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Winterreise 2021-2023

Winterreise 2021-2023

WINTERREISE (2021-2023)

"Fremd bin ich eingezogen; Fremd zieh ich wieder aus."

"A stranger I arrived; a stranger I depart."

Wilhelm Müller: Gute Nacht

Franz Schubert: Winterreise D911, #1 Gute Nacht

I was inspired by the lieder cycle from Franz Schubert of the eponymous name. Schubert wrote these songs in February 1827 and October 1827 based on a collection of poems from Wilhelm Müller Poems from the posthumous papers of a traveling horn-player. 

The cycle has two parts of twelve poems each. It tells the story of the heartbreak of a man who steals away from town in the middle of the winter. The mood of the cycle is a perfect sample of the Romantic Imaginary: The Night, Solitude, Nature, the Journey, the Road. All of these elements refer to the aesthetics of the Romantic Landscape depicted by Caspar David Friedrich, J.W.M. Turner or the Hudson River School. They looked at Nature in a totally new way. it was the impression of Nature in the artist which was represented. Is Nature embracing the viewer or is Nature threatening him instead? 

Nature is the interlocutor of the Wanderer. We are the Wanderer, landscape only exists in the eyes of the traveler. It's the superior power of the Sublime which would take us to the acceptance of ourselves, our limitations amidst its force. Desolation, inner grief and solitude must be accepted to attain the reunion with your inner self. You must travel outside to travel inside and find oneself at the end of the journey. Paraphrasing Goethe: "Über allen Gipfeln, ist Ruh."

The romantic persona of the Wanderer is brought to our time in the form of a quintessential American tradition such as the Road Trip. The vastness of the American landscape, the Big Skies of the West, the empty spaces can present as both spectacularly beautiful on the one hand, and also severe and punishing, on the other. I work to present these scenes the way I feel them: as beholden to the great expanse of skyline. Pointing the marks left by civilization on the landscape in the form of dwellings, both homes and barns, the electric and telephone lines that draw long lines in the landscape, and empty, endless country roads. Sometimes it’s not clear where these roads are even going as they seem to exist on their own without an obvious destination.

This journey without a clear destination arriving maybe to what it could be understood as a beginning, without a clear narrative, through different moods the traveler is experimenting throughout until the acceptance of the reality of life is what I try to convey through my vision of this bleak spaces.

In his magnificent study of Schubert's Winterreise, the tenor Ian Bostridge, one of the all-time best interpreters of the cycle, expresses this concept in a very clear way: "Like all the great artists, he (Schubert) makes the most of the accidental, with a serendipitous intensification of the Byronic method of displacement, a turn of the screw. Winterreise is at one and the same time homely and insistently mysterious, one of the secrets of its enormous power." Quoted by Bostridge is also David Shields's book Reality Hunger: "The absence of plot gives the reader room to think about other things".

My work is done having this fluidity in mind. A journey to the center of subjectivity, to the complexity of the human being. A journey that expresses in the most honest way my position in face of life and the lack of it, perhaps in the face of death that will inexorably come to us.