"You will not return. Remember, turn not aside,
as you journey, from what is so simple
to appreciate: this wheat and the house"

SALVADOR ESPRlU Llibre dels morts

Numerous exhibitions in Europe and the USA have brought international fame to the German photographer Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, whose work is now presented in Spain for the first time on such an extensive scale. The exhibition includes five series, created between 1980 and 2001, which show specific places in a basic, archetypal way: the interlocking cycles of time, represented in sculptural spaces of stone, light and dark that are caught up in a process of continual change, in the series Sonnenstand (Solar Position) and Grenzlandschaften (Borderscapes); the line of the horizon between water and sky in Verschwundene Landschaft (Vanished Landscape), the landscape of the Tigris in ancient Mesopotamia; the travails of waiting at bus stops in the middle of nowhere, in the series Transitorte (Transitsites); the extreme situations in the Arctic reproduced in dioramas In a museum in St Petersburg, in Erinnerungslandschaften (Memoryscapes).

These are silent situations, reduced to the absolute essential, developing from an inner core of emptiness and stillness. In this respect, Schulz-Dornburg's photographic work links up with one of the most important lines of development in modern art, for space appears here not as static volume but as dynamic process, and emptiness not as lack but rather as a horizon of events, a force field in which things appear and disappear: they are seen in the light of their finite nature.

In Schulz-Dornburg's photographic narratives there is a layering of fragmented, linear, cyclic, interwoven structures. The world of the image forms at the intersection between the places and situations experienced and the perceiving consciousness. These landscapes are both subjective and objective, illuminating flashes revealing situations of transition. Each kind of landscape has its own stories, endlessly mirroring each other in complex topographies.

The house is a perfect symbol of human existence on this planet. It is "our corner of the world", "our first cosmos", the "nerve centre of anthropological cosmology", as Bachelard says in La Poétique de l'espace (P.U.F., Paris 1957). In this sense, the "house" (Haus) may be a cave where a hermit meditates in the Transcaucasus or a chapel on the Camino de Santiago in the Pyrenees, a floating reed-house in the marshes of the Tigris, a tent on an ice floe drifting in the Arctic, or a bus stop. In a world of huge movements of migration, in a turmoil of unparalleled, new, nomadic mobility, we find ourselves reduced again to ignorance about what the philosopher Martin Heidegger described as "dwelling" (wohnen): "our human way of being [sein] on the Earth" (Heidegger, M.: "Bauen Wohnen Denken", in Heidegger, M.: Vorträge und Aufsätze). And for him this is dearly bound up with our condition of mortality.

Schulz-Dornburg shows images of this world, eternal images that reach beyond time. Images from the borders of the globalised world: a temenos, a sacred place in every part of the landscape. Yet as if the borders were also the centre, and the centre extending everywhere.


Kosme de Barañano

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