picture by Silvia Susanna

picture by Falko Matte

picture by Falko Matte

picture by Silvia Susanna

picture by Anton Cordes

diffractive windows

tracing the material entanglement of the Saalecker Workshop, Germany through the practice of framing and being framed.

The project originated from a reflection on the labels 'Zedler-Restaurierung' found throughout the Saalecker Workshop—the first project of the Nazi ideologist Paul Schultze-Naumburg and a location for several meetings of prominent National Socialists, including Hitler.

The 'Zedler-Restaurierung' are 5x5 cm paper labels affixed to every material in each room that serve as a testament to the currently authorized preservation discourse (AHD)1. After being designated as a national monument in 1995, a specific material investigation on the building became mandatory. Therefore, any formal changes interfering with Schultze-Naumburg's last implementation required permission from the State Office for Monument Preservation.

What is the relation between the materialization of the racial ideology of Paul Schultze-Naumburg and the current knowledge of cultural heritage? Who is validating a cultural value and according to which criteria? Who earns a place in the chronicles of cultural heritage and for what reasons? Whose narratives are acknowledged, remembered, and endured in the national collective memory while others fade into obscurity?

The project materialized after a series of conversations I had with the inhabitants of Saaleck, on-site and online research, and material investigation of the Saalecker Workshop.

The project revolved around three different areas.
1st / the second room on the left side of the second floor. A series of projected pictures of the Saalecker Workshop portraying people inhabiting the place during the GDR period revealed a series of stories currently forgotten from the national memory. These projected images face the 'Zedler-Restaurierung' label at the entrance. 
2nd / first room on the left side of the second floor, where I identified an accumulation of visible time-space mattering through the layering of various materials. By applying black tape, I outlined a window. Within this window, a series of letters were glued to several materials, each corresponding to a legend. The legend was situated in a position that, in order to be read, constrained the observer to enter the window. For each letter, there was a material description, a year, and a crucial event that occurred in that specific year. The legend proposed a time-material reading. 
3rd / capital of the stairs’ column, where there is only a tape frame with no legend. At this point, the observer had no hints, was only invited  to reflect on the space between narrative and material evidence.

The definition of a series of diffractive frames (the photos, the taped area with a legend, and taped capital)2; the project aimed to go off the established preservation protocols and open up possible time-mattering frameworks that crossover facts, events, and materials for collectively delving into the process of validating the value, the relationship between the evaluator and the value, and the possible positions that everyone could take while defining which materials matter in relation to which narrative.

The diffractive frames are not meant to be an alternative to established preservation approaches but rather to stress the relationship between the object assumed to be preserved and the subject analyzing. The aim was to underline the inseparability of the material and discursive dimensions of reality, as well as the material-discursive nature of boundary-drawing practices and the responsibilities within these power dynamics. Ultimately, the project performed as an invitation to contemplate the epistemological foundations that underpin the narrative surrounding national memories.

(1) Laurajane Smith, The Authorized Heritage Discourse (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006)
(2) "my method is to engage aspects of each in dynamic relationality to the other, being attentive to the iterative production of boundaries, the material-discursive nature of boundary-drawing practices, the constitutive exclusions that are enacted, and questions of accountability and responsibility for the reconfgurings of which we are a part."
Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning  (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). p. 93.


The project has been assisted by Julius Wolff, developed during the dieDAS fellowship program Monumental Affair directed by Germane Barnes.