Arne Schmitt’s (born 1984) new photobook is devoted to a single material—basalt, a volcanic rock that has been mined for thousands of years in the German Osteifel quarries of Mayen and Mendig. Its hardness coupled with its porous structure made it an ideal raw material for millstones, and it thus became a commodity that was traded far and wide. In the Osteifel region local houses were built from basalt. In the boom years that began midway through the 19th century, an entire construction culture developed around the material, with the result that on many streets the houses still have a matt dark-grey appearance. Schmitt’s black-and-white photographs juxtapose the different states, treatment processes and applications of the rock. These features bring into focus its transformation into a cultural product.
Published by Spector Books. Text by Thorsten Krämer.
In March 2009 Cologne’s historical Stadtarchiv collapsed: a catastrophe that can be seen as a consequence of a neoliberal programme of urban redevelopment. Yet for all that, critiques of neo-liberalism often run into difficulty because they lack a clearly defined object to focus on. Faced with structural complexities, their analysis and criticism is often directed towards isolated instances. Arne Schmitt confronts this tendency in his book with a resolutely straightforward approach, or — to use a key concept from the accompanying text by writer Thorsten Krämer — with uncomplexity. On a clearly mapped-out walk through Cologne, Schmitt photographs architecture from different periods, all in black and white. The images and the form of the book thus refer back to the theme-oriented photo-books of the 1950s and 1960s, in which political and social critiques of the day were combined with photographic depictions of the city — a level of achievement that is well worth recapturing.