Johannes Bruns Garzweiler. Open-cast mine
1989 – these were distant images, “Bild-Zeitung” in the supermarket, other people’s televisions. And below, that which I was interested in at the time, which moved me.
1. 1989 is the third year of my intensive work at the Garzweiler open-cast mine. Sporadic visits have given way to regular ones. The next level of continuation is that of the location of the pictures. Initially manifested in the documentation of the demolition work in the village of Garzweiler, with pictures using the same settings, with the same positions, at regular intervals. This I am now continuing with a cycle of regular visits to similar sites at the edge of the mine. I adapt the organisation of the visits to suit the photographic conditions. For documentary architectural photography winter is often the more favourable season, for example due to the fact that the light is often indifferent, enabling a free choice of location independent of time of day, including the photographing of north-facing facades without contre-jour lighting.
The open-cast mine had other conditions: sunlight is required in order to emphasise the structures of the excavations. Particularly well-defined effects are achieved with the rays of the morning and evening hours. Morning light has the advantage of lack of haze and therefore improved distance visibility, with the extension of the motif from ten to twenty kilometres in depth a key advantage. It is therefore important to be on site before sunrise.
The mine is forty kilometres from where I am living, a good two-hour cycle ride. The necessary mobility on site is only achieved with a bicycle, anything else is impractical due to the extensive nature of the site and impossible or illegal due to the barriers and railings. The specialised camera equipment for 9 x 12 format that I used prior to 1989 weighs twelve kilos including the tripod and just about fits into a rucksack. In summer I also make regular use of the nighttime hours for laboratory work, which now also serves the purpose of keeping me awake until I set off at three in the morning. After the format changes to 13 × 18 and the equipment weight rises to around forty kilograms I am forced to switch to a carrier cycle.
In order to minimise the strenuous journey during the hours at which physical performance is at its lowest ebb I move the journey to the day before. The rhythm is now ride – rest – photograph – ride, with the whole process lasting from late afternoon to midday the following day. A tarpaulin and sleeping bag are sufficient for the brief camp.
2. For many generations now my predecessors have had their roots in the lower Rhine region and there are no family links to the GDR. From my relatives I learned more about the war that finished forty years ago than about that parallel, other Germany. All unofficial knowledge that I have of the GDR is derived from interviews with Heiner Müller in TransAtlantik. I am not aware of his work, the performing arts, and theatre in particular, take place beyond my perception.
My reaction to the GDR exodus is to ask where they want to go to. The FRG of the late eighties, characterised by recession and an end time atmosphere, is no place for them, or at least not the place they were hoping for. On the other hand, real capitalism would not enable any post-socialist utopia to exist on its doorstep.
The best-case scenario: to buy.
With this, all of the hopes of the GDR citizens for a share in the Golden West are illusionary from the very beginning, but who wants to hear that?
And however much the foreseeable end of Honecker’s Absurdistan is grounds for cheer-fulness, for the third way it is not sufficient for hope, merely for a brief dream.