Theme Park

2005-2006

 

A series of 51 wooden-framed photographs, 30 x 45 cm,
taken in May 2005 and presented in 10 rows,
nos. 1-29 of Binz, nos. 30-51 of Prora, on the Island of Ruegen, Germany.

A digital compositing version (16 minutes) of the photoseries without soundtrack for projection
was created in July 2006; an accompanying article Theme Park Reconstructed was completed in October 2006.

The photo series encompasses images of Prora, the monumental but uncompleted Nazi seaside resort and of Binz, the close by, thriving tourist spa in northern Germany.

2007 (15.10.) Pdf versions of Ury’s article (English and German) Theme Park Reconstructed including all images of the photo series Theme Park, published in Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, Volume 7, Number 4, English and German versions:
reconstruction.eserver.org/074/uryenglish
reconstruction.eserver.org/074/urydeutsch

"This piece represents the best of politico-historical art, a sort of essay version of Sebald - a genre of criticism too little explored, practised, etc. The images themselves, as well as the way Ury has placed them within the well-documented text, create an uncanny (unheimlich) feel with respect to the twinning of past and future, tourism and fascism, ruin and reconstruction. Not only that, but Ury tells about a real place and situation, so that social forces are revealed which are intensified by her aesthetic vision."
Alan Clinton Submissions editor, Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, January 2007



Prora near Sassnitz, is part of a small holiday resort, Ostseebad Binz on the Prora Wiek, one of the bays on the Island of Ruegen, north Germany. Only a few kilometres of sandy beach separate them. The one, practically uninhabited, is a ghost town that is nevertheless visited by 250,000 sightseers each year because of its historical importance; the other is a tourist paradise, swarming with people, mainly in summer.

Prora, known as the Colossus of Ruegen, consists chiefly of numerous barrack-like, 6 floor-high buildings, which were built and almost completed by the National Socialist Organisation 1936-39 and lie at a distance of ca. 150 m from the beach. This would-be seaside health resort, approximately 4.5 kilometres in length, was constructed for the benefit of 20,000 German workers, so that they might relax with "Kraft durch Freude", "Power through Joy" to strengthen their nerves for the coming war.

The photo series Theme Park emerged from the many images I took of Prora's grey concrete and tile-roofed buildings, or the exploded and ruined parts of mortar brick walls and alternately the older and newer holiday apartments, hotels, constitutional pathways and the animated, peopled beaches of Binz. My objective was to photograph the differences, or possible similarities between Prora and Binz. The outcome was a presentation that takes the viewer on a stroll through the various landscapes.

In December 2003 the German government (under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's leadership at the time) gave its approval for the purchasing of the museum block, on condition that the District of Ruegen and the Binz community agreed with the sale. The various groups decided they would prefer to retain the so-called Museum's Mile however, and rejected a sale to Inselbogen Ltd and Uniconsulta; the Tenants' Association had already prepared an offer to purchase the block themselves, in 1999. In September 2004, the Ministry of Finance nevertheless, sold parts of the premises of the National Socialist recreational centre Prora, and 70 Hectares of forest and open country; Uniconsulta, an institution for market research, registered in the Principality of Liechtenstein bought the ruins in the northern part of Prora, Inselbogen bought Block III and adjacent sections.

"'Should the sale be endorsed, the very centre of Prora would be presented on a plate to someone who isn't concerned about the historical importance of the place.' Rostock said that Meyer was marketing Prora as a sort of Disneyland." Dr.Jürgen Rostock, director of the Documentation Centre Prora, taz newspaper 14.12.2004

 

Tanya Ury