Peggy BUTH (*1971 in Berlin, GER)
Lives and works in Leipzig and Berlin (Germany)
For many years the world’s cities and metropolises have experienced an enormous influx of people, for many unexpected in its dimensions. Existential reasons are often the reason people move to cities: war and displacement, economic hardships or a lack of prospects in the countryside. Cities symbolize the hope for better working and living conditions. They stand for variety and cultural density, for different lifestyles and not least for better working opportunities. Already in the 1950s and 60s, major European cities had to respond to large numbers of immigrants. In the spirit of modernity and the Neues Bauen (New Building) movement, housing estates with high-rises and green areas emerged, their preferred location on the outskirts of cities. What were intended as points of departure into a new age have become in many places flashpoints with high crime rates. The artist Peggy Buth is interested in these connections. Her video work makes impressively visible the failed utopias of bygone days. Yet the challenges of those times are still highly topical and controversial today.
Demolition Flats depicts the demolition of residential blocks in a Parisian suburb, where in the 1960s, in particular North African migrants found a new home. In the large housing estate “La Cité des Quatre Mille” (“the City of Four Thousand") in the community La Courneuve, social unrest was common and even major riots took place. The reputation of the neighbourhood suffered and the people living there had to give up their homes to make way for new development plans after the turn of the millennium. With her video footage of the detonations, accompanied by a noisy, distorted, almost pain-inducing soundtrack, Peggy Buth portrays an impressive symbol of failure. Failed city planning, inadequate integration and social repression are not the only themes here. In the video sequences, people who are likely former residents can be seen among the onlookers. They observe the buildings being demolished, the city losing a part of its history. Their personal memories, life dreams and hopes are also disappearing amongst the rubble. Peggy Buth shines light upon the fundamental changes that cities and societies undergo without adding any further comment or judgement. But who shapes these developments and what do they mean for the future and for the nature of social interaction?
Text: Ingo Clauß