My departure of this project is my interest for transgenerational and experimental preservation of the inherited material inventory. Spinning around the Ernst-Thälmann-Monument as a central actor of the Ernst-Thälmann-Park, I developed a short film nourished by a fictional journey through the past, present and future of this site as well as a meticulous research of the collective story of its settlers. Narrated by the monument itself, which claims its own life and reveils its spirit through a first person voice over, this film portraits an undying body of bronze that manifests as a still carrier of memories of the past. Nevertheless, the witness of a partial relocation and a sequence of informal appropiation practices unchains the monument transformation towards its decay and the rebirth of its resituated fragments into fluctuating matter. Liberated from the historical discourse of past generation the narrator enters a journey through its backdrop, exploring its context and struggling to find a new form within this vast palimpsest.
“Still... I stand here for another winter with the chest uncovered, carrying the memories sculpted on my mass, in silence.”
The 50 tones of bronze of the monument survive an aborted demolition and endure in time as a lieu de mémoire able to unroll the memories of its creation, the figure of Ernst Thälmann, its inaguration as the center of a new socialist society and the interruption of the GDR:
“Still... I hear the enthusiastic speech of my inauguration announcing that the memory of Ernst Thälmann or Teddy, the outstanding symbolic figure of the international working movement, would live in me for ever. And I am still remembering him.“
“... and even though the ever-changing environment represses the ideals that conceived me, I don´t feel rejected. After all, I still stand here.“
As the present gives life to the monument, it finds itselfs as a witness of a new reality. The square and the monument is conquered by a new generation users with disruptive purposes. A contemplative manner is abandoned and appropiation practices beginn.
“Still... I feel that Berlin accepts me. Not as a mountainous bust of an idealised figure, but as another one in the hood. The passerby treat me as an elder figure, whose frozen ideals are outdated. Even after the commentary, they turn a blind eye to me, in order to avoid a fight with a sleepy and grumpy senior. They don´t recognize the memories I still carry and they don´t care. For them I´m not a monument, but a sort of playground... A 13 meter high canvas for youngsters to repeatedly paint on, after the company in charge of my preservation offers me their nursing care. A little oasis to slide on my smooth surface with those american apparatus. A meeting point to hang around signalised by a hollow sculpture that creates shadow. ”
Secured under a preservation order this lieu de mémoire, including the monument and it´s backdrop, is repeatedly nursed. But the two bronze steles are dumped far away in a former warehouse for provisions in Spandau loosing its representative value and becoming an unrecognizable remain.
“I still feel a piece of my bronze being resituated aimlessly, after the big turnaround of power constellations. I feel it decomposing dreadfully slow. Continuously my composition of metals hold still watching the environment decay. I will last for an inmense period of time and my body will be handled by more than this last three generations. However I´m not nursed here and remain damaged.”
Why should this outdated site not be overwritten? Should this memorial site still be preserved to enable global citizenship education? How can this place become a space for engagement and future scenarios? How can the next generations participate in the experimental preservation of this place by expanding its narrative? How can it be avoided that heirloom is dumped away?
“The present animates the memories inscribed in me, but the connection to them is not so durable. The quotes I carry from a past time are getting lost. So are the memories of the figures that wrote them. They might have been only functionaries doing their transitory service and not big intellectuals, as I don´t manage to connect their memories with the audience anymore.“
“This piece of mine is resting in this former warehouse for provisions or as I call it: cemetery of dead present-times. Here I lie next to other state representatives that lost their function, but don´t represent anything anymore, as their regime has disappeared. Here I rest still. A big piece of matter, with low quantity of data.“
But history doesn´t disappear. The rejuvenated narrator returns from Spandau to the site in molten state. Finally ungrounded this fragment of the monument enters a new life cycle. As fluctuating bronze it comes out of it´s former cast and explores it´s backdrop in pursuit of a new form and purpose. A blank material ready to be overwritten by the next generation.
“As a rejuvenated actor melting away from the cast with an historical discourse of a previous generation. As fluctuating bronze handed over to the descendants. As pure substance searching for forms and identity. For the very first time, I unground myself to embark on a journey.”
“With a gentle turn, I surround myself with the park that have served as my backdrop. A wave of ambivalent feelings invade me when approaching this vast monument, not as it´s center but as a new colonist.“
“I settle into an interrupted soviet world that seemingly contains every component of a city. From within, I loose the borders of this sphere, as if I would be englobed by blank surroundings. I mold into bronze ploughshares to landscape the soil and find my rebirth on this new ground.”
Our narrator finds that the previous settlers have treaten the site as if it would be a tabula rasa that can be entirely reformed and whose past can be forgotten. But history can´t be erased, even if it is an embarrassment. It´s past as a dumping ground reappears in the soil and groundwater. Heriloom proofs to be a sensible matter.
“I travel through a remoulded landscape covering the memories of the gasometers in mounts of debris, pipelines and a cocktail of benzene and phenol. A forgotten legacy of tons of dirt infusing the soil with a demolished past that sinks into the depths.“
Reintegrating this matter in this stiffly preserved context results in an exhausting task, as bronze have becomed an outdated material that is hard to reuse. As a descendant it struggles to find a comfortable position, even though this is highly relevant as it is an everlasting material.
“But I´m too toxic to carry the purified groundwater used to fill the artificial pond. Too expensive to be reforged into a bunch of screws or engine components. Too valuable to be dumped as trash. Too unsettled to come back to my former position and form. I travel as a strange oddity with a remote past and an uncertain future. Heritage melting away from oblivion.”
How can this actor be handed over to the next generation? How can it be rescued out form it´s state of limbo? How can a circular process of reuse of this bronze take place? How can this material find relevance again?