Photographs by Herlinde Koelbl

31 October 2014 to 11 January 2015

With her new, international art project TARGETS the photographer Herlinde Koelbl deals with military training and the cultural differences that are reflected in the targets used for shooting practice in the different countries. The photographs, which were taken over a period of six years in nearly 30 countries, will be shown in the Art and Exhibition Hall of Germany in 2014, the commemorative year of the First World War.

«It sounds horrifying, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.»

Herlinde Koelbl took photographs of her first TARGET more than thirty years ago.It was a shot-up metal figure full of holes in the furrow of a field – a symbol of violence and death for the photographer.

Six years ago she returned to the theme and started her international photographic project TARGETS. Herlinde Koelbl travelled to almost thirty countries in order to record the targets at which soldiers around the world are trained to shoot. How is the enemy represented whom they are intended to kill later? Is it an abstract figure? Or does the enemy have a face? If so, what does he or she look like? Do the TARGETS reveal cultural differences? Have images of the enemy changed?

A soldier from the U.S. Army reported that he had been trained still using the “Ivan figure with a red star on his helmet”: the enemy was the Soviet Union. Today this has been replaced by target figures wearing oriental clothing. Who is the enemy? From which side do I see the enemy? Everyone believes that he or she is on the right side. In the reality of war, soldiers are always the target. This is why Herlinde Koelbl also made portraits of them: the living targets.

An exhibition of the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in cooperation with  Deutschen Historischen Museum, Berlin

Video installation, audio stations, quotes

The photographic works are complemented by sound recordings and quotes from numerous interviews. A four-sided video installation forms the conclusion of the exhibition.
On her travels Herlinde Koelbl sought direct contact to soldiers. She wanted to hear: How do soldiers think who are or were at war? What experiences do they bring home from war? Are they plagued by doubts and feelings of guilt? Do they think about killing and the possibility of being killed themselves? Are they afraid? What value is attached to comradeship? Why did they decide to join the army? What constitutes good leadership?