Villa Wannsee - Melancholy Grandeur
On January 20, 1942, the beautiful Villa Wannsee mansion outside Berlin became the venue for the notorious meeting where the leaders of Hitler's Nazi regime discussed and planned the mass killing the Nazis themselves designated the final solution of the Jewish problem. Today the Wannsee conference stands as a symbol of the most dreadful plot human beings have themselves perpetrated against civilisation. ...
... The photographic series Villa Wannsee - Melancholy Grandeur breaks with every explicit reference to the historical background that defines our interest in these pictures. Zellien shows us simply an abandoned house with empty rooms. It could be for all intents and purposes one of many villas in that area outside Berlin, if the owner had disappeared, and the house for various reasons had fallen into disrepair. The certainty of the Villa's wartime use and above all the notorious meeting on January 20, 1942, however, imbue the photographs with a particular horizon of meaning from which they can never be disassociated. Thus these photographs become a kind of projection screen for the atrocities the pictures do not depict.
The pictures of this uninhabited villa with its vacant rooms are charged with transcendent emptiness, as the ruins of atrocity, and as an imprint of an infinite absence.
Text by Audun Eckhoff, excerpt from "Villa Wannsee - Melancholy Grandeur".
40 pictures of the Villa Wannsee taken 1988
Text in Norwegian and English by Audun Eckhoff and Dr. Iain MacKenzie
ca. 30cm x 30cm, 144 pages
Published by Werner Zellien on the occasion of the exhibition
Villa Wannsee - Melancholy Grandeur, Bergen Kunstmuseum, October 2008
and Gallery Riis,Oslo, March 2009