© 2019 If Paradise Is Half As Nice

Max Emmerling and his “children’s nutritional biscuit- and noodle factory”. The factory building at the Paul-Rohland-Straße in Zeitz/Germany in the past, at present and in the future.

Guus Vreeburg, art- and architectural historian, Rotterdam/NL

While the artists of the 5-week IPIHAN-project were conceiving and executing their site-specific installations, I – as an art- and architectural historian – have been conducting a historical research project. I studied not just the old factory building that this year’s IPIHAN project took place in – the ‘old Nudel’ as it is known locally – but also the history of the firm of Max Emmerling that has been active in the building for scores of years, and that of the Emmerling family.

As a historian, I am convinced that knowledge of our history is essential. Without this, an old building is no more than just a pile of brick and wood and iron, and of glass and concrete. Then it may easily turn into a ruin to be destroyed in the end, without anybody caring about it.
Only when we become aware of everything that has happened in that building, of all the histories that lay hidden inside it, such an old building becomes alive. It’s not just about ist past stories, but its stories of the present may tell us something vital as well. As a ‘tapestry of stories’ old buildings are less apt to be torn down – because we need them to get to know who we really are, and how we got to be like that. Only then we can decide about the future – that of our own, and that of the ‘old Nudel’.

Arriving in Zeitz, five weeks ago, I didn’t know the town. And I knew hardly anything about the building. The only thing I was aware of was that it once had been a “children’s nutritional biscuit- and noodle factory”, founded in 1888 by a guy called Max Emmerling…

During these past five weeks a seemingly unending wave of information and data has flooded me – from quite diverse corners, of quite diverse character. Many people, both from Zeitz and from further afield have been supporting me. I consider it my job to combine all this information – however small and seemingly unimportant – into a more or less coherent picture, or story – if you like. This job is all but finished now. Much information is still incomplete, and/or could not be evaluated as yet, and/or produced ever-new questions.

The public presentation (sorry, in German only…) that I delivered on August 12, 2017 – at the end of the IPIHAN-project – in the old factory building is the first result of my research project. There are still many gaps in the stories, still many issues to be resolved. If you’d have any additional information on the Emmerling family, on the firm of Emmerling or on the factory building: please contact me at guus@guusvreeburg.nl