Iron Dust - Reflections
Reviewed by Guido Carrai
(published 2 Nov 2017)
"Last night, in the peculiar and evocative Saint Anne's Church in the Old Town, domicile of the Havel Foundation, Eleutheria Foundation presented the performance Iron Dust: Reflections by Danilo De Rossi, Italian photographer. The opportunity of this “mystery” journey inside the abandoned factory of Poldi Kladno, allows me to go back with memories to my early Bohemian journeys. I arrived in Kladno by chance, for the same reasons that brought me all the way and fall in love with Prague in the mid-nineties. My very first encounter with Poldi took place in a totally filtered way. Next to the bus stop, there used to be – and it's still there – the Poldi Hutte hostel of the architect Josef Hoffmann: right those days it was being transformed into an hotel with a remake that I would at least define brutal. I documented the fact for the magazine Zprávy Pamatkove Pece, but this is not really the topic of my talk. In Kladno, besides the pungent smell of anthracite, one could breathe a gloomy air and it felt almost like the shadow of the skeleton, or skeletons, of the steel plants, that were once the biggest in Europe, was casting a darkness on the streets and the town's mood. Between 1990 and 2002, between factory and spin-off activities, 35 thousand employees lost their job: an hecatomb. The voice of my friend Miroslav, who worked in the human resources offices for many years, was trembling while telling the storied that gradually, as much as relentlessly, ended up with weakening and leading to the defenseless capitulation of the iron giant.
Since the furnaces were turned out, some of the smokestacks have been blown off, some others stay as a remote glory's simulacrum. Danilo led us through these ruins, almost holding our hand, as someone who knows this place well, a seemingly dark and inhospitable abode. He spent a long time there, not only to collect and arrange an impressive number of shots, but to understand further, to feel the spirit as well as the spirits of the place. His is a kaleidoscope of perspectives and through his clicks, besides the narrator's voice, even those who had never seen the factory and its offices before, manage to perceive the life that crossed them, albeit its absence.
Objects and details, the “tungsten space” told by the poet Hrabal, shows itself under the dust; the light cuts the eternal darkness of Krasna Poldi. Live steel is no more flowing through Europe's black heart ventricles; the monster is resting and the artist stitches and tell its legend, searching for a lost time that is ours too.
Miroslav, who was the first to guide me Charles Bridge statues as well – which he used to call by name, one by one, as if they were buddies at Kladno's afterwork pub – didn't like to go back to Poldi much. The factory, which nourished him, had yet deprived him – likewise the gentle barbarian– of his dream of a different life: nurturing his passion for history that he studied at university. He would drown his regrets in a glass, nevertheless he would give up on self-mockery. Sometimes he would open the regime's relics' closet, wear the Red Army petty officer's overcoat and hang out to party and mess around in pubs. Before locking his memories' closet, he took out a dark tie, with Leopoldina's silhouette in the centre, and gave it to me. He said it was the tie managers were given when retiring. I keep it with love, as I do with the memory of those days as well as of the emotions Danilo sensibly shared and told all of us. Thank you.
Guido Carrai (Florence, 1965), is a passionate Bohemist. He got his degree in Architecture in Florence and completed his PhD in History of Architecture in 2003 in the same university – with a thesis on Nicolò Sebregondi (1595-1652), architect of Ferdinando Gonzaga and Albrecht Eusebius of Wallenstein. Author of a number of Italian architecture's exhibitions in Bohemia, he collaborates with the Italian Institute of Culture in Prague, the Czech Republic Academy of Science and with the Prague Castle.