Grey Room

Pollux’s Spears

Sarah Nichols


Cement is the binding agent for concrete. A homogenous, lowvalue, perishable bulk commodity, it is the constant in reinforced concrete. But a trio of graphics, published in 1946, depicts it as another sort of binder, one gluing a whole swath of the building material industry into a conglomerate. An array of building materials is shown framed by cement—or, rather, by the network of companies that produce it. The three graphics are the centerpiece of an exposé titled The Cement and Building Material Trust published under the pseudonym “Pollux,” after the mythological twin, positioning the unmasking of corporate-political power structures as a heroic act. At the time of publication, the author’s real identity remained unknown. The Swiss conservative press doggedly attacked Pollux’s work and attempted to smear any number of figures by accusing them of being behind the moniker. Finally in 1953, with palpable satisfaction, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung unmasked Pollux, revealing that while his work had been published in Social Democratic and prounion periodicals, the author not only held communist sympathies— an association Social Democrats were taking pains to disavow—but had defected to East Germany. Behind Pollux was Georges Baehler, a hydroelectric engineer who had worked for eighteen years in Switzerland, France, and Morocco before switching to his particular form of economic research. The three graphics, then, were drawn by an engineer—one with firsthand knowledge of the materiality of construction—to subvert the cartels that structured his professional life. Working outward from this insight, the present article situates the graphics, first in their biographical and political context, then in a longer history of organizational and anti-imperialist drawings, in order to locate their intervention at the intersection of information and materiality. Though Pollux was unmasked, Baehler’s voluminous, obsessive work and resulting archive of over 30 linear meters of newspaper clippings, articles, correspondence, and half-finished research projects has never been properly unpacked. This article is thus also a first pass at and invitation to further research his compelling and complicated life and work.