as part of Berlin Art Week
ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin
Sept 1-22, 2013
Three Monuments is a series of public intervention, which explore the process of discursive memorialization through counter-monuments to: memory, time, and permutation. They are decentralized, ephemeral, anti-monumental, mobile, in dialogue with time and degradation, resistant to politicization by the state and exploitation by real estate markets. Making use of facsimile, found objects, and the inversion of shared symbology Three Monuments permeates the quotidian and profound aspects of memory and landscape. Three Monuments consists of three public intervention works that are translated into the gallery setting with a series of installations, videos, and books.
Monument to Permutation (Ewig zu Werden Niemals zu sein)
Historically Berlin has been a city where successive regimes have imposed their notions and vision of what an ideal cultural capital resembles, constructing a landscape congruous with their ideological foundation. Each regime shared a predilection for the use of historical precedent, positioning the regime at the vanguard of the continuity of empire, constructing an architectural and semiotic bricolage composed of the ‘grand empires’ of the past. Egyptian obelisks intermingle with roman heraldry in a historicization of the German narrative that has the character of Nietzsche’s notion of the monumental use of history, that is to say, legitimization through continuity. In a very real sense Berlin performs history.
Monument to permutation was a performative public intervention, which attempts to respond critically to that heritage. The intervention consisted of biking around the major historical monuments and sites of Berlin with an obelisk built onto the rear of my bicycle. The sites that I visited represent the many historical stages which Berlin experienced, from imperialism to reunification: Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, Museum Island, Unter den Linden, Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag. The obelisk was constructed of wood with a faux limestone veneer referencing the construction of many historical and monumental buildings around Berlin. At the base of the obelisk is an electronic messenger which reads; “Ewig zu Werden Niemals zu sein”, translated to English as ‘eternally becoming never being’, a quote by Karl Scheffler regarding Berlin. In this statement Scheffler is commenting on how Berlin is historically an imperial and militaristic city with aspirations to becoming a great cultural capital but in its constant dissatisfaction with itself and the images constructed by preceding regimes it is cursed to be forever becoming.
In my appropriation of the obelisk motif, a trope of imperial symbolism (in that it represents a ray of the sun denoting a celestially ordained site or order) I try to destabilize this performance of history, liberating it from site, in a tongue-in-cheek display. The performance mocks the way that the re-unified regime positions Berlins historical sites as ‘authentic’ making memory and history static, contrary to not only the vast reconstruction of the architectural heritage of the city but also the historical reconstruction of global narratives and memory in the making of the German identity.
Don’t Forget is a public intervention and installation project that consisted of placing 12 mnemonic devices acquired at EuroShops across Berlin, onto the front doors of 12 distinct mietskaserne’s in each of Berlins 12 boroughs. These white cardboard and fabric objects present a simple statement: ‘Don’t Forget’. Such an ambiguous confrontation allows the viewers to interject their own understanding of the nature of the object of forgetting. It allows for the permutation and cohabitation of divergent experiences of memory, defined by the individual. For some, ‘Don’t Forget’ might be a eulogy to the dead, to others it might simply remind them of forgotten keys, and it is this cohabitation of value that is intrinsic to the experience of memory. Don’t Forget is intentionally decentralized, inhabiting neighborhoods that are apart from the areas of designated remembrance, such as city centers and areas of mass conflict, where memory is repackaged into consumable spaces. The
buildings chosen are intentionally ‘remarkably unremarkable’, they are based on the mietskaserne working class building type that emerged with the expansion of Berlin in the industrial revolution. At the time reviled by the public officials as sites that represented the continued poverty and dereliction of the underclass despite the ‘progressive’ force of industrialization; under post-unification regimes have been de-politicized of the historical memory of class struggle and come to symbolize the ‘authentic’ architectural legacy of a Berlin struggling to position itself in global marketplace of cultural capital.
In the installation of the documentation, cheap mass-produced retail display systems are employed to return the mnemonic device to its origins. Photo documentation of the intervention is presented in an accompanying artist book.
Stones is a public intervention which consists of five cobble stones being removed from their original locations and replaced by facsimiles sculpted out of unfired clay containing USB sticks with 5 minutes of sound recorded at their original location at the time of removal. The five locations represent five distinct soundscapes in the rapidly changing landscape of Moabit: a construction site, a riverside bench, a Turkish market, a park, and an unfinished road. Monument to Time memorializes these quotidian sites in a fixed point in time. The facsimiles are sculpted out of unfired clay, which will slowly be degraded by the elements and movement over the paving stones and eventually the USBs will reveal themselves for curious passersby to take. Once inserted into the computer a single folder appears with the coordinates of the stones location as the title. Within the folder is a single WAV file with 5 minutes of a field recording of the location titled the date. Monument to Time is an unassuming decentralized monument to a slice of time represented by sound. In the installation the original paving stones are displayed with the looped field recordings attached. An artist book documents the process of the intervention.
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