Paradise on Earth
The photographs have all been taken in Ruegen, an island in the Baltic Sea.
Ruegen attracted me photographically as the romantic topos par excellence. It was the favorite place of German intellectuals, religious men and Romantic painters like C. D. Friedrich and P. O. Runge, who have painted here iconic Romantic landscapes. However, the reason I visited Ruegen for the first time in 2009 was to photograph for my “Leisure Time” series the so-called “Colossus of Prora”, the 4,5 km long modernistic building that lies along the Prora bay. It was conceived by the Nazi “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy) organization for mass vacation by the sea (originally planned to accommodate 20000 working-class Aryan vacationers). Because of its troubled recent history and its seer size, the future of the building remains unclear though it already hosts a state documentation center, a private museum with a “Viennese” Cafe and recently the biggest youth hostel in Germany.
Most recently two of the remaining blocks (almost 500m long each) were transformed into luxury apartments. In Prora, history, aesthetics and politics are closely interwoven. Politicians, investors and historians have totally different views and interests. It seems to me that something like a conundrum emerges here; or a breach in managing a site of memory.
Furthermore, what I find of a particular aesthetic interest in Prora, is the juxtaposition of the visitors vulnerable bodies who come here to see the spectacle or to have a swim, against the brutality of this massive architectural Nazi artifact. Just like in Friedrich’s paintings the human figures that turn their back to us remind us that in this (natural as well as historical) spectacle we are only latecomers.
all images and text ©Eleni Mouzakiti