Faith, Hope & Charity Out of their labours and into our lives in Eisenhuettenstadt

Next to the Café C’est La Vie he gazes out across the latest life in what started out as Stalinstadt. The muscled figures of the strip-show contrast with the veiled strength of an unknown steel worker. It seemed difficult to get ones bearings and curate a consistent first impression. Now I can better respond to your thrown gauntlets of mourning. which only draws more attention to the main attraction in town this week – Ladies night with Grosser Menstripshow. immortalised in an iron curtain that he helped to weave. Goerlitz and the small towns that straddle the landstrasse of the Western East. The opposing facades of the city hotel and the town hall and contrast preserved decay with the refurbished retroism that has come to favour what were the houses of the high-ups. Birkut. even this only seems to appear in the corner of one’s eye. or rather in knowing we had arrived. where the steel is forged and so it remains. Where the larger streets have been refurbished.and of .. still Stakhanovite at this stage. You were right about the lack of landmarks.1 / 2009 / záhlaví / 2 Dear Charity*. Across from the optimistically named ‘City Centre’ complex at the steelworks end of the main drag is bare. the need for collective action could not have been clearer. apart from when directly exploring the Werkstrasse or snaking along Street 24. When I watched Wajda’s Man of Marble and Man of Iron I was most taken by the sensitive presentation of the genuine hope that sprang from solidarity. Having traversed the wasted memoryscapes of the further-East. The plant with its six blast furnaces was big enough. but this is not on the scale of Nowa Huta with its fleets of panelaks and broad boulevards. I was actually struck by the relatively modest scale of the workers’ housing developments. This is the IronWorksTown. But really we came by way of you. barren ground. although its continued peripherality underwrites its status as the main source of civic identity. Although. talks enthusiastically about his new building methods. as the normally flawless signage of the Bundesrepublik dissolved into the listless sprawl of the industrial outskirts. From the time you first told me about Eisenhuttenstadt I was keen to see it and helping Julia move her sister to Dresden provided the perfect excuse to take a DDRoad-trip.. melancholia and disavowal in . near omnipresence of the steelworks. despite the continued blurring of similar themes played out in different language and signs. called to mind another of your recommendations. We came to Eisenhuttenstadt by way of Dresden. This was indicative of the difference between my experience here and there. We had a little difficulty in arriving. . Surely Agnieszka’s fascination with the worker-hero – Birkut – is at least in part from this same feeling at a time when the cracks in that particular edifice were becoming increasingly apparent. In a country ravaged by what must have felt like a thousand years of being trampled in the name of great. patriotic Reichs. they seem to highlight the emptiness that depopulation brings to a town tense with the struggle between trophy status and atrophication. which if further improved and applied universally could help to provide homes for everyone in Poland. Walking through the Wohnkomplex that houses the former-nursery in which the DDR Everyday Documentation Centre resides. although for me this was offset by the lurking.the second world.

the silver protective gear from the old steelworks or the cylindrical dishwasher. And who amongst us can truly say we are immune. didn’t actually have it to begin with? Seeing the wonders of another Wirtschaft encased. the (german title) culture center. As much as this deserves mockery. you are so obviously the poor relation must have had such a devastating effect on the kollektiv conscience. From Anna and Florian we know the dark side of Stasiland all too well. In many ways it was you who introduced me properly to these feelings and my trip to Eisenhuttenstadt is in many ways an inward as well as an outward journey. although Julia felt that even this noble attempt failed to avoid the accursed Ostalgie. even if you and I. that the fruits of your labours were obsolete. interactive surfaces and retro-glamour of the newly opened DDR Museum in Berlin. You kindly recommended a good staging post on this journey to recovered memory – The Centre for Documentation of Everyday Culture/Life of the DDR and particularly. if tainted and ultimately betrayed hope that socialism provided. the good times. literally. not least for me in front of the fantastically named Robotron k8915 computer. The feelings of Are we too then thieves. the sense of missed and wasted opportunities still lingers. . a place to re-validate the lives that were thrown so callously by the winds of change. we each had our moments in the museum. What I did not live. so much garbage in the newly completed bin of history. not so lucky as you to have grown up in a ‘free society’?” In this respect I was lucky to be travelling with Julia. I will miss forever. hope is now seen as audacious if it dares to nudge the right wing consensus a nanometre to the left. We also concurred that this was venture of great value. which lacks the bombast and trabbie-tours that we know from Berlin and Nowa Huta. These however were surpassed by Julia’s irrepressible lightness and joy at being reunited with her communist school bag. because more and more this is how I feel. But – teasing me now in my own voice – you might say “Doesn’t that just gloss over the real terror that pervaded the lives of others. I would miss much of the point. Through talking to her I grew to realise that despite the coincidence of so many of my interests with the work of the Open Depot. pristine and elevated from material value to cultural value by way of pedestals and vitrines is a captivating experience which certainly encourages contemplation. This seems right for Eisenhuttenstadt. You know how political I am and would probably have been surprised that I didn’t react in horror to the apoliticised presentation which is particularly apparent in the short. resplendent in pink and purple.. this was not for me and by criticising the apolitical presentation. it has not yet found an answer to the farcical phenomenon of the Ostalgic hipster. which as you point out. in the new scale of things. the Open Depot opts for a low-fi.3 /záhlaví / 2009 / 1 After the previously longed for End of History. who having grown up in Moscow and East Berlin knows a thing or two about nostalgia. as well as the bad. We agreed that the Documentation Centre and its Open Depot give a chance to re-examine these lives and remember the good things. looks remarkably similar to the shop display in the Open Depot? Suggestion of four-square images featuring open depo. To suddenly be told that what you had been working for was wrong. that your life had essentially been second-rate. This is a place of rehabilitation and recovery. The loss of alterity. dignified and substantial approach. inadequacy and resentment when. Rather than seeing socialism as spectacle. If you were here I am sure you would remind me of Volker Braun’s words in Property “What I never had is being torn from me. one is immersed in the every day life of the East. as you accuse Beuys of being for his work Economic Values.” And you are right to do so. its Open Depot for donated and collected objects. In these times it is good to have a reminder of the real. but I realised that I hadn’t thought enough about what impact the fall had on the workers who actually built the land beyond the wall. As a project that aims to address the tragedy of ostensibly wasted lives. Unlike the shimmering. like Joseph Beuys.. sweet curatorial texts.

now employs only than 2500 people who churn out ‘high-quality flat carbon steel products’. engagement centre stage? My hope that people can once again come before profits will probably cause you to write me into your third column – the disavower. an examination of the politics of memory in postindustrial literature and art. neo-imperialist past. I wonder how well this bodes for attempts to curate the collective memory in other parts of the post-socialist world that have been overrun by a mindset that values economics above all else. we also need to make sure we remember the genuine quality of the dreams. despite the noble efforts of the Open Depot. we again swept past the newly rebranded steelworks which. caught in a nostalgic haze for what he doesn’t accept has been lost. The rise of PoMo turbo capitalism has swept away the modernist dreams that inspired Kraftwerk as much they stoked socialist fires. heteronormative. In this way we can draw courage to dream afresh. despite the limitations of my own perspective. However. Despite the continued production of steel here. emblazoned with the logo of the world’s largest steel maker. When leaving Eisenhuttenstadt. To her surprise. . I have the impression that this ironclad Wendeland is still a place of melancholy rather than a site of mourning. can we revive a new trans-modernism that would put common spaces of interaction and * Charity Scribner is the author of Requiem for Communism.1 / 2009 / záhlaví / 4 If. like Volker Braun. This is a personal. then the Open Depot runs the risk of fuelling the commodity fetish that reduces life to a series of consumption opportunities. I responded that actually it far more closely resembled lines of loaves in the supermarket bakeries from my early 80s English childhood. even though he never had it. is that while we know how real the nightmares were. Your analysis of Beuys’ Economic Values points highlights the transformation of products deliberately chosen for their contrast with slick Wessi design and packaging into the kind of curios that continue to attract the arch admiration of the Prenzlauerberg Ping-Pong set. male-dominated. not merely recurrently. Julia asked if video of a bakery in a not-so-supermarket reminded me of my time in Ukraine. other forces are also at play. you also feel that hope lies across our paths like a trap. What is clear however. even when such sensitively and well-curated memory pieces can only exist in their true form for those who lived the experience in question. yet open letter to her. I wonder how you would categorise yourself? I wonder if. and escape the mnemonic no-mans lands of nostalgia and amnesia. Yours. Benjamin Tallis Having learned the lessons of the blinkered.

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