RelictThe left behind remains of something ancient. - Abandoned housing complexes or objects left behind.
Biological relictOrganisms that, due to changes in their environment, climate, and geological changes, have been isolated. Yet they stay alive and continue to live on in these areas that are cut off. - The few numbers of people who continue to live in these abandoned houses.
RELICS FOR THE PEOPLEThe most striking thing about Dessau is the great difference between old and new. Newly-built 1980s-looking houses appear to have been falling down from the sky without stopping to think about where to land and disturbing the old houses doing so, surrounding them with their thoughtlessness. In some cases the old houses have been abused in a very careless manner by giving the facades a new look to match the aliens beside them. These new facades are coloured with Disney-like pastels and can not be related to the old style of the rest of the buildings. The eagerness in which they are restored is frightening but of course understandable, since the people of Dessau probably want their city to be modernised as fast as possible. It seems that some of the old houses in Dessau are becoming relicts as they are left behind when the environment of the city is rapidly changing. The modernisation is an unstoppable movement, and to make the town planners not destroy the old houses is an almost impossible mission. Nevertheless, I find it sad to destroy one´s past in this thorough way. It feels like the former East is now repeating the mistakes made by the west in the sixties when the "tear down, build new" era started. The destruction of old, beautiful housing areas in order to forget the poor and dirty past is now deeply regretted in the West which is why I cannot understand that this is being repeated without any thought whatsoever. Even if your past is ugly and painful, it is still yours and, without it, you have nothing but the present.
The housing areas I find the most interesting are the ones that have not yet been changed and are now abandoned except for one or two persons per house who are still holding on to their old apartments. When looking for such areas, I found two housing complexes which immediately caught my interest. At first, it was the architecture which appealed to me. As I walked around the bodies of the houses, I also realised that the area was arranged in a very similar way to some special housing areas in Sweden which developed in the fifties under the name Folkhemmet. This new Folkhemmet idea, dealing with design and architecture for working families, is one of my favourites and I was therefore very surprised to find out that these similar housing areas in Dessau were built during the Hitler era.Should I feel ashamed that I find the architecture and the area beautiful and interesting? Is it possible to disconnect the architecture from the architect and the architect from the one who gave him the assignment? Would my appreciation be OK if I never found out in which period these houses were built? Maybe this is one of the explanations to why they have not yet been restored. I understand the problem very well but I cannot help wondering what good it will do to destroy everything which frightens or repels you. It will just come back, maybe in an even more disturbing way. This is a very tricky and interesting question, which has no direct answer. It has to be dealt with in a very delicate manner and not to be forgotten or swept under the carpet. I have decided that it is for me all right to like these housing areas even though their past is an ugly one, and I shall try to show the people of Dessau these buildings values in the most objective ways.
Therefore I gathered some small pieces of these historical monuments to save at least something from the past. These relicts are enclosed in "reliquary boxes". To document my "burglary" I used a camera with slide films.The boxes in which the objects are enclosed are totally square and dark, like the rooms of the flats in the chosen housing complex. Another source of inspiration is the black box which exists in aeroplanes, telling the fact about whose fault the accident really was. Inside each box, the objects are put on an opaque glass pane under which there is a light. To seal the top of the box I am also using glass, but in this case transparent. The light has to be switched on by every viewer, in order to see the item which lies within, and as soon as you take your finger away from the switch, the light will go out. This action ressembles the action of photographing with an old box camera, wich take in light for as long as you push the "trigger".The boxes all have the same size so that you never know what you shall find inside until you switch the light on. In this way, I hope to come around the problem of evaluation. It is not up to me to decide which items are the most important ones. I leave this task to the viewers.
The "reliquary boxes" were exhibited in a flat in the house in which I collected the relics. Each room represented a certain era by showing the different layers of time in each box. Like a box in a box in a box...
Anna Petersson, Dessau 2000