In Their Shadows
Since the summer of 2020, I have gone regularly to the naturschutzdenkmal of the Schönauer Lachen. The area is bordered by a train track on the west, Lyoner strasse to the east, Militzer Strasse to the south, and Papenburg Baustoffe company to the north. The Papenburg company also uses parts of the denkmal as a storage space for gravel. The Rückmardorf quarry and quarry lakes is a landscape in which nature is supposedly taking over the old sites of industry. The area itself is one of non-impressive nature, small ponds surrounded by plants that are trying to survive on the newly turned earth. The site only has a short history as a "natural" area, nevertheless hares already utilize the machinery as a place to hide, whilst moorhens use the gravel-surrounded puddle as a safe spot. With that site as an exemplar, I wish to develop a private system of taxonomy: a method of documenting that is highly specific to a place and a person - taking note from alchemical writing and Romantic scientism in order to explore and empower the viewer to be an active participant in their own environment, but always knowing that the role of the so-called ‘rehabilitator’ is just a hair's breadth away from gentrifier.
The fascination with the place led me to go there regularly during the last half a year and continue to document and attempt to understand. In order to keep the documenting coherent and clear, I used established methods to limit shifts of lighting and colors. The methods, though made in order to accommodate modern technologies, seem to be taken from alchemical manuals and Victorian exploration diaries. I would go there at sunrise and sunset, collect fragments, preserve them in acid under glass, build theories on the flora and fauna of the area. This research developed into three projects that revolve around the space:
In Their Shadow - Fanzine. The fanzine takes the experimental observations and tries to find a way to write them that informs about the practice and the conclusions, but also clearly states conclusions are personal and not fully truthful. The fanzine includes interviews with people in the area (both real and imaginary), interviews with some of the materials found there, illustrated instructions for projects and rituals, and documentation of some of the changes in the animals and plant life in the area. For example in the Schonauer Lachen the migratory swans stop, and there is also a considerable amount of inkcap mushrooms, in the zine they are intertwined. The logic of documenting without understanding brings to question the relationship we have with spaces, but never doubts the dedication to the process.
In Their Shadow - Video. A series of still shots, contemplative looks on the area in soft golden light of sunset and rise. The weather, plantlife, and animals shift and change. The area comes as quiet, but unimpressive, It is a nature that isn’t the impressive forest, or the romantic ruin. The leftovers of the quarry and gravel are being reclaimed slowly, but the newness of the environment creates a feeling of barrenness and fragility. Instead of sublime and awe, it is pathetic and calming. The machinery of the Papenburg Baustoffe used as a perch for the birds is larger than a human scale, but not big enough to be impressive. The choice of empty shots creates the sense of abandoned or soon to be filled, but always on the verge of collapse.
Mundane Monument (https://mundanemonument.github.io/) - Website. This idea started with the word Denkmal. The plan was to make a monument that was both private to each observer and generic. The website (found in mundanemonument.github.io ) is different every time. The text is made by choosing randomly between the hundred most used nouns, adjectives and adverbs. The result is one of ten billion options for a monument description. Once the new monument appears, the left side of the screen shows an animated rock falling (also randomly generated). The result is that each time it is a completely unique experience, you can try multiple times until you find a monument that is specific to you knowing that it will only appear once, but it is also not special.
This project was done with the generous support of the KDFS and Denkzeit stiftung