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, 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 ghost town in Utah, probably the most famous ghost town 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 ghost towns, 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 civilization, are Australian ruins and ghost
towns. Even more intense, lonely, more eerie are they in their charisma than the above
mentioned places in the USA.
With the "living in a ghost town 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 ghost town-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 ghost town 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 ghost town-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.