BOOK CLUB: SCRIPT OF DEMOLITION

The action of gravity on a mass produces both a physical and emotional weight. When we watch a building topple there is an empathetic reflex — a sublime pathos independent from the event’s material and historical significance, its symbolic import (the announced death of modern architecture, for example), or even our possible emotional attachment to the building concerned — that comes from witnessing a previously inanimate object succumb to the same forces to which we feel ourselves subjected.

Martin Fink, a German demolitions expert, evokes this tendency toward personification in his recollection of a job that didn’t go according to plan. Fink Sprengtechnik, the demolition outfit run by his family for three generations, had been hired to tear down a church tower in Stuttgart, Germany. However, after the first round of detonations, the building remained standing. While the nature of the Finks’ professional responsibilities required that they maintain a scientific outlook on the situation, Fink recalls how the onlookers who had gathered to watch reacted emotionally. “The people were thinking, ‘It doesn’t want to fall…’” A technical miscalculation was reinterpreted as the building’s desire to live. It turned out that one of the contractors who had built the tower was also a parishioner who, imagining that it was meant to stand forever, had added reinforcement beyond the plan’s specifications.

This tension between technical and emotional concerns runs throughout Script of Demolition, the book in which the above account appears. In this homage to demolition, artist Alina Schmuch presents over 60 years of Fink Sprengtechnik’s archive across 336 pages, with graphic design by Jan Kiesswetter and an essay by Philip Ursprung. Although purportedly aesthetically unselfconscious, the Fink images, which range from tragicomic cartoon diagrams to film sequences, are captivating, and evoke works by artists such as John Baldessari, Gordon Matta-Clark, Eva Hesse, or Fischli and Weiss. Yet, despite these coincidental resemblances, the collection is full of its own stylistic idiosyncrasies. And even though the Finks maintain that for them the images are purely technical — useful evidence and reference documents — co-editor Armin Linke accurately observes, in the book’s foreword, that the family’s collection demonstrates “more artistry than a lot of artists.”

Taken from PIN–UP 19, Fall Winter 2015/16.