Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann - The Real Estate (2009)
"When Geissler & Sann moved to Chicago from Germany in early 2008, the current economic crisis was well under way. The percentage of the nation’s homes that were vacant and for sale or rent was at historic highs. Foreclosure rates were rising, while home prices, which had begun to fall in 2006, continued to plummet. Nationwide, the number of homes that have been foreclosed over the past four years is estimated at more than six million. Many of these homes remain empty; most of them represent a family or person that has been displaced.
[The artists] felt a need to react to the situation and began photographing foreclosed properties all over Chicago, ranging from homes worth a few thousand dollars to 3.5 million–dollar mansions. They did not set out to create a social documentary project. Instead, they were interested in probing the concepts of home and ownership. Feeling somewhat displaced themselves as new arrivals to the United States, they began to reflect more deeply on what it means to be uprooted, and to explore the link between familiarity and feeling at home.
The idea of the ‘real’ in relation to photographs is paradoxical, since photographs are illusions, far removed from the actual things they depict. Geissler & Sann’s installation strategy suggests that one location runs into the next, and in this way it discourages our fixation on one place, and by extension, one story. Indeed, the story is universal, provoking anxiety not only in those people who have lost their homes, but in anyone who can imagine how painful it would be to lose one, or who fears being next in line for displacement, thus reminding us that the very idea of ownership is tenuous and elusive, and that life is disturbingly unpredictable.”