The cultivation of plants is one of the most important of all human discoveries. Through the skilful exploitation of the natural adaptability of organisms and plants, it has been possible to discover a plethora of (economically) useful plants. The time spans of such evolutions are hard to grasp in human terms, bur intelligent selection, intensive observation and a measure of coincidence have allowed time spans to be shortened. Artificially created biomes (1), where it is possible to nearly eliminate natural climatic conditions, provide another obvious step in the manipulation of these time spans. In the meantime, it has become clear that understanding natural conditions and contexts is a complex matter, and the artificial biomes can not encompass the variety the natural world has to offer. Even imitating climatic conditions, whose interplay consists of a multitude of regulations and complex energy transformations, has proved too demanding. Drastically simplified mechanisms have been developed that allow plants to grow irrespective of natural conditions. However, nature`s influence can only be curbed through the construction of a totally artificial environment – a greenhouse. By using only nutriment solutions, gas mixes and preventative medication, such systems can be kept alive. The abandoned greenhouse complex in Vockerode provides us with such an environment.
Vockerode is a village that lies halfway along the Elbe River, near Dessau. The development of the greenhouse facility in Vockerode in 1972 was largely due to its proximity to the “Kraftwerk Elbe” power plant in Vockerode, which supplied the facility with the necessary quantities of heat and energy. The greenhouse facility “VEG (2) Gewächshausanlage Vockerode” grew to become the leading producer of greenhouse vegetables in the GDR. By 1990. the facility had 28 hectares of greenhouses, 912 workers and employees and 92 apprentices. In 1992, the Treuhandanstalt Berlin put the business into liquidation.(3) In 1997, the last greenhouses were dismantled and sold.
The galvanised frame of one greenhouse was handed over to the artists Johanna Bartl, Wieland Krause and Olaf Wegewitz by the Landkreis (district) of Anhalt-Zerbst.In September 2005, this, the architecture remains of an abandoned production site, was erected in the city centre of Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt. At its new location, this „ready-made“ metal structure has become a sculpture that visually defines the space without isolating it from its environment. It has been declared a “Nature Area” by the artists, and surrendered to its natural, spontaneous, growth. No access is permitted to the area, and the developing biosphere is permitted to flourish without human intervention: the local conditions will influence the way in which the area develops. The seeds of herbs, bushes and trees in the soil already or brought by the wind or by birds will, while in a continuous state of transformation, generate a natural balance.
The area will become a place for study and observation for the artists, for passers-by and for visitors. The aim is to inspire an awareness of nature in all its variety and complexity. A free space is created – for the plants and for our thoughts – which stimulates a new definition of the relationship between human will, technology and nature.(4)
The artists documenting the changes taking place in the area. With this documentation, the “Archive” commemorating the past use of the greenhouse will be carried into the future. This archive consists of a collection, collated by the artists, of information on the history and structure of the production facility, historic photographs and films, finds from the period of production, recorded conversations with former employees, and photographs and videotapes dating from 1997 on.
The GREENHOUSE sculpture – it is the artist`s contribution to the contemporary discourse on the contexts of economic structures, social change, ecology and philosophy.
(1) Totality of the organism community in a bioregion – here, the greenhouse
(2) Publicly owned estate
(3) From the Ortsgeschichte Vockerode (local history of Vockerode), published by the Vockerode municipality, 2001
(4) On the lawn located next to the nature area, there are twelve concrete slabs, five of which are engraved
with the words LEBEN ARBEIT ZEIT NORM FREI (life/live, work, time, norm, free).
Location of the GREENHOUSE sculpture:
Fürstenwallstraße, at the southeast edge of the Art Museum sculpture park in Magdeburg