As part of the exhibition: ‘Delay’ ‘Old and new Europe. investigating the transition zone’
text: Wilma Sutö – Rotterdam Netherlands 2004
Drent and van Voorst chiefly filmed in Transsylvania, where systematization was quitte far advanced. Still, the contrast is great between the flats and the immediately surrounding countryside. Strips of greenery serve as vegetable gardens, while geese rummage along the avenues between the puddles where the clouds are reflected. Here too, the inhabitants draw attention to the unfulfilled promise of a market complex and a motel in the foothills, neither of which were built.
Building Blocks portrays both the block housing and the residents, who add a quirky character to the uniform architecture. Wizened old people still remember how the land was taken away from the farmers; a desillusioned man tells that half the neighbourhood is empty because of unemployment following the closure of the mines. Others are more cheerful: the icon-maker, who strives after divinity in his mosaiques, earning enough to be branded a capitalist, and the rockers who practise Satanism because they consider it to be the ‘religion of the individual not of the masses’.
Building Blocks captures in painterly, atmospheric images the faded glory of an utopia. Drent and van Voorst refrain from comment. They do, however, subtly reveal the decay, in a scale-model reconstruction of the block housing which can be used as a toy and ties in with the documentary. From the local umbrella and toy factory, which was in transition between state-owned company and privatized enterprise, they ordered eighty plastic flats: models, made up of many small panels, in that way resembling houses of cards.
They make good conjuring material, as the factory’s template-maker (also a resident of the neighbourhood) demonstrates. You hold your breath as he assembles it. Surely the big flats – in the Conducator’s day his toys – are not as a makeshift, as shaky as these small versions!
The sculptural installation that Drent and van Voorst have built with these little plastic flats, a small-scale town, sheds light on the legacy of a past era.