The artist took on a project to document the changing city of Dresden after it was abandoned by the Communist régime at the beginning of a unified Germany. Most of the photographs show empty and grand spaces; a few of them are former army bases. We are shown the kind of panoramas that always bring to my mind the many attempts to produce seamless 180-degree images during the start of photography.
There is clarity of imagery caused by knowledge acquired in the darkroom. The viewer realizes this as the subject matter is studied. I see these inkjet photographs as a contemporary take on the Roman engraver Piranesi. In fact, the city of Dresden, with its unique mixture of post-reunification construction, architecture remaining from more than forty years of Communist control and the rebuilding of the destruction wrought by the infamous firebombing of World War II, shares a history with most great cities that live and die and then recreate themselves anew. Now, with this rebuilding in full force, the city remains an amalgam of the past and the present, the baroque and the postmodern-the past in the present. Dresden retains its historicism in the many reconstructions that go on throughout the city. These are in contrast to the purely new and modern constructions, and Dresden can never be fully detached from the past. It is a reliquary of the past contained within the present. Marsh was there to fulfill one of photography oldest functions, to record and catalogue.
John A Bennette
Independent Collector and Curator
New York, New York
Excerpt from curatorial statement
The city of Dresden was firebombed near the conclusion of World War II and occupied during the post war years by 40,000 Soviet Army troops until shortly after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. While much rebuilding has occurred since the Reunification of Germany and the formation of the Free State of Saxony, since the early 1990s a significant number of factories, apartment buildings and former Soviet Army military complexes remain vacant, abandoned and largely in decay.
With its unique mixture of post-reunification construction, architecture remaining from more than forty years of Communist control, and the rebuilding of the destruction wrought by World War ll, now in full force, Dresden remains an amalgam of the baroque and the postmodern—a reliquary of the past contained within the present. Adjusting to this foreign environment, to a European urban denseness so unlike recent experiences photographing in the vast spaces of the American West, left me stumbling about for some days. It was not until I began exploring the outskirts of Dresden that I discovered what were to emerge as the core theme of the project, not the stunningly beautiful baroque architecture of the Semper Opera or the renowned Zwinger Palace, but the collapsing structures in a former Soviet Army military area.
Born in Quantico, Virginia, in 1957, Fredrik Marsh received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Ohio State University in Columbus. His work has been included in more than a hundred solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. since 1978, with recent exhibitions in Germany. He has been the recipient of three Ohio Arts Council Grants, a Greater Columbus Arts Council Fellowship, a NEA/Arts Midwest Regional Fellowship, and an Artists Projects Grant (with Inga Paas) from the Saxonian Ministry of Science and Art, Dresden, Germany. In 2000 he was awarded a Dresden/Saxony Artist-in-Residency through the Greater Columbus Arts Council, completed during the summer of 2002.
His photographs are included in numerous public and private collections, including those of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Dresden Academy of Fine Arts), Germany; and Kupferstich-Kabinett Museum, Dresden, Germany. Dresden Reliquary: Past into Present, a limited edition portfolio with essays by American and German photo historians, will be published by Podhola Press in 2006.
Marsh has been a freelance photographer and teacher for twenty-five years. Currently, he is a senior lecturer of art at Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio, where he has been teaching since 1992. He lives in Columbus.
Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University, 2007, Columbus, OH (in process)