The first time we went to Cologne in 1986, we had managed to arrange a brief meeting with busy Manfred Schneckenburger, the curator of the forthcoming documenta 8, together with Wulf Herzogenrath at the Cologne Kunstverein. We gave him a copy of our Lies in Ruins catalogue and talked about ruined intentions. At the Art Fair the following day, we bumped into Herzogenrath who told us that Manfred thought Art in Ruins “too pessimistic … not enough hope.”

Some months later as winter set in, we received a phone call from a German artist who told us that he was collaborating with a photographer on “a major photo feature for an important German magazine.” He went on to say that as the documenta 8 exhibition in Kassel was to prominently feature installation work, they had convinced the editors at Stern to fund them to produce large scale photos of work by six artists; two from the USA, two from Britain and two from Europe, to be published to coincide with documenta in summer.

It was late on a Friday night and they were spending the weekend photographing a work of Richard Wilson. They wanted to know if we had an installation anywhere in London as they wanted to come to us on Monday morning. Unfortunately for us, an Art in Ruins installation had recently just finished. Unfortunately for them, we were not prepared to make one at the drop of a hat … even for Stern magazine.

They asked us to think about it over the weekend. We were reluctant to make an installation, even a small one, solely for a photograph … even a large one. Not to be put off however, they arrived early on Monday morning with mountains of photographic cases which completely filled our small flat in Clerkenwell.

After much arguing and pleading, we finally mentioned that we did have a leftover backdrop of a domestic arrangement. That settled the matter and so we found ourselves racing around London in a taxi searching for a suitable site, with the excited German artist and a worried German photographer. It was already getting dark and it was snowing. Then we remembered the demolition going on around Butler’s Wharf at Tower Bridge, and there it was … the perfect site … even though by now it was completely dark.

A van had already been arranged for the next day. By the time it arrived however, it was already noon and still snowing. At Tower Bridge, the Germans were there waiting; the photographer was cursing as there wasn’t enough light and they were leaving the following evening. We all agreed to try again the following day.

The van picked us up at six thirty in the morning, and as the sun came up and it got light, it was a clear and cold winter’s day. We made an ‘arrangement of fragments’ and by lunchtime dozens of photos had been taken. The snow began again and the Germans were off to the airport on their way to their next appointment in New York.

The following evening, we went into Gimpel Fils gallery for a reception for German artist Astrid Klein who was there with her entourage to discuss her forthcoming show at the gallery. During the conversation, we related the recent episode with the two Germans at Tower Bridge in the snow.

When documenta 8 opened in Kassel and Stern magazine was published Art in Ruins was not included. Later in the year we went to back to Cologne and ran into the artist who told us that when they got back from New York, an influential gallery had contacted the photographer and persuaded him to ditch their project and to propose instead a different concept and line-up of artists to the magazine editor. As a result, Stern prominently featured the work of Astrid Klein along with a small selection of other artists from documenta 8.

Although the two had split over the project the artist persuaded the photographer to send us a copy of the photograph … a memento of lost opportunity.



Installation - Tower Bridge