“Kreuzweg” (way of the cross/crossing) on the global battles of the First World War in the eponymous exhibition at gallery Kunstraum Oktogon in Berne, Switzerland.
The whole cycle consists of 14 monumental woven tapestries, based on large-format photos of First World War battle landscapes. Schenk, however, did not make classic landscape pictures, but used reduction and abstraction instead: He photographed an area of two by three metres of the respective ground – the individual fighting space of a soldier, as well as the space for being laid at rest.
Since 1995, Schenk worked on this series that was completed in 2014. The amount of time that went into the work has positive effects, invested into a thorough research and a deep examination of the Great War to a level that can be rarely observed in the artistic context. Kreuzweg in German can be understood in the Christian context as “way of the cross”, but also as “crossing” – as there was no necessity for the world to slide down to a war that created death and suffering for millions.
At Schenk’s series, the 14 stations of the cross are different battlefields of the First World War. They consist, however, not only of the “usual suspects” such as Verdun, Flanders and the Somme (or Gallipoli as for the Australians and New Zealanders). In fact, Schenk emphasises this war’s global character, as people did not only fight, suffer and die at the Western Front, but also in Chinese Tsingtao, in Tanga in then-German East Africa (today’s Tanzania), in Kobarid/Caporetto/Karfreit in the Alps, and not the least at the Eastern Front, for example in Przemyśl or Gorlice-Tarnów.
The realisation is another reason why this work is so fascinating: if you approach the monumental tapestries too close, the structures dissolve. The details become blurred, indistinct and finally vanish to a structured medium grey. What do we really know about the events of that time? What is truly imaginable? Schenk’s “Kreuzweg” definitely is an outstanding work on the First World War and at the same time a timeless examination of war and its effects..
Stephan Schenk – Kreuzweg
Tapestries and photos
13 JAN – 11 FEB 2018
Opening/gallery weekend: 13/14 JAN 2018 1100-1700h
Opening hours: Fr 1700-1900h/Sa 1100-1500h
Ferdinand and Simon Oberholzer