North of the Belgian City of Antwerp, surrounded by giant port facilities, there is a small village called Doel - the last remaining one not given way for container terminals. Right next to a huge accident-prone nuclear power station rows of one-storied houses sit behind the dyke of the river Scheldt near the Dutch border. According to a government decision made in 1997 the 700-year old village should have been completely demolished by 2009. Due to competition with Rotterdam the port of Antwerp is in the process of expansion. Despite the newly built terminals not working to capacity the government is still determined to liquidate the village. Apart from 10 houses all 400 buildings belong to a semi-governmental estate company – thanks to years of attrition policy. The last 21 remaining residents hold the fort and defend their small brick houses in long court battles.
Doel is a sad ghost village, one has the impression that its inhabitants have only recently moved out, but the housing stock has already been severely damaged due to years of abandonment and depredation.
Chris Dreier’s new solo show “Industrial Solutions” puts Doel in the center. Her photographic work (exclusively pinhole camera images) revolves around the subjects of decay, loss and abandonment as a result of change, crisis and war. Europe in the late industrial era features a number of large-scale areas characterized by defunct heavy industry, for example in Belgium, in East Germany and in Northern England. The capital, which created these complexes, has long moved on to countries with lower wage standards and left behind vast wastelands dotted with ruins and dying villages. Following her series “Souvenir de Verdun” and “The Grim North” she began in “Randlandschaften” to focus on the remaining giant power stations, which present themselves with majestic beauty.
In her war landscapes series the visible – the apparent idyll – and the invisible – the former battlefields – sometimes correlate. Doel’s abandoned houses still look fairly well preserved – some have been repainted, nevertheless the place is lost, although the new terminal might never be built.