In his photographic projects Claudio Hils explores controversial themes, such as the surreal scenery of war at an army training ground or the inhumanity of urban architecture in the new metropolitan mega-conurbations. In this volume he documents the evidence left by years of violence in Belfast.
The experience of conflict is deeply embedded in Belfasts collective consciousness. Evidence of conflict is contained within information archives throughout the city, where photography is employed as a means of interpreting, objectively, the effects of violence. Medical x-ray technology registers the body as site of trauma, police forensic photography particularises scenes of crime, surveillance cameras militarise civic spaces. These archives are extensive, systematically organized, and primarily contingent on use. In contrast, private and semi-public stores of conflict-related memorabilia are presently being formulated into official public archives. As collections of objects (uniforms, propaganda) become redundant, they are recontextualized and transformed into historical artifacts. Archive Belfast observes a history under construction.
Hatje Cantz, 2004
- Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican Centre, London, UK (16.03. - 19.06.2016)
Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican Centre, London, UK (16.03. - 19.06.2016)
"Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers" curated by Martin Parr and due to open in March 2016 at the Barbican Art Gallery (London). "Strange and Familiar" is a timely exhibition that considers how international photographers from the 1930s onwards have captured the social, cultural and political identity of the United Kingdom through the camera lens.
As part of the exhibition there will be an extensive photobooks section that is to outline a parallel history of Britain alongside the works shown on the gallery walls. The book Archive_Belfast is part of the selection.
Further information: http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?id=17922
- NORTHERN IRELAND: 30 Years of Photography, Belfast Exposed Photography, Belfast, NIR (10.05. - 07.07.2013)
NORTHERN IRELAND: 30 Years of Photography, Belfast Exposed Photography, Belfast, NIR (10.05. - 07.07.2013)
further information: www.belfastexposed.org
- Photo Biennale, Thessaloniki, GR
- Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie, Darmstadt, DE
- Noorderlicht Photofestival, "Act of Faith", Groningen, NL
- Claudio Hils | Archive_Belfast, Galerie J.J. Heckenhauer, Berlin, DE
- Archive_Belfast, Belfast Exposed Photography, Belfast, NIR
- Deutscher Fotobuchpreis – shortlist 2005
- Landesgartenschau, Heidenheim, DE
- Regierungspräsidium am Rondellplatz, Karlsruhe, DE
- Vertretung des Landes Baden-Württenberg bei der EU, Bruxelles, BE
- BuchBasel, Basel, CH
- Internationale Bodenseemesse, Friedrichshafen, DE
- Leipziger Buchmesse, Leipzig, DE
- Vertretung des Landes BW in Berlin, Berlin, DE
- Alte Kelter, Remseck, DE
- Reviews & articles
- Colin Graham, "The Archive: ‘the sum total’", in: Northern Ireland. 30 Years of Photography, Belfast: Belfast Exposed Photography, 2013
Colin Graham, "The Archive: ‘the sum total’", in: Northern Ireland. 30 Years of Photography, Belfast: Belfast Exposed Photography, 2013
[...] Having photographed a virtual Northern Ireland in Red Land Blue Land, Claudio Hils came to work in Belfast to make Archive_Belfast in 2004. Archive_Belfast does not make an archive of the city. It photographs the city’s archives, from the official to the marginal. Thus there are images of the storerooms and forgotten treasures of organizations such as the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the People’s Museum (a museum of the Shankill Road), the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Historical Society, and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. Hils carefully researched and constructed a semi-underground material existence for the leftovers of the Troubles, places where the cultural artefacts of the conflict are squirreled away out of sight of the new Northern Ireland which was emerging out of the 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century. These are museums or rooms which are either rarely visited or falling into disuse. Yet the fact of their continued existence (and their new status as photographs) means that their significance is not entirely washed away. Archive_Belfast asks whether Belfast can be archived, whether its multitudinousness and the depth of its ‘troubles’ can be classified and contained. The haunting photographs of rooms and X-rays from the Royal Victoria Hospital are reminders of real pain (something which cannot be archived) in a time of peace. The tradition of museumizing the photograph by taking photographs of museum pieces has a long history that goes back most famously to Roger Fenton’s beautiful images of the British Museum in the 1850s. Several of Fenton’s photographs, particularly his 1857 ‘Gallery of Antiquities’, are formally echoed in Hils’s photographs of the storeroom of the X-ray Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Newspaper Archive at Belfast City Library, and the ‘Evidential Video-Tape Archive’ at Musgrave Street Police Station (three images which come as a group within the series). Fenton’s British Museum photographs were contentious for the very reason that they might allow, as Fox Talbot suggested in The Pencil of Nature, for the dissemination of images of esoteric manuscripts. Even in the earliest days of photography, the photographer in the museum could be seen to have a dangerously democratizing function, turning out to the gaze of the world the museum piece which was only there for the initiated. Looking at Archive_Belfast is a similar experience. The contents of the rooms which Hils photographs seem as if they were meant to be hidden away. Once they appear in a photograph a certain mystery and aura is broken, and the secret or unspoken nature of the Troubles becomes public again. This momentary lapse in the containment of the past is overcome, draining it of impact, by having the image slip back into an archive larger than the archive which the photograph is an image of. It is no accident then that the first photograph in the exhibition is the photo studio backdrop at the Photography Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The irony, pointed to in this meta-photograph, of taking photographs in museums (or secret institutional spaces), as part of an archive, is a reflection on the cultural moment of Northern Ireland at the time, and also an interwoven recognition that the aesthetics which are possible at this moment are those of a culture tending towards the archival – a culture systematizing even its immediate past, an archive which ‘defines at the outset the system of its enunciability’. In Archive_Belfast such Foucauldian control through definition is echoed in the equally Foucauldian recognition of the role of surveillance. Scattered through the images in Archive_Belfast are the mechanisms of CCTV cameras, and reminders that the tapes of such cameras themselves eventually find a home in the perpetually expanding archive of the city. Hils’s work implicitly sees the archive as Belfast’s new mode of regulating itself. His eye wanders over the records of the powerful, the obscure, the near-defunct, finding in each that the detritus of years of conflict is being stored away. This becomes a way of showing how the city’s past is being shepherded into neutralization in a photographic series which questions that archive, and realizes that such an archive can only work by constantly filtering out the dangerous, then cataloguing and shelving it, much as the CCTV footage which watches for crime is then labelled and shelved. [...]
- Chris Gilligan, "Belfast: Exposed", in: culturewars.org.uk
Chris Gilligan, "Belfast: Exposed", in: culturewars.org.uk
In the years between 2002 and 2010 the Belfast-based photography project Belfast Exposed Photography commissioned a number of leading photographers to document contemporary Northern Ireland as it developed in the changed context of ‘peace-building’. By 2002 the historic 1994 ceasefire by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (the IRA, or the Provos) was almost a decade old. By 2010 the (Good Friday) peace Agreement (1998) was more than a decade old.
The eight years of commissioned work provides a time-frame within which there were further significant changes in Northern Ireland. On the political front the prime example of this is probably the 1996 St Andrew’s Agreement, which led to a stable power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly in which the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein’s (SF) Martin McGuinness became respectively First Minister and Deputy First Minister in the Assembly. All of these historic events are well documented by photojournalists. The work commissioned by Belfast Exposed takes a different approach. As Stephen Bull notes in his opening essay in the collection: ‘contemporary documentary practice, [is] slower, more reflective… Often choosing the “aftermath” rather than the “decisive moment”’ (pp. 16-17). Each of the photographers commissioned by Belfast Exposed Photography adopted this approach, rather than that of a photojournalist.
Donovan Wylie focused on demilitarisation in two different projects. The first of these – The Maze (2004) – involved photographing the Maze Prison, (better known to many people as Long Kesh or the H-Blocks), many years after its Loyalist and Republican prisoners had been released under the terms of the 1998 peace Agreement, but before demolition work began on the prison. The second – British Watchtowers (2007) – took the military installation posts along the border with the Republic of Ireland as their subject matter. Both of these projects capture an era that has passed, a history that has, quite literally in the case of the watchtowers, been erased from the landscape. These photographs are, however, more than simply documentary evidence, they bring an artistic sensibility which transcends the immediate scenes they document. His photographs of the military surveillance installations are all shot from long range and at eye level with the observation posts (he was able to achieve this – ironically? - by taking the shots from the vantage point of British Army helicopters). These shots position the viewer, in the gallery or as a viewer of the photograph in the catalogue, as someone who is complicit in the act of surveillance. The viewer is placed in a position which mirrors the vantage point afforded by the towers. When the realisation of your positioning as a viewer hits it is disconcerting. A sedate rural scene shifts from verdant to potentially violent. Every hedgerow is simultaneously countryside and camouflage. And you sense that you are simultaneously being watched, and you are the watcher.
The other commissions focused on Belfast, the city at the epicentre of the conflict and the peace process. Each of the six contributors to the book Where are the people? focus on the photographs from Belfast. The book was put together, as Belfast Exposed director Pauline Hadaway says in her introduction, ‘to re-present the photographs in a different moment and to new publics’ (p9). The extensively illustrated book includes six essays, written from a diverse range of perspectives. Ciaran Carson, the Belfast based poet, takes one of the commissions – Ursula Burke and Daniel Jewesbury’s Archive Lisburn Road (2004) – as his inspiration. He provides brief musings to accompany each of twenty photographs he has chosen from their commission. The first photograph in the series is a glass shop front, covered in swirls of semi-opaque white cream, possibly some kind of glass polish.
‘It begins in a fog, the window of memory obscured… Banner after banner billowing in the memory over fifty years ago, Orange music playing over, over, over (p47).
The other nineteen pieces of writing also read like recollections and ramblings, sparked by the image which they accompany.
‘Marlborough is named for the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family… Lady Diana Spencer… died in a car crash in the Pont d’Alma tunnel in Paris… Alma Street in Belfast was near my former residence in Raglan Street, named for Lord Raglan…’ (p55).
‘Some thirty years ago I lived in a flat on the Lisburn Road with my wife Deidre, though she was not my wife then. Soon after we left for elsewhere … I peer at a dormer through a magnifying glass, trying to remember our former lives in rooms not there’ (p69).
His streams of consciousness pick up pieces of history and deposit them at random angles in the text. Historical lines trickle down through the ages in place names, in family names, and sink to the depths, as his thoughts swirl on. Through his prose he evokes a sense of memory and hauntings, overlappings and interconnections, drift and incompleteness. These are echoed elsewhere, in the texts of the other contributors.
A sense of spectral presence pervades the book. Indeed it is signalled from the opening paragraph of the first contributor. ‘The first two human beings to appear in a photograph are denizens of a city of spectres’ (p11). The contributor, Stephen Bull, bases his comment on one of the earliest know photographic images, Louis Daguerre’s 1839 view of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, which records only two human figures – a shoe-shiner and his customer. The relatively long exposure time required for early cameras meant that the bustling crowds on the Paris street were rendered invisible on the photographic plate. Many people passed by while the shutter was open, but their presence was not captured. In the closing essay Aaron Kelly points out that in the photographs of contemporary Belfast – shot by John Duncan (Trees From Germany, 2003), Harri Palviranta (Playing Belfast, 2010) and Kai-Olaf Hesse (Topography of the Titanic, 2007) – the ‘images are shot in such a way as to confer upon Belfast a depopulated barrenness’ (p96). Contemporary shutter speeds may be faster, but the slower, more reflective, contemporary documentary photography seems to be just as incapable of representing people.
In an essay in Fortnight, Northern Ireland’s leading current affairs and liberal arts magazine, Malachi O’Doherty reflects on the photographs commissioned by Belfast Exposed Photography (Fortnight No.471, July/August 2010). He rails against this depopulation in contemporary ‘photographic representations of Belfast’ because, he suggest, they are indicative of the fact that the photographers ‘have shown little regard for people’ (p 24). He contrasts contemporary documentary photography unfavourably with photographs from journalism and portraiture ‘which always sought to have a person in the picture’ (p24). At one level this seems a crass criticism, one which treats the photographs literally, rather than artistically. O’Doherty even asks at one point if these images may be a product of ‘the artist who is afraid to speak plainly?’ (p25).
Yet O’Doherty is aware of the human traces in images in which people are not directly represented. Speaking of Claudio Hils’ interiors (Archive_Belfast, 2004) he notes ‘the suggestion in many of the pictures is of spent or dormant energies’ (p. 25). Many of the contributors to Where are the people? make similar points about the absence of people hinting at something more fundamental about contemporary ‘post-conflict’ Northern Ireland. Liam O’Dowd, for example, finds a remarkable contrast between the ‘conventional images of the “Troubles”... [which] typically captured streets filled with protesters, rioters, soldiers, police and marchers’ and the ‘traces of uncertain, tenuous and transient claims on public space’ captured in the images produced for Belfast Exposed Photography (p31). Daniel Jewesbury suggests that contemporary artists may have experienced ‘some difficulty working out how to “represent” this peculiar absence of politics in a place that, until so recently, has such an efflorescence of the very visibly political’ (p40). A number of authors argue that an apolitical consumerism has supplanted democratic engagement. Liam O’Dowd, for example, says that with ‘the “commodification of everything”, the “right to the city” is being reduced to the “right to consume” it’ (p35). Aaron Kelly, in the closing paragraph of the collection, proclaims that the ‘lack of visibility of people in these collections of photography impels us to acknowledge that the wrong things are being emphasised in the Peace Process to date. People matter more than profit’ (p. 104-5).
We could end the review here. We can provide an answer to the question posed by the title of the book – Where are the people?. The people are a spectral presence in the pictures because they are a spectral presence in the city. They are passive consumers in the present, not history-making subjects. The photographers have managed, sometimes hauntingly, to capture this.
And yet, this seems unsatisfactory. As unsatisfactory as the condition that it describes.
Malachi O’Doherty can be accused of missing the point. But he also points to something important. Which we should not miss. Most of the contemporary documentary photographers of Belfast are complicit in the marginalisation of the people.
Daniel Jewesbury notes a: ‘widespread movement in photography, whereby the veracity (and even the usefulness) of the documentary image was questioned, and then found never to have existed in the first place’ (p38). This crisis of representation in photography mirrors the different kind of crisis of representation in contemporary democracy. The people are without an image, and the people are without a voice. The long-distance, (and middle-distance), camera shots are analogous to the aloofness of political elites. The remarkable similarity of style amongst the photographers echoes the lack of political alternatives on offer. The many sterile images evince the lack of inspiring political leadership.
The flailing of the political class finds its artistic counterpart in the way that documentary photographers have proceeded, as Dewesbury puts it, ‘in a more crablike manoeuvre toward their subject, as if by indirection they might, finally, be able to find direction out’ (p38). The endless questioning of the veracity of the documentary image has robbed documentary photographers of the ability to make judgements. They have no solid ground on which to take a stand, and then move forward.
Many of the stances proffered are illusory, or backward. The critique of consumerism is an attack on a phantom. The ideology of consumption has cashed in on the space opened-up by the exit of political ideology. It temporarily fills shelf space where once there was substance. The critique of consumerism can easily slide into the snobbish critique of consumers, the dopes who have been duped. Shallow consumerism does not appeal because the people are shallow, it sells because there is little else on offer. Consumerism can even be preferable to some of the available alternatives. Liam O’Dowd is insightful when he suggests that in Northern Ireland the ‘embrace of consumption is all the more intense because… it appears to offer an escape from the relentless zero-sum politics of sectarian or ethno-national division’ (p35).
And there are other ways in which documentary photographers are complicit in the marginalisation of the people. A debilitating concern with the ethics of representation places major barriers between photographers and the people. The ethics of photography is often presented as motivated by a concern for the people. The advocates of ethics warn against exploiting or in other ways harming photographic subjects. At one level how could anyone object to this? But what do we mean by exploitation? And how do we judge, in advance, whether harm will be caused? Photographing human subjects, as Pauline Hadaway points out, is a form of human interaction, and like ‘any form of human interaction, from striking up a conversation, to exchanging a smile, the intention behind making a photograph, spontaneous or considered, often remains unresolved or even unknown to those involved in the exchange’ (2009, Policing the Public Gaze: The Assault on Citizen Photography, Manifesto Club 2009, p16). The attempt to foreground ethical concerns acts as a brake on human interaction. It places a consent form between the photographer and their human subjects.
Photographs which do not directly portray people are ethically safe, but that does not mean that they are ethical. Too often a concern with ethics is a cover for timidity. High-minded ethics can belie a low opinion of humanity. Too often those who are most vociferous in their claims to high ethical standards do so because they start from the premise that people are vulnerable. In a historical context replete with moral uncertainty a concern with ethics can too easily translate into an evasion of the people. These are wider problems, ones that extend well beyond the relatively small circles of professional documentary photography. They can be seen in the anxieties over street photography and the paranoia about photographing children.
Ethical concerns can just as easily be motivated by an evasion of responsibility, as they can by a desire to capture the displacement of people from history-making. The absence of people in documentary photography can be an accurate picture of the position of the people in contemporary society, but this absence can also amount to an attempt to evade the question Where are the people?
So where are the people? Good question. And we won’t find the answer unless we engage with the people. And it seems the people are speaking out. They have got opinions about photography and freedom. Campaigns against school bans on photographing nativity plays show signs of people saying they, not the authorities, can decide what is appropriate. Campaigns such as this should be welcomed because they challenge the culture of distrust of other people.
Photographers are challenging increasing restrictions too. An initiative such as I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist is a welcome attempt to protect the freedom to photograph in public space. A robust public sphere requires the people to have freedom from the intervention of the state, not to have the state intervening in the name of protecting us from other people.
There are signs that documentary photographers are beginning to question the self-confining approaches that they have taken to the relationship between photography practice and the people. The current issue of Photoworks take photography and protest as its theme. As the people make themselves visible on the streets of Cairo, Tunis, Athens, Madrid … the theme is timely. It also provides an opportunity to rethink photography practice. As Photoworks editor, Gordon MacDonald, says:
it seems timely … to look at photography in a different way; to temporarily reject the idea of photography as its own subject, or even as a subject at all, and to instead view it as a vehicle for ideas, responses and protests in the hands of the visually and politically articulate… Now, more than ever before, images have the potential to help to force change in the right hands or to pose extreme threat in the wrong ones. They are a global political and social currency. I feel it is our urgent duty both as citizens and professionals to explore, to engage with, to debate and to understand this subject area.
I’m pleased to say that I don’t agree with everything that MacDonald says here. Especially pleased because I don’t have an answer, and I think that it is important that we open up a debate.
Where are the people? It’s a good question. But it still needs a good answer.
- Ulla Lehmann, „Spuren der Gewalt“, in: KulturAustausch, 1/05
Ulla Lehmann, „Spuren der Gewalt“, in: KulturAustausch, 1/05
Spuren der Gewalt
Eine ausgezeichnete Dokumentation des Nordirland-Konflikts von Claudio Hils
Was zunächst nur als Wirrwarr aus Computerkabeln wahrzunehmen ist, entpuppt sich bei näherem Betrachten als Datenserver der Abteilung Fotografische Dokumentation der Polizeiwache Knocknagoney, Nordirland. Diese und ähnlich unerwartete Szenerien versammelt Claudio Hils in dem Bildband „Archive_Belfast“, der sich als Dokumentation der Spuren versteht, die die jahrelange Gewalt in Belfast hinterlassen hat. Claudio Hils hat für sein Buch Polizeiwachen, Krankenhäuser, Gerichtssäle und Bibliotheken nach Aktenmappen, Röntgenbildern oder Schusslöchern abgesucht und mit der Kamera festgehalten. Dabei ist es ihm gelungen, in bisher verschlossene Polizeiarchive zu gelangen; das dort gesichtete Material wird nun von Hils erneut archiviert. Auf seiner Spurensuche durchforstet der Fotograf nicht nur den öffentlichen Raum, sondern auch den privaten: Stahlrahmen im Einfamilienhaus etwa zeugen von ehemaliger Verbarrikadierung. Durch zum Teil plakative Darstellung und durch gut beobachtete Details macht Hils die Stigmatisierung jedes Winkels der Stadt durch den Nordirland-Konflikt deutlich. Auffällig ist, dass sowohl direkte Kriegsereignisse als auch Personen auf den Fotos nicht zu sehen sind. Jenseits von Klischees der medialen Repräsentation des Bürgerkriegs beschwören die Bilder Erinnerungen herauf, wobei der deutsche Fotograf vorrangig das bürokratische Gedächtnis in Szene setzt. Mit seinen unterkühlten Bildern gelingt ihm eine vortreffliche Darstellung des Verschwindens der menschlichen Individualität durch Krieg.
- Jürgen Schneider, „Nicht nur über die Schuldschiene“, in: junge Welt, Nr. 231, 06.10.2004
Jürgen Schneider, „Nicht nur über die Schuldschiene“, in: junge Welt, Nr. 231, 06.10.2004
Nicht nur über die Schuldschiene
Mit drei Neuveröffentlichungen wird die direkte Linie von Joyce zu Beuys nachvollziehbar.
Bis heute gibt es kaum eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit dem Werk von Joseph Beuys, der jüngst neben Heiner Müller als »Partisan der Utopie« mit einer Ausstellung im Schloß Neuhardenberg gewürdigt wurde. Das nachträglich erschienene Katalogbuch bietet leider nur arg klein geratene Aufnahmen der Ausstellungssituation und darüber hinaus den Beuys-Müller-»Denkzettel«-Mix der Schau, in deren Zentrum die Beuyssche Installation »Wirtschaftswerte« aus dem Jahre 1980 stand. Die Beuys-Interpreten greifen immer wieder gerne auf schriftliche oder mündliche Aussagen des Künstlers zurück, statt eigenständig mit dem Knie zu denken Eine Ausnahme bildet das polnische Performance-Duo Ewa Rybska und Wladyslaw Kazmierczak. Im Frühjahr 1940 hatte Beuys sich freiwillig zur Luftwaffe gemeldet und für eine Dienstzeit von zwölf Jahren verpflichtet. Am 1. Mai 1941 begann Beuys seine soldatische Laufbahn als Sturzkampfflieger in der Luftnachrichtenkompanie im Flughafenbereich Posen (Poznan). Zur gleichen Zeit, da Beuys das polnische Wort für Kunst begegnete- Sztuka, mußte dort Kazmierczaks Vater als Nazi-Sklave die deutschen Maschinen reparieren. Mit ihrer in New York, Poznan und Berlin gezeigten Performance »NYC: I like America and America Likes Me« wiesen Rybka und Kazmierczak darauf hin, daß Beuys die Vereinigten Staaten nach dem Vietnam-Krieg als »schuldige Nation« gemocht habe, die USA wiederum hätten Beuys, als »schuldigen Nazi-Piloten« gemocht, der Kunst als einen Akt der Versöhnung angeboten habe (s. http://www.kazmierczak.artist.pl). »Wer diesen Beuys-Block hat, der hat den ganzen Beuys«, erklärte nach Beuys' Tod der Kustos des Hessischen Landesmuseums Darmstadt, in dem sich der wichtigste Werk-Komplex des Künstlers befindet - die als Gesamtkunstwerk angelegte und auf sieben aufeinanderfolgende Räume verteilte Installation von Objekten, Materialien, Fundstücken, Zeichnungen und Skulpturen aus der Zeitspanne von 1949 bis 1984. Beuys erachtete diese Räume als »Werkstatt«, in der Ideen und Kräfte in den aufeinander bezogenen Exponaten, die wiederum auf die naturwissenschaftliche Sammlung des Museums bezogen sind, wirken sollen. Die Darmstädter »Werkstatt«, deren angemessene Würdigung noch aussteht, war bereits in dem 1990 veröffentlichten Bildband »Joseph Beuys. Block Beuys« gut dokumentiert. Nun ist ein weiteres wichtiges Hilfsmittel zur Interpretation erschienen, das den Besuch der »Werkstatt« freilich nicht überflüssig macht, sondern zwingend voraussetzt: Manfred Leve, »Leve sieht Beuys. Block Beuys - Fotografien.« Leve hat nicht nur die Ausstellungen der Werke (Mönchengladbach, 1967; Düsseldorf,1969), die später in den Block Beuys aufgenommen wurden, in schwarzweiß fotografiert, sondern auch das Beuyssche Arrangement in Darmstadt. Beuys hat Schwarzweiß-Aufnahmen Farbaufnahmen vorgezogen, da er sie für plastischer hielt. Leve wollte mit seinen S/W-Fotos das Kunstwerk nicht instrumentalisieren, sondern versuchen, es offen darzustellen, interpretationsfrei, jedoch möglichst umfassend interpretierbar. Dieser Versuch ist ihm hervorragend gelungen. So wurde etwa bei Detailaufnahmen der Kontext der Sehfähigkeit der Betrachter entsprechend erhalten und nicht dem optischen Zusammenhang entrissen, zu dessen Transparenz sie beitragen wollen. Die Betrachtung der Fotos wird durch keinerlei Bildunterschrift beeinträchtigt. Auch Beuys hatte bei den einzelnen Exponaten des Blocks Beuys auf Beschriftungen verzichtet. Beuys zählte zu den Künstlern, deren Werke in der von Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes und Patrick T. Murphy kuratierten Ausstellung »Joyce in Art- Visual Art inspired by James Joyce« (Royal Hibernian Academy, 10. Juni bis 29. August 2004) gezeigt wurden, die das Highlight der Dubliner Festivitäten anläßlich des 100. Bloomsdays war. Neben den »Ulysses«Zeichnungen von Beuys wurden u. a. Werke von Miroslaw Balka, John Cage, James Coleman, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Motherwell, Raymond Pettibon, Kathy Prendergast, Diether Roth, Sean Scully und Ian Wittlesea gezeigt. Das zur Ausstellung erschienene, von Ecke Bonk eins a gestaltete Buch »Joyce in Art« ist ein Muß, nicht nur für alle Joyce-Irren. Nie zuvor war bislang derart umfassend analysiert worden, wie sehr und vielfältig Joyce bildende Künstler inspiriert hat. Über den Beuysschen Versuch, den Joyceschen »Ulysses« zu »erweitern«, schreibt Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, dieser sei nicht zuletzt von dem Wunsch motiviert gewesen, mit der jüngsten deutschen Geschichte, d. h. mit seiner eigenen Geschichte zurechtzukommen. 1957 habe Beuys nach einer depressiven Phase eine Skulpturale Arbeit für Auschwitz entworfen. Die Studien hierfür finden sich in seiner »Erweiterung« des »Ulysses«, also in einem Joyceschen Kontext. Beuys wollte drei Dachformen unterschiedlicher Größe auf der von Schienen markierten Achse des Konzentrationslagers aufstellen. Die Dachformen waren den irisch-keltischen Megalithgräbern entlehnt. Als der Fotokünstler Claudio Hils im Frühjahr 2003 Belfast besuchte, trieb ihn die Frage um, was für eine Stadt da nach drei Jahrzehnten bewaffneter Auseinandersetzungen entsteht. Doch bald schon interessierte ihn primär das Archiv als Verwahrungsort städtischer Vergangenheit. Herausgekommen ist der Fotoband »Archive_Belfast«. Hils gerieten nicht nur Archive im strikten Sinne des Wortes in den Blick, sondern leerstehende Gebäude, wie etwa das Crumlin Road Courthause oder halböffentliche und private Sammlungen von Memorabilien. Auch in der Röntgenabteilung des Royal Victoria Hospital fotografierte Hils, die medizinischen Röntgenaufnahmen zeigen den Körper als Ort von Traumata. Im Zentrum für Kulturerbe der Großloge des Oranierordens von Irland rückt er die ansonsten bei den archaisch wirkenden Oranier-Märschen dumpf und bis zu einer Lautstärke von bis zu 120 Dezibel dröhnenden Lambeg-Trommeln neben Computern ins Bild. Mal sehen wir blau abgedeckte Möbel und mit Stahlplatten gegen Angriffe abgeschottete Fenster, aufgenommen im Büro der Irish Republican Socialist Party, mal Transportkisten der Linenhall Library mit der Aufschrift »Troubled Images on Tour«, dann wieder ein Regal mit ordentlich beschrifteten Videokassetten, fotografiert auf dem Polizeirevier Knocknagoney. Alles, was Claudio Hils ablichtet, gehört einer vergangenen Zeit an, ist aufgegeben, abgestellt, weggestapelt worden, scheint sich selbst zu genügen, es gleicht der Rumpelkammer, die unser Gedächtnis ist, abrufbar vielleicht. dereinst.
- „Claudio Hils »Archive_Belfast«“, in: Photography now 4.04
„Claudio Hils »Archive_Belfast«“, in: Photography now 4.04
Claudio Hils »Archive_Belfast«
Fünf Jahre nach dem Belfaster Friedensabkommen begann Claudio Hils (*1962) mit einer fotografischen Spurensuche, bei der es weniger um die sichtbaren Folgen des Nordirlandkonflikts als vielmehr um die Strukturen und Denkmuster ging, die sich im Gedächtnis der Menschen festgesetzt haben. Seine Suche führte ihn auch in die Archive der Stadt. wo sich Zeichen fanden, die von den gewalttätigen Auseinandersetzungen zeugen: mit Stahlplatten versperrte Fenster, Dachkammern mit Uniformen und Musikinstrumenten, Videobänder von Überwachungskameras oder Röntgenbilder von Schussverletzungen. Hils' fotografischer Blick ordnet die Zusammenhänge neu und macht aus dem ehemals Alltäglichen der Gewalt eine noch heute konkret erlebbare, beunruhigende Erfahrung.
- Katharina Wagner, „Poetische Archive“, in: Der Tagesspiegel, Nr. 18 602, 19. September 2004
Katharina Wagner, „Poetische Archive“, in: Der Tagesspiegel, Nr. 18 602, 19. September 2004
Spärlich dringt das Tageslicht durch die Vorhänge. Eingerahmt von zwei Trommeln steht ein schlichter Holztisch mit zwei Bildschirmen vor der Wand. Auf dem Gemälde darüber posiert ein Soldat. Seine ausgestreckte Hand lenkt den Blick auf die Trommel unter dem Fenster. Eine ungewöhnliche Zimmereinrichtung. Aber nichts Ungewöhnliches in einer Stadt wie Belfast, die geprägt ist von den Spuren Jahrzehnte langer Konfessionskämpfe. Das Bild zeigt einen Raum der Großloge des Oranier-Ordens im städtischen „Zentrum für Kulturerbe“ und stammt aus dem Fotoessay „Archive-Belfast“ von Claudio Hils. Mit den dicken Trommeln marschieren die Anhänger des Oranier-OrdensjedesJahr in Erinnerung an den Sieg über die Katholiken im 17. Jahrhundert durch Belfasts Straßen. Die 43 Stillleben und Interieurs reduzieren den Nordirland-Konflikt nicht auf Pressefoto-Motive. Vielmehr verweist ihr Minimalismus auf die Strukturen, die den Konflikten zu Grunde liegen: auf die Institutionen, die Geschichte interpretieren. Claudio Hils erkundet die Abstellkammern des Gedächtnisses, die toten Winkel in den Archiven.
- Miche Hepp, „Eine beklemmende Spurensuche“, in: Schwäbische Zeitung, Nr. 216, 17.09.2004
Miche Hepp, „Eine beklemmende Spurensuche“, in: Schwäbische Zeitung, Nr. 216, 17.09.2004
Eine beklemmende Spurensuche
MENGEN - Im Rahmen des Künstlerprogrammes der Galerie Belfast Exposed Photography erhielt der Mengener Fotokünstler und Journalist Claudio Hils Einblick in diverse Archive der nordirischen Metropole. Der aus diesem Ausstellungsprojekt entstandene Fotokunstband ist nun im Handel erhältlich.
Ab Frühjahr 2003 suchte Claudio Hils in den Archiven einer Stadt, die Jahrzehnte lang von Gewaltausbrüchen dominiert war, nach Spuren. Fündig wurde er in den Hinterzimmern von Kliniken, Polizeiwachen, Museen und anderen öffentlichen Einrichtungen. Dabei waren ihm weniger die entdeckten Exponate selbst, als das System; mit denen sie gesichtet und gelagert werden, für die fotografische Aufarbeitung wichtig. Hils ging es um die Verwaltung des alltäglichen Grauens. Dabei machte er sich mit seiner ihm typischen Bildsprache an die Umsetzung. Hier ist das von einer Bombe zerfetzte Auto nur auf dem Polizeifoto im Treppenhaus einer Wache zu sehen, die im Hungerstreik gestorbenen Aktivisten hängen fein aufgereiht im Parteibüro an der Wand. Menschen sind auf seinen Bildern nie direkt zu sehen, sondern nur dokumentiert auf Bildern und Protokollen - mal als Ikonen heroischer Verehrung oder als Zielobjekt des Hasses. Aber auch ganz ohne Pathos als Opfer der Gewaltspirale auf Röntgenbildern des Hospitals festgehalten. Wenn Hils die stählerne Türöffnung in einer Wohnung mit Treppenaufgang und Wachsblumengesteck fotografiert, wirkt das zuerst wie ein Stilleben. Ein unspektakuläres Motiv, das beim Betrachter eher Verwirrung als Aufklärung hinterlässt, und das erst auf den zweiten und dritten Blick wichtige Details offenbart. Möchte man mehr erfahren, muss man sich intensiver mit dem Motiv auseinandersetzen. Wieso hängt die Stahltür nicht mehr im Rahmen? Wer lebt hier? Wieso überhaupt eine Stahltür in der Wohnung? Der Betrachter ist gezwungen, sich selbst ein Bild zu machen, da ihn der Fotoband zu Orten und Begleitumständen weitgehend im Unklaren lässt. Hier setzt der Fotograf das mediale Archiv des Betrachters als Ausgangsbasis voraus. Die abgespeicherten, hinlänglich bekannten Nachrichtenbilder des irischen Konfliktes im Kopf, kann er hier neue Sichtweisen erfahren. Durch diese unorthodoxe Herangehensweise an die jüngere Geschichte Belfasts macht Claudio Hils auf ebenso beklemmende wie faszinierende Weise einen für Außenstehende schwer zu verstehenden, auch religiösen Konflikt sichtbar, dessen tragischen Protagonisten hier noch einmal die Ehre erwiesen wird. Auf Tournee in der Welt Obwohl das Projekt "Archive_Belfast" auch auf Ausstellungs-Tournee . geht, sind die Arbeiten des Mengener Fotokünstlers vorläufig nicht in Süddeutschland zu sehen. Die großformatigen Exponate werden jedoch in nächster Zeit in Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid und Barcelona ausgestellt. „Archive_Belfast“ mit. 44 farbigen Abbildungen ist bereits das achte Fotobuch von Claudio Hils, der seit 1993 freiberuflich als Kommunikationsdesigner, Journalist, Fotograf, Kurator, Dozent und Ausstellungsmacher arbeitet. Reportagen von ihm wurden unter anderem in "Geo", "Globe" und "Zeit-Magazin" veröffentlicht.
- Siobhan Wall, "Claudio Hils: Belfast Archives", in: EYEMAZING, 9/04
Siobhan Wall, "Claudio Hils: Belfast Archives", in: EYEMAZING, 9/04
CLAUDIO HILS: BELFAST ARCHIVES
The Austrian photographer Claudio Hils was invited by Belfast Exposed Photography to undertake this extraordinary project of documenting the institutional and private archives of Belfast. Although Hils is not from Northern Ireland he seems to have found his way into some remarkable places. He is obviously fascinated by the way knowledge is preserved, ordered, or kept out of sight. He visited museums, offices, archives, depots, and private homes to shoot this remarkable collection of images. He mainly photographed functional, impersonal spaces, rang ing from the x-ray storage rooms at the Royal Victoria Hospital to the public displays in the People's History Museum. Hils' photographs are not really about individual memory but institutional attempts to documents people's lives. They therefore raise important questions about the role of the state in collecting and disseminating information about individual citizens, and as one of the contributors to the book suggests: "These photographs, understood as metaphors, demonstrate the memory work of a bureaucracy rather than how individual recollection operates". His work makes us intensely curious about what remains behind closed doors and the way history is mediated by powerful organisations. lt must have required extensive research to gain entry to previously unseen spaces to depict what Anna Eifert Kornig describes as "the aesthetics of absence". This can be seen in the way Hils' photographs tend to reveal only part of a room or an object. There are police video cassettes on a shelf in one shot and Irish Republican Socialist Party photographs in another; images of systems of surveillance as well as the surveyed. These semi-anonymous items hint at the political rivalries and religious hatred that affected daily life in Northern Ireland. Hils' profound insights into unseen structures of control are alluded to in his images and explored by John Taylor and others in the accompanying essays. This book is worth buying for the text alone, but combined with Hils' profound and eloquent photographs, it is a remarkable publication.
- Andreas Langen, „Claudio Hils: Archive Belfast“, in Photonews 9/04
Andreas Langen, „Claudio Hils: Archive Belfast“, in Photonews 9/04
Welche Bilder kann man noch von einem Ort machen. an dem seit Generationen Bürgerkrieg herrscht, welcher ebenso lange in Medien aller Art dargestellt wird? Diese Frage stellte sich dem deutschen Fotografen Claudio Hils, als er vor zwei Jahren ein Stipendium erhielt mit der Vorgabe, in und über Belfast zu arbeiten. Diese Aufgabe fügt sich nahtlos in frühere Projekte, mit denen Hils gesellschaftlich-politische Vorgänge untersucht hat – die deutsche Einheit, die Einführung des Euro, die weltweite Entwicklung von Megacities oder die Verformung einer Landschaft zum militärischen Übungsgebiet Themen von solcher Komplexität zwingen Fotografen zu großer Verdichtung, zum radikalen Weglassen. Diese riskante Strategie hat auch „Archive Belfast“ geprägt. Ein rasches Betrachten des Buches könnte zu dem Missverständnis führen, dass hier eine seltsam blutleere Abstraktion um ihrer selbst willen betrieben wird – was angesichts eines mörderischen Bürgerkrieges eine wirklich unpassende Attitude wäre. Doch die Formalisierung der Motive hat einen klaren Sinn. Statt in der heillosen Historie des Nordirland-Konfliktes als Zugereister die Orientierung zu verlieren, macht Hils seine Außenseiter-Perspektive zum Prinzip. Er vermeidet alle dramatischen Momente und zeigt stattdessen die Ablagerungen der Kämpfe in verschiedenster Form – Akten, Datenträger, Museumsvitrinen, Schränke, Röntgenbilder, Kisten und Kasten. Diese Rumpelkammern der Erinnerungen, privater wie amtlich-offizieller, sind befremdlich anonym, wirken friedhofsgleich erstarrt; ein Effekt, den Hils durch hochauflösende Technik und die statische Komposition seiner Fotos noch verstärkt. Dazu kommt, dass viele Aufbewahrungsorte verstellt sind von ausrangiertem Kram, als wäre es ohnehin längst völlig egal, welche Sicht der Dinge dort konserviert wird. So nähren die kühlen, teils minimalistischen Ansichten von Claudio Hils einen unverhofften Optimismus: Dass selbst der heftigste Konflikt sich, den nötigen Abstand vorausgesetzt, in einen Haufen unnützen Sperrmülls verwandelt.
- John Mathews, "Belfast: Claudio Hils at Belfast Exposed", in: CIRCA 109, Autumn 2004
John Mathews, "Belfast: Claudio Hils at Belfast Exposed", in: CIRCA 109, Autumn 2004
Belfast: Claudio Hils at Belfast Exposed
The photographs within this exhibition explore the very ways in which we perceive, compile and represent social identities and the inevitable entropic nature of human intervention upon systems of information. The show highlights the often-subconscious selective processes which determine, within historical and social perspectives, what gets discarded or kept. It is ironic that some of the archives depicted in these images, which try and place order on chaotic situations, have themselves fallen into disarray, thus bringing to the fore the impermanence and fragility of any type of stored information. The presentation and development of information technology itself is also an underlying theme within the work, bringing into focus the levels and amount of information that surround contemporary life.
As the artists states himself, One example would be of the picture of the server cables at the police station, which for me stands out as a symbol for the invisible quantity of information that grows by using modern technologies. It is really a jungle of information that you have to go through. On the other side of the room you see a portrait of a family in Belfast that looks very old. Indeed it is a picture made in the 1950s but through using modern technology, it seems to be made in the 1890s. The closer you go to this picture, the less information the picture contains because it vanishes through technology. This is something very absurd for me, which I like. It should produce a nostalgic moment but it doesn't make any sense, it was made from a lowresolution scan, using a bad printer, which someone worked on Photoshop with. Bringing their interpretation of the picture into it, nothing remained from the original image and this is quite funny. Hils stresses that if we scrutinise an image to such extremes, its origin will become unrecognisable; its value within historical frameworks will be in a constant flux from the point when it is first acquired. However advanced systems of information are, the fundamental outcome and effect essentially depend on who is in control of them. Similarly, if we compare the scenery within the images of the Irish Republican Socialist Party office and that of the Gran de Orange Lodge of Ireland office, it creates an almost comical situation of two completely opposite organisations that have extremely similar ways of presenting and functionalising their information and intentions. The work largely draws upon official and semi-official spaces, but it also focuses on domestic environments, which clearly stand out – such as a republican prisoner's hand-crafted thatched cottage perched on top of a kitchen microwave, representing a desire for naïve ideals. There is another image of a stairwell within a private house that has a frame for a security grill, to prevent violent intrusion; which literally brings home the reality of personal dangers and of people functioning within extreme circumstances. A lot of the images can be taken on a superficial level, such as the Irish Times archive in Fernhill House, which acts as a kind of symbol of the weight of history being stored. You can actually see the shelf breaking, with the books being too heavy for it. The images have a strong sense of a place which is in transition, a place looking back upon itself in a nonjudgemental manner through all the things that have been left behind. There is even a photograph of a neatly crated exhibition stored in a library basement, with the boxes marked Troubled images on tour, representing the ready-made image of Northern Ireland, set to go out into the world at a moment's notice; illustrating the way in which people choose to perceive themselves and in turn are seen from outside but also suggesting a hope that these images will remain firmly in the past. Many of the archives also deal with public records, which have restricted access, such as police surveillance and X-ray departments. Both look as if they have become consumed by the amount of their own information, through a lack of storage, and as though they cease to be functioning spaces. A room of evidential videotapes in a police station is inaccessible because of the number of chairs being stored there. Is this information used or even cared about in terms of evidence, or is it used purely as reassurance? The absence of actual human presence within the photographs strengthens a feeling of the land that time forgot, as well as revealing the hidden aspects of a place that functions without our knowledge. The importance of these archives becomes apparent through the duality of forgetting and remembering all these sublayers of activity and the cult of the object that surrounds them. Historical documents and artefacts operating beyond the role of information but through the power of suggestion, they intrinsically map a place. They become potent symbols of identity and values, transcending their origin to become crucial memories in the country of last things.
- „Der Bürgerkrieg und die Erinnerung: Claudio Hils' »Archive_Belfast«“, in: Stuttgarter Zeitung Nr. 192, 20.08.2004
„Der Bürgerkrieg und die Erinnerung: Claudio Hils' »Archive_Belfast«“, in: Stuttgarter Zeitung Nr. 192, 20.08.2004
Der Bürgerkrieg und die Erinnerung: Claudio Hils' "Archive_Belfast"
Welche Bilder kann man noch von einem Ort machen, an dem seit Generationen Bürgerkrieg herrscht, welcher ebenso lange in Medien aller Art dargestellt wird? Diese Frage stellte sich dem deutschen Fotografen Claudio Hils, als er vor zwei Jahren ein Stipendium erhielt mit der Vorgabe, in und über Belfast zu arbeiten. Der zugereiste Hils versuchte erst gar nicht, sich in der heillosen Historie des Nordirlandkonflikts zurechtzufinden, sondern machte seine Außenseiterperspektive zum Prinzip. Sein Buch „Archive_Belfast“ (120 Seiten, 35 Euro, Hatje/Cantz) vermeidet alle dramatischen Momente und zeigt stattdessen die Ablagerungen der Kämpfe in verschiedenster Form: Akten, Datenträger, Museumsvitrinen, Schränke, Röntgenbilder, Kisten und Kästen. Diese Rumpelkammern der Erinnerungen (wie hier im Royal Ulster Rifles Museum), privater wie amtlich-offizieller, sind befremdlich anonym, wirken friedhofsgleich erstarrt. Dazu kommt, dass viele Aufbewahrungsorte verstellt sind von ausrangiertem Krams, als wäre es ohnehin längst völlig egal, welche Sicht der Dinge dort konserviert wird. So nähren die kühlen, teils minimalistischen Ansichten von Hils einen unverhofften Optimismus: dass selbst der heftigste Konflikt sich, den nötigen Abstandvorausgesetzt, in einen Haufen unnützen Sperrmülls verwandelt.
- Christiane Gehner, „Claudio Hils: Archive_Belfast“, in: Kultur SPIEGEL, August 2004
Christiane Gehner, „Claudio Hils: Archive_Belfast“, in: Kultur SPIEGEL, August 2004
Claudio Hils: „Archive_Belfast“.
Seit Jahrzehnten ist Belfast Schauplatz von Wut und Gewalt. Nun verlangt die Stadt nach Aufarbeitung, Analyse und Gedenken. Der Fotograf Claudio Hils sicherte die Spuren des Konflikts und stellt daraus ein beklemmendes, aber eindruckvolles Buch mit zuweilen schockierenden Farbfotografien zusammen: zurückgelassene Devotionalien in Archiven und Polizeistationen, in Parteizentralen und Versammlungsstuben. Die Schärpen, Fahnen und Pauken für die Aufmärsche der Oranier, in olivgrünes Leinen gebundene Jahrgänge der "Irish Times" und sogar Röntgenbilder der Schussverletzten von den Straßenkämpfen bilden einen fotografischen Nachruf auf die jüngste Vergangenheit eines schwer nachzuvollziehenden Konflikts.
- "Claudio Hils - Archive Belfast", in: Designers Digest 8/04
"Claudio Hils - Archive Belfast", in: Designers Digest 8/04
Claudio Hils - Archive Belfast
For decades,Northern Ireland has been synonymaus with violent clashes. The discharge of this tension have left traces – in particular in the capital, Belfast. Claudio Hils went searching for them. He favours controversial themes for his photographic projects. Now he takes on Belfast »the scene of the crime«, documenting oppressive proof of violence. He made discoveries in numerous city archives, finding countless testaments to the conflict. ln Northern Ireland a very particular process for dealing with the past can be registered and observed when Writing recent history Photography plays an immensely important role therein.
- „In der Rumpelkammer der Geschichte“, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24.06.2004
„In der Rumpelkammer der Geschichte“, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24.06.2004
In der Rumpelkammer der Geschichte
Das eine Foto zeigt Kriegsspielzeug, Bomber in Tarnfarben, auf einen Haufen geworfen und in einen Plastiksack gesteckt – Geschichte eingetütet, aufgenommen im Depot des People's Museum Belfast. Das andere Foto zeigt einen verlassenen Raum, die Fenster mit Stahlplatten verschottet, die Möbel mit Stoffplanen überzogen – Geschichte abgedeckt, aufgenommen im Büro der Republikanisch-sozialistischen Partei Irlands. Claudio Hils hat die Bilder aufgenommen, für seine Fotoserie "Archive Belfast", eine mediale Auseinandersetzung mit der Frage, wie wir mit unserer Geschichte und ihren Geschichten umgehen, wie wir uns erinnern, und in welchem Verhältnis diese Memoria zum Vergessen steht – so aufregend, so anregend wie Hils hat diesen prekären Balanceakt nur W.G. Sebaldin seinen Text-Bild-Geschichten zu stellen vermocht (Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern. Ruii 2004. 120 Seiten, 35 Euro). Hils ist hinabgestiegen in die letzten Winkel der Belfaster Archive, in die öffentlichen ebenso wie in die privaten, dorthin, wo die Unordnungjede Systematik verdrängt hat, wo die Gegenstände, ihrer einstigen Bedeutung und Symbolik beraubt, verstauben – und doch niemals aufhören, von der Vergangenheit zu künden. Wie die gespenstischen Schattenaufnahmen der von Schrotkugeln durchsiebten Knochen in der Röntgenabteilung des Royal Victoria Hospitals. Die Fotos zwingen uns genau hinzusehen, Marginales, Übersehenes wahrzunehmen. So werfen sie immer wieder neue Fragen auf. Hils-ist Archäologe im besten Sinne des Wortes.
- Jannie Uhre Mogensen, "Claudio Hils: Archive Belfast", in: Nordic Triangle P.2 Journal of Photography and Video
Jannie Uhre Mogensen, "Claudio Hils: Archive Belfast", in: Nordic Triangle P.2 Journal of Photography and Video
In Claudio Hils' Archive_Belfast, cubic forms create order in a conflicted Belfast. While rows of dusty bookcases, bulging archives and stuffed pet dogs in glass montres hint at a tumultuous history attempted organized, the photographer reinvents civilization in a metaphoric symphony of lines and angles. Bursting with images of contrast and colourful visual anecdotes, Hils' work reveals both playfulness and sadness in a longing to preserve preservation itself. Embedded in the photographs we find Belfast's painful story of violence and crime told in pictures of public and private memorabilia: medical X-ray shots, vandalized court-rooms and museum artefacts stored as invaluable second-hand goods. The future may be at hand, but its brightness is disputable. In the image Conway Mill, Republican Prisoners' Museum, for instance, we find the background to be a naïve but grotesque wall painting, depicting Margaret Thatcher dressed as a policewoman tearing the arm off a baby, while two other policewomen beat up the screaming mother. In the foreground in the lower right corner hangs a painstakingly detailed painting in pale tones of an idyllic country cottage, complete with wagon, water pump and flowers. lt is hard to say which is most tasteless; the rough wall painting or the kitsch cottage scene. But in Hils' quirky vision the impression moves from vulgar to unnervingly insightful. This is the contrast: Horror versus the dream. While the dream may be pretty as a picture and seem close at hand, the past haunts and overwhelms in too strong colours. Archive_Belfast centres its attention on different modes of archiving – from libraries, via X-ray archives to private storage rooms. It documents history being documented and is as such a valuable piece of work. While the narrative mode may compel to photo enthusiasts, historians may connect the work with photo-historic societies that have documented historic buildings, monuments and artefacts since the Victorian era. To the Belfast inhabitant, it records memory.
- Marianne O'Kane, "Arts Overview", in: Perspective, Summer 2004
Marianne O'Kane, "Arts Overview", in: Perspective, Summer 2004
Belfast Exposed Photography
Belfast Exposed Photography are hosting an important exhibition and book launch entitled 'Archive Belfast' by Claudio Hils. This exhibition and book, initiated four years after the 1998 Belfast Agreement under the working title, 'Belfast Becoming Past, Belfast Becoming Future', began with a question: what kind of city is emerging from three decades of violent conllict? Claudio Hils positioned this question within new and freshly authored territory, in which the archive, repository of the city's past, was to become a significant object of investigation. Archive Belfast refocuses attention from the visible outcomes of conflict towards the underlying structures and patterns of thought by which conflict is both determined and contained. Hils fascination with Belfast's archives lies not so much with their content, as with the systems, with in which objects and facts have been, and continue to be, collected and organised. The archive, in its purest form is abstract and resists reading, little more than a curious assortment of objects, bundles of files. Inviting interest as a site for historical excavation, it awaits discovery and the imposition of meaning. Simultaneously shaped by and supporting systems of social organisation, management, surveillance and control, the archive becomes in time the sum and store of these processes, product and guardian of the particular thinking behind its own construction. Finally, as the process of categorisation moulds fact into meaning, the archive itself becomes an object of enquiry, a cipher to be broken, a key to deeper understanding. The place in which our future may be revealed, encoded within conceptions of the past. The book Archive Belfast is a Belfast Exposed new work commission. It is being published by Hatje Cantz with texts by Klaus Honnef, John Taylor and Anna Eifert-Kornig.
- John Gray, "Archive Belfast", in: The Vacuum, Issue 15
John Gray, "Archive Belfast", in: The Vacuum, Issue 15
A sunny Saturday morning in Donegall Street. Much bustle – the Lord Mayor's show is assembling. There are the horses and carriage, a tribute to pas st-imagined civic pomp. Androgynous rubber figures inflate on the backs of lorries, girls and boys with painted faces skip impatiently in ersatz tribute to far off Notting Hill or Rio, and our civic carnival of optimism defies both history and present reality. That is to be found a few yards further down the street where the stench of burning still surrounds the ruins of North Street Arcade, and the angry posters of homeless artists futter in the breeze. It's a useful juxtaposition as an entrée to the Hils exhibition in Belfast Exposed's fine new gallery, just a short stroll further down Donegall Street. As Pauline Hadaway and Karen Downey explain in the introduction to the lavish catalogue, the concept behind the commissioning of Hils was an exploration of 'what kind o£ city is emerging from three decades o£ violent conf1ict' under the working title 'Belfast becoming past. Belfast becoming future'. Hils has chosen to penetrate our condition not merely through creating an archive of photographs but through an exploration of archives themselves. His approach has all the appearances of being archival itself. These photographs are clinical, unpeopled, and apparently psychologically distanced. Yet there is no doubt about the particular focus of Hils's interest: the one photograph from my own Linen Hall Library is of crates marked 'Troubled Images Tour' and conveniently marked with upward pointing arrows! A number of photographs emphasise the bureaucratic processes of official archive creation, and re-emphasise the impersonal nature of these processes. There is the blank screen against which police mug shots are taken, there are bundles of wires rurnning into a computer server, microphones, microfilm cabinets, racks of files, rows of bound newspapers, and CCTV monitor screens. Taken with exacting precision, they are not of themselves much more than records of the omnipresent ways in which we are archived, and principally by the institutions of the state. Collectively this aspect of the exhibition does create an underlying sense of threat and surveillance. There is a considerable disjunction between this official archiving and the main focus of Hils's attention, which is actually on unofficial archives and collections. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, our principal official archive does not feature here, but the headquarters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and of the Irish Republican Socialist Party do. Our main museum's are absent, but we visit the People's Museum at the top of the Shankill, the museum of the Royal Ulster Rifles, and Clonard Monastery and Conway Mill. Unofficial extends even further into private houses, and even buildings become part of the archive, as with the City Hall or the old Law Courts, pictured very effectively after the recent arson attack. Even in visiting such places, Hils concentrates, and to great advantage, on the least organised parts, on the odd corners or 'lumber rooms' where material has apparently been dumped by random accretion. In the People's Museum an aged bicycle leans against a partly concealed loyalist placard of indeterminate date. Even at police headquarters the storeroom of the Historical Society with police dummies, old uniforms, miscellaneous paintings, and so on, is unofficial space. In the IRSP headquarters, they have their 'official' spaces, but the detritus of agitprop laid down almost in sedimentary layers in an attic is much more interesting. Certainly in all this the process by which the essentials of action today become cast-offs, which may then become part of the archive, and part of our history is revealed. What is far less evident is any capacity in Hils's approach to reveal an emerging or different future. Diametrically opposed institutions do tell parallel stories. Thus the IRSP waiting room is dominated by forbidding posters of dead hunger strikers and assassination victims. Faintly reflected in police CCTV monitors are the uncannily similar photographs of dead policemen. It would be too much to impose on this the possibility of a better future based on a common acknowledgement of suffering. A particularly fine photograph from the City Hall suggests how difficult it is to create new ways forward. We see part only of a fine Neil Shawcross portrait of David Cooke, our first non-Unionist Lord Mayor, at the end of the 1970s. The portrait was intended as a direct contrast to the dreary traditional portraits of our first citizens. But in the Hils photograph, alongside the fragment of Shawcross, is the more dominant elaborately gilded frame of one of the traditional paintings. We can't actually see any of this, but reflected in the glass is a group of war medals. Even in an era when we have now had a Sin Fein Lord Mayor, it is difficult to change the City Hall. This may be a metaphor for the city, and it may be that archives, however broadly understood, contain as many uncomfortable truths as they do deceptions.
- Aidan Dunne, "A photographic portrait of a problematic paradox", in: Irish Times, 17.05.2004
Aidan Dunne, "A photographic portrait of a problematic paradox", in: Irish Times, 17.05.2004
A photographic portrait of a problematic paradox
At first glance, it seems as if the work in photographer Claudio Hils's book and exhibition Archive Belfast almost wilfully declines to live up to its title. The term "archive" has distinct and inevitable connotations, and its use is likely to invite certain expectations: information collected, collated and made accessible. But Hils's documentation of archives relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland is an exceptionally oblique affair, a sustained observation of surfaces, details and surroundings, for the most part offering us no obvious way into the substance of the information. Other photographic artists have taken what could be described as an archival approach to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Notable examples are Paul Seawright's influential Sectarian Murder Series, for which he revisited and photographed the sites where the bodies of sectarian murder victims were discovered: usually bleak, anomalous urban spaces. In a similar vein, David Farrell documented the sites where the bodies of people abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA are thought to be buried. And there is of course Willie Doherty, several of whose works have an explicitly archival quality. Venturing into this crowded terrain, Hils has been understandably wary, and built this wariness into his work. A photographer, writer and curator who teaches at third level in Austria, he does not claim any great insight into Northern Ireland, its history and its politics. Rather he has, with considerable tact, set out to compile an archive of archives, encompassing various institutional records but also more informal archives held by political organisations, community groups and others. In one case he introduces the notion of a personal archive with a photograph of the interior of a private house. What emerges from all this is a surprisingly effective portrait not so much of Belfast, in the obvious sense of the term, as of a city – and a society – in which the meanings of past and recent history are problematic. At its heart there is no consensual reading of that history, and even as it is being constituted its representation is being actively contested by antagonistic factions. It is, Hils seems to imply as well, a city and a society in which the dimension of the hidden is always more important than what is immediately visible. In one of his photographs of the headquartersof the Irish Republican Socialist Party, vision is thwarted on two counts. Heavy steel plates line the windows and, in the foreground, a jumble of undisclosed objects are shrouded in a sheet. Like much else in Hils's images, all this is both straightforwardly explicable and metaphorically suggestive. The storeroom of the RUC George Cross Historical Society houses a box of variously coloured wigs and hair-pieces used in undercover investigations: things are not as they seem. In another storeroom at the Linenhall Library, two closed wooden crates contain work from an exhibition relating to the Troubles and titled Troubled Images. Hils prompts us to reflect that representation is in itself a kind of packaging. The idea of Northern Ireland as a place of deceptive surfaces has played a significant role in the work of other, indigenous artists, including Victor Sloan and David Crone. In Sloan's work the fabric of the image is often scratched and corroded, the seamless representation undermined by an obtrusive, recalcitrant past. Hils may have in mind the anachronistic persistence of the past in his view of a model of a traditional Irish cottage, handcrafted by a Republican prisoner, perched atop a microwave in a private kitchen, with, next to it, a mobile phone plugged into a charger. And the final image in the book is of a blurred, scanned, digital copy of an old photograph in the Ballymacarrett Arts & Culture Society: the past imperfectly assimilated into the present or a fading memory? . Many of Crone's paintings visualise Belfast as a veritable hall of mirrors, a place in which it is impossible to find your bearings, where you are never sure what is real and what is a construction. There is an aqiding implication in Willie Doherty's work that meaning itself is always ideologically constructed. The notion of an objective account is doomed from the start, memory is inherently false, it ls fallible and in any case ideologically filtered. Hils sets out to provide a glimpse of history under construction by looking at the local settings in which memory is being selectively preserved and represented. In his essay in the book, art historian John Taylor notes that our lives are documented and punctuated by clerks, the record takers. In the sequence of Hils's photographs, the Royal Victoria Hospital X-Ray Department makes recurrent appearances. We see thousands of records stored in the departmental archive. We see masses of boxed files that look as if they are overspilling their room and filling up the corridor – by no means the only occasion on which there is an intimation of excess, of the material overflowing the boundaries designed to contain it and becoming, paradoxically, a barrier rather than a record and a resource. Elsewhere, a pillar supporting· a shelf of bound volumes has buckled and fractured under the weight of the accumulated data. The use of ubiquitous surveillance developed in parallel with the conflict in Northern Ireland, and Hils notes the banks of monitors, the rows of tapes, the network of cameras distributed throughout the city grid, and the steel cabinets stocked with the "Evidential video-tape archive". Chairs clutter the space between the cabinets and seem to make them inaccessible, perhaps because they are no longer current, are being transformed from evidence to artefacts. Just as the Crumlin Road Courthouse is empty and dilapidated, visibly crumbling away. It is worth noting the dinginess, the shabbiness of the contexts in which history is, so to speak, made, a series of brutal, functional spaces. In this regard, brief aspirational interludes are interesting: in the waiting room of the Royal Victoria's X-ray department, a light-box displays images of fish and crustaceans. In a stairwell of the Knocknagoney Station of the PSNI, prints by, presumably, police photographers, juxtapose an image of a bomb cratered city street with a view of a waterfall in a pastoral setting. These images within images are like glimpses of another reality altogether.
- Josie Appleton, "Archive_Belfast", in: spiked, 14.05.2004
Josie Appleton, "Archive_Belfast", in: spiked, 14.05.2004
- Ian Hill, "Belfast, fixed in the eyes of Hils", in: belfasttelegraph.co.uk, 13.05.2004
Ian Hill, "Belfast, fixed in the eyes of Hils", in: belfasttelegraph.co.uk, 13.05.2004
Belfast, fixed in the eyes of Hils
By Ian Hill firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 13 May 2004
GERMAN photographer Claudio Hils' previous exhibition was hung in Belfast Exposed's old Gallery on King Street.
The show and book, 'Red Land Blue Land' detailed an army urban warfare simulation training location in his home country. In it, generations of squaddies had unbuttoned the dummy barmaid's buxom cleavage and fixed sticking plaster on the spotty chip-shop server's pasty chops. His new show and book, for BE's stylish new premises on Donegall Street, has few such lighter moments. Titled 'Archive- Belfast' it records, in close-up, fragments of this city's many archives of darkness, as BE's Pauline Hadaway and Karen Downey explained. They helped Claudio explore 200 locations before he chose some, including PSNI Stations, the IRSP's Costello House, the Orange's Shomberg House, Fernhill People's Museum, Crumlin Road Courthouse and the RVH's X-Ray room. The Art College's Professor of Visual Culture, Liam Kelly, spotted that the accompanying book's main essayist Klaus Honnet had worked on an exchange exhibition in the Ulster Museum, years back. Nicola Saccá , from Rome, accompanied by Aurelie Brunet , from Lyons in France, hoped to hold such a display of his own work in the near future. Belfast City Council Arts Officer, Christine O'Toole and her pensions adviser husband Cormac , had brought along seven-month- old Rory to get him used to previews. Laid-back Berlin radio arts journo, Holgar Zimmer (Zimmer = Room), interviewed everyone in the room while Vacuum magazine's Richard West, preparing a feature, asked our photographer Alasdair McBroom whether he'd ever captured images of deity in the shape of a cloud. Alasdair was more focused on Claudio's gear, a Mamiya 645 with a digital capability of 80 megabyte image files, costing $$18,000. World-travelling cinemaphotograher David Barker always has a tale to tell. Sure enough he was informing Liz Kennedy that he's just back, not from Iraq or Afghanistan, but Luton, where he's been filming iconic film director Stanley '2001' Kubrick's eclectic home for a Channel 4 documentary. Liz's own concerns were with John Anderson's Scots-Irish emigration musical On Eagle's Wing, on which she'd been troubleshooting in the calm before its Atlanta storm. So it was left to Old Portoran Chris Bailey, once of the City Council and before that the Crescent Arts Centre, but now Director of the Northern Ireland Museums' Council, to wrap it all up in carefully measured tones. "Our archives are seeds in the dark soil, awaiting the light shone by future historians," he said. As he spoke, a young woman transmitted his image from her phone, to be sampled anonymously perhaps for another archive compiled by the spooks who - conspiracy theorists tell us - listen in to every one of our conversations, everywhere, every time.
- Liz Baird, "Trawling the archives for a new take on our troubles", in: Belfast Telegraph, 07.05.2004
Liz Baird, "Trawling the archives for a new take on our troubles", in: Belfast Telegraph, 07.05.2004
Trawling the archives for a new take on our troubles
For a rather unusual slant on our troubled past, have a look at the photographic exhibition currently showing in Belfast Exposed Photography at The Exchange Place, 23 Donegall Street. Entitled Archive Belfast, Claudio Hils' exhibition explores the collections and archives which are directly related to Belfast's formal and informal conflict. Hils studied visual communication at university and has received international recognition for a number of previous projects including The Making of the Euro, commissioned in 2002 by the Central Bank in Brussels. Evidence of conflict is contained in numerous areas, from the systematically organised archives of forensic photography and surveillance cameras, to the numerous stores of private memorabilia which are being transformed into historical artefacts. Archive Belfast takes a look at every aspect and actually observes and records a 'history under construction'. The exhibition continues until June 4.
• Only last week, I'm ashamed to say, I visited the newly renovated Flowerfield Arts Centre outside Portstewart for the first time and was delighted with what I saw. A lovely bright exhibition space – three separate areas, in fact – with all sorts of hanging potential, it also houses a coffee shop, function rooms and workshop space. It really is an arts facility to be proud of. Which brings me back, briefly, to my old hobbyhorse – why is Bangor practically the only town in the province that doesn't have a purpose-built Arts Centre? I know I'm biased because I live there but, since it already has a great print workshop in need of new premises, it would seem a logical step.
• Next, an exhibition of recent paintings by Nicola Robinson in The Loft Gallery, Hillsborough. Nicola has a lovely bold, almost abstract, style using vivid colours with vigorous freedom. Perspective doesn't concern her overly as she concentrates on the juxtaposition of shapes and colours more than the creation of lifelike forms.The exhibition runs until May 21.
- Jenny Lee, "Patterns of conflict become historic artefacts", in: Irish News 01.05.2004
Jenny Lee, "Patterns of conflict become historic artefacts", in: Irish News 01.05.2004
Patterns of conflict become historic artefacts
Images of conflict are common place in today's society. However, a German artist is focusing our attention away from the visible outcomes of conflict towards the underlying structures and patterns of thought by which conflict is both determined and contained, in a new exhibition in Belfast Exposed Gallery. The experience of conflict is deeply embedded in Belfast's collective consciousness. Evidence of conflict is contained within information archives throughout the city.
In 2002 Belfast Exposed commissioned Claudio Hils to produce Archive-Belfast. The photographic exhibition and accompanying publication refocuses attention from the visible outcomes of conflict towards the underlying structures and patterns of thought by which conflict is both determined and contained in the city's formal and informal archives.
Hils' fascination with Belfast's archives lies not so much with their content, as with the systems within which objects and facts have been, and continue to be, collected and organised.
Hils first exhibited his work here at the Queen's Festival almost three years ago. It was based upon his book Red Land, Blue Land which contains war scenes from areas throughout the world, including house-to-house combat in Northern Ireland.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about the project and what I could realise from what I see from my perspective.
"I'm not part of this conflict so I have no preconceptions. All I know about Northern lreland is from the media.
"What I tried to do in this project is look at the enchantment of the information in general."
We may never consider this much but as collections of objects, such as uniforms and propaganda become redundant, they are recontextualised and transformed into historic artifacts.
"I discovered it was similar to other archives such as those in East Germany who have the same problems in developing archives and how to deal with information."
Archive-Belfast has been supported by a number of organisations from which Hils researched and photographed their archives . These are as diverse as Clonard Monastery, Royal Ulster Rifles Museum and the Royal Victoria Hospital. The exhibition includes approximately 50 photographs. "I am looking forward to coming to the exhibition opening and hope I can come back. It was a really interesting experience for me and I love the country and its people," added Hils.
- "ARCHIVE BELFAST Claudio Hils", in: SOURCE 38, Spring 2004
"ARCHIVE BELFAST Claudio Hils", in: SOURCE 38, Spring 2004
ARCHIVE BELFAST Claudio Hils
The experience of conflict is deeply embedded in Belfast's collective consciousness. Evidence of conflict is contained within information archives throughout the city, where photography is employed as a means of interpreting, objectively, the effects of violence. Medical x-ray technology registers the body as site of trauma, police forensic photography particularises scenes of crime, surveillance cameras militarise civic space. These archives are extensive, systematically organised and primarily contingent on use. In contrast private and semi-public stores of conflict-related memorabilia are presently being formulated into official public archives. As collections of objects (uniforms, propaganda) become redundant, they are recontextualised and transformed into historical artefacts. Archive Belfast observes a history under construction.
- Colin Graham, "The Archive: ‘the sum total’", in: Northern Ireland. 30 Years of Photography, Belfast: Belfast Exposed Photography, 2013