A German Intervention

The photographer Andreas Mühe shows our collective “Mum”
going on an imaginary journey through Germany today.

The photographer Andreas Mühe shows
our collective “Mum” going on an imaginary journey through Germany today.

© Villa Hügel (Detail), 2013, from the series: A.M. – Eine Deutschlandreise

A woman sits by the window. The car has stopped, the engine is running. The window is a spotless, bulletproof pane of glass. A ray of sunlight falls on her weary face. She turns to look outside, toward the chalk cliffs, prison cells, and villas owned by industrialists.

She sees waving children, statues of Karl Marx, and harbor cranes. She warms her hands on a thermos mug at the top of the Zugspitze, adopts a thinker’s pose by the Rhine, and carefully raises her hand in front her home in Templin to say goodbye. Moments before leaving, the driver wants to calculate the route again and sits bent over the GPS. He’ll drive off in a minute, but there’s enough time for a wandering thought, a short sideways glance.

© Zugspitze Deutschland, 2013, from the series: A.M. – Eine Deutschlandreise

There’s an invisible barrier between her, the woman in the back of the limousine, and what’s out there, the country, the people. Her country. Her people. She keeps the people around her at arm’s length and doesn’t let them come too near. There’s nothing she distrusts more than thoughtless abandon and sentimental declarations. She used to jump naked into the lake by her house, but that was a long time ago. Too long for it to count as a memory. Between then and now lie hundreds of physics lectures and a falling wall. Today she does autogenic training whenever she has a free moment, so that she doesn’t have to sleep that much at night; so that she can do more work, craft compromises, develop strategies. Now and again she listens to a Mahler symphony at the Berlin concert hall; the young women at the entrance must quickly clean their shoes and pins.

“The chancellor’s coming,” they whisper to each other in the hall. But then only a small, unassuming woman wearing a beige trouser suit ends up hastily shuffling by. Who is this Angela Merkel? A resplendent ruler she is not. She doesn’t want to be at the helm, lead with grand gestures, or forcefully promote her own agenda. She prefers to be backstage, to weigh up her options in silence, turn things over in her mind, and sit out problems in the back seat. When a ray of sunlight does occasionally fall onto her face she’s surprised. “The outside really does still exist.” From behind her soundproof window, she thinks of a country that lives and breathes, works hard and is successful, and yet is more and more afraid of the future. Thriving landscapes, the Nordfriesland Tageblatt newspaper, forgotten prams – all this is Germany, all this is us.

© Satyricon, eine Deutsche Weihnacht, Dresden 2017

"On December 12, 2017, I was at the second Christmas dinner for Dresden’s people in need held at the BallsportARENA, organized by the Dresdner Bürger helfen Dresdner Obdachlosen und Bedürftigen e.V. (Dresden citizens help Dresden’s homeless and people in need association). It was there that I created the poster of Bruno Maderna’s opera Satyricon, which was part of the campaign for the 2018/19 season at the Semper Oper. The blue floor of the sports hall matched perfectly with the blue wrapping paper and red ribbon of the AfD’s presents that were given as prizes after the bingo.”

The photographer Andreas Mühe shows our collective “Mum” going on an imaginary journey through Germany today. Here we see her without the Merkel diamond hand gesture – her official symbol of power, the emblem of balance and calm – in an intimate, highly unofficial moment. A helpless bystander with reality coming crashing down around her.

Changing her position slightly every time, the artist only shows us the back of her head, her brushed, dyed blond hair, her thickset neck with prominent artery – just visible when she turns her head – and her hands, either folded neatly in her lap, confidently grasping the door handle, or excitedly scratching the window frame in an almost childlike manner.

© Hamburg Hafen, 2013, from the series: A.M. – Eine Deutschlandreise

Who is this woman? Does she seek or create order? Is she power-hungry or powerless? Does she react or reign? Does she let herself drift along? Does she seize her chances or is she sleepwalking? Is she a bureaucrat, an economist, or a moderator? We don’t know, but people count on her. She’s not allowed to be exhausted. You can’t imagine her ill, weak, or despairing. Mühe shows Merkel in an improbable moment of silent wonder: the chancellor sitting at her window to the world – secretly observed whilst taking in the Lorelei. The fact that the person portrayed here isn’t really our collective “Mum” but the artist’s own mother is beside the point. It’s about holding up a mirror. Projecting. Letting in reality.



Andreas Mühe (b. 1979, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. His photography consciously creates staged images, permeated by themes such as power, ideology, past, and vanity. His photography analytically reconstructs images of German history that have long since been banished from visual memory. These images borrow the language of theater, as the majority employs professional actors, artificial light, and historically accurate costumes. His images thus capture seemingly authentic scenes that have been masterfully recreated to the smallest minutia. The inability to deny Andreas Mühe’s photographs of their supposed realism is ...
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