Dana Mueller

MFA ’07 Photography

For 11 years I have been photographing at the edges of a German village where the meadows and forest became part of the no-mans-land and former border between East and West Germany. For those who lived close to it, this zone always presented an impenetrable entity and mystery. I grew up in the village and have been returning to my home each year. We, the inhabitants, have always felt both an unease and a pull towards the forest — reiterated when we physically interact with it or when we imaginatively interpret it with our shared narratives or in our folklore. It represents a kind of unheimliche Heimat [strange homeland]. For the 40 years of its existence, the German Democratic Republic developed its own unique culturation within the confines of an authoritarian state. After unification 30 years ago the GDR ceased to exist, yet East Germans with their distinct identity did not. They, understandably, tried to hold on to their ways of being, which meant stability, a sense of belonging and continuity in their concept of place and community. Yet, the deterritorialization of East Germany upset one’s understanding of identity and belonging in relation to one’s national citizenship and, thus, one’s sense of worth and relevance. I see the village as a microcosm of larger forces that were and still are affecting people today, such as neo-nationalism, and globalization. My motivation has been to reflect more deeply on these challenges and to take note of the aspirations, frustrations, and even fears of those who live in the village.

Mueller’s photographs are visual records of people and environments that engage both familiar and foreign realms. Her narratives of everyday lives explore individual and collective identities using social context, and landscape, to investigate cultural/political realities. Born and raised in East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall, she continues to return to her homeland of Thuringia to explore the emigrant experience of Heimat as otherness. She currently is Assistant Teaching Professor at Northeastern University.