Steinkohlebergwerk - Zeche Hannibal - Bochum-Hofstede Ruhrgebiet
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
This work by the German artists Bernd & Hilla Becher consists of 85 photographs subdivided into 19 groups which together systematically depict an entire coalmine. One group consists of ten photographs which survey the total complex and give an impression of where it is located in the landscape; the other groups each show part of the complex, such as the pithead, the coke oven and the cooling tower. The more complex the particular section, the more photographs are devoted to it. They are each taken from a different angle and provide a tour around the whole place at a specific distance. For example, the group devoted to the pithead consists of eight photographs. Four of these are taken from the front, so that one side is shown face on, and these alternate with four photographs taken diagonally showing two sides of the pithead in perspective. The photographs are presented in blocks.
Bernd & Hilla Becher recorded the “Zeche Hannibal” in 1973 and 1974 when the mine was shut but not yet demolished. From 1959 the Bechers photographed industrial architecture including water towers, gasworks, furnaces and mineshafts. They presented the objects as neutrally as possible and the photographs were always in black and white. The object is shown as far as possible in the centre of the image and the photographs are taken against a dull sky so that the weather conditions do not bring about any dramatic effects. The Bechers worked with a special technical camera which made it possible to correct strong distortions of perspective. They wanted their photographs to give as much clear information as possible about the objects that were shown. They usually adopted a position high up so that the viewer also gains information about the situation in the field.
Bernd & Hilla Becher were not concerned with taking photographs with any artistic or aesthetic merit; the photography served merely as a means to record and inventorise things. In this way, information was available about them even when the objects that were photographed no longer existed. Despite their aim for neutrality, the Bechers’ photographic series had a very personal atmosphere and that is why they are presented as art. Because of the fact that the Bechers’ work is a consistent investigation into a specific field with clear criteria as regards design, it can be related to the Conceptual Art and Minimal Art of artists such as LeWitt, Brouwn and Buren.
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