WOLFGANG HUBER LANG | M 48° 15′ 24.13″ N, 14° 30′ 6.31″ E
The exhibition title could not be more objective: M 48° 15′ 24.13″ N, 14° 30′ 6.31″ E are the coordinates for Mauthausen. What interests Marko Zink is not documentation but irritation. He forces viewers to look carefully, opening up a multilayered debate. Using the medium of photography, he attempts to make a twofold disappearance visible: the extermination of people and the eradication of memory. It is an intensive engagement with a past that will not expire. The medium chosen by Marko Zink is analog photography. He manipulates the material before exposing it: He boils it or stamps it, treats it with chlorine or ink eraser. Using this delicate material, he photographs selected sites in and around the former concentration camp. Sometimes Zink’s works seem like found historical photos, taken quickly and in secret, bleached by the sun, half destroyed by the ravages of time. On a separate plane, the photos’ injuries seem to give an account of the atrocities that took place there less than eight decades ago. And sometimes they seem to make visible what seemingly cannot be seen anymore. With his work, however, Marko Zink reminds us that this is still possible: that which remembers the past, and that which warns against what is to come – we can see it all. If only we want to.
MARKO ZINK | M 48° 15′ 24.13″ N, 14° 30′ 6.31″ E
Mauthausen is synonymous with the Holocaust in Austria, stands for the most unspeakable, inhumane atrocities in the country’s history.
Mauthausen is an edifice, a memorial, a site, exposed on a hill, still hidden to the cursory glance, surrounded by fertile farmland and hunting stands.
Did you know that by now all the original shower heads of the former gas chamber are no longer there, that they have been secretly removed by visitors?
The Nazi regime swept away any democratic victory; nothing remained but hatred for people, for each individual that contradicted their racial ideology. Enemies were invented. The populace was manipulated and let itself be manipulated. The collective this created wiped out the self-determined individual. And this, in turn, relegated the ostensible “other” to an amorphous mass ready for extinction.
Did you know that each barracks (52 × 8 meters) “housed” an average of about 500 prisoners?
This system made us perpetrators. Both the (collective) attempt to explain—“we did not know”—and the claim that Austria itself was but a victim of Germany are still going strong today, but these reassuring stories do not actually provide reassurance as they have never been true.
Did you know that Mauthausen had a soccer field, located right next to the “quarantine camp,” and that not only SS officers but also nearby residents were invited to big soccer games while the concentration camp was in operation?
Did you know that shortly before the “liberation” thousands of dead bodies were interred on this soccer field as well as in the immediate surroundings at one of the area’s most prominent lookouts, the “Marbacher Linde,” without a single reference today to what happened there?
Did you know that these dead bodies were only exhumed as late as the 1960s and for years stored in coffins at a military base by the garage yard, directly in the former concentration camp, before the identified bodies could be flown to “their” country and interred there?
These questions lead to my multipart series of photographs. The works are complemented by titles that permit several approaches and perspectives: geodata, background information about the individual shots, titles borrowed from Theodor W. Adorno’s writings, and titles by Thomas Licek, the project director of the Month of Photography Vienna.
FELICITAS HEIMANN JELINEK | Through The Lens Of Marko Zink
The reality in Marko Zink’s photos is staged. It is the photographer’s reality—one into which he actively intervenes. As all the photos are analog, there is film stock. And the film stock was manipulated. Negatives were cooked, treated with acid or ink eraser, perforated, punched, glazed, or scratched. They were subsequently developed in various formats. The manipulated film stock led to manipulated photos. The photos show a reality that does not exist in this form. It is the work of the photographer.
The intentions behind this process are many: For one, the pictures suggest that they are historical photographs that are fading, in a state of disintegration as victims of time. They elicit a feeling of helplessness over the fact that the history of a concentration camp cannot even be grasped in its actual reality. They make painfully clear that the realities of life and suffering in Mauthausen become less and less traceable—also in light of the gradually diminishing number of firsthand witnesses—so that we cannot imagine being “exposed . . . to so much suffering,” as the former prisoner Pablo Escribano put it. Beyond the fear of losing the witnesses’ reality, the emotional impact emanating from the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp is heightened by the traces of chemical manipulation. This is possible in artistic photographs that deal with the subject of the Shoah. They may withdraw from discussions about the adequate examination of historical source materials as they transform their subject. Additionally, the photos challenge the viewers as they question their competence to see and interpret. When the viewers engage with the works, they are forced to deal with the place.
The approach of Marko Zink’s photos—and I deliberately do not call them a “photo series,” as they lack any serial character—is utterly novel. It is an approach that defies all ritualized forms of remembrance of the Nazi regime and the Shoah. The more ritualized the commemoration—be it in educational mass events or during politically decreed festivities—the more questionable the gain. Official commemoration rituals are formulaic and lifeless realities that Marko Zink challenges with his reality.
CHRISTIAN DÜRR | It’s Just A Picture Of A Picture Tossed And Torn Away
Historical exhibitions, much like Marko Zink’s photographs, are about making the absent past cognitively traceable and emotionally perceptible by way of different objects in the present. Earlier exhibitions that dealt with the Nazi mass atrocities often relied on showing their effects as drastically and explicitly as possible. Photographs and other exhibits were dramatized in this context as “objects of abundance” and as images of historical reality that “showed everything” there was to show as vividly as possible. Yet their intended “deterrent” effect often had an unwanted side effect: Instead of allowing a familiarization with the past, their ostensible directness created a distance. To make what is depicted tolerable, it was relegated to a space that was philosophically and emotionally separate from one’s own day-to-day reality.
Therefore, the most haunting items on display in the permanent exhibition at the Mauthausen memorial site are not the ones that show something ostensibly immediate, but those that evoke stories that, though they may be linked to their visible materiality, point to other reference systems nonetheless. These are stories that reach into the present. Thus, the uniform jacket of a female survivor is a mass-produced and therefore essentially easily replaceable object. The fact that until a few years ago this jacket hung in some closet somewhere, mingling with all the other everyday clothes of its owner and was therefore on par with them, points to a much deeper meaning than its superficial material appearance lets on. The prison jacket as a condensation of traces thus transforms from a historicized object into a historical object.
The tension of closeness and distance, trace and aura, is not the only parallel between Zink’s works and the work of memorial sites. One of his black-and-white photographs shows a landscape with fields and trees. By manipulating the film stock, a black cloud appears above them, as if the landscape’s aura was made visible. A second photo shows the same frame slightly askew, so that a wooden cross is discernible in the lower left corner. The cross marks the spot where, during the time the camp was in operation, the ashes of bodies burned in the crematory were collected. Taken together, the two photos resemble a picture puzzle: “Spot the disruption in the landscape.” The Mauthausen memorial as a whole is one such disruption in the Austrian landscape, one that puts a very different spin on the concept of “homeland.”
GUDRUN BLOHBERGER | We Slowly Inch Our Way Forward …
Outrage is what Marko Zink articulated when, a few months before the exhibition opening at the Mauthausen Memorial, he explored the “Marbacher Linde”: This prominently visible tree not far from the former concentration camp was where a mass grave was created at the time, which was subsequently exhumed in the years after the war. The mortal remains of thousands of people were reinterred at the Memorial grounds. To this day the “Marbacher Linde” remains a popular lookout—but there is not a single mention of the place’s history.
A field lightly covered in snow, an earthy plane of about 2 by 1 meters, a shovel stuck in the ground, a vast landscape—far in the distant background, one can make out the preserved buildings of the former concentration camp. This photo was sparked by the artist’s outrage; it is irritating and may provoke some viewers’ indignation. And it is powerful enough to initiate contemplation about how little time has passed since the long-distant past.
LEILA TOPIC | Text to the presentation of the series M 48° 15′ 24.13″ N, 14° 30′ 6.31″ E in MSU in Zagreb
The aporia of concentration camps is ultimately the aporia of historical cognition: the mismatch between facts and truth, the gap between establishing truth and understanding it. Zink takes advantage of this gap: Unprepared viewers will be amazed by the aesthetic appeal of some of the photographs. When they get closer, they will be shocked to learn, thanks to Zink’s written explanations, about what they are observing. An artist can represent a scene. What’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to show is the experience of what passes beyond all comprehension, both then and now. However, Zink, precisely because of the aggressive techniques with which he treats the film, manages to bring closer the experiences of unremembered destinies. He reinscribes the human body in the scenes, bringing us closer to the sense of meaningless disappearance.
ANGELA MÜLLLENBACH-MICHEL | To the presentations of the series M 48° 15′ 24.13″ N, 14° 30′ 6.31″ E in Osnabrück
Anne Frank and Peter van Pels, referred to as Peter van Daan in the diary, are connected by their common fate in their hiding place in Amsterdam during the Nazi regime. They represent the basis for an extraordinary project in Osnabrück. The Osnabrück Society for Christian–Jewish Cooperation, sponsor of the Stolperstein (stumbling tile on the walkway) for Peter van Pels, and the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese and Bishopric of Osnabrück, sponsors of the Stolpersteine for his parents, perpetually commemorate the fates of these Osnabrück Jews. After visiting the Mauthausen Memorial, my husband and I conceived the idea of delving deeper into Peter’s death place, Mauthausen.
Marko Zink’s photographs may serve as important companions in this process. They express what engages us in this context today. The appalling historical images are slowly fading from memory with growing temporal distance, but they are still present. Foregrounded now is the question of what can still be seen of the events of the past—the question of how people have been dealing with this part of history since it happened and which aspects of this horrible history must be preserved for the future. What can and what must be done to preserve the memory and evolve it so that a human future can remain our focus? Marko Zink’s photographs mirror the present and, through the artist’s interventions, record the past. There are several layers of association that those who know can explore when they view the works. They will see the monstrous things of the past, perceive the present, and confront questions about the future.
Here is where our Osnabrück project ties in, and it wants, above all, to pose questions of the future, also with its satellite program. On the one hand, the project is about the future of the culture of memory and remembrance with their main task of making sure the past is not repeated. At the same time, it is about remembering people, their fates, and their pain—about keeping their memory alive.
The story of Anne Frank and Peter van Pels, their relationship in their Amsterdam hiding place at the annex of Prinsengracht 263, their deportation, and their murders are what joins the directors of the memorials of their respective death places, Mauthausen and Bergen Belsen, in conversation in Osnabrück. These and other encounters—including with the art of Osnabrück-based painter Felix Nussbaum and an exchange across borders about how to deal with history and guilt—shall be a bond that continues to unite a peaceful Europe in the future.
GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY
Future Fond Of The Republic Of Austria | Cultural Departement Of Vorarlberg, Austria | Cultural Departement Of Vienna, Austria | Cultural Departement Of Upper Austria | Federal Chancellery Of Austria | Otto Mauer Funds, Austria | National Fund, Austria | Bildrecht, Austria | Mauthausen Memorial, Austria | Michaela Stock Gallery, Austria | Society for Christian Jewish Cooperation Osnabrück, Germany | Federal Ministry for Republic Austria European and international Affairs, Austria | St. Katharinen, Germany | Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Hannover, Germany | Bistum Osnabrück, Germany | Museumsquartier Osnabrück, Germany | Evangelische Stiftungen Osnabrück, Germany| Hans-Lilje-Stiftung, Germany | ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, Germany | Austrian Cultural Forum Berlin, Austria | Austrian Cultural Forum Zagreb, Croatia | MSU – museum of contemporary art, Croatia
EXHIBITION | Michaela Stock Gallery, Austria | 2019
EXHIBITION PHOTOGRAPHY | Matthias Bildstein
EXHIBITION | Mauthausen Memorial, Austria | 2019 – 2020
EXHIBITION VIDEO | Mauthausen Memorial
EXHIBITION | Bildraum 07 Gallery, Austria | 2021
EXHIBITION VIDEO | goes : art | Channel TV | Jesus Rivero
EXHIBITION | MSU – Museum of contemporay art, Croatia | 2021
EXHIBITION PHOTOS | Marko Zink
EXHIBITION | Vertikales Museum | Felix Nussbaum Haus im Museumsquartier, Germany | 2022
EXHIBITION PHOTOS | Hermann Petermann | Marko Zink
EXHIBITION | Dom St. Petrus, Germany | St. Nikolaus Kapelle, Germany | 2022
EXHIBITION PHOTOS | Hermann Petermann | Marko Zink | Michaela Stock
EXHIBITION | St. Katharinen, Germany | 2022
EXHIBITION PHOTOS | Marko Zink