2010, Biennale LANDschafftKUNST III, Neuwerder/Havel
2011, fenster61, Berlin

Driving into the Countryside, leaving the city behind, driving out into nature and distance – for (West-) Berliners this was not only a Sunday excursion, but also a short trip, a longer car trip, which sometimes reached as far as the Alps or the Atlantic, because the real surroundings only began far beyond the city limits. Driving out of the city into the country, dissolving the landscape into speed by car, and then stopping on the side of a country road, at a lake, between a farm and a meadow, at a resting place with a view, pausing, lingering, and enjoying the view and the air – all this is placed in the perspective of a camera – and reflected in the selection of slide photographs Susanne Wehr has compiled in her series Umland. These photographed moments show at least two things: the travellorʼs pleasure in being on the road and the pride in their car as a vehicle of the possible, as private object, and a sign of their extraordinary identity formation.

Through her selection of slides from private estates, Susanne Wehr reveals the longing of Berlin city dwellers for long distance travel, their preference for temporary solutions, their pride in being far away, and the object of these possibilities: their car with a B for Berlin on the license plate. A woman with a black handbag poses at the car, another waves to the photographer before getting in, blinking into the sunlight a man leans against his driverʼs door, another puts his hand on the hood, a couple has their picture taken together with the driverʼs door open – all these staged gestures or travel choreographies show cars as a (status) symbol for being on the road. One could also look at the slides on the basis of the backgrounds, filter out and interpret the various landscapes, places, and different idylls – one feature, however, is a consistent indication and signifier: the license plate B for Berlin. The photographing of the license plate is the “We were here” – evidence for an authenticity, written text in the picture and at the same time placeholder for the postal “Greetings from…”.

Dr. Birgit Szepanski

Installation view Biennale LANDschafftKUNST III, Neuwerder/Havel, 2010