Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cologne, Drezden, Grozny

The incomparable Eileen Joy, on rebuilding modern ruins: :

Some time yesterday afternoon, the six-story Cologne Archives, housing documents dating as far back as the tenth century, as well as the private papers of writers such as Karl Marx, Hegel, and Heinrich Böll, and also all of the minutes taken at Cologne town council meetings since 1376, collapsed as if hit by a missile, only there was no missile, but rather, some sort of structural flaw that caused the building to start cracking and tumbling down. Most visitors, plus some construction workers on the roof, were able to get out in time, although two or three persons may be buried underneath the rubble. Ironically, the Archives contained many documents that had been recuperated from library buildings destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War, and a small nuclear bomb-proof room that had been constructed in the basement to house the most rare materials was, at the time of the building's collapse, only being used to store cleaning materials...

Ever since about 1999, when I first discovered what had been going in Chechnya, I have been kind of obsessed with the city of Grozny and its "disappearance," so to speak, as well as with the ways in which Grozny's destruction has not registered as more than a "blip" on the consciousness of the international media [ask most people, even educated people, if they know what happened in Grozny and they will look at you, like, huh?; show them the photographs, especially the ones in black and white, and ask them to guess where they are, and most answer "Dresden"], and I have returned often to this site as way of thinking through certain questions that have to do with ruins, traumatic history, and memory. The Russian government purposefully refused to re-build the city for almost a decade as a "lesson" to the Chechen rebels and yet many Chechens [not counting the 500,000 or so displaced by the bombings who chose to migrate elsewhere, such as Georgia] continued living there in pretty much post-apocalyptic living conditions [a perfect breeding ground, too, for the suicide terrorism that soon flourished there]. More recently, Russia has rebuilt the city but at such lightning speed that the whole place looks like one of those towns that spring up overnight near Disney World in Florida.

No comments: