abc - art berlin contemporary 2009
»def - drafts establisihing future«
Sep 23 - 27, 2009

Galerie Olaf Stüber abc 2009

Michael Höpfner OUTPOST OF PROGRESS

light table 100 x 200 cm, 340 slides b/w, 2002 - 2008

Outpost Of Progress is a research project in development by Austrian artist Michael Hoepfner about urban structures on the outskirts of civilization.

Driven by the idea to enter untouched no-mans-land, the artist travelled into sparsely populated deserts and high plateaus in western China, Tibet and Central Asia for several months every year from 2004 to 2008, alone and on foot. Instead of empty landscapes, he ran into new outposts, settlements and camps set up by the government, administration and military – artificial
urban structures and conglomerations planned to expand in the future. Some exploded through recent economical growth into megacities, like Golmud, an isolated city on the Tibetan plateau with a population of 270,000 … but planned for 5 million people.

These urban settlements clash with the historical structures of native
villages, and run especially counter to the nomadic culture and traditions in these parts of the world. They are constructed to control but also to transport a notion of an urban culture into a vast, previously nearly unpeopled territory. The strategy is to simultaneously liberate, suppress and destroy.

The outposts of the 21st century – like these urban structures in western China, US Army outposts in Afghanistan, or Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory – are the contemporary versions of colonialism.

Michael Hoepfner takes a quiet and slow approach to observing this
phenomenon. In a series of black and white slides, along with texts
combined with drawings, he describes the moment of his arrival at an
outpost of the Chinese government on the high-altitude Chang Tang Plateau. The region is a vast area of highlands and giant lakes that stretches 1600 km into the northwestern portions of Tibet. He slowly walks around the compound, taking picture after picture, reflecting his own experiences and emotions influenced by weeks out on trails in uninhabited landscapes. He watches the outpost from a distance – the architecture turns into
a ghost town.