Complex : Homeland
Battle of the Nations near Leipzig, Markkleeberg 2021
“We Saxons are bright, the whole world knows that! And if we are not bright, then we have pretended”, says an old Saxon proverb. Since his childhood, photographer Frieder Bickhardt has wondered about the idea that “the Saxons” were something special. Because it’s not just in rhymed sayings that this is the case; politicians also use this local pride in their messages, as Kurt Biedenkopf did in 2000 with his much-criticized claim that the Saxons are immune to right-wing extremism. In the rest of Germany, on the other hand, there are often negative perceptions of what “the Saxons” are like.
Where does this idea come from, which is still widespread today, that the Saxons are different or even better? Why is it necessary? What does it mean for coexistence if we repeatedly distinguish ourselves from “the others”? Who is involved in the construction of Saxon identities?
With these questions and a large-format camera in his luggage, Frieder Bickhardt has set out again and again. Photography becomes a tool for his own examination, and at the same time it allows him to share his observations and invite conversation. After thorough research, with a steady gaze from a tripod, he has photographically captured very different places, scenes and events in Saxony on large analog prints. They are places where something happened and is still happening. Something that for many is and can become part of “Saxon” identity.
In many cases, it is about remembering history, as in the case of the mourning wreaths for the prisoners of war of the Wehrmacht in Zeithain or the reconstructed Frauenkirche in Dresden. In addition to such rather “silent” gestures and places, rituals such as an Easter procession of the Sorbs or even a multi-day reenactment of the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig can be seen. Frieder Bickhardt’s compilation of these identity-forming actions inevitably raises the question of who is acting here and with what unconscious or conscious intent. That no form of remembrance is neutral is perhaps particularly clear from the image of the flowers and funeral offerings for the victim of a stabbing in Chemnitz in September 2018. Within a few days, there was a massive xenophobic mobilization with hate mobs, Germany-wide political discussions, and the large concert as counter event depicted in another photo. The hashtag #wirsindmehr used for this already points to the fact that identity is also being struggled for here. Another picture shows an empty meadow on Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau – the place where Beate Zschäpe blew up her apartment building. The photo raises the question of how a city can live with and integrate into its local identity the fact that for years a terrorist group was able to hide here. This question has also become its own point of reference for the anti-fascist movement from Saxony.
In addition to these politically charged events, Frieder Bickhardt also shows nature. In one picture, for example, we see a forest in Saxon Switzerland – an identity-forming destination for many Saxons. Only at second glance does it become apparent that a forest fire has raged here, which fortunately could be extinguished before the very big catastrophe. In the end, the exhibition also suggests that the many upheavals should not only be perceived as a threat to “Saxon identity”. A photograph from Hoyerswerda shows flamingos in the zoo just behind the castle. They seem to feel at home here – even though hardly anyone would say that they belong to Saxony. They are simply here.
The exhibition is now on public display for the first time – from March 17 to April 17 during regular opening hours at the Hoyerswerda Castle and City Museum. Everyone interested is cordially invited to the vernissage on March 16 at 7 pm.
The exhibition is a production of unofficial.pictures. We have already cooperated with the Fotostammtisch of the Kulturfabrik and the Castle and City Museum in the joint project “New Views for Hoyerswerda”. The project is funded by the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony and was a prize winner in the simul+ participation fund in the ReWIR module in 2022.
16/03/2023 – 17/04/2023
Vernissage on 16/03/2023 at 7 pm
Schloss & Stadtmuseum Hoyerswerda
An der Frauenkirche, Dresden, 2022
If you would like to support our work, you can also purchase the analog C-prints from the project produced in edition 2 (plus 1 artist’s proof) in the format 80×100 cm on Alu-Dibond.
Contact us if you are interested.