A Texture Akin to Language: Alan Huck Revisits Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe
by Luuk van den Berg on Oct 18, 2020
“The fridge was loud, but outside it was quiet, much quieter.”
There is a literal wall of language separating the two halves of Michael Schmidt’s landmark photobook Waffenruhe (published in 1987 and reprinted in 2018), a visually sprawling text that spans seventeen pages at the center of the book. Despite the text’s conspicuousness and length, the many reviews and critical writings on Waffenruhe tend to include only a marginal, if any, discussion of its utility within the book. For what is a relatively slim volume, consisting of a meager thirty-nine images, Einar Schleef’s stream-of-consciousness story—excerpted from his longer work Zigaretten—occupies a substantial portion of the book and performs an obtrusive break in its structure. Unlike an appended forward or post-scripted essay, which might feel tacked on as supplementary (but not always convincingly necessary) material, the textual component of Waffenruhe is deliberately—and rather severely—integrated into the fabric of the book. Its dominant position interrupts the flow of images in a way that feels difficult to set aside, and its very appearance, with its glaring lack of paragraph breaks and slightly-oversized typeface pushed to the margins’ limits, is as pronounced as its placement. To flip past would be choosing to neglect a prominent element of the work’s larger composition. Without it, the entire durational experience of the book is dramatically altered, its overall makeup and readerly experience sacrificed for the supposed inviolability of the photographic sequence.
Michael Schmidt - Waffenruhe (1987)
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