Friday, May 10, 2013

Disappearances and memories

As most modern cities the skyline of Rotterdam  is dominated by the skyscrapers in its center. Many of these skyscrapers belong to financial institutions. And even though new skyscrapers are being built continuously, many of them stand empty and unused. The financial crisis has made victims.  
One of the victims is the office of Fortis bank in Rotterdam. First a consortium of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis and Banco Santander bought the Dutch ABN-AMRO bank with plans to break it up and to distribute it among themselves. Then the financial crisis hit. Fortis couldn't raise the 24 billion it needed and tried to sell it's share of ABN-AMRO to raise the necessary funds. The sale failed and Fortis had to be nationalized together with the ABN-AMRO bank. 
Now the Fortis logo has disappeared from the facade of the building. Even before the failure of the bank the operations had been moved to the main office in Utrecht, costing Rotterdam 1000 jobs.
The empty space that once held the logo reminds me of The Detachment, an art project by Sophie Calle from 1996:
  • I [Sophie Calle] visited places in Berlin where the symbols of East Germany have been removed. I asked passers-by to describe the objects that once filled these empty spaces. I photographed the absence and replaced the missing monuments with their memories.
Personally, I don't notice the absence. When I walk past there now I don't see anything. I think it was a plaque made of plain copper, saying that Karl Marx or Lenin, one or the other, studied  there - It wasn't removed, it was stolen. In 1993 or 1994. It was made of grey chiseled stone. I'm not 100 percent sure what it said. Having walked past it for years, I didn't really notice it anymore. I took it for a sign specifying that Lenin lived there. Not exactly pretty. But the message was all right - There was a memorial plaque of some kind. Brownish, made of metal, almost vulgar. Could be that Lenin was on it, but it wasn't accurate so it was removed. That part of the library wasn't even built when Lenin stayed in Berlin
I wonder how many people still remember that Fortis logo. I almost didn't.


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