Peonies, violet. Horsetail. The clay vase, glossed ceramic, light yellow. In the parents’ garden, there were apple trees. The scent of blossoms. Windfall fruit on the meadow, picked up. They loaded the apples into crates. Bottles clinking in the courtyard. Autumn trimming. Winter. One who never wanted to stop. The last. The photographer made a passing trip.
Peonies grew next to the kitchen garden in a little flowerbed along the wooden fence. Their blossoming heads hung heavy until late summer. At the end of June, she cut some. Went down the garden path to fetch horsetail. Peonies, horsetail, together in a jug. They stood for a few days on the kitchen table. Before a few leaves fell off, wilted, the jug was in use again.
On the corner of the road to the train station in the Asian flower shop, they have peonies. But no violet ones like back then in the East. She buys some while they are still green and closed and then puts them in a bucket with food colouring. After two days, they have turned violet. She replaces the horsetail with fern grass. She puts the photograph of her parents next to it. The apple orchard. The garden. End of June. When she wakes up in the afternoon and looks in the direction of the bed towards the vase and photograph, a bygone scent comes back to her mind.
It is hard to say who is looking at whom in this photograph. The couple is looking out of the picture frame into the room. We look into the room and onto the meadow that the couple is standing on. Somewhere, our gaze meets theirs. Somewhere there near their house, peonies could be standing, the path lost under horsetail. That the picture frame does not touch the vase and both things stand in a line, so near to each other – a personal panorama for memories. Birgit Szepanski
To make the absent present and put up photographs in one’s apartment to record the past. Pictures of our ancestors, say ethnologists, that systematically haunt our apartments (at the latest with this essay anyhow) and wonder how we deal or dealt with time back then in the ‘70s, how we bear or bore the finiteness and gradual disappearance of our grandparents from generation to generation, just to put photos on the chests of drawers like small altars of memories, arranged for the house spirits and patron saints of family successes and flowers to go with them, always freshly cut flowers as a form of sacrificial offering. And the flowers of transience make a still life of everything. And we really try to become inwardly calm, finally through with fear, and consider instead what it would mean to take this photograph. Is there a reflexive sense, a semantic trap? A question that the photographer ultimately would like to pose and project onto the wall with this picture? What it means, for instance, to make the absent present then present and absent again at the same time? Or did the photographer who created this photographic still life want to find out something more general about pictures? When do pictures become reflexive? When does art happen? And despite this question, to stay living there or to have to stay as an answer, or to want to, in one’s own finite apartment, dusting this picture forever and buying new flowers for it and just to live on, still … Rainer Totzke