Beyond Cold War

Excerpt from the essay «Borderline values» by Andreas Montag

“[…] It was with more mistrust than hate that they confronted one another, spied on one another and listened in on the world of the other. Armed to the teeth with their weaponry, hoarding missiles and nuclear warheads in secret depots while fancifully elaborating upon the minimum amounts of time that a troop of soldiers would have to hold out inside their armoured box until the defenders had built up their front and brought the charging enemy to a halt. It would, of course, be the enemies (who else?) who would advance as aggressors — not those flying their own flag. According to place of residence, self-understanding and propagandistic wind direction, it was ‘the Ruskies’ or ‘American imperialism’ – the eternal adversary.

The latter still continued to manifest itself in the form of the ‘Bonn Ultras’ during the 1970s — a charming term, which has unfortunately gone entirely out of style and which, for members of later generations, might sound more like the hard-core fans of a Rhineland football club. Nonetheless, what was really at stake was class struggle, on the one side, and the defence of Western civilisation, on the other — that is, higher matters for which we were to slaughter one another, if necessary. What sounds like a childish and stupid game of cowboys and Indians was to be universally taken seriously. And it was taken seriously. How much money and how much imagination did it devour? And how many people did it warp and turn evil … […]”


Book review on «Beyond Cold War» by Marc Peschke

“[…] Seine unter anderem an der norwegisch-russischen Grenze, an der ehemaligen innerdeutschen Grenze im Harz, in der Türkei und im Ostseeraum Dänemarks fotografierten Bilder sind von subtiler Suggestionskraft. Was ist hier passiert? Wo sind die Spuren des Konflikts? Oftmals finden wir keine, blicken auf Wälder, Gebirge und Seen, schauen auf sattgrüne Wiesen und sind dennoch beunruhigt. Dem 1981 in Jena geborenen Fotografen gelingt es, uns beim Betrachten der Bilder eine gehörige Portion Unbehagen einzuimpfen. Man fühlt sich beobachtet, ausgespäht, ausgehorcht. Aber da ist ja niemand mehr. Oder?
Einige Häuser stehen in der Landschaft herum. Mal führt ein Pfad über eine Wiese, mal ein Weg durch einen Wald. Doch auch diese Spuren des Menschen machen die Orte nicht zu Schauplätzen der Geschichte. Die Suche nach geheimen Unterständen, nach Bunkern, nach Abhörstationen ist umsonst. Warum? Es ist unser Blick, unsere Suche nach Verwertbarem, die Robert Schlotter interessieren. Jede Reifenspur nehmen wir als Indiz: Ja, genau! Hier ist damals etwas passiert! Könnte sein. Muss aber nicht.
Diese Fotografien entziehen sich: Sie sind nicht leicht lesbar – oder nur auf eine Weise: Diese nüchternen, wenngleich sehr genau komponierten Landschaftsbilder erzählen mehr über den, der sie anblickt, als über sich selbst. Sie machen die Erwartung des Betrachters zum Thema. Sie spiegeln einen erwartungsvollen Blick.”

published in: Kunstbuchanzeiger, March 2015 & Photonews, April 2015


Beyond Cold War is also available at:
Buchhandlung im Haus der Photographie, Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Galerie Bohai, Hannover
Kunsthalle Bielefeld
Museum Marta Herford
Tique Artspace, Antwerp / Belgium

Beyond Cold War — Langelandsbælt, Near Bagenkop, Denmark 2011

Beyond Cold War

Beyond Cold War is based on the examination of confrontation areas of the Cold War in Europe. Border regions on which the NATO states and those of the Warsaw Pact stood face to face to each other.
During the Cold War the observers were always observed, too. The feeling of observing and simultaneously being observed, the assumed harassment through the antagonist, the alertness and awaiting (action and reaction) are the central starting points of my work. For both sides there was the question about the world behind the border, because both were stamped by massive cultural and political differences, laboured by analogous propaganda.

Excerpt from the essay «On borders» by Fabian Knierim

“[…] We also find ourselves dealing with sites of memory in the photographs of Robert Schlotter. The project’s premise identifies the landscapes in terms of sites where history has taken place and we instinctively set out in search of its remnants. The compositions of the images encourage us to do so. A path or a street often leads into the distance of the pictorial space and invites viewers to follow its course, to look for clues along the way and to make sense out of them. And we certainly do not end up emptyhanded. Thus, a dome-shaped building — perhaps a surveillance station — rises up above the wooden houses of a Scandinavian town. At the edge of a forest path, we seem to recognise the remnants of anti-tank barriers; half-buried pieces of concrete make us think of the ruins of bunkers. However, the clues are rarely so unambiguous that we can be certain of their significance. Do the tyre tracks leading into the forest mark the path of a border patrol? What is to be made of the structure on top of the garage with the yellow door? Is the barbed wire fence in a clearing the remains of a secured border or just a fence surrounding a piece of land? It looks too formidable for the latter, but seems almost ridiculously inadequate for the former. Is this supposed to be the Iron Curtain? At the places where the representatives of two systems spent decades suspiciously eyeing one another, our gaze becomes paranoid itself. […]”

published in: Beyond Cold War, Halle (Saale) 2014, ISBN 978-3-95462-411-9

Jürgen Kühner on «Beyond Cold War»

“[…] Schlotter’s photographs only take effect at second glance. It is only through the context that they change from generic landscape photographs to a socio-political analysis with the conclusion that borders can run anywhere and at any time, that no structures are needed to separate countries and people.”