Claudio Hils. Industrie_Zeit_Raum

The town in question

Memory is a dog that lies down wherever it pleases.

Cees Nooteboom, Rituals (1980) 

What is the importance of placing a memory? Why spend that much time trying to find the exact geographic and temporal latitudes and longitudes of the things we remember?

Steve Erickson, Days between Stations (1985)


It appears as if the town in question has a struggle to maintain its memory, including its memory of itself. A memory that has arbitrarily filed itself way in poorly preserved relics and forms, which without exception show traces of a conflicting legacy. The images in this volume bear witness to this in all metaphorical graphicness. It helps to describe them with theatrical pathos.

Daylight. A specially manufactured, enormous floor standing globe waits in vain for decades in a reception hall with a stone floor for the redemption of a promise. All of those routes upon once airships once carried the signature of their inventors into the world are marked on the latitudes and longitudes of the globe’s surface. As we know today, it was an all too larged-meshed network incapable of being maintained. It is common knowledge that utopia burned, but by no means the identificatory memory along with it, whose touristic potential is being reprocessed as a myth of these days. As much weight as the past carries, as light-handedly the reversion to sentiment follows. On the subject of the present, Marshall McLuhan once wrote that it is at best only recognizable in a rearview mirror. In the town in question, one’s glance is hypnotically directed towards a traffic mirror, which makes out the true-to-scale and perfectly shaped archetype as a miniature model in a distorted image. An image in an image in Toyland. It is natural that the sky should be blue.

The town in question was completely destroyed. Out of the industrial coordinates of its rise and fall, those brand names marked by light and shadow are engraved in our collective memory to this day. Dornier, Maybach, Zeppelin. As an image, its fixing is reduced to the unhaltered momumental photograph in the foyer of a boardroom, which once again depicts the LZ 127 in heroic black and white, floating heavenwards on its world flight in 1929. As is commonly known, it was a question of a hybrid vision of conquering nothing less than the world, of a drive to expand that was realized by military means a short time later. The armaments companies were at the dictatorship’s service, and the consequences were devastating, not only for the town. The story goes on to tell that between taboo and tradition, rebuilding was once again successful under the dictate of technological progress. This was associated with a scarring process, whose visible traces were to be increasingly smoothed out. In McLuhan’s rearview mirror, the remaining relics of this emergence seem all the more desolate. Once they have been robbed of their aura, today there is hardly space for them in the functional gears. The wood-paneled cabinet doors in a conference room already bear archive numbers; a faulty street lamp, covered with overgrowth, has survived in the industrial fallow. What was allowed to stay is being kept safe by a product archive under neon light. The odd large-format photograph and prototype model as evidence of former economic prosperity on easels and pedestals made of wooden palettes. When exactly they, too, will be taken away remains open. Memory is still struggling with the issue.

MTU, EADS, ZF-Konzern, Zeppelin GmbH. The brands of concerns which administer the town’s legacy and operate on the world market are reduced to only a few capital letters. Abbreviation functions as a global guiding principle in the spirit of increasing profit, which everything submits to. All of the instructions for the present time are also subject to the strict dictate of the functional – a glance downwards is sufficient. A single yellow footprint on asphalt unmistakably specifies the direction of travel. The progression curve of the formula “speed x power” drawn on a flipshart in a conference room runs diagonally upwards. Another photograph in this volume shows a network of horizontals and verticals, marking the complex conveyor paths of the manufacturing plants. Only once does the faceless matrix evoke a deja vu. An aesthetically cut-to-size sheet of aluminium is spontaneously reminiscent of the original biomorphic form of the airships; today it is assembled into towers that serve as storage silos. Once again it is a question of coming close to the heavens.

It appears as if the town wants to carry on in a state of self-assurance that remains closely attached to the expansive. In the entrance hall of a visitor center, forward-looking promises are once more dealt with. A column-like display points from the adjacent lake straigth into orbit; it suggests that one only has to follow the flight of stairs. In another photograph a bright orange, plastic fence already blocks access to the adjacent shoreline promenade. Contradictions are everywhere. In its entirety, this series of images proves to be a dissecting instrument of distorted self-perception. It is not without reason that frosted glass bars looking into a presentation room in which all future strategic decisions are passed on the public.

Distance is necessary. A satellite, wrapped dust-free in a plastic film and mounted at a height of 20 meters, shines sovereignly in precious metal. As a zenith in the value system of the material the gold ground has proclaimed salvation from time immemorial. From the side, two functional beams in the assembly hall mirror each other headfirst; again, the height of drop could hardly be greater. It appears as if the town in question will continue to remain caught in industry, time, space.

© Christoph Schaden, 2005

published in: Claudio Hils. Industrie_Zeit_Raum, Tübingen/Berlin 2005, p.42-43.

Claudio Hils

Text published in:
Claudio Hils - Industrie_Zeit_Raum
Berlin/Tübingen 2005, p. 40-41.

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