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A piece by Stefan Schröder for the Bärwalder See lake

What can be added to a landscape as magnificent as that of the Bärwalder See lake? Any artist developing a creative statement for this site must ask him/herself this question - including Stefan Schröder, whose answer was to have nothing to do with a direct reaction to the overwhelming scale of the landscape left behind by decades of opencast lignite mining in the middle of the Lusatian countryside. With this in mind, the artist focussed conceptually on the events that have been shaping the lives and surroundings of local residents at least since mining began in the 1970s. He called his piece "Handlungsspielraum" (scope for action), clearly referring to limitations in this scope: for residents who have had to accept far-reaching changes to the place where they live, and to whom the end of lignite mining has given back a certain freedom of action.

Rather than making a monumental statement, Schröder´s series of bar-shaped concrete objects is concealed along the banks of the lake, marking a sequence of sites to be discovered deliberately or by chance. The reception of this art work thus necessarily takes the form of a quasi archaeological expedition full of surprises. And as in the case of real archaeological sites, the meaning of a given object must be deciphered using the (written) clues it provides, revealing itself - if at all - only once all the parts of the puzzle have been found. In this case, those parts are eight verbs in the infinitive form that merge with the artefacts (that look not unlike prehistoric bone fossils). These words resulted from thinking about three decades of transformation. Stefan Schröder´s journal records the creative process and the concept of the work:
Framework for repressed collective subconscious / The objects in themselves are empty and meaningless / They are neither decorative nor intended as a monument / Only within the force field of their location do they become functioning modules which the viewer can mentally dock on to / Like brackets on scaffolding they hold together the collective legacy of the lignite mines / Also link contradictory processes / Human beings want to be warm, have a roof over their heads, food, a sense of community / To satisfy just one of these needs, whole landscapes are razed from the map: villages, houses, farms / Eradicated with a negative spiritual impact on the residents that is hard to quantify / "Handlungsspielraum" recalls the responsibility of the individual, but also of the community.

Stefan Schröder does not equate this spirit of responsibility with didactic finger-wagging. Instead, he enables visitors to reflect on it in a voluntary and tentative way, offering information on scattered supports. Viewed together, these fragments constitute something akin to a now largely unused but highly effective technique deployed by orators in the ancient world to memorize their speeches. They furnished the rooms of an imagined, virtual building with objects referring to specific ideas, which they could then "walk through" mentally as they spoke, summoning up the line of their argument as they went. Maybe this is also the function of the distributed memory model for active appropriation proposed by Stefan Schröder: the stones of the mental building have been broken down into modules, their serial character stimulating engagement with the lakeside location, with its past, present and future, via a markedly non-documentary and non-chronological approach.

Beyond deeper meanings and interpretations, the grey word-stones also have the potential to become points of reference on the beach: "Shall we meet tomorrow at the depart stone? Put your towel on fill in for me!" Although Stefan Schröder´s primary focus is not on the stones´ practical use value, this is a calculated factor, marking him out as an attentive observer of social mindsets. After all, the declared long-term emphasis here is on the future value of the site as a leisure destination. Counteracting the natural tendency of such visions to end in cheerful collective oblivion is one of the aims of "Handlungsspielraum".

B i o g r a p h y

1966 born in Dresden,

lives and works in Oslo and Dresden

1987 - 2000 Studied at: Dresden Academy of Fine Arts (D) and
Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten Breda (NL)
(Diploma & Master Class)

G r a n t s
2007, 06, 05, 04 Working grant, Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond, Norway
2005 Project grant, GfzK Leipzig
S o l o   E x h i b i t i o n s  (selection)
2006 Urban Collector, Galerie ROM, Oslo
2006 common alphabet, Galerie Tegnerforbundet Oslo
2005 Plagwitzer Sand, Bahnhof Leipzig-Plagwitz
2003 Das Feld, Skur 51, Bjórvika Oslo
1996 Das Feld, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden







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