Hans-Christian Dany, Herbst 97


"Spite of this frigid winter night in the boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket, there was yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store; and meads and glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring, untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer." (1) The sailor Ismael's longing for fantastic landscapes somewhere at the other end of the world, which Herman Melville described in the nineteenth century in "Moby Dick", is still very much alive today. The most diverse imaginings may be linked to journeys headed there. In the way we deal with that which is distant and strange, we define ourselves and attempt, at the same time, to escape the constructions of identity that constrain us. In the course of the industrialization of travel, the way it is described has been increasingly transformed into advertising copy. The far away, which can now almost always be reached by scheduled flight, is reduced to competing exotic offerings in the markets of the society of spectacles.
As a site for other forms of dealing with landscapes and journeys, the artists Anna Gudjonsdottir and Till Krause founded the "Museum of Far Away Places" in 1995. The museum is located in the attic of a residential house in Hamburg Altona. The artists regard the museum, which consists of just a room and a staircase, not only as a site for thematic exhibitions with a concomitant collection, but also as a contact point and research laboratory. There are maps and aerial photos hanging on the walls and a canoe made from leftover wood lying on the floor. In a pleasant combination of working atmosphere and staged setting, there are documents spread out over several tables, and most of the pictures are just leaned against the wall. For a moment, one has the impression of having stepped into the chamber of a rather absent-minded scholar. However, closer inspection reveals to the visitor that most of the exhibits react skeptically to social factors and current interventions in landscapes.
Gudjonsdottir and Krause regularly invite artists to realize exhibition projects with them in the little garden of the house, the "Gallery for Landscape Art". The preparation phases of the exhibitions include an intensive dialogue with the artists, which is then partially documented and continued in the "Communications of the Museum of Far Away Places", a beautifully designed copy notebook.
The most recent project of the gallery in the garden was the construction of a mobile exhibition space for landscape art, built according to plans by the architect Martin Schüttpelz from Stuttgart. Large portions of this pavilion, which can be pieced together and is easily transportable, are transparent and permeable to air, so that light, smells and sounds are strong codeterminants of the atmosphere inside the exhibition space. The transformation of nature in its own representation and the exhibition architecture filtering the surrounding landscape thus enter into a dialectical relationship.
The New York based English artist Nils Norman addresses the theme of landscape as a sociotope in conjunction with the fiction of a planned remodeling of the "Tate Gallery" in rural Romney Marsh and the inhabitants' resistance to this plan there. In two lovingly detailed scenarios in model train format, a church is occupied and an underground system of corridors laid out. The fiction is continued and developed in pamphlets and a small newspaper as a chronicle of resistance. Maps pinned to the walls locate the alleged events. In Norman's work, the landscape serves primarily as a matrix for the narrative, which is the site where social conflicts are carried out. The photo series "Animals in Hand" by the American Bob Brain forms, in an almost literal sense, a cultural intervention in nature, the orientation to the human eye. The animals that were photographed during a journey through South America are not represented in their "natural" surroundings, but rather are held in front of the camera by a hand. A second expedition, undertaken together with Laura Nash, extends the concept of distant places. There are photos and artefacts from a canoe trip on the Bronx River, along which the two artists live. This record of the artists' home landscape becomes a document of a distant land as it is exhibited on a different continent.
It is a strange patchwork of a view from the distance that emerges from the installation "The Newfie Box, Ostwald and the german pig" by Hannes Larusson from Iceland. While he was preparing the exhibition, Larussen had a typical plastic pig sent to him from Germany, which he then carved in the style of the sculptor Ernst Barlach on a scale several times larger. The wooden pigs stare out of little camping tents on the garden lawn, forming a wierd correspondence to the neighboring council flats. Larusson distributed ribbons among the visitors, dyed according to the color spectrum rules of the German bomb constructor Oswald. From his Icelandic perspective, Larusson used these various fragments to create an image of far away Germany, so unfamiliar to him.
Gudjonsdottir and Krause, who operate this museum, are regularly surprised by the definitions and the way their guests deal with the conceptual framework they have provided. And that seems to be precisely their intention: not the accumulation of evidence, but rather the discovery of new views and possibilities for dealing with landscapes and journeys. In this way, the museum's name may also be read as a metaphor for artistic production.
Museum ferner Gegenden
Lornsenplatz 4
D-22767 Hamburg
Tel.: 040 / 386197
(1) Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 22, "Merry Christmas"

Erschien in Siksi, Helsinki.
Übersetzung: Aileen Derieg