Axel Braun - Die Technik muss grausam sein / Technology must be cruel

Large scale technologies, like reservoirs and hydro power plants, are perfect examples how humans alter landscapes to satisfy their growing needs. This artistic research project aims to investigate the relation of power and responsibility in the context of recent discussions of energy supply.

The title of this research project on man-altered landscapes is a quotation that I found in a newspaper article from 1928. The author commented on a planned reservoir and hydro power plant in the Black Forest in the south of Germany. After discussing several points for and against the building of this infrastructure he got to this drastic statement. By the use of a personification for technology he increased the controversial and provocative character that this sentence has nowadays.

As this project was funded by the cultural foundation of a big German power company I started my investigation in the company’s historic archives. Later on I used the same archive folders that were used there to gather and contextualise my own images with found footage from the archive but also from environmentalists, scientific publications, philosophical essays, literature and landscape painting.

My investigation concentrated on the understanding of technology and nature and the way the connected discourses changed throughout the last century. From the late nineteenth century to the 1960ies a strong enthusiasm for technological progress dominated the field. After numerous catastrophes had destabilised this anthropocentric view on the world, ecological tendencies became more and more powerful. On the one hand I wanted to analyse the communication strategies employed by big companies to maintain their power in society. On the other hand I tried to figure out how much the romantic idea of nature still influences our perception of landscape.

In my research folders and the exhibition catalog my findings and images were juxtaposed to illustrate relations like plan and reality, the need for infrastructures and the preservation of nature or – in more general terms – power and responsibility. The most drastic juxtaposition surely is the model for the reservoir project Diga di Vajont in northern Italy from 1963 and the dam as it is left in the landscape nowadays. Despite all preceding warnings from geologists and protests by the local inhabitants the valley was filled with water. Shortly after the lake was filled the water caused a massive land slide and a tidal wave that killed about 2000 people.

Excerpts of the research were presented in the entrance hall of the RWE headquarters in Essen. For me it was important to remind the company of its particular power and responsibility. The installation became a platform for controversial discussions about economic power and sustainable development.

This research project led to controversial reactions
please click here to read some of the comments and reviews.


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