4

– Autumn/Winter 2001

Lost Paradises

Ingo Hartmann

Thomas Struth, Clinton Road, London, 44 x 56 cm b/w, 1977. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Thomas Struth, Clinton Road, London, 44 x 56 cm b/w, 1977. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

For centuries, Düsseldorf was recognised as an international centre for painting and classical art and, in the twentieth century, the city has become a place where many artists have chosen to live and study. A centre of contemporary photography has grown up around the art academy and now boasts some of the world's best, most famous and controversial names among its alumni. So famous has this tradition become that it is not even necessary to name the individuals.

Nearby lies Ratingen, a small but developing town that has successfully attracted a clutch of high-tech and fashion companies. It has become a town for good-looking singles to meet among its large-scale residential architecture. The steel balconies, 2.5 metre-high ceilings, fitted kitchens and grand parking lots for neatly arranged bourgeois cars form the backdrop to designer-clad lives speculating in the stock market. Much of their time is taken up in simply making enough money to pay the rent and cover their travel and clothing expenses. Driving through an area like Ratingen prompts a whole series of questions about the purpose of contemporary life, starting with basic ones such as what kind of destructive, anti-community actions must prevail to stop people from killing themselves in conditions like these. In fact, critical scientific psychoanalysis has proved that, in the last decade, the typical central European citizen is indeed suicidal and has suffered a massive loss of any sense of motivation or purpose in life. Such a phenomenon has not gone unnoticed elsewhere, and a number of well-known photographers have been recognised for works that simply depict this 'modern' spirit of senselessness without judgement.

In contrast, the Düsseldorf artist Thomas Struth rejects such subjugation