BURKHARD SCHITTNY, Fineart
alte heimat. neue heimat. info
ALTE HEIMAT NEUE HEIMAT.
From the series LEGACY OF FEAR - THE WAR WITHIN ME // LEGACY PROJECTS 2011
framed prints, presented as installation of 173 contact sheets
original size approx. 2.60 x 9.60 m / 8.5 x 31.5 ft
single image 30 x 40 cm / 11.8 x 15.8 in
Photography is always linked to memory; it records what has occurred in the past. But ‘new’ photographs are also able to preserve the past, as in the series “Alte Heimat. Neue Heimat.”, part of the serial project “Legacy Of Fear - The War Within Me” by Burkhard Schittny. He has travelled far afield in order to create afterimages. It is a journey into his own family history, the history of the second world war, into the trauma of displacement.
The artist‘s parents come from Glatz in Silesia, Klodzko in today’s Poland. The photographer’s father, Robert Schittny, had just turned 19 when he was a soldier in the Wehrmacht, fighting right up to capitulation on the Eastern front. In February 1946 Schittny’s mother was displaced and forced to flee west. She was only ten years old and left Glatz on a cattle train. The refugee train was heading west, and after several deviations she and her family reached Olpe in the German Sauerland. “They had family there” explains Schittny. The artist’s aunt remembers that the trip took one week. Only rarely were people allowed to leave the train.
In December 2010 Schittny takes a trip on a slow train in the opposite direction. From Olpe towards the unknown Glatz. He captures the journey on video camera from within the train. “I wanted to approach the town slowly, with uncertainty and anticipation,” says the artist. A trip into the past, into unknown territory.
We see images of snowy landscapes rushing by. Mostly fields and bits of forest, then once more train tracks, villages and railway stations. Out of an incredible half a million video stills Schittny has selected over 10,000 of the shaky video images. Over 10,000 momentary shots edited from the video film, 10,361 to be precise, in minutes roughly the time it took his mother to make this trip: one week. Coincidence?
Over 10,000 images, an attempt to get to grips with fading memories, with his mother’s displacement, which can be ‘read’ picture by picture, slowly, one at a time. The bulk of images – only the sheer endless row of contact sheets with 60 individual images each amounts to the whole story. And eventually, bit by bit, a substantial and poetic image emerges.
“Alte Heimat. Neue Heimat.” is not an easily digestible work because it does not offer much more than an unrelenting repetition of images of a quiet train ride. The things we normally overlook, landscapes rushing by, are given new significance. And the slowness, the doggedness, the effort which is required of the viewer makes perfect sense as does the choice of artistic methods, because they refer directly to the events during the Winter of 1946. “Because I am looking rather slowly out of a relatively fast train, above all I see only surfaces”, writes Sten Nadolny in his book “Network card”. But beyond the surface of the thousands of images lies the secret of the past.
Marc Peschke, 2012