visual artist



I was invited along with three other international artists to participate in the second edition of Anthropozänta which included an artist residency and an exhibition. The aim was to develop new works inspired by the local narratives of history, politics, and industrial heritage as well as ecology and natural space.

During my stay in the region, I visited multiple sites of industry dotted around the vast landscape of rolling hills and green mountains. These industries were all defined by this landscape either by the crops grown on it (beer and textile) or by the precious minerals contained within it such the old porcelain factory and the numerous stone quarries I visited, now abandoned, and being reclaimed by nature. There was a thriving textile industry in this region producing and supplying high quality garments both locally and globally, which still exists today, be it on a smaller scale.

I also visited the neighbouring town of Modulareuth, which was unfortunately split in half by the iron curtain. I was amazed at the sheer scale, the layers of fortification and the effort put into to making this divide impenetrable. It consists of a concrete wall, a metal fence and a large buffer zone monitored by various lookout posts and checkpoints. This got me thinking about boundaries, barriers, borders, migration, and restriction of movement, and how that relates to the current geopolitical climate. It brought up questions about class, division, and the lack of equity within society today, what causes such issues and why? Many barriers still exist today, some not as physical, imposing, or apparent as a fortified castle or the iron curtain, but still as restrictive for certain people within society.

For the exhibition I decided to make my a temporary disruptive intervention in the space, which was previously a Thomas Cook travel agency in the centre of the town. The curtain opens and closes at fifteen-minute intervals and temporally obstructs the view, creating a semi-transparent boundary in the space, while restricting the movement of the viewers.

The white cotton curtain meanders through the room, dividing the space in two. It meets up with an image on the wall of a giant stone boulder situated in a forest on the top of a mountain, the stone is scarred with a dotted line, remnants of an unsuccessful stone splitting technique, normally used to prise away large slabs of stone. The location of this rock suggests that it was destined to be used for the fortification of a nearby castle.

A projector sits on top of a beer crate from a local brewery and beams a silent grainy super 8 film onto the wall. The film is shot in the town of Modulareth with imagery of the heavily fortified border wall and fence which previous divided East and West Germany and split the town in two. There are also images of the Greenway that runs nearly the whole length of the country which used to be part of the iron curtain. After an interval of fifteen minutes the curtain returns to its starting position.

The cotton material of the curtain was sourced from a local textile factory. A leftover biproduct produced during the Covid pandemic to make cotton masks which were no longer required due to the government’s insistence on specific medical grade masks only. The material was sown together by three women from a local sewing group to create the curtain. The motor and the automated track and rail system were manufactured in China.

Its material recycled, re-used in a different format in a different time and in a different space. Barriers, boundaries, and borders change over time, but they still function in the same way, dividing a space and dividing people. The curtain is semi-transparent, it flows, and although automated, it can be overridden and opened and closed by the viewer with a gentle tug, should they choose to use their privilege to do so.

There’s a contrast between the material in the photograph, the film, and the material of the curtain in the space. The film and the photograph serve as memories of man-made lines / scars dotted across the landscape, fragments of the past. These are juxtaposed with the curtain in the space, and together they act as a timeline of man-made interventions on the landscape.

Photograph 1 - Dirk John