Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche were a German atists’ duo. They began working together in 1998 and positioned themselves in international artistic practice with photographic works, videos and site-specific installations under the name Haubitz + Zoche. Sabine Haubitz passed away in March 2014, however, Stefanie Zoche will continue the work that bears the signature of the two artists in both their names. Sabine Haubitz (1959–2014) studied Fine Arts in Berlin and Munich, while Stefanie Zoche (*1965) studied in Perpignan, France, and London. Throughout their career, the artists’ duo realized photographic series and site specific installations investigating architecture and public space. Today we share their series Sinai Hotels.
Sinai, Egypt, 2001 – 2004
The Sinai Hotels series consists of photographs of hotel resorts in Sinai, Egypt. Through the perspective of several years, these hotel sites, planned as status bearers, have proven to be the ruins left by misinvestment in state-funded tourism projects. The sculptural shells point to one of the consequences of a tourist industry that encourages uncontrolled urban development of whole landscapes and, against the backdrop of current political developments, amounts to a socio-political fuse. In their promise of holiday idylls, the names of hotel chains, which the artists have adopted for their titles, jar with discrepancy against the abandoned concrete skeletons in the pictures.
Pharao Resort, Sultan’s Palace, Golden Tulipa, Tropicana Village… The names of these hotel resorts hold out in prospect already suggest an exotic promise of happiness of artificial paradises, which are neither owed to a historic nor to a geographic significance. Whatever holiday-maker might be going to visit these planned residences would surely enjoy a ghetto existence totally removed from the contingencies space and time.
Battlements and watchtowers indicate the fortress character of “gated tourism.” Yet now, more than 15 years after the Sinai was made accessible for tourism, the concrete shells of numerous buildings rise up into the sky like grey skeletons. Between 2001 and 2004, Haubitz + Zoche photographed these hotel building projects on the Egyptian Sinai coast, some of which have been put permanently on ice. The reasons for these ghost-towns are many and varied, ranging from bad investments to subsidy scandals to the decline in tourism in Northern Sinai due to fear of terrorist attacks.
In their photographic series Haubitz + Zoche succeed in atmospherically communicating the absurdity of these hybrid buildings, above and beyond the called-for photographic objectivity. The sharp contrast between the permanently deepblue sky, the stone desert and the architectural legacies underscores the sense of abandonment. The empty honeycomb buildings, the misplaced pagoda roofs, the monumental pseudo-medieval details stand out like sculptural relicts of a civilization lost in the barren landscape after a catastrophe. Should someone travel to the Sinai peninsula in a hundred years’ time, the remains of the ruins of these Potemkin holiday sites will stand out as memorials: Concrete signs of a completely indifferent aesthetic that was infected by the madness of globalization.
© Haubitz + Zoche/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
courtesy Nusser & Baumgart, Munich
To view more of Haubitz + Zoche’s work, please visit their website.