Conversation about eviction between senior bailiff Thomas Lux und Peter Bux in Leipzig, 11 December 2007
Bux: I am interested in the instable moment in the meeting between you and the eviction debtor. I get the impression, the linear public authority time flows from one side, clocked with respites and appointments and, on the other side, flares out the afflicted time, geared to elongation like a monstrous carpet crease that, with its deformation, pushes the problem out of sight. There, they wash fresh strawberries, and outside, there is already the hauler.
Bux: … and all of a sudden this time crease is being pulled tight. And in plain sight, there you stand! And then you are the representative of this irruptive event.
Bux: I get the impression that this linearly reasoned public authority time all of a sudden breaks through this flared avoidance time. And then there is this very sudden moment of withdrawal of illusion. Thus, withdrawal of illusion, there could suddenly be something else happening which would make the linear functioning impossible.
Lux: Something irrational.
Bux: But at the same time, I perceive this – in its openness – to be a poetic moment. It is like anything can happen. He could even shake your hand, he could jump out the window, he could commit completely incoherent and absurd acts. The eviction debtor has built himself this repression as a means of protecting himself from the date. And you deprive him of this. He has to invent a possibility which will let him substitute this defenselessness. To focus on the moment of this quality change is, of course, an artistic approach which as always is reality bending. This conversation which I seek with you is to mix a verisimilitude with this artistically confined, pointedly confined formulation.
Bux: For now, the project is a public mise-en-scène. The area was truly possible for a situation such as this one. And it is a real move which I have rebuilt. The crenelated wall up here, that’s things which I have had packed as the “last things”. In the olden days, one would oftentimes raise images of saints on the wall for protection. Down here, a potato rifle is thrust in the embrasure – self-made protection of drainpipe, this works with hairspray and spark plugs, it’s surprisingly effective. The tiger carpet is obviously a truly special picturesque moment as well. A carpet which comes across as aggressive! Everything is illusion and overvaluation. Here, clotheshorse and ironing board as barbican – all of it picked humbug. The story around it is that someone is being banished – for instance through Hartz IV (German unemployment benefits and social service): the authorities decide the apartment is too big…
Lux: For whatever reasons.
Bux: … just someone who is forced to give up their home and who tries, in the last moment, to rescue his honor through a kind of revolt. He does something absurd, but in this open moment, he also discovered his revolutionary empathies and builds himself a castle. He carries his stuff downstairs, he is forced to do so, but he doesn’t really want to, and he wants to show one more time that he really doesn’t want to. And that is a quixotry, a grotesque. But it also appertains to his helplessness in this situation. The castle complex generally stands for an attempted recovery of structure. A barricade would be too chaotic. …
Lux: Many clients do indeed seem to build such fortifications. But it becomes apparent looking at individual persons that the apartments sometimes appear like fortifications. I once had an eviction in Grünau (a Leipzig borough) in ‘95/’96. That one was an engineer who was completely cuckoo. A guy who walked on the railroad tracks all the way to Munich to apply for a patent because that’s where the patent office is. The entire apartment was scribbled full of his thoughts – what I mean is: every little part of the surface, be it wallpaper, cupboard, table, or ceiling. Like a kind of mural art in the tiniest but clearly legible academic handwriting.
Bux: And these were technical texts?
Lux: Technical scripts, yes. Which, at some point, turned a little. So, when he entered the story that he threatened us, in written form. The texts addressed to us were most exquisite, they were small pieces of art but they were buried in the files and at some point destroyed. Alone the envelope was artistically perfect. My address was clearly highlighted and then, I was told in repeating – maybe 15 – colors in a sort of … - I realized that for him there was a sort of hierarchy between the colors. At first, I thought he had run out of pens, you know, he started with red and then continued with green. No, no. And then he became, even though still with his horrible engineer German, somewhat prosaic. Anyway, when we wanted to storm the apartment, it was one hell of a fortification. The door lock had a sort of draw protection and could only be opened with a magnetic key. 400 Marks, from ABUS, a gigantic sum in those days. So, we couldn’t get in through there. We then tried to leverage the weak point of each door, the hinge. And in this moment, we prompted a mechanism. And then he had timber planks, fitted at the top, I assume oak, parked in sufficient amounts. And when this mechanism opened, they slid down in a sort of holder and formed from these planks another door. We were scared to death. When those things came down…
Bux: That is just unbelievable!
Lux: Yes, and when he then by…
Bux: “Nothing too severe for the engineer.”
Lux: He was prepared for that day.
Lux: “D-Day,” yeah. He had honestly for months on end.. instead of putting this energy to finding a solution for his problem or maybe even to paying his rent… he had even flooded the house before. And he had built a direction sign into the apartment but I just wanted to say: we finally got in with the help of a chainsaw. Then, suddenly, there were swinging knives fluttering toward us on suspensions. So, they kind of fluttered around and were probably meant to you know.. everybody .. an acute threat. Just in case, he had invested all his engineering skills to really stop us there. It came to a point that there was an open window… - anyway, we could have gotten in through the window, but well, 4th floor, you don’t think of this for the moment. And when we eventually noticed it…
Bux: And that was an apartment building?
Lux: That was an apartment building in Lindenau (a Leipzig borough), Mansfeld Way. But this escalated to such an extent that he had crafted himself a sort of shrine. We never heard from this guy again. I presume that he fled, gave himself up and starved in a forest somewhere, or died of thirst, died. It’s not that rare that people lost in a forest try to keep themselves upright. But the scarce food sources, they will make it through Summer, maybe till the beginning of Fall but then, they just go to the dogs. We estimate that there’s up to 20 people living in the Auenwald (riverside forest around Leipzig). Even today. Former homeless that turn into real hermits.
Bux: What I found most interesting was that you said the engineer didn’t put this energy not to the solution of his problem but to the defense.
Lux: Yes. This is a misdirected mechanism. But, here and there to be frank, also one of capriciousness on the part of the authorities. You know, if I were to only insist on confrontation in my job as bailiff and on the enforcement of my assigned duties, I would only have such measures of escalation. And back then, apply pressure, we did. … Today, I would approach this guy in a completely different way. Today, I probably look for more means of negotiation and I would probably search for experts across the Republic. Because: that was probably a pronounced psychosis which, of course, he nurtured, but one that was also nurtured by us. So, obviously, that was the mistake. You cannot nurture such a psychosis.
Bux: The fortification building always has this dialog. You have a dialog…
Bux: … with the enemy. Towers used to be regarded safe and with the advent of firearms, the fortifications become flat, corresponding with the ballistic angle. The proportion between defender and besieger, this is the dialog with the enemy which flows into architecture. I would like to know what kind of a patient that was. Do you know?
Lux: He had several. But I wouldn’t know. No. Klaus M., that was his name, I remember that. What the man did, no idea. Theoretically however, if he is still alive… but I don’t think he is still alive.