian soldiers, a land where myths are born. Descent into the underworld, escalators in St Petersburg, Ewiger Weizen (Wheat) in bank vaults. The bareness of the Transitorte (Transitsites), 1997-2001, on the road to Iran, 40 kilometres beyond Yerevan, in April. First in the stranglehold of the Turks, then Stalin, the agony of superfluous races. People standing and waiting. The bus stops made of iron and concrete are Brezhnev's promise. The women groom themselves. Eurydice says: "If you want to photograph me I'll put on better shoes." Living in a container on the Earth's wafer-thin crust. Here and there a vine. A piece of luck. And in all the photographs the invisible legend: "How long will the Earth endure us, and what shall we call freedom?"⁷ The more we ask, the more enigmatic the pictures become.


Peter Kammerer


1. Jean-Marie Straub on Cézanne, interview dated 27.11.89.
2. Samoilowitsch, Rudolf: "S-O-S in der Arktis. Die Rettungsexpedition des Krasin", Berlin n.d., p. 232.
3. Ibid., p. 231.
4. lbid.
5. Letter from Togliatti to Bukharin dated 13.7.1928, and letter from Tania Schucht to Gramsci dated 25.7.1928.
6. Müller, Heiner: "Aiax zum Beispiel".
7. Braun, Volker: "Nach dem Massaker der Illusionen".

exhibition catalogue: A través los Territorios / Across the territories / Fotografias / Photographs 1980-2002 / Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno / Valencia

© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg.

© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg