Ursula Schulz-Dornburg

Metaphysical Shelter

Ideologies come and go. For a while they survive in the buildings which they have created. Stone witnesses are more lasting than people’s convictions. Ursula Schulz-Dornburg has photographed bus shelters in Armenia. They were built in the 1970s when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the Breshnev era bared its teeth to the West. Alongside their purely functional task, these shelters also conveyed a political message: the vision of the power of socialism to change society.

Today, these “ideological buildings” catch the eye primarily because of the grotesquely skewed relationship between function and mass, between intention and reality. Their poor durability and their location in the midst of wastelands emphasize the impression they give of incommensurability.

How dignified by contrast the people waiting for transportation. But stop! Do these edifices really protect travelers from the wind and weather? Where can they be going in this no-man’s-land? Will they ever arrive at their destination? Or does their tenacious waiting, their pausing for thought, not have something of “waiting for Godot” about it? There are certainly no signs of vehicles approaching.

The pictures pose more questions than they offer answers. In them, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg captures highly personal experiences: the human need for protection, men’s destiny as a traveler and the potential futility of all deeds. Whoever maintains his poise in difficult times has done well, for metaphysical shelter is an illusion.

Biographical information

1938

born in Berlin

1959-1960

studies photography and journalism in Munich

lives and works in Düsseldorf