In close proximity, so far away

by Frank Motz

in: “herkunft niemandsland”, ACC Galerie, Weimar, 2004


Stephan Weitzel’s large-scale drawing Weimar?! Niemandsland (Weimar?! No Man’s Land) proposes via its 20th century architecture a reading of no-man’s-land Weimar’s self-contained history. The myth of Weimar as the German epicentre of intellect and culture has been aurally transmitted in its buildings and interiors. In much the same way, its facades – of which many have been redesigned in the course of time – also speak of ages in which cultures were evacuated, identities no longer functioned, basic principles of thought and ethics crumbled. For example the facades of the Bauhaus period, the Nazi era – including no-man’s-land Buchenwald – and the German Democratic Republic, the evaporated country. Weimar?! Niemandsland is Stephan Weitzel’s reference to a postcard/poster view of the city in which the facades of classical Weimar are recorded with bourgeois orderliness. Spatially, the work’s presentation forms a dead end: A stretch of construction-site barrier tape meant as classical museum’s cordon forces visitors to turn back, while at the same time suggestive of an unfinished process of historiography nourished by present action.

A space in the heart of the gallery has been fashioned as a volary, its wooden floor strewn with sunflower seeds. It unites five elements to form the environment In dichter Nähe, so fern (Hommage an Louis Saguer) [In close proximity, so far away (homage to Louis Saguer)]. Behind a wire-mesh door, objects and drawings related to the subject of birds raise questions about origins, nation, migration, land, homeland and no man’s land. “Where are migratory birds at home?” “What does nourish them?” “Is a country a cage?” “Can one be one’s own house?” … The line formed by a double red elastic band indicates the migration of the “European” white stork, of which an illustration has been traced onto the wall with carbon paper. The instinctive straightness of the migratory route bears a relation to a drawing which calls attention to the chaos of “Human Mass Migrations: Presumable Routes since Christopher Columbus” (Menschliche Massenmigrationen: Vermutete Bewegungsläufe seit Christoph Kolumbus). Twenty birdhouses borne by branches protruding from the gallery walls prove on closer inspection to be models of Central European dwellings for human beings, along with churches, petrol stations, bus stops, construction sites, windmills and sawmills. Locked up in a cage, a Bird Clock marks the passing of time with the chirping of a different song bird every hour. Forty-two sky-blue globes float in space like suet balls or molecules, positioned in such a way as to form a globe themselves, each exhibiting the outline of a European country.

In the altar-like installation Dein Reich komme, Dein Wille geschehe (Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done), a double video shows a father and a mother figure in their respective homes, on the street, out and about. A traditional decorative wooden plate hangs between the wood-encased monitors, bearing the popular saying: “Einigkeit ein festes Band hält zusammen Leut und Land” (unity a firm bond holds together people and land). It is illuminated by two electric candles imitating by their positioning the universal symbols for male and female. Beneath this, spread over two altar steps, an opulent, richly embroidered German flag serves as a prayer rug. The mixture of family identity, intimacy and myth with national values and cultural – particularly linguistic – roots forms the utmost intimate core of every individual. In the present, originality (in both senses of the word) is possible when the question of origin has been settled. “Where are you going?” then becomes more important than “Where are you from?” Stephan Weitzel: “Individual history is personal and general history handed down to us by our parents, grandfathers and grandmothers, i.e. via family mythology, whether we like it or not. Everyone has to deal with it; everyone can draw strength from it and everyone should have the right and opportunity to find meaning in it. It is up to the individual whether or not to deal responsibly with his/her personal heritage, which always inscribes itself into a further social and historical context and influences the individual, while also being determined by him/her.”

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