Since 2012, Hallstatt hasn’t only been a town in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. There’s also a place of that name in the southern Chinese Province of Guangdong. At both locations, Chinese visitors have become mainstays of life on the streets. The Chinese version is named Hallstatt See—哈施塔特—and is both a tourist attraction and a real estate development. With its intact environment and status as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, the Austrian original gets lots of likes from members of China’s prosperous middle class.
To produce the knock-off, Austrian Hallstatt was photographed—meticulously, down to the last detail. These photographs then served as a “template” for a Peking architectural firm. Comparatively high-quality craftsmanship went into the copy of the town’s core zone that’s surrounded by villas and row houses in what you might call Bavarian style.
Artist Norbert Artner’s high-quality photographs taken between 2010 and 2014 recorded this process of reflection involving the two Hallstatts. His primary interest is in what possibilities of innovation are introduced by this form of imitation. Thus, his pictures of the Chinese Hallstatt are neither satire nor supercilious cultural critique, but rather expressions of curiosity.