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Rollrasen, 2022 - 2023

Zara Pfeifer

Im Juli 2022 und Januar 2023 dokumentiert Zara Pfeifer die Erneuerung des 8.000 m2 großen Fußballplatzes im Berliner Olympiastadion. Der Rollrasen für das Spielfeld und die notwendigen Arbeitsmaschinen wurden mit 30 LKWs über 600 km aus der Slowakei nach Berlin transportiert. Zara Pfeifers Arbeit zeigt den Prozess des Abtragens, Aufbereitens, Ersetzens und Recycelns des Rasens und erscheint wie ein Kommentar zu unserer global vernetzten Wirtschaft mit all ihren physischen Konsequenzen.


Julija 2022 in januarja 2023 je Zara Pfeifer dokumentirala prenovo 8000 m2 velikega nogometnega igrišča na olimpijskem stadionu v Berlinu. Trava za igrišče in potrebni stroji so bili s 30 tovornjaki prepeljani več kot 600 km iz Slovaške v Berlin. Delo Zare Pfeifer prikazuje postopek odstranjevanja, priprave, zamenjave in recikliranja trate ter se zdi kot komentar našega globalno omreženega gospodarstva z vsemi njegovimi fizičnimi posledicami.


Zara Pfeifer’s incomplete inventory of support infrastructures for modern life

Ludwig Engel


Rollrasen (“sod”) is a series of photographs and video sequences by Austrian-German artist Zara Pfeifer. It documents the team of Richter Rasen replacing the 8.000 m2 lawn at Olympic stadium in Berlin in July 2022 and January 2023. The lawn, including the necessary working machines are loaded on 30 trucks and transported over 600 km from Slovakia to Berlin. Slovakian sod is known for its hydro-permeability, ideal for football fields and is used in football stadiums all over Europe. The approximately 550 tons of worn-out lawn are shipped off and recycled to serve as infrastructure/highway greenery or are used for horticultural purposes. This whole procedure is repeated twice a year.


The global economy can be understood as an attempt to allocate resources. Colonialism and globalization, digital infrastructures spanning the globe, the geo-political preferences of capital flows all rely on the distribution of people and things. The wider the markets, the greater the desires to participate through consumption. So things and people need to be moved. Constantly. On a global scale. Almost 100 million shipping containers are handled in the EU ports per year these days. Put in line, they would span over 2.4 million kilometers—enough to encircle the Earth about 60 times. And that’s only the containers at the European sea ports. Per year. And every container is unloaded on trains and trucks, every box in every container must be transported someplace, every item in every box has to be delivered somewhere. With trade on a hyper-global level for decades, the logistics behind the operation have become so gigantic, so fast, that they are hardly noticed. Not because they are not there. No. Because they are everything and everywhere. Infrastructures to allocate resources. Ships, trains and trucks, canals, rails and highways, storage facilities, depots, data centers and logistic hubs have transformed Earth. The world has become a logistical landscape hidden from view. Hold that thought for a moment: It’s not the resources, goods and products humanity aspires to possess and consume that has brought the Anthropocene upon but the economy behind the possibility to get what you want wherever you are. That is why all these transitory infrastructures that temporarily gather people or things—from car parks to bank vaults, from train stations to greenhouses—unfold utopian characteristics once the frantic movement they usually host are removed. Suddenly these infrastructures and buildings that had been hiding in plain sight become visible. As they show their architecture, they give way to reflect on the modern way of life Western humanity has been living through for too long already.


Zara Pfeifer is fascinated by these instants where infrastructures become visible, offering a glimpse behind their scenes. In her photographs it often feels as if she has caught a building, a machine, or an entire highway in that fleeting moment when it rests as if to take a breath from the accelerated state of being constantly in motion. Zara Pfeifer’s images don’t openly criticize the planetary consumption and its underlying logistics, rather she gives care and attention to the overlooked and overutilized. She offers her motives another life—one of beauty and serenity, of light and grace. Under her gaze the most profane inhabits the mundane, the functional renders poetic. Lewis Baltz may come to mind who’s photographs of parking lots and storage facility doors show an intense tenderness and tell a counter-history of the American dream. Zara Pfeifer’s photos differ from the rigidity of Baltz’ formalized minimalism. Her photographs carry the signature of a trained architect who understands proportions, scale and material and is not lured in by the precise details of a functional building façade. Instead her works can be read as an incomplete inventory of the support infrastructures for modern life in all of its brute beauty. Where Hilla and Bernd Becher conducted a vast, organized archive of industrial structures in line with the efficiency of modern industrialization, Zara Pfeifer’s motives are more of a meandering derive, capturing situations, documenting the pitfalls of the global economy attempting to find balance. There is a lightness and humor in many of her images that break with the rigid documentation style her approach to photography is indebted to. An extruding pipe, a neglected weed grown into a tree, heaps of grass and earth left behind create surreal miniature landscapes of urban decay and renewal. Zooming out she finds the same qualities in architectural megastructures such as Harry Glück’s towers of Alterlaa (1973-1985) or Ursulina Schüler-Witte and Ralf Schüler’s ICC building (1975-1979) casting a novel perspective on the ideals these building were constructed with and juxtaposing it with the contemporary context the are now standing in. In Zara Pfeifer’s photographs there is never a beginning or the end of a story but the moments where things are left of or picked up, much like in the vast repository of Armin Linke’s global investigations. Her lens tells us how the world is. Nonsensical, intricate, fascinating and in dire need to be preserved and transformed at the same time.

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