Charles Booth-Clibborn approached Eberhard Havekost in 2006 through Galerie Gebr. Lehman in Dresden. In talking with the artist about a possible collaboration, the idea emerged. for a print project which would be unrelated to his paintings and original in itself. Prior to the present series Havekost had already created a large oeuvre of printed works. The motivation behind this was partly to enable a greater participation in his work by a wider audience. Havekost’s prints, so far usually of very modest size, were either four-colour offset or inkjet prints. For the present series a different technique, screenprint, which Havekost had not used before, was chosen. As subject Havekost decided on photographs he had taken of a dilapidated building near Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin.
From a larger number of photographs Havekost selected nine for the series and edited the images digitally on the computer. Brad Faine of Coriander Studios was provided with the artist’s digital files. In order to determine the scale of the series the artist was provided with large inkjet prints of his photographs. Once the size of each print had been decided, screens were prepared through colour separation. Up to 30 screens were used, each for a different colour, plus an additional screen for the final layer of matt glazing.
Ruins have long been a traditional motif in art, valued by artists from a purely aesthetic point of view, but also as remnants of human history. In the eighteenth century artificial ruins were built as follies – symbols of artistic creation as well the transience of human endeavour. A well-known example is the gothic ruin at the castle of Pillnitz near Dresden. The contrast between the carefully orchestrated decay of this Romantic ruin and the abandoned building of
Ewigkeit could not be more pronounced. Havekost’s prints, based on photographs taken on a glum and overcast day, focus relentlessly on the tristesse of decay. The translation of the photographs into heavily layered prints of mainly grey and blue tints further emphasizes the loss of any redeeming beauty.
Havekost presents us with fragments of the decaying building, zooming in on certain aspects such as window frames, brickwork or wooden beams. Untitled 7 and 9 focus on the same area of wooden debris from different angles, revealing a purely formal interest in the collapsed fabric. The graffiti on the wall is the only marker helping us to identify both images as being from the same locale. We are denied access to the building in its entirety and are therefore unable to piece together coherently the remnants of its former whole. Trapped inside the structure, we take clues from the evidence presented to us. The use of flash lighting, the signs of which Havekost did not water down when editing the images digitally, gives the series a flavour of a crime scene. Like a forensic photographer, Havekost has put together a collection of different viewpoints. From the fenestration, as well as the double-walled brickwork, we can deduce that the house was built in the nineteenth century, possibly during the Gründerzeit, a period of economic boom following the unification of Germany. A free-standing villa surrounded by woods, it survived the Second World War as well as the German Democratic Republic.
In more recent times the building has clearly taken major blows from a wrecking ball. Most likely it has fallen victim to a developer after German reunification in the 1990s, and left discarded since. Due to ownership disputes in this period, developments were frequently left uncompleted. Graffiti pops up in several images and in Untitled 5, the central and largest print of the series, Havekost has consciously centred in on ‘Fick’, the German word for f*ck, sprayed under the number 666. A puerile prank has thus become a comment on post-reunification Germany. Havekost himself was born in Dresden and grew up in East Germany and the title of the series, Ewigkeit (Eternity), despite its blatant sarcasm, betrays a latent sense of nostalgia.