Mountain Roads - Aerial Photography. Available 6th of September. The mountain was there yesterday. And it’ll be there tomorrow. It has no interest in us. Its sense of time is geological, we’re little more than a moth that has landed on its broad flanks a moment ago: the prehistoric hunters, the Roman legions, the pilgrims and medieval traders, the road builders with their dynamite, the royal carriages, the puffing steam trains, the freezing soldiers with their rifles, the first motorists wrapped in clouds of dust and the echo of their engines, the cyclists and their iron thighs and tight trousers, the honking postal coaches, motor-homes and buses, the roaring racing machines – the mountain couldn’t care less. Mule tracks, military thoroughfares, trade routes, panoramic roads – merely fleeting shadows on its elephant skin. When a wave of rock piles up and breaks in the slowest of all slow motion for a billion years – what then is a decade, a century, a millennium?
The mountain stands still in the raging sea of time. The rise and fall of civilizations, the march of progress and technology in the modern world – for human ambition, the mountains have always represented both an adversary and an incentive. By dividing valleys and villages, countries and cultures, mountains have challenged us. Yet we always found a way. Long ago, it took weeks to conquer the icy summits, wrapped in furs trudging through ice and snow. We feared bears and wolves, we begrudgingly paid the toll charge, searching for the flickering lamps and life-saving hospice at the top of the pass. Now we sit in leather seats as we hurtle through neon-lit tunnels of granite, traversing entire mountain ranges in a matter of minutes, or we fly over snow-covered peaks in climate-controlled aircraft. The mountains, which once seemed as high as the sky, have not only lost their terror, for modern traffic, they’ve now been leveled to the ground. And the alpine roads, crafted by generations of brilliant builders to span gorges and peaks, the stage achievements carved in stone against nature’s superior might? They have turned into adjuncts to our road networks, ephemeral traces of past mobility. But now that engineers of today prefer to drill through the mountains instead of traversing them, will the old serpentine roads soon be abandoned, closed to protect the mountains from our highly motorized addiction to pleasure?
How will our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren experience this mountain world? Will it still be part of their physical existence – the curves actually driven simply by electricity, hydrogen, synthetic fuel instead of gasoline? Or just virtually? As a proxy on their high-resolution monitors? As artifacts from long-forgotten eras, without their own souvenir pictures, without connection to real life? What role will mountains play in the next chapters of mankind, in a hundred, even a thousand years? The future of the mountains remains fiction – instead, let’s turn out attention to the present: Often it is precisely the nostalgia of the useless and irrelevant that holds a special allure over us. Robbed of their original function, the aesthetic dimension of these mountain roads and alpine passes increasingly comes to the fore. Their beauty, their promise of deceleration and authenticity. And so our view changes, too.
The alpine landscapes that Stefan Bogner creates in his photography have little to do with the lush fields of flowers and sun-drenched ski slopes in traditional travel brochures of the tourism and marketing industry. With their brown, arid meadows and vegetation, patchy snowfields, cliffs covered in moss and lichen, faded strips of asphalt, seas of fog and wisps of clouds – again and again, wisps of clouds – rather, his motifs and image construction follow the ideal of the Romantics, who in the 19th century discovered the Alps as an otherworldly gateway between man (small, finite) and the divine universe (large, infinite). The greatness – or sublime as English exhibition catalogues call the quality of Caspar David Friedrich’s work – of these mighty, rugged rock masses and formations, shaped by the movement of the continents over millions of years and untamed by mankind, blows like a cold wind on the back of the neck when looking at Bogner’s mountain worlds.