In the past years many schools in Germany have been closed. Some have been converted to other uses, others stand abandoned or have been pulled down. These schools have become a clearly visible symbol of demographic change. Fewer and fewer children are born. Society is ageing. The structure of families is changing. Whole regions are becoming thinly populated. Demographic change will influence our society in a major way. The changing patterns of age within society will alter interdependencies.
The photographic work “Abschlussbild” (final picture) by Thilo Seibt works with this theme. A school in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region was chosen as the subject for this work, because the processes of demographic change described above are taking place at an accelerated speed in this part of Germany. Because of the decline of both agriculture and industry in the region, many people of a working age have left and settled in the western federal states of Germany, leading to a massive shift in the structure of the population. In Wustrow, a seaside town on the Fischland-Darß-Zingst peninsula, the only school for the Fischland area has been closed. In the villages of Ahrenshoop and Wustrow, which form the catchment area of the school, there were only fifty children between 5 and 10 years old left. The Wustrow primary school was one of 14 schools in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which were finally closed in 2007. In the past 15 years, the number of schoolchildren in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has halved.
The closure and demolition of a school are symbolic of demographic change. This phenomenon is often discussed in the German media, Thilo Seibt attempts to find images for it. In his restrained pictures, he shows the last scenes in the life of the school. Details from childhood life are contrasted with pictures of the demolition. In “Abschlussbild”, Thilo Seibt begins with pictures of the last few days during which the school is still working. Normality is visible. The teachers and pupils have however become visitors to the building. Gradually they disappear from sight. Their thoughts are already with the future. They only appear in the pictures here and there and no longer show their faces. Nostalgia or hope for the future is not made public. Images of childhood remain. In capturing the removal, Thilo Seibt uses only details. The stuffed crane will be packed and will reemerge at another school. There is hope for new pictures of childhood life. The migratory bird is a symbol of further stops but also of further closures of schools. The eviction from the school and its final demolition is related using aesthetic images. This aestheticism is intended to clash with the subject matter.
Galerie xpon-art (Hamburg)
02.02. – 26.02.2012 – “abRiss”
Dorint Strandhotel (Wustrow)
20.08. – 29.08.2010
Fotogalerie Walraff (Köln)
26.06. – 30.07.2010
10.03. – 30.04.2009
Fotocentrum am Wassertor (Berlin)
04.04.2008 – “Im eigenen Auftrag”
time and place:
may 2007 and februrary 2008
Fischländer Grundschule (Landkreis Nordvorpommern)
Karola Ohl (former headmistress)
Sybille Hoffmann (Fotocentrum am Wassertor)
al participants in Ostseebad Wustrow
exhibition dates :
19 C-Print 60×90 on Alu-Dipond
required length of wall: 30-40 metres