BURKHARD SCHITTNY, Fineart
From the series UNTITLED 2008 - 2020
framed c-prints / 70 x 105 cm / 28 x 41 in / 10 + 2 AP
framed c-prints / 120 x 180 cm / 47 x 71 in / 5 + 2 AP
framed c-prints / 140 x 210 cm / 55 x 83 in / 5 + 2 AP
framed c-prints / 160 x 240 cm / 63 x 95 in / 5 + 2 AP
INTRODUCTION // Untitled
Notes on Burkhard Schittny's new photographic series
In the end we are all alone. Alone with our fears, thoughts and insecurities, with all those strange things we get up to when we feel unobserved. In his earlier portraits, taken on the busy streets of large cities, Burkhard Schittny captured these very moments: passers-by scratching their nose, staring into space, closing their eyes, looking utterly forlorn and lost
In his new photo series 'Untitled' Burkhard Schittny continues his exploration of forlornness and loneliness. These new works do not feature people at all, yet their presence is keenly felt. And while the series is called 'Untitled' it is not entirely without title - the Barcelona-based artist has organised the images into groups based on the place where they were created, using the international aviation codes for city airports.
'Untitled BRE' was created in Bremen, northern Germany. In these images (as in all 'Untitled' works) the distinction between photography and film is blurred. Captured by Schittny on video camera, the film stills blend into the realms of photography. What do we see? A Birch forest, a street, a field, gloomy, murky images, blurry like vague memories. Indeed, the photographer refers to them as 'memory shreds'. But who has experienced what exactly? Is it the photographer's own act of remembering as he attempts to evoke long-ago events?
'A life that strives towards a goal has little room for memories' writes Michel Houellebecq in 'The Elementary Particles', and in this vein Burkhard Schittny's 'Untitled' series can be understood as a veto against this dogged striving for a goal. These images are without aim, they have no direction - a photographic odyssey inviting the viewer to come along. Araki once said that black and white photography is like death, and indeed here, in the forests around Bremen, trepidation is palpable. Are these crime scenes? Many of these photographs intimate the presence of some dark secret.
From the birch forests of Bremen we travel to Venice: 'Untitled VCE'. Here, Schittny discovers subject matter that is difficult to decipher. He values the fragmented and oscillating image: he knows that one cannot trust photographs, and it is from this doubt that he constructs his art. The lagoon, the gondolas, the sparkling sun, it is all there, yet the atmosphere remains funereal. Venice is a place of loneliness. It is also a place for those excluded from fortune.
Schittny conveys the port of Hamburg in a similar manner. In 'Untitled HAM' the cranes on the docks rise from the waters of the river Elbe: out of focus, distorted, surreal images. Even in Hamburg's huge fun fair, the Dom, Schittny does not see a place of carefree abandon: he portrays the rides as colourfully luminous, rotating patterns. More than the other images of the 'Untitled' series, the Hamburg film stills assume the visual character of paintings - they represent a hybrid imagery on multiple levels: Schittny cross-breeds photography, film and painting and creates visual flashbacks that make a virtue out of their lack of focus. He operates on a twilight terrain, in the unutterable sphere between image and phantasy.
The 'Untitled' images defy the viewer's perfunctory glance - in as much as the images have peeled away from the film they re-form in their implicit sequence as a new film; a film that now takes us to New York: 'Untitled JFK' is next on the itinerary. Schittny captures the New York airport and the island of Manhattan with a shaking video camera, creating new lines that would not be visible had he used a steady hand. He reveals tremors that are reflected in the image - tremors of metropolitan daily life implying deeper internal workings. And these images are once more dominated by obscurity, blur, shadows and blind spots - again, we hope in vain to find any answers here.
The 'Untitled' images provoke the question: what are we seeing? And more to the point: how do we see? The closer we attempt to get to the photographs the more they elude our grasp. At the same time, much is concealed within these images for which we have no name. Schittny himself may provide a clue when he says: 'I am interested in general by trauma and psychological phenomena, and in particular in processing my own family history in terms of the effects that my parents' war-time experiences may have had on me as an individual and as an artist.'
But Schittny's 'Untitled' works do not require interpretation. They are a chimera, a flank against the self-confidence of the photographic image, a tribute to ambiguity. And an invitation to the viewers to perhaps find themselves within them.
Marc Peschke, 2010