© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg,Erevan - Goris , 2002

Instagram takeover: Ursula Schulz-Dornburg

To coincide with Ursula Schulz-Dornburg first major retrospective in France at the Maison european de la Photographie in December 2019, we invited her to share her works on our Instagram takeover. With a career spanning more than five decades, Schulz-Dornburg’s work explores the complex relationship between the built environment and the landscape.

Often drawn to sites of social, political and cultural conflict or areas which hold historical importance her work highlights how power, conflict, time and decay disrupt and transform the landscape leaving traces for decades to come.

 

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Representing a place of historical significance in central St Petersburg, ‘Vosstaniya Square’ or ‘Uprising Square’ was renamed in 1918 to commemorate the demonstrations and protests that took place in that location in the lead up to the October Revolution. Captured by chance on the moving escalator of the Ploshchad Vossaniya metro station which is located below the square, the figures physically pass through time and space in front of the camera. Grainy and slightly blurred, it is difficult to make out the direction of travel, are the figures moving upward or downward? A metaphor perhaps for the uncertainty experienced in the decade following the fall of the Soviet Union. For this week’s Instagram takeover we will guide you through key works in Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s current exhibition in Paris. Zone Grise: the land in between is on show at @mep.paris from 4 December until 16 February and is curated by Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks.

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This major exhibition explores Schulz-Dornburg’s practice through the lens of three overarching themes prominent in her work; boundaries and borders, architecture and the built environment, and the human impact on the environment and landscape. Her work in Iraq, Mesopotamia, Syria and along the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan explores the history and consequences of boundaries and borders both natural and man-made, highlighting how shifts in power and the rise and fall of empires affects and changes the landscape and the people that live in them. Architecture and movement is explored in the series ‘Transit Sites, Armenia’, ‘From Medina to Jordan Border’ and ‘Ploshchad Vosstaniya – Upraising Square’. Highlighting how the built environment and state infrastructure often outlives the power structures that built it. Finally, the human impact on the environment is explored in the work ‘Opytnoe Pole’ and ‘Chagan’ documenting former nuclear test sites in the Soviet Union and in her installation Wheat, Vavilov Institute, St. Petersburg. Both of which focus on the relationship between power, politics and human destruction of the environment and natural resources, a theme which today feel very timely.

 

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Shot from Khor Virab in Armenia, Schulz-Dornburg captures Mount Ararat from across the closed border. The geographical centre of the ancient Armenian kingdoms the mountain remains the national symbol despite its location in Eastern Turkey. A symbol and motif which recurs throughout history Mount Ararat crosses boundaries in time, space and religion. Both a home of the gods in pre Christian mythology and the alleged landing place of Noah’s Ark, the mountain and this tale is the only shared motif linking the book of Genesis, the New Testament, the Apocrypha, the Sumerian Atrahasis Epic, the Assyrian Gilgamesh Saga, the Koran, and the Jewish Talmud. For this week’s Instagram takeover we will guide you through key works in Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s current exhibition in Paris. Zone Grise: the land in between is on show at @mep.paris from 4 December until 16 February and is curated by Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks.

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For this week’s Instagram takeover we will guide you through key works in Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s current exhibition in Paris. Zone Grise: the land in between is on show at @mep.paris from 4 December until 16 February and is curated by Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks. In 2005 and 2010 Schulz-Dornburg travelled to Palmyra, the ancient city which once formed the Southern Frontier of Roman Mesopotamia, now part of modern day Syria and a world renowned archaeological site. Documenting the iconic Temple of Bel and the Valley of Death (one of her only colour images) she also focused on the less elaborate structures and modest tombs. Tightly cropped and isolated in individual frames. Schulz-Dornburg photographed the iconic outpost of the Roman Empire one year before the beginning of the war which still grips the country today. As a result in 2015 and 2017 much of the remains of Palmyra were intentionally destroyed meaning her images now serve a dual function as conceptual objects and photographic records.

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Time is central to Schulz-Dornburg’s practice, however, she is not concerned with documenting the aftermath or capturing the indexical moment, instead she is interested in the cycles of time and decay, and the time in between one great historical event and the next.

Schulz-Dornburg’s practice is connected to the systematic process-driven approach and formal rigor of minimal and conceptual thinking that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Each body of work is installed at the Maison European de la Photographie as an installation conceived by the artist for the space. The exhibition will include more than 250 works made between 1980 and 2012.

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg was born in 1938 in Berlin, she lives and works in Dusseldorf. Fre.

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More information about the exhibition