BURKHARD SCHITTNY, Fineart
From the series LEGACY OF FEAR - THE WAR WITHIN ME // LEGACY PROJECTS 2011
Beamer projection on 2 screens facing each other, color and b/w images true sided
Photography is intrinsically linked to memory; it records what has occurred in the past. But ‘new’ photographs are also able to preserve the past, as in the series "114", part of the serial project "Legacy Of Fear - The War Within Me" by Burkhard Schittny. He has travelled far afield in order to create afterimages. It is a journey into his own family history, the history of the second world war, into the trauma of displacement.
The artist's parents come from Glatz in Silesia, Klodzko in today’s Poland. In 1946 Schittny’s mother was displaced and forced to flee west. As a mere ten-year-old, now a refugee, she left her hometown on a cattle train. The photographer’s father, Robert Schittny, had just turned 19 when he was a soldier in the Wehrmacht, fighting right up to capitulation on the Eastern front. A small soldier’s diary, the discovery of which inspired Burkhard Schittny to make this serial project, conveys what happened to his father during that time: after being captured by Czech troops and being held in the sports ground of Mnichovo Hradište, the German soldiers were divided into groups of 100 men and forced to march the 114 kilometres on foot to the POW camp in Zittau, where they were interned. In his diary Robert Schittny describes the extreme torment of the trek, the hunger and thirst.
Burkhard Schittny decided to take exactly the same route his father had marched at the end of the war. He shot colour photographs from the middle of the road in the direction the soldiers had been marching. In the middle of the road the soldiers were less afraid of being hit by the liberated Czech population than at the margins of the column. He also took black-and-white pictures with a wide-angle lens, this time facing the other way, the direction he had come from- and this time upside down. A significant aesthetic fracture which emphasizes the idea of denial - the wide-angle-lens pushing what is near into the distance, dragging the events out of focus.
Photography is the medium of recollection. On his journey through villages, hamlets and small towns, through idyllic forests, industrial wastelands and fields Burkhard Schittny finally, after 114 kilometres, reached the former barracks in Zittau. He had arrived at the arched gates of the buildings that had formerly also been used as a concentration camp: he had arrived at his father’s destination. The son’s pictures recall the father’s journey, but they will soon turn into a memory themselves.
It is an austere and understated photo-series. In the book version, the true-sided colour and upside down b/w pictures face each other on either page of a double-spread. Turning the book upside down reveals the related image - the reader can move into the future and back again.
These are images of a journey. 114 momentary images. Shot by the son kilometre by kilometre in May 2011, almost exactly 66 years after the father walked this long and arduous trek. Images of immense power, because they convey with profound intensity that everything we see today, everything that surrounds us is irrevocably linked to the past. The father’s journey ended in Zittau - as did the son’s. But the story is not over - not only does the memory open the view to the past, it also leads us into the future.
Marc Peschke, 2012