Logging Solitude

When you arrive at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, you can’t help but be struck by the Schloss; sitting at the top of the hill, the castle is immediately visible and alluring. What’s not immediately visible is the thick forest behind it, which is perhaps where you find the most solitude at Solitude this is where this collaboration began. We took long, exploratory walks and bike rides through the woods surrounding the Schloss, and, having heard of the elaborate Baroque gardens that once encircled the castle grounds, we wondered what stories and histories were inscribed in this area, which has slowly been reclaimed by a »wilder« but no less structured vision of nature. What traces are left of the Baroque interventions of architecture and landscaping? How have the ornate labyrinths and the exotic fruit orchards, the hunting lodges and rose gardens, the fish ponds and open-air theaters impressed themselves on the environment? How does the new shape of the forest, crisscrossed by paths and clearings, compare to the over-elaborate splendor captured in historical maps of the gardens?

Among these musings, something else captured our attention – the many orderly stacks of logged trees that can be found throughout the forest. The logs, carefully piled and colorfully marked, some with coded inscriptions of numbers and letters, seemed to us to be an abstract representation of a new order – logging a new solitude – which act as a counterpoint to the previous, florid systems of rules for the Baroque aesthetic once surrounding the castle. We began to photograph the logs, and to create an archive of these images (currently, almost 1,400 images are in our database).


The colored spots on the logs seemed like a perfect entry point to learning and thinking more about the area’s imagined and real histories – to rediscover something about ourselves and our surroundings in the beautiful grain and texture of the map-like (labyrinth-like?) log surfaces. While collecting more information about Solitude’s history and the present work of forest »husbandry,« we are now beginning to create short data visualization experiments and non-narrative video pieces using the database we have compiled.

Logging Solitude is characterized by the interests and sensibilities of two very different practitioners; Deniz Johns, an experimental filmmaker, and Martin Zeilinger, a digital media researcher and practitioner. In a hybrid form connecting experimental video, essay film, media archaeology, and creative coding, we approach a speculative rediscovery of the castle grounds’ vanished Baroque garden architecture, seen through the lens of our own, contemporary experience of the landscape and our life at Solitude.