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Archival Pigment Print | Edition: 137,5 cm x 110 cm (Edition: 6 +2AP)

 

Mountain Exploits   

Mass tourism in the Alps would be unthinkable without substantial intervention into the landscape. Slopes get backfilled, leveled; if necessary boulders are blasted away. We are dealing with an artificially constructed landscape highly designed by massive interventions instead of a natural landscape. Roads, artificial mounds and excavations present themselves as deep wounds in the mountainsides.

Large areas of the Alps have become industrial zones transformed into hundreds and hundreds kilometers of mostly man-made slopes, countless “lifts” and dreary hotel conglomerations. Politicians and tourism managers are still afraid to call a spade a spade. Contrary to the facts, the opposite can be read in brochures that promote alpine tourism: “A vision. We are a living part of the earth. We know that we cannot hurt the earth without harming ourselves. Understanding this, we understand life.”

Much could be gained if these landscapes were called what in fact they are – industrial zones. Not only brutal landscape interventions are exposed in this series. With ironic absurdity the parts of a new cable car appear like giant limbs of insects lying in the Alpine terrain; during a concert of the „Kastelruther Spatzen” countless buses form a corral on a meadow. The event itself is not shown; however, the event is pointed out by the mass gathering at another place.

Hechenblaikner photographs what is going on at the sidelines of the event; this is happening before or after the event. His photographs don’t witness the action itself but the traces which remain. While Margherita Spiluttini’s works are always rooted in the horizontal and vertical dimension thereby producing a downright monumental impression, Hechenblaikner’s photographic eye is constantly roaming in both spheres, namely space and time. He is not documenting the concert of the “Zillertaler Schürzenjäger” in Finkenberg, but the site as it appears afterwards. Most of what can be seen is garbage. Refrigerators and beer barrels form grotesque foreign bodies in an almost deserted landscape. The encroachments into the alpine landscape are only partially visible during winter.

You have to walk through ski resorts during the summer, visit winter vacation sites in August. During summer we see deserted, desolate landscapes; the very places that are so crowded during the winter now appear very bleak. In view of such forsaken places, you might be overcome by the feeling that people have emigrated, that the place has been left to its own devices, abandoned to decay. The photographic view exposes the ugly skeleton of winter sports idylls, actual structures are precipitated eloquently to the foreground.

Hechenblaikner does his detective work most meticulously. Securing evidence requires comprehensive knowledge and corresponding curiosity. Note the presentation of an artificial snow machine, still capable of producing snow even at plus one degree! Each of these photographs can stand on its own. But none would exist at all without Hechenblaikner’s intensive interest in the development of alpine mass tourism. These are obsessive photos that are much more than formally perfect.

Dr. Bernhard Kathan