Chris Dreier & Andreas Seltzer: “Souvenir de Verdun” (Laura Mars, Berlin)

From 27 February to 3 April 2010, Chris Dreier and Andreas Seltzer present with “Souvenir de Verdun” their extensive work on the Battle of Verdun in the Berlin-based gallery Laura Mars Grp. Dreier made touching photos with her pinhole cameras; the landscape’s scarredness is being caught in the images, as well as its recapturing by nature. Andreas Seltzer is adding to the fascinating exhibition with meticulous drawings; they are based on travel guides to the former battlefield, supplemented by further elements.

The press release states:

The exhibition looks like a movie trailer – starting with original panorama photographs taken out of aerial reconnaissance balloons observing the combat zones of the Western front, then followed by Chris Dreier’s pinhole photographs of the surface of battle fields and finally arriving at Andreas Seltzer’s drawings of the subsurface as close-ups.

Why Verdun? Why concentrating on a place like Verdun in an art gallery four years ahead of the centenary anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the synonym for total war?

The idea for this exhibition project was initiated by a pinhole photograph called “Schilf” (“Reeds”), taken in 2008 by Chris Dreier at the river Oder showing some young sprouts of reed in blurry grey. Put in the context of her photo exhibition “The Grim North” (2008), where the artist mostly presented pictures of former combat zones of the Northern Ireland civil war, it looses its harmlessness and gives the impression of an abandoned war theatre – what might indeed have been the case as the Russians crossed the river Oder at that spot in 1945.

This connotation brought some alert observers to remember a similar looking war photograph which finds its way into the literature about World War I from time to time because it looks so desolate. It shows a group of Australian soldiers posing on boggy ground in front of a phalanx of clouded tree stumps – in memory of Chateau Wood near Ypres, taken on the 29th of October 1917.

Becoming inquisitive Chris Dreier began to explore the history of this war, which characterized the 20th century like no other, packed her cameras and visited the former battlefields of Verdun.

The resulting exposures avoid the romanticism of ruins and the picturesque charm of rusty military equipment. The nature which took over the bunkers and sunken dug outs appears to be disharmonious . It is merely a vegetative attachment that can´t prevail against the enormous impact this landscape riddled with splinters and explosives was destroyed with.

Because of the ground perspective Dreier’s pinhole photographs of shadowy troughs and furrows, of the blackness of bunker and casemate entrances give the viewer a suggestion of danger– as if there is still mortal fear compressed in the dark that could take possession of the visitor at any time.

The ink drawings of Andreas Seltzer deal with compression as well. As in his work “Journey to the centre of the earth” (2003-2009) the subsurface plays the pivotal role. The imagined background for the enormously detailed drawings put together of innumerable miniatures is drawn from the mole-like life of the soldiers in their fox holes.

The complex pictures represent a painstakingly compiled pandemonium combining text fragments of Verdun guidebooks with realistic and grotesque picture elements where the ghosts of war infuse all parts of everyday life.

On the occasion of this exhibition, a catalogue has been published:
Chris Dreier, Andreas Seltzer: “Souvenir de Verdun”
MaasMedia, vol. XXXIII, ISBN 978-3-940999-15-3
56 pages, 15×21 cm, 19 colour and 15 b/w pictures; 10 €

Chris Dreier und Andreas Seltzer: “Souvenir de Verdun”
Laura Mars Grp.
Sorauer Str. 3
10997 Berlin

27 February – 3 March 2010
Tu-Fr 1300-1900h, Sa 1200-1600h

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