Peter Pinnau phoned me in February 2000 with the news that I would be able to travel to Edinburgh, one of Munich’s twin towns, to stay there for one month and work on a project of my choosing. I had already applied for this scholarship to Edinburgh on two previous occasions, and this year I would be permitted to go because the successful candidates had cancelled, even though I hadn’t even applied. I had absolutely no idea what I would do, and nobody was even able to tell me what I was supposed to be doing, apart from that it was all about cultural exchange between the two cities.
I booked a flight from Munich to Edinburgh via Brussels. There was a group of men on the Brussels to Edinburgh leg of the journey. There were all around forty-five years old and wearing kilts. They were French.
I took a bus to Waverley Bridge, and from then on to the City Art Centre. There I met Jane, my contact for cultural matters. We first went to her place and then on to an Indian restaurant. We were very different. Later we went by taxi to my new host family. They lived in a typically English house, although we were in Scotland (a distinction that I didn’t initially find so important, but I was to learn that I really had to distinguish between the two). My new host father was called Steve, my host mother was Wendy, and my little host brother was Joe. I watched Toy Story at least eight times with Joe at their house. Joe is three years old. I saw Toy Story 2 in the cinema; in fact I went to the cinema a lot. If I had bought myself a monthly ticket for the Edinburgh Cinemax I would have saved quite a bit of my scholarship money.
I had originally planned to photograph various sections of the population in Edinburgh and their living and working environments, in order to get an impression of the diversity in society. I would have spent a few days in a school, in a factory, with the police, at a shipbuilding yard, in a sports club, and so on. However it wasn’t possible to get this plan off the ground, and so I had to come up with something new…
What does Edinburgh look like? Fans of stone castles, cosy pubs rather than skyscrapers, bagpipes, crypts, and ghosts would all feel at home here. I had no idea what to photograph because everything was lovely, but not that lovely. I prefer it the other way round. I first got to know Kerrie through contact with Jane. Her boyfriend showed me around some “strange places”. Finally it all started slotting into place. It was all a long way from strange places like Fritzi’s Restaurant in Los Angeles or oil paintings in Thailand presenting Elvis and Hitler arm in arm, but nevertheless…
What I saw was great. It all made me think of an experiment made up of assorted assembled parts that somehow still doesn’t form a whole in my mind – the City Art Centre, haggis, the prison, Western Hails (twinned with Neuperlach), the beer, the art students, Toy Story, buying a fence with Steve and carrying it home, the plastic ski slope, 1970s churches, the amusement park on the coast (with the electric chair that gives you a good shake for a pound)…
And in this manner, all the objects on the photos of this Edinburgh experiment, detached from their background and real function, yield a new meaning when combined in a new order. It is left to anyone who has ever wondered about their real meaning to do the decoding.