Hinrich JW Schueler - "Living in a Ghosttown"
Ruins and ghosttowns have long exerted a strong fascination on me: the uncanny, the lived, the abandoned, the dilapidated, the abandoned was and is a source of inspiration for me as an artist, as a photographing painter, draftsman and writer. Often I wander about in ruined houses and halls to find objects, traces of old life. How did people live here? What were their dreams, desires, intentions, what was their everyday life? When and why was it abandoned, what was home or workshop?
The atmosphere of the deserted places is of interest and touches me in many respects. For example, Cisco Ghosttown in Utah, probably the most famous Ghosttown in the US, from the films "Thelma & Louise," "Vanishing Point," "Do not Come Knocking," and from the Johnny Cash song "Cisco Clifton's Filling Station". A strange place, no one was there to meet at my last visit in September 2015, hot brooding wind stillness, no sound. Deserted. Or? Suddenly, I discovered brand-new mailboxes and electricity meters at the almost collapsed houses and barracks. Spooky. When I take photos, I feel observed. A door creaks, lizards glide by, the colorful Book Cliffs flicker in the distance. Anyone who does not get ideas for songs, pictures, films here is not an artist. Immediately I got a dozen film ideas. Genre "Last Days Fiction Shocker". In the calm fermenting air squeaks suddenly a window shutters ... Nothing like up and away from this place.
In addition, there are also reoccupied ghosttowns, such as Terlingua in the Big Bend National Park on the Texas/Mexico border. A fascinating mix of mining town (formerly mercury mining for grenade fires) and new life in renovated old buildings (since the 1960s).
Quite different, as far away from all life veins of civilisation, are Australian ruins and ghosttowns. Even more intense, lonely, more eerie are they in their charisma than the above mentioned places in the USA.
With the "living in a ghosttown pictures", carried out in my POPOC technique (painting over photography on canvas/acrylic paints over a photo on canvas), I do not just take what I see and photograph, but I extend it to what I have experienced at the perceived atmosphere.
The starting point of my work are analogue slide photos, created on many of my journeys in remote world-wide, oddities, mostly found on secondary distances of secondary distances. The "living in a ghosttown-POPOCs" thus always have personal experiences as an occasion. Occasionally, two or three slides are cut with a scalpel before scanning and then glued together, the effect is similar to that of a double exposure. And in some cases, slides are already painted over before scanning with the smallest brushes.
My way of overpainting is always interpretation of the respective photo and additions of "auratical elements", which were already invented or were already laid out in the photo, and which are later clarified or accentuated (like the rusty rain over the old school bus). From this addition, something new emerges which goes far beyond the basic picture: the spatiality changes through the painterly interventions, the light or the lighting becomes unreal, more weird, the sharpening and blurring of the photo are changed, the ghosttown atmosphere becomes more real through the POPOC –process; - more real, more present than the photo alone could convey. The photo is thus transformed, transformed and refined by painting, getting a new meaning and value.
I DO NOT “Photoshop” and similar programs in order to escape the usual program masks and filters that have been used millions of times before. Through the wide-ranging painterly overwork on the scanned and screen-printed slides completely new pictures emerge, unpredictable results appear. There is a lot of space for “controlled coincidence”, the playful, the associative. All "living in a ghosttown-POPOCs" are of course unique.
Finally, some philosophical aspects. Already in Romantic Period the aesthetics of ruins were discovered as art objects; - even artificial classical or gothic ruins were built in castle gardens (like Schwetzingen). In postindustrial society, the aesthetics of decay took an important position in painting and photography; old industrial monuments are perceived as peculiarities (like Henrichshütte Hattingen) millions of times.
Philosophy has long been investigating this "love of ruins". In most cases terms like "civilization fatigue", "civilisation scepticism", "apocalyptic end-time consciousness" are tried. The vanitas (momento mori - remembrance of your finitude) of the ruins play an additional role here, regardless of whether the knowledge about the (own) transience is experienced consciously or unconsciously. Nonetheless, nonconscious people are also attracted by ruins - be it from curiosity, cultural interest or simply aesthetic pleasure.
Transience also always means - and particularly in our time - transience of analogous technology. Especially in the context of the ubiquitous digitization of everything around, the danger comes up that proven analogous technology loses its rank - and thus impoverished our civilization. Phenomenon such as the cheerful resurrection of turntable record players show, however, how this development can be reversed if one becomes conscious of the special qualities of the analogous worlds of technology. Not only from nostalgia, but because of the special color, light and sharpening characteristics I have so far exclusively worked with analogue slide film material. Unfortunately, this possibility has come to an end due to progress in early 2017. But perhaps the analogue slide will also be rediscovered sometime. I'm looking forward to that. Until then I will use the slides from my archive for the POPOCs.