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“You don’t truly know what your homeland is to you until you’ve traveled to faraway places,” a German saying has it. In his artist’s book But Pedro’s a Pony, Volker Renner, who usually travels far and wide to take pictures, probes the idea of “Heimat,” homing in on what you might expect to be its purest distillation: the Heimatroman, a pulpy literary genre dedicated to the travails of Germany’s rural ingénues and their stalwart gallants. But the Heimatroman’s idyll is not as inviolate as the cheap paperback covers might seem to suggest: it is forever threatened by intruders— foreigners, poachers—whose encroachments must be fended off. And so the strapping lad’s hand is quick to seize the rifle, or else the lass’s hand, once all obstacles to romantic bliss have been swept out of the way. Misunderstandings are a programmatic part of their world. A putative lover, for example, may well turn out to be a pony. Yet it is only on the rarest of occasions that you will catch two lads or two lasses on a cover. As in his concurrently published artists’ book Where were you, Mr. Renner? or A lack of information, Volker Renner experiments with the interaction between image and text.
In But Pedro’s a pony, the artist works with found material he extracted from Heimatromane in a painstaking labor of love. To point up how simpleminded the genre is and how absurd and out of touch with reality the portrait it paints of its locales, the artist confronts selected covers with snippets of dialogue from the respective novels. The synergy between the visual and textual narrative registers unleashes previously unimagined grandeurs of gesture and intensities of feeling and reveals their ludicrousness. A panorama of pastures and paranoia unfolds before the reader’s eyes (an image that is regrettably relevant in light of recent political developments that have yet to leave their mark on the Heimatroman). Spoiler alert: the publisher wanted a different ending.
Published by Volker Renner and Textem Verlag
220 x 290 mm