Sand Quarry

Video 6 min – 2005


Notes on Sandquarry

In 2001, while researching and taking pictures on different hidden places and histories in Berlin for what has became the book Wo versteckt sich Rosa L./où se cache Rosa L. , I heard about a sand quarry where the biggest Lenin Statue of former east Germany had been buried. Gathering informations from a book written by Emmanuel Terray (Ombres Berlinoises) and from a gardener who was working on the United Nation Square, I went to the forest of köpenick, in the outskirts of Berlin, searching for a quarry, the Seddin sand quarry, not knowing where to locate it exactly.

During my first walk in the forest and around the Müggelsee, I was taking pictures each time I was seeing a monticule of sand, confusing I guess, beaches with sand quarries. While taking the pictures, I quiet liked the idea that the statue could have been burried under a beach used by FKK people, families and playing children. Was it because one could read again in the lanscape a certain collusion between leisure and struggle, leisure and history like one could find in the  parisian 1968 grafitti "Sous les pavés la plage"?

Walking around the perimeter of a shooting site protected by hedges, I wondered if the Lenin Statue couldn´t have been hidden under bushes inside the site. I managed to climb the hedges and finally bummed into a place which obviously looked like a quarry onan other edge of the shooting site. Even if the site haven´t been obviously used as a sand quarry for a long time, the deflagration in the geography, the hole in the hill didn´t let any doubt.

It is only after a second walk on the site that I had the chance to see, among high herbs and fine sands and on the side of a tumulus, the almost completely buried red granit block form Ukraine which appears to me as the black block appears to the monkeys in the film Space Odysee. It was sunny and very hot, and I suppose that I went to the Seddin lake right after my discovery.

I gave some calls to the Berliner Senat for Culture and to the local forest guards brigade of Köpenick to get more informations and eventually an authorization to film and dig out pieces of the statue and the installation of an information billboard around the statue close to the site, claiming an artistic intervention to give the place more visibility. No one could or were willing to take responsibility, the embarassment was obvious, to who belongs this statue today and who can and wish to be in charge with it ? The Monument Preservation Department of the senat for Culture proposed me to call the Forstamt of Köpenick and the Forstamt of Köpenick gently invitated me to call the Senat… This happened many times during each phone call.

Between 2002 and 2004, I finally decided to organize on my own small journeys on the site. This 19 meters high statue stood until 1991 in Berlin center, on the former Lenin Square which was renamed later the United nations square. The statue had been inaugurated in 1971 for the hundredth anniversary of his birth, it stood In Situe between the architectures and urban planning of Henselmann and the Friedrichshain´s  park of the people.

These journeys aimed to have a pick nick on the site and to try to dig out some parts of the statue. Free will action and leisure : it was more about marking the place of our presence, having a pick nick and diging a bit than finding the statue itself. Of course, it has been each time nice to see again the red granit from Ukraine and to stroke and slide its concrete materiality. But there was always a doubt which part of the statue each blocks we found could have been originally. A part of the flag ? of the socle ? An elbow? Between each trips, the forest guards burried again the blocks we could dig out with sand obviously using a caterpillar. After the second trip, they add some construction wastes over the whole tumulus that we couldn´t pretend to dig out anymore with the shovels we had. I realized in 2005 a short film named Sand quarry out of the video documentation of these trips.

Shortly after our first expedition where we had the chance to dig out few blocks of the Lenin statue, a member of the PDS party, the former communist party of germany, complained in a newspaper that thieves have been trying to steal the statue (I guess without knowing that each blocks weight many tones and that it is just impossible to take away without massive technical support and machines) and that the site needed protection. The statu quo around the statue and maybe as well around the symbolic of its potential political, esthetical and ideological legacy it could carry with, seems obviously for a majority to burry it. But for different reasons, creating a weird double bind : for some people, to burry the statue in the outskirts of Berlin was like a funeral without ceremony to forget and be released of an heavy burden, for others, on the contrary, to let the statue in the underground was symbolically protecting it from iconoclasts.

Later, someone brought a bench until the sandquarry close to the tumulus, obviously knowing as well about the place. It stays there for few years and was removed or felt appart recently.

From 2009 to 2013, sporadic gossips could be read in local berliner newspapers about a spectacular historical show supposed to be held in the Zitadelle of Spandau where the head of the statue was supposed to be dig out and put on display. As a relic, a commodified trophy and the ultimate attraction for mass tourism ? To be followed.

Raphaël Grisey




April 19th 1970,
for the hundred anniversary
of lenins birth,
a statue of him
is inaugurated in East-Berlin
in the district of Friedrichshain.
It is constructed on the Leninplatz
which is crossed by the Leninallee.
The used material is a red granit
imported from Ukraine.
The ensemble is nineteen meter high
and stand in front of three towers
built at the same period.
The Leninplatz is now called
the place of the United Nations.
The statue of Lenin was cut
in 125 pieces at the end of 1991.
Those were bury away
under one meter sand
in the forest of Köpenick
waiting for a new affectation.