WILDERNESS, DEPTH, DUSK. THE GLÖR PROJECT


In 2002, water started to be drained from the Glör Valley Dam to undertake structural repairs and improvements on the embankment dam. The structure, which has existed since 1904, is one of the smaller among the many dams in the southern part of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. These dams helped to run all kinds of power stations and in some cases are still doing so; they serve the towns and cities in their surroundings as drinking water reservoirs or regulate the water levels of low-lying rivers. In other words, they often bear testimony to a former industrial culture: In the case of the Glör Valley Dam, it helped regulate the flow of the Ruhr River. Due to the dense population in these areas, the dams have assumed a further task: They have become a place for mobile recreational activities with beaches, water sports facilities and everything we need for an active weekend trip. The Glör Valley Dam, too, fulfills this new task; otherwise it would probably have been closed down due to its meager significance for water management. Instead, however, the two million cubic meters of water have been drained in order to let the dam dry out. Water only flow through one depression, down into the valley, no longer impeded by the dam.
When a dam is drained, the ground which has been under water and in dim light for a long time appears, but does not naturally grow any kind of plants that could enjoy the regained daylight. Only with the dispersal of seeds can a new flora of grasses and herbs develop, whereby among them on occasion the seeds of trees and bushes sprout. They could gradually grow to become scrubland and then a forest in due course. In the present case, this was out of question, as the few years required for the modernization of the dam wall allowed for no more than a sparse cover of the ground as well as hillsides and shore areas.
When Astrid Korntheuer witnessed this lakescape, with which she had been familiar since she was a child, during the drainage, she felt a twofold irritation at the condition she encountered: A hundred years ago, the plant communities disappeared beneath the dammed-up water; the animals living there were deprived of their habitat. Then a transient resettlement followed the days of which were numbered from the start:  What was brought to life for a short time proved to be nothing but an episode. The artist speaks of a melancholic underlying feeling given the temporary quality of this natural space. She started to observe the scenery carefully, paying particular attention to lighting conditions which resulted here and there from small water surfaces that were reflected by the sky, and elsewhere from black colors that were characterized by the shadows of a dark coniferous forest. What she saw and studied led to the 18 photographs taken at dusk (using a Linhof and 10x12cm negatives). During the day when the light was stronger she explored the nature, the color surfaces, and how they could look when the light faded as well as the lines of the shrubs in order to determine the most productive cropping to choose. In the evening, she positioned the camera at a time when it was barely light enough to do so. Then she waited – until 23 minutes after the time that had been predicted for the sunset at the according location – until she could take her picture. This moment, 23 minutes after sunset, turned out to be the point in time when daylight mixes with the approaching night to form dusk. The dusk is what lends the Glör series the tonality so reminiscent of underwater pictures and it is the moment during which the physical twilight of a spring or fall evening prompts a sense of transience and futility. The pitch is toned down, as it were, the tone lacks the high, light instruments, we find ourselves in a post- or pre-wintry color space which features hues ranging from black to blue. At times, they reflect some green, brown or reddish colors, interspersed by a graphic web of white reflections by the twigs and branches.
What we see are neither topographic shots nor botanical documents. We see records of a transitional state looked at from the point of view of direct experience and captured in the form of a visual idiom that anticipates future works by the artist: The forest interiors, paintings and still lifes are based on Astrid Korntheuer’s experiences of what she found and how she could crop the images.

Janos Frecot, 2010

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