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Vorwort zu "Köln fünf Uhr dreißig"

A work ("Foreword to 'Cologne, 5:30'") by this German writer on this German photographer.  You can read the original in this collection.

One would have to look at these photographs all at once, one after the other in the flash of a single moment: a large city in the morning between five and five-thirty.  Only then would the deception of a single photo be eliminated.  And the deception consists of the fact that the city has a name, as well as a hidden history that inevitably adds to the photos' effect.  The name of the city is Cologne, and it is practically impossible to photograph its inner space without somewhere catching a part of the Cathedral, a city gate or one of the Roman churches.  The name of the city is as indifferent as its history, which can only be interesting for tourism, thus only for commercial reasons.  What is more, it could just as well be called Duisburg, Essen or Stuttgart and, like all cities, it is there for cars and car drivers.  And precisely because there are no cars to be found in these photos one sees that they are what belongs to the city – as all other cities belong to them.  It would also be logical, as it were, to leave this city nameless by labeling it with a combination of license plates and postal stamps: 5 K 1; the danger that one might confuse this designation with an obscure tonic can be allayed by means of a computer.

The problems in these cities are well-known: parking and the "flow" of traffic.  It is also well-known that both problems can never be resolved because all construction takes a very long time, and what could have been a solution for 1970 may in reality very well be the solution for 1965.  The madness is as evident as the emperor's new clothes, but one is still obliged to turn a blind eye to two matters: the free market economy and a certain something that we can call individualism.  It would be faineant here to ponder the price of land; the newspapers are chock full of such musings, everyone knows it, everyone laments it and nevertheless everything proceeds apace.  "We will march on," and we will continue to turn not one but two blind eyes to all this.  Probably in a few years' time that theory regarding the inhospitality of our cities will be categorized as euphoric, and the theory of the cities' unlivability will then arise, and when it does it will turn out to be quite applicable.  The privileged know how to help themselves: they betake themselves to a house in the country or leave the parking problem to their driver.  Since, comically enough, umpteen workplaces – radio stations, banks, insurance companies and department stores – are being built in the middle of the city, we have put the hounds on the parking, etcetera, etcetera.  The question "how much land does a man need" should be asked anew; a parking space is generally only a tad bigger than a grave.

I live in this city.  I was born there.  Were one to ask me whether it was my home, I would not have an answer.  It is rather the home of my memory; for an author this may be very significant, but for whom else could it possibly mean a thing?  This is something I cannot judge.  I am only sure that the concept of banishment requires a new definition.  I cannot provide such a definition here, I can only recall a certain pair of blind eyes turned away that enabled destroyed cities to be destroyed a second time.  By means of enormous administrative construction projects whose (somewhat controversial) architectonic elegance is also deceptive, a deception that becomes even worse owing to "the small houses there on the corner" which one leaves standing in order to erect a memorial to individualism.  All this comprises a system of architectural dominance for which "the small houses there on the corner" become a servant whose master treats him with merciful contempt.      

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