This no-go zone, which extends over a total of 11,000 hectares (27,180 acres), served as a terrain for preparing for war and battle as early as the nineteenth century. Since the end of World War II, the site, where traces of its military use have been deposited like layers over many decades, has served the British allies and various NATO partners as a place for military exercises.
Tin City is a mock village for close combat exercises, where fights and battles are staged. It is intended to represent an archetypal rural town's infrastructure: church, post office, snack bar, betting office, bar, bank, brothel.
The ambivalent horror of the inevitable manifests itself in the numerous mannequins that serve as crash test dummies in the close combat zone. All are civilians wearing used clothing from the 1970s and 1980s, and appear to be arduously sustaining everyday rituals even as they stand in frozen motion. - a danse macabre.
Excerpt from his essay in the FOTOFEST2006 catalogue
CLAUDIO HILS Red Land, Blue Land
This body of work was taken on the troop training grounds in Senne, North Rhein-Westphalia, Germany. During maneuvers, Red Land stands for enemy, Blue Land for friendly territory. The artist approaches the terrain with what appears to be standard pictures of landscapes, suggestive of a specific intention. In what follows, the reader observes a series of mysterious pictures of a seemingly surreal ghost town which, until recently, has provided the setting of numerous rehearsals for military emergencies. Traces of military activity can be found everywhere: targets in the shape of human beings, puppets, which in the most peculiar way appear to invigorate the scene, and yet, which, in fact, emphasize the emptiness and lifeless atmosphere of the terrain. Yet, the distance from which Hils´ documentary pictures are taken, allows the observer to form his or her own associations.
Claudio Hils was born in 1962 in Mengen, Germany. From 1985 to 1993, he studied visual communication at the Universität-GHS (Polytechnic University) in Essen, Germany. Since then he has worked for renowned national and international magazines. Besides his work as a journalist, Hils has realized his own independent, long-term photographic projects. He has both written and edited a number of books since 1997.
Over a period of ten years, Hils traced East German–West German history. The book documenting this long-term project, Neuland, was published in 1999 (Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Germany: Umschau-Buchverlag). Following this examination of the problems of a reunited Germany, Hils analyzed urban developments in metropolises in Asia, the U.S., and South America. Dream City was published in 2001 (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz).
In 2003, the City Council of Northern Ireland invited Hils to Belfast to produce a work on the conflict in Northern Ireland. The focus of his research was the city’s archives, which he attempted to redefine as a medium of localization and memory. The book Archive Belfast was published in 2004 (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz).
In addition to his freelance documentary projects, Hils has taught at various universities since 1998, and he is currently a university lecturer at the Fachhochschule Dornbirn (Dornbirn University of Applied Sciences) in Austria. From 2000–05, Hils was curator and project manager under an international photography grant from the City of Ravensburg in Germany.
Hils was nominated to the Deutsche Fotografische Akademie (German Academy of Photography) in 1991 and to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (German Photographic Society) in 2004.