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Helmut Kandl, Johanna :
Two Towns On the Thaya - Laa/Znaim

Laa/Znaim, 2000 – 2001


… über die Grenze … (...Over the Border...)

A project that traverses the two sides of the Austrian-Czech border.

The artists used holiday photographs to study changes in definition of the foreign and the exotic over the last 50 years.


The border between the Czech Republic and Austria separates areas whose history was closely linked for centuries. The so-called Iron Curtain made the northern part of Lower Austria one of the poorest and most remote regions of Austria. After the borders were opened there was soon a "small border traffic" which was mainly for shopping and prostitutional tourism. Even though it is no problem for both Austrians and Czechs to travel to the neighboring country, the barries have not disappeared altogether. Laa and Znaim were hermetically seperated for more than forty years. On the one side children learned English, on the other side Russian. Here people spent their vacations in Italy, on the other side in Bulgaria or Romania on the Black Sea. On this side of the border, "the mountains" were the Tyrolean alps, on the other side there were the Beskides.
In this projects the artists wanted to work on both sides of the border and let the local population participate. At the beginning they organized a lecture evening in Laa, and in Znaim they began with a meeting in a private round. The next step was drawing attention to the project with bilingual posters (Czech/German) with posters on public advertising surfaces, inns, shops, and asking people to participate. Their collaboration with the regional media functioned very well, the regional papers reported, the regional weekly paper "Znojemsko" published two articles on their project, one even on the title page. Both local TV stations broadcasted pictures inviting people to contribute material or let themselves be photographed. On Znaim television two contributions were presented. Radio Vranov, a much-heard private station featuring pop music, did an interview. In Znaim they had the invitation to meet at Café Paris on Marienplatz announced in a nostalgic way by loudspeakers and put ads in the regional paper. As an interim product and further invitation to participate in the project, the artists had shown their video in the entrance hall of the cinema Zluta Ponorka/Yellow Submarine in September and after in Laa. In Znaim a student, Lukas David, collaborated with them as an interpreter and assistant. The book which presented the resulting work and the project was presented in spring 2002 in both towns.

Helmut & Johanna Kandl "On the Isle of Bella Lella" "On the Isle of Bella Lella" uses private vacation photographs to explore the definitions of the alien and exotic and the transformation of these concepts in the last fifty years (1950-2001).
"With lectures, posters, local media, etc. we drew attention to our project. We usually obtained the photographs from personal contacts – people we knew, guests whom we met in the local inn or people who knew people who knew people … Contacts were easiest – and this was also similar in both locations – with clubs and institutions. We received a great deal of good photographs: from the journeys entrepreneurs from Laa had made to the USA and to the north pole in the seventies and eighties and the photographs of a pilgrimage the Znaim priest had made on foot to Rome or the sister of the waitress at our favorite restaurant on vacation in Turkey" (Helmut & Johanna Kandl).
A documentation of the project as work in progress was shown in September/October 2001 at the Pavelhaus in Lafeld, in an exhibition together with Oliver Ressler/Martin Krenn, in summer 2002 at the Kunstverein Wolfsberg and after, as a continuation/addition of the project in Berlin where the border within the country runs between Ossis and Wessis.

Leo Kandl "Photo Piece for Laa/Thaya und Znaim, Conzept" "In my contribution to the project I am interested in the portraits of a sample of individuals at a certain location (as previously in Vienna and New York). By means of ads that have been placed in various papers I find individuals who agree to meet with me and let themselves be photographed. Photographer and model approach each other via the neutral media space in the papers and sometimes also by way of small posters. Here the circle of recipients of the various media is taken into account. In this project I seek a broad dissemination of my offer to portrayed and analysis of the resonance of the media demands"(Leo Kandl).
The photographic work was presented in an exhibition on the occasion of the book presentation.