Buildings are sites of historic events, varied biographies, and emotions. With Memory Fields (2020), a semester-long collaboration with the Design department at Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle (The University of Art and Design, Halle), dieDAS invited students to study the role of historical surfaces in storytelling and to propose temporary, narrative interventions along dieDAS’s exterior walls. The resulting proposals help share the story of the Saalecker Werkstätten, the former home and worskhops of racist ideologist Paul Schultze-Naumburg (1869–1949), with the public. The students’ final proposals were presented during an exhibition at dieDAS during our inaugural August 2020 Open House.
Thanks to the students’ and educators’ diligence and ingenuity—particularly against the backdrop of the pandemic— Memory Fields allowed dieDAS’s historical walls to speak. The five exhibited design proposals, depicted below—and enhanced by potent imagery, signage, linguistic analysis, and audio features—ask important questions as they offer insight into the Saalecker Werkstätten’s history, present, and possible future.
Our special thanks to the students and advisors, and in particular to Janna Nikoleit, Dr. Pablo v. Frankenberg, Tom Hanke, and Professor Rita Rentzsch, for their dedication and cooperation!
This proposal explores how language and meaning shift over time. The terms Heimat (homeland), Kunst (art), Identität (identity) and Natur (nature) are decisive in the life and work of Paul Schultze-Naumburg. Five interactive objects on dieDAS’s property walls invite passersby to interact with these potent terms in unexpected ways. Willis’s Heimat machine, for instance, offers users a choice of dream homelands, and on her Identität telephone, one can engage in a conversation with Schultze-Naumburg himself. The path along the wall demonstrates that our language is a creative and flexible medium, and that definitions can evolve.
Homeland is a term at the heart of constant global discussion. Frequently used to exclude people—as in the works of racist ideologist Paul Schultze-Naumburg—it is a word loaded with broad and personal meaning. This audio-driven installation examines the concept of homeland from a variety of perspectives; as passersby listen to others’ thoughts on homeland, they too are encouraged to reflect upon their own ideas.
Does history repeat itself? This installation delves into Schultze-Naumburg’s writings on architecture, which are consistently marked by good-or-bad comparisons. An interactive audio walk along dieDAS’s outer wall shows parallels between his rhetoric and contemporary architectural discourse on the internet. Comments and memes drawn from recent social media show how quickly debate can turn into racism. Blue synthetic resin negative casts of wall segments are arranged next to the wall. Listening stations in the wall quote historic ideas, while the casts present modern-day voices.
This project examines how Schultze-Naumburg’s xenophobic ideas on homeland security continue to exist to this day. Eleven panels are set into the Campus’s outer wall. On each, a film, audio material, and texts depict the ways in which the term homeland security is weaponized by certain groups today, as well as its relation to concepts of monument preservation, homeland, homeland architecture, and beyond.
Sharp Looks is an unexpected, copper sculpture depicting an oversized human figure sitting atop a stone wall. Those who dare to look closer are rewarded with a rich surprise—one of the sculpture’s feet offers a look inside the lovingly designed park behind the wall. A clever visual guidance system within the artwork facilitates an overlapping view of idyllic nature scenes and quotes from the grounds’ previous owner, Schultze-Naumburg. Viewers follow Schultze-Naumburg’s development from a nature-loving man to an racist ideologue while broadening their understanding of the site’s past.