The Curonian Spit, with its unique, drifting sand dunes and sand formations reshaped daily by the wind, has fascinated and inspired generations of writers, artists, and photographers. The spit’s ninety-six-kilometer-long strip of sand dunes was once part of East Prussia and today belongs to Russia and Lithuania.
The exhibition, the fourth in the 100 years of bauhaus series, showcases the photographic work of the Lithuanian amber collector and photographer Kazimieras Mizgiris (b. 1950). Based in Nida, the artist’s intimate knowledge of sand-dune formations on the Curonian Spit is unrivalled. For decades, he has visited the drifting dunes of the »Baltic Sahara«—located just outside his front door—with his camera early in the morning, primarily in spring and autumn. His images of bizarre formations recalling prehistoric animals, produced by the interplay of wind, sand, and ice, are unique given the short-lived nature of the formations. Created in the spring when frozen water in the sand thaws, they leave behind icy sand-stelea that melt over the course of the day in the sunlight, crumble in the wind, and finally collapse.
These are presented alongside Alfred Ehrhardt’s abstract photographs of the Curonian Spit from 1934, which, in contrast to Mizgiris’s images, evince the strict formal vocabulary of a structuralist trained at the Bauhaus in Dessau. As his 1938 book Die Kurische Nehrung (The Curonian Spit) describes, his intention was less about »portraying a ›beautiful‹ landscape, than it was tapping into the vastness of a still-pristine and primeval landscape. […] The clarity of nature’s crystalline, formal language has always been man’s greatest teacher.«
Mizgiris has experienced the history of the Curonian Spit as a story of man’s struggle with the sand. The Baltic Sea tosses sand up onshore where it is picked up by the wind and blown into huge dunes. If precautionary measures are not taken, houses can be knocked over by the swirling sand. In his book Wind and Sand (2000) the photographer writes: »You need persistence to catch the moment when a miracle is performed by the sea, the wind, the sun, and the clouds. You have to wait until the little cloud over the dunes takes the shape and casts the shadow you want. I have my favorite paths and spots in the dunes. I can feel them, because they are alive. […] Real fossils can be millions of years old; the fossils in my pictures live for a moment or two. Nature creates all this in incredible ways.«
Whereas Ehrhardt seeks to examine the laws of form creation in depth, Mizgiris evokes a relationship between forms and primeval structures in his photographs in order to portray the temporally transcendent character of this ever-changing spit of landscape. Both photographers express their fascination with the natural forms of this extraordinary primeval landscape.
Accompanying the exhibition is the publication Kazimieras Mizgiris. Wind + Sand. Curonian Spit, released by Kehrer Verlag.