Lukas Felzmann: Landfall

21 February to 16 May 2004


The work of the Swiss photographer Lukas Felzmann has been little known in Switzerland since his emigration to the USA in 1981. Felzmann, who was born in 1959 and teaches photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Stanford University, is now back with a concentrated and intensive exhibition and publication: "Landfall" is the result of a long and arduous photographic journey of reconnaissance along the interface between nature and civilisation, a poetic play on the relativity of space and time.

The title "Landfall” originates from the language of seafarers and stands for the magic moment when travellers by sea or air detect the first strip of land on the horizon. Thus the exhibition is partly about a tentative approach to a strange territory, to exciting and confusing discoveries between the Great Basin Deserts, Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Ocean on the west coast of the USA, where Felzmann reconnoitred the landscape and examined the things he found, registered erosions and observed flocks of birds; and it is also about the concentration of his experiences into a self-contained narration that opens our eyes to the mysterious signs and messages that surround us: a journey of discovery that constantly challenges us to pause and reflect. On this level, "Landfall" represents an inner journey that leads, as in a dream, into the observer's deeper, subconscious zones rather than to a real place. By focusing on the fragile equilibrium between man and nature, Lukas Felzmann is involved in a search for the centre of his own life. And he finds, or creates, images that are filled with evocative power and meaning for other observers too.

A simple, scratched piece of wood with a black hole in its surface assumes a new significance: traces of use merge with the traces of weather, the splintered edge of the gaping hole gives on to a glimpse of a softer, more vulnerable layer. The result of a targeted intervention or an accident? The beginning or the end of a story? Uncertainty and mystery are all-pervasive themes in Felzmann's photographs. Peeling wallpaper, the remains of a target, an abandoned mattress with a flowery pattern: signs of change whose meaning and purpose remain in darkness. Roads and railway tracks are among the recurring motifs, paths into an unknown distance that constantly remind us, strangely, that there is no progress. Here, a roadway ends in water, over there the railway tracks are obscured by the wilderness. And the middle lane of a decrepit highway, now consisting only of fragments, turns out to be a futile construct that leads no further than the disintegrating map. All aids to orientation are illusory.

Peter Pfrunder
Fotostiftung Schweiz


Lukas Felzmann: Landfall. Lars Müller Verlag and Fotostiftung Schweiz 2004. With texts by Lukas Felzmann and Peter Pfrunder. 144 pages, 70 b/w photographs.