Verena Landau

Leipzig, autumn 2007: Diggers are tearing down a monument on the Brühl, the formerly important trade route at the intersection of the Via Regia and the Via Imperii. The monument in question consists of three ten-storey wohnscheibe apartment blocks constructed between 1966 and 1968. This modern East-German ensemble appeared worthy of preservation for a variety of reasons: for example because it represented a striking departure from traditional structures and yet achieved functional integration. It was also a technical benchmark: it was the first instance of a plattenbau apartment block using five tons elements. The ensemble combined spaces for living, shopping and culture. It was created as part of a plan for the rebuilding of the city centre and was intended to write socialist architectural history. The architects worked in a radical manner on an »optimistic vision of the future.« The neon writing visible from afar made clear that this was conceived of as prestigious architecture.

Saxony’s architectural-heritage laws specify that »cultural monuments […] are objects created by people […], whose preservation is in the public interest because of their historical, artistic, scientific, urbanplanning-related or landscape-related significance.« This was virtually indisputable in the case of the apartment blocks. They were characterised by a cumbersome beauty, however. Verena Landau, too, initially perceived the ensemble as repulsive. The artist explains her choice of it as the subject of a painting in terms of a »changed public perception of the place, which was accompanied by a change in my own perception.«

Landau uses documentary photography from the archives and her own material to highlight the prestigious character of the complex. As wall installations the paintings in a variety of formats and techniques create an ensemble that permits the co-existence of temporal planes and evokes questions: Is this a non-place, or an identity-forming place? How do places become nonplaces?
What determines the quality of a place? How is social space formed? Can one represent its destruction?
By Hendrik Pupat

In: Verena Landau, Passages, Passengers, Places, Hirmer Verlag München, 2013, p. 76
Source [revised excerpt]: Thomas Klemm and Kathleen Schröter [eds.], Die Gegenwart des Vergangenen. Strategien im Umgang mit sozialistischer Repräsentationsarchitektur [exh. cat. Leipziger Kreis. Forum für Wissenschaft und Kunst, Tapetenwerk Leipzig], Leipzig 2007.

Hendrik Pupat
Cultural journalist
Lives and workes in Leipzig

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