The Shepherd Dogs Part II.
Grafrath: A Schäferhund Story
Vintage ceramic, pencil on paper, dog treats (lamb), inkjet print, video | 2018
「Grafrath: A Schäferhund Story」 is a continuation of the 「Schäferhund」 exhibition held during my residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien last year. After the last exhibition, I visited Grafrath (the breeding ground of the first German shepherd dog) several times. During the promenades, I found geological traces of a kettle hole left from the Quaternary Ice Age. Coincidentally, the geological traces were named "Toteisloch Wolfsgrube" (Wolf pit of dead ice hole) as they were once used as natural traps for wolves. The Quaternary Ice Age coincided with the time when some scientists speculated that domestic dogs were domesticated from wolves, and this time-space intersection was taken as the main context of the video work with the same title of the present exhibition. The video work opens with the treed path linking the Grafrath station and the main road of the town, echoing the characteristic and often-present forest in Grimms’ Fairy Tales from Germany as story backgrounds or stages for narrative shifts.
The landscape of "Toteisloch Wolfsgrube" is represented through aerial shots of reconstructed 3D models, thus blurring its sense of time and space. During my first visit to Grafrath, I was lucky to encounter an elderly by the Amper River. He introduced me to the ex-president of the local Society for the German Shepherd Dog of the past. However, the ex-president finally told me that in fact, it had been a while that no one in Grafrath raised shepherd dogs. Later, he took me to the previous training grounds and three places which were allegedly where Max von Stephanitz used to live. The two footage clips in the video were recorded by an American visitor to a breeding ground in West Germany in 1982, providing a glimpse of the flourishing development of breeding and training dogs in Germany through an outsider’s perspective.
Following the last exhibition, the display this time is accompanied by ceramic/porcelain objects with notices of the year. The porcelain exhibits this time present bending shepherd dogs produced in the Thüringen region of East Germany in the 1958~1990. With their mouths closed and their ears tilted forward, these East German porcelain shepherd dogs are in gestures of rest but with a sense of alert. Their gestures and temperaments greatly differ from those of the shepherd dog-shaped money boxes I used to find in Taiwan, with the latter sitting, relaxing and sticking out their tongues. Does this also imply the expectation on the socialized image of the shepherd dog in different cultural contexts? As for the new drawing series, it is morphed on the base of the forms of aforementioned porcelain, according to gestures regarding various classic dog training facilities, such as wall jump, weave poles, A-frame, hoop, etc. Such as wall jump, weave poles, A-frame, hoop, etc.
The last exhibition showed original pieces of the Taiwanese shepherd dog ceramics, whereas they are represented in portraits this time, focusing on their various glazes, eyeballs, diverse accessories and the unique styles under the overarching theme of shepherd dog. The only photo of a real shepherd dog in the venue shows Hitler's dog, Blondi. Blondi was mostly showed accompanying Hitler in political propaganda materials. As a supporting role, it highlights the ordinary side of Hitler and his kindness toward people. And this photo is the only photo I found showing Blondi alone, where it happens to bend too.
「Grafrath: A Schäferhund Story」延續去年於貝塔寧駐村期間所發表的「Schäferhund」一展。在上回展覽結束後，我數次走訪了第一隻德國狼犬的培育地Grafrath，在當地漫遊的過程中發現一處於第四紀冰河期形成的冰壺地質遺跡，巧合的是這處地質遺跡因為傳說中曾被當作天然的捕狼陷阱而被取名為“狼坑冰壺”。由於第四季冰河期正好也是部分科學家們推測家犬從狼被人類給馴化的時期，這個時空地域上的交集成為了展覽同名錄像作品的主要背景。錄像作品以連結Grafrath車站與鎮上主幹道的林路為開場，呼應德國格林童話中經常出現森林作為故事背景或敘事轉折舞台的特色。
“狼坑冰壺”的地景以空拍重建的3D模型模糊了時空感。在第一次走訪Grafrath的過程中，我很幸運的在Amper河邊遇上一位老先生，他轉介紹我認識了當地的前狼犬協會會長。然而會長最後告訴我，其實在Grafrath已經有好一陣子沒有人飼養狼犬了。後來，他帶我去看了以前的訓狗場和三個傳說中可能是Max von Stephanitz以前居住的地點。影片中的兩段文獻影像，為1982年一位美國人前往西德地區參訪育種場的紀錄，透過一位外來者的角度一瞥德國蓬勃的育犬和訓犬發展。
Grafrath：A Schäferhund Story | LAGE EGAL [IN THE RACK ROOM], Berlin, DE | 2018
Grafrath：A Schäferhund Story 格拉芙拉特：牧犬傳
Single channel HD | 8 mins | 2018