Huguenot House, Kassel, Germany. 2012


Preus’s installation in the Huguenot House, the site for Theaster Gates’ 12 Ballads for Huguenot House.  

The exhibition opened to rave reviews on June 9th, 2012 and ran for 100 days, and was called by Documenta staff, “the heart of Documenta 13.”  Preus composed 3 pieces of music for the bathroom, in the spirit of the 12 Ballads – part requiem, part anthem for a building with an uncertain future.  



Theaster Gates: 12 Ballads for Huguenot House

Preus spent almost 3 months in Kassel, Germany directing a Chicago crew of 7, a German crew of 6, along with student groups from Egypt and Sweden, to work on the temporary renovation of the Huguenot House, the 30 room site for Theaster Gates’ contribution to dOCUMENTA(13), 12 Ballads for Huguenot House.   Preus described the project as “a love song from one vacant building to another.”  12 Ballads pairs 6901 South Dorchester in Chicago, one of the houses in the growing Rebuild Foundation portfolio, with the Huguenot House, formerly an annex to the neighboring hotel, and before that, an apartment complex built in the restrained Huguenot style.  The ballads were recorded in a 24 hour session on a cold winter day in 6901 before 6901 was gutted, and the recordings projected onto the walls of the temporarily inhabited Huguenot House.   Likewise, the performances that happened in the Huguenot House during the opening week will live on as projections in some other future building, and maybe in 6901.   The crew of 11 skilled craftsmen and apprentices, spent about 10 months prior to the exhibition building furniture and objects, building frames for material “packs”, collections of materials extracted from 6901 and neighboring detritus, all of which was shipped to Kassel and was now built into the Huguenot House.   7 members of the crew came to Kassel, to live and work in the building, to install the Chicago materials, and extract Kassel materials for future installations.  The buildings themselves become placeholders for questions about neighborhoods, how they are inhabited, how they become vibrant and fulfilling, or abandoned and cold, and what role the buildings and materials themselves play within that story.

Visit the White Cube website for a video on Theaster’s project.

This is a link to the text, written by Preus, which was printed in the monograph, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House by Theaster Gates

(available for purchase at Artbook.  Foreword by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Madeleine Grynsztejn. Text by Michael Darling, Theaster Gates, Matthew Jesse Jackson, John Preus. Conversation with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.)