Approaching the StädteRegion Aachen
Panel of Experts at the preview lecture
dokumented by Jutta Geese, AZ/AN Städteregion desk
In mid-January 2009, with the selection process for the exhibition still in full swing, Andreas Weinand discussed the impact of his pictures with experts at the invitation of Professor Bernd Mathieu, editor in chief of the Aachener Zeitung(AZ) and Aachener Nachrichten(AN) newspapers. The focus of the more than two hour long discussion was the question if Andreas Weinand’s pictures can reflect something like the identity of the Städteregion Aachen (translator’s note: an innovative regional association of the city council of Aachen and the local governments of nine surrounding communities in Aachen County).
A lively discussion ensued between Andreas Weinand, the art historian Prof. Dr. Georg Bussmann, Silvia Böhmer, curator of the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen, County Director Helmut Etschenberg und Dr. Nina Mika-Helfmeier, cultural commissioner of Aachen County. The panel of experts was moderated by Udo Kals from the AZ/AN Städteregion desk. Excerpts of the discussion are given below.
Kals: Is a photo series like this at all capable of capturing or even creating identity?
Böhmer: That is very, very difficult, because each of us at this table, I am convinced, understands something different by that, which depends on our own experience. But an outsider like Mr Weinand can see it more objectively, and open our eyes, can show us something that we certainly would have overlooked. (…)
Etschenberg: At first I assumed that there would be things I know: the Cathedral of Aachen, horses at the CHIO equestrian show, the Rur Lake, Printen biscuits. But then I see photos of horses on the meadows, cows, wood, a window with a stuffed pheasant, I didn’t see it as regional identity at all. (…) I had to struggle a bit to let myself become involved in someone else’s view. But doing so started me thinking something like “is what you yourself understand as regional identity also that which is generally understood?“ Each observer of the photos will see it differently. But that process can still lead to interpretations of what we have in common. (…)
Bussmann: To me it seems essential to compare these pictures to your own experience. Pictures trigger feelings. When you are talking about identity, the photographer must touch these feelings. (…) Andreas Weinand describes for us here the situations in which his pictures of people originated. But I don’t need his people pictures, I observe them fleetingly, at a distance, as it is in reality, too. Landscapes evoke more feelings in me than the faces. A landscape pleases all of us. Andreas Weinand takes possession of me in the people that look at me from the pictures, but I want to avoid this. (…)
Mika-Helfmeier: Andreas Weinand’s task is not to “find our identity“ but to “seek something we have in common“, something that unites our region and perhaps distinguishes it from other regions such as the Ruhr region. I assume that the confrontation with how an outside photographer sees our region can sharpen our own view of the region. Andreas Weinand photographs people that he happens to encounter: his work shows the every day things that surround us, the every day banality of the Städteregion. (…) My expectations have been fulfilled, because through his work, the photographer has provided a foundation for reflection for coming to terms with the notion of identity. (…)
Etschenberg: Herr Weinand, would you have photographed differently, if the task had been “find the identity of the Städteregion“?
Weinand: No. As a photographer I always have to conquer a distance, find an approach, formulate a goal, and in the end that means a meeting between myself and what is out there. (…) The photos are my statements about this region, it is a matter of dialogue and becoming mutually acquainted. (…) On my journey I have met people, characters which seem familiar to me, like the old man whom I photographed in the evening sun, and these people also communicate a feeling of home, of identity.
Bussmann: Finding identity is more like a wish. It is an illusion, a fiction, but a necessary one. We are dealing with assertions with his pictures. We see the region through his eyes, because he is the one who decided: I will photograph this and I will exhibit this. (…)
Etschenberg: Regarding a picture which shows the two men at the pool with the Roman columns, the first thing I asked myself was where it had been taken.
Bussmann: I approach it differently. I am a person, they are persons. I don`t ask where it is. But both ways lead to reflection.
Mika-Helfmeier: That is exactly what we wanted to create. And we are going to present the photos so that a more exact spatial city ordering is not actually needed. That means that the observer first of all engages in communication with the picture.
Bussmann: (…) When I look at the photos, there is a trinity, so to speak: the photographer who took the picture and chose it, that is, considered it important, the picture, and me. I stand in front of it, I might be irritated, but I engage with it. And that all takes place silently. So I also say: it is a success.
KuK Monschau 2009 / ISBN 978-3-00-027164-9 / images