Andreas Lang Photography

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ECLIPSE : holy land - holy war

landscapes of early christianity and the crusades in the Near East

Where does Europe end? In Portugal, or, after all, in New York, the most western outpost of European thinking? On the Bosporus or, after all, in the Holy Land, without whose Jewish-Christian tradition European civilisation would be quite simply unthinkable. Admittedly, the Crusades of the 11th century were not the first link between medieval Europe and the Near East. But the idea of “Holy Wars” has had a lasting impact on peoples’ thinking and the fact that international terrorism today legitimises itself by means of a ‘Jihad’ announced via satellite only illustrates the explosiveness of this “model”, even in our times. Presaging the First Crusade (1095) celestial portents, comets, a solar eclipse are supposed to have announced the end of the world. And it was a solar eclipse predicted for 2006 that prompted Andréas Lang to continue his photographic reconnaissance of locations immersed in history, treading the same paths as the early Christians and Crusaders. But ‘eclipse’ not only stands for an astronomical phenomenon. It also stands for the half-light of the Middle Ages which, for Lang, once again finds its counterpart in a pictorial language that emphasises the dark. In 2006 and 2007, the photographer’s travels took him to the Near East, to Turkey, to Syria, Israel and Palestine, following in the footsteps of the Crusaders, recording their traces manifested in stone: again, not in the sense of illustration or documentation but as an attempt to visualise something of the (irrational) spirit of the time. In Lang’s black and white photograph the Crac des Chevaliers looks like an extraterrestrial spaceship that has just landed, and to the Muslims at the time, the first Crusaders must indeed have appeared like iron-clad creatures from another planet. Let us spare ourselves a list of the atrocities committed on both sides. What is more important is the spiritual horizon against which imperial ideas arise and spread. At first glance Lang seems mainly to confirm our idea of the “Dark Ages”. In continuing his cycle, however, by taking photographs of landscapes in the Israel of today or of the everyday life of the Palestinians, he underscores the subject’s topicality. And this time he uses colour as a signal of his desire to take issue with a present that is anything but peaceful. The centuries of religious and cultural conflict – where will it all lead? There is one absurd picture of a signpost punctuated with a question mark. Do we know? We do not.

from the catalogue essay "Topographies with a memory" by Hans - Michael Koetzle, 2008

deutsche version