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In ancient Greek, the phrase “panta rhei” means “all things are in flux.” Photographer Meike Fischer’s series of the same name references that philosophy in the context of urban building. In March, the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) moved to a brand new complex in Frankfurt. At a total cost of around €1.3 billion, the ECB move spawned protests against both the bank’s austerity policies in the EU and the decadence suggested by the juxtaposition of expensive new buildings with harsh bailout policies. The ECB move also caused a spurt of building around Frankfurt, and consequently also demolition.
Fischer’s photographs capture some of that demolition in action: machine claws tearing at brick facades, walls being ripped off to expose interior structures, debris smashed so thoroughly that it becomes smoke and dust. The images are brutal, depicting violence done to existing structures. They suggest a fairly negative interpretation of Frankfurt’s massive urban redevelopment.
Yet Fischer’s photos also offer substantial aesthetic beauty. They capture something akin to process art; the pieces of small flying debris are reminiscent of Pollock’s splattering paint. The muted colors add to this painterly effect: hues of different types of debris seem to mix on impact and in the subsequent dust create slightly new shades — a process evocative of combining pigments. Panta Rhei represents a surprising kind of industrial photography, one filled with dynamism.