Copyright Squale 2010 courtesy of the artist
The only descriptive information that is provided in Squale’s DIY photobook Mauerreste is the subtitle, The Berlin Wall – 20 Years Later. This photobook is printed in low contrast on a flat stock, which accentuates the middle gray moodiness of the photographs. Berlin and its outer boundaries appear to be neither a happy nor upbeat place.
Few people are contained within the photographs, predominately photographs of the urban landscape that include structures, walls, watchtowers and other artifacts that once divided a city. A watch tower has become an abandoned monument in the midst of the surrounding apartment homes, which seem to tower over this decaying structure. The adjacent barren tree is symbolic of the former personnel who manned this guard tower, appearing dark and lifeless on this gray and gloomy day.
Now the famous US Army check-point Charlie is a tourist location, the few individuals evident in the background of this photograph are dark and featureless. This photograph spans the two facing pages and the check-point structure is fractured by the book’s center gutter. The two pages create a disjointed and uneven photograph, with parts of the image obviously swallowed by the photobook’s binding. Even the large photograph of a portrait within the photograph is no longer whole with the face of the individual depicted now hidden from view. The photograph takes on a dark and mysterious narrative.
One of the more interesting photographs is the fractured sign, with a section standing on each facing page. The contents of the sign are largely missing, but appear to be written in German (Deutsch), but on one of the supporting posts, in almost English is “Worthless Designshit”, guessing that the part of the D is missing in Designshit. Worthless is an English word that indicates no value. Designshit is not an American English word, (perhaps a British English word?), but has similar construction as the German practice of progressively adding words together in a long stream of consciousness. These words, with the fractured and incomplete sign posted in the vacant foreground together create a compounded and symbolic image of deep disappointment and despair, if not a silent rage.
The overly gray photographs create for me a depressing narrative, such that the realities of a reunited city and nation have not lived up to the hope-filled expectations.
The binding of this DIY photobook does not permit a lay flat presentation. This photobook is devoid of captions, page numbers or essays. Very minimalist.
By Douglas Stockdale