Steffi Klenz: Nummianus
- Talitha Kotzé
- 10 February 2010
Red-bricked Lego blocks build up seemingly endless façades of vacant terraced houses – boarded up, echoing displacement and post-industrial decline, they fail to bare remnants of the lives of previous inhabitants. These are the kind of dead houses where secrets are buried. The Wire’s Baltimore cops would have a field day moving in to knock down the boards in their quest for a magnitude of missing bodies.
The exhibition consists of a series of photographs taken in the Greater Manchester area where German-born, London-based photographer, Steffi Klenz, discovered entire estates of abandoned houses. The way her exhibition is dedicated to showcasing these homes becomes a cenotaph in memory of people’s former lives.
The title Nummianus was taken from an inscription found on the floor of the Siricio house in Pompeii. Refering to the name of one of the wealthiest trading companies at the time, it translates as coin or money. The artist attempts to link the empty, devalued commodity estate to the city of Pompeii through the reference to Pompeii-red – a colour now branded after excavations revealed that the walls of Pompeii’s affluent houses were painted in red to signal their status.
Just as detailed evidence unearthed that everyday life in the ancient town was a lively affair, so too the artist highlights an ambivalent similarity between the two places, comparing the eruption of Vesuvious with the destruction of working class communities by Thatcher.
Shades of red in repetitive ruin, a haunting town unwilling to call the ghosts from its brickwork, Klenz’s Nummianus becomes a palimpsest: an imagined photographic-scape in the same way that the estate houses lie vacant in their architectural environment and in much the same way that Pompeii boasts an archaeological archive today.
Continuing her exploration of ghost towns, the artist is showing a related series of photographs, La Posa, at the Goethe Institute in Glasgow. These are located in the village of Tyneham in the South West of England, which was repossessed by the army for whom the village became an obstacle for their military manoeuvres in 1943, displacing the population of 225 people.
The images are quiet, crisp, textured colourscapes on which new stories can be projected.
Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until Sat 27 Mar