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Christian Siekmeier : Project Statement

My work concentrates on one of photography’s most problematic genres, the genre of landscape. Landscape photography turns space into connotated land. While landscape has been critically disseminated through photography since the 1970s so has the genre of landscape itself been left particularly intact without much visual analysis of its representational powers.
As a white, male photographer the relationship to the already complicated genre becomes even more complex as “The image of the lone, male photographer-hero, like his prototypes, the explorer and hunter, venturing forth into the wilds to capture the virgin beauty of Nature, is an enduring one”. (Deborah Bright: Mother Nature and Marlboro Men)
I understand my work as a critical visual investigation into the ideologies landscape photographs perpetuate, in whose interest they were conceived, why we still desire to make and consume them, and why the art of landscape photography remains so singularly identified with a masculine eye.

Images 01-07: In Hunting: Me - Hunting: You, my photographic installation for the exhibition Male Trouble I set my own photographs in context with my father’s collection of hunting snapshots. I create a visual dialogue between myself and my father based on our individual obsessions with hunting and photography. The differences between us, it turns out, are marginal; both of us accumulate trophies as kinds of self-referential confirmation. Both activities are reflections of our immensely different understandings of masculinity. My father’s and my own photographs are set in the German countryside and relate to my upbringing. Hunting: Me - Hunting: You presents a different take on the old story of father and son. The photographs made by my father show various hunting rituals: hunters, dead animals, weapons and landscape. In my photographs I assume my father’s point of view by shooting from his deer-seats. From these elevated vantage stands he aims at the animal as he hides in the foliage of the German forest, though in my photographs both hunter and prey are absent.

Images 08-09 In Decorative Project I digitally create patters made out of repetitive, though bizarrely decorative, motives of hunting paraphernalia. These can be used for various purposes ranging from gift wrapping paper to wallpaper. Their immediate and trivial presence dialectically opposes their symbolism.

Images 10-12 My project, Fuckin Mother Nature references the genre of landscape whilst simultaneously subverting it. While landscape is usually connotated as the ‘female’, here the ideological ‘source’ is undermined by appropriation through the male. The photographs show elaborate landscapes, which, upon closer inspection, dissolve and re-form both visually and conceptually.
Fuckin Mother Nature shows cruising grounds. These are locally defined spaces that, hidden within the public space of the urban park, serve as homosexual meeting areas. They become visible only through the ability of the insider to read and decode the existing signifiers. A leisurely stroll through a park can become a tense walk along geographical margins. Cruising grounds are embedded sub-stages for a highly specific game played in between parameters of desire, local code of conduct and libidinal anarchy.
Cruising Grounds are a global phenomena and exist in different formations in most major cities around the world. Fuckin Mother Nature closely aligns cruising grounds with theories of urban space. Their visual appearance is not characterised through botanical distinction but references the urban dwellers desire for the idea of nature.
The photographs transport the viewer into these ambiguous spaces. Upon closer observation they can become part of a secret world of signification that undermines all assumptions of pure paradisian lushness. The difficulty in deciphering the photographs reflects a cruising ground’s metaphorical invisibility.

Images 13-16 In the project Dead Land I disseminate the featured landscapes according to what is not there, what is lost within it. The photographs reference the presence of an absence either metaphorically as something that has been there or something that still is there but is invisible. The seductive appearance of the images lures us to believe into the images integrity that upon further investigation becomes eroded.
The image of a beautiful lush autumn tree is in fact a tree in the process of dying. Since the 1990s north-western European chestnut trees have become invaded by a certain type of moth whose origins apparently lie in south-eastern Europe. The scientific language used broadly references biological determinism and becomes problematic when abstracted from the biological level to the social context.
A photograph of the bank of a canal appears lush but uncannyily empty. The photograph references a historic photograph taken by Lee Miller during the German liberation of 1945. Both images are reminders of the social need to deal with history as it is embedded into the land.