Sculpture for the Central Institute for Transnational Cancer Research, Klinikum Rechts der Isar
To achieve the desired logo effect for the new research center, the sculpture “i DNA” draws on the shape of the double helix, which has become iconic since its postulation in 1953. This fundamental structure of the gene, which represents the core of the research conducted in the building, forms the building blocks of the sculpture at the micro level, becoming more compressed at the bottom and increasingly airy at the top. The sculpture will be produced by means of a 3-D concrete printing process, in which a reference to the research center can also be seen: just as the medical research conducted in it benefits from the technical and scientific developments of other departments through interdisciplinary cooperation, the sculpture in its designed form would also be inconceivable if art were not on the lookout for synergy effects that result from interdisciplinary cooperation. This alone allows the complex twists and turns of the DNA strand to be designed in such a way that the shape of a stylized light bulb results. This form, in turn, opens up the symbolic level of the sculpture, which has multiple interrelationships with the field of activity of the research.
This art-in-architecture project is currently under construction. Completion is planned for spring/summer 2022.
German Embassy in Islamabad – Office
Kunst-am-Bau Project, realisation in planning
Commissioned by: The Federal Republic of Germany
The multi-level wall in the foyer of the office will be enhanced by a highly abstracted map of the Federal Republic of Germany, in which the familiar outlines of the state will result from the relative location of its 16 state and citizen parliaments, whose coats of arms form an integral part of the artwork.
By subjecting the Länder coats of arms to an abstract ornamentalisation, the work of art connects with the prevailing aesthetics of the host country Pakistan, while at the same time the manner of abstraction provides allusions to the democratic system of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The individual parliaments will be represented by circular plates, and their location on the wall will make the outlines of the Federal Republic of Germany visible in the image as a whole. The differences in size of the respective Länder are taken into account by the varying diameters of the plates (from approx. 50 to approx. 100 cm). The image carriers are mounted on cylinders of different heights, which allows the overall arrangement to form an image relief.
On this abstract map of Germany, each individual Bundesland is symbolised by an “ornamental flower”, which is created by three superimposed levels. The starting point of the motifs for the lowest and middle levels are parts of the respective Bundesland’s coat of arms, which are transformed into an ornament reminiscent of petals by two different, kaleidoscopic alienation processes. The third level will also be enhanced by an abstract ornament, i.e. a plan of the seating architecture of the respective Bundesland or citizen parliament – its schematic representation evoking lettering. In this way, floral, abstract and richly embellished ornaments are created, which make use of a widespread, folkloristic art language of Pakistan and also allude symbolically to the democratic constitution of the Federal Republic and its Länder.
In and of itself, the threefold structure references the prevailing separation of powers in Germany’s political system.
The fact that the three levels are rotated in relation to each other not only reinforces the kaleidoscopic character, but also opens up an indirect yet all the more profound symbolic space. The aesthetic language of the art installation for the office foyer is highly complex, but intuitively understandable as soon as one has identified the artwork’s various levels. On the level of observation, we find a symbolic representation of the Federal Republic of Germany and its constituent Länder, as well as an aesthetics of colour and form that seeks proximity to Pakistan’s traditional art language, in which the less figural, but primarily ornamental structures of the arabesque predominate.
Spatial and video installation 2017
We must interpret the title of the spatial and video installation “Waschgang” (Wash Cycle) absolutely concretely, because dirty laundry is actually being washed. In the process, connections play a central role in this work of art. On both a symbolic and a concrete level, a connection is created between two places in Munich that are both not far from the main train station, but could hardly be more different: the gallery of the German Society for Christian Art (DG) at the headquarters of Siemens AG and the parish church of St.Paul, which is only a few metres away from the Theresienwiese and closes off the station quarter to the west.
Empfangshalle has collected clothing left behind in and around St.Paul’s: The items left behind in front of the church – most of them discarded by day labourers from Eastern Europe who camped there in makeshift camps – forgotten clothing of church visitors and clothes donated by parishioners for the artwork, as well as liturgical garments worn by the altar boys and the parish priest, so that the collected pile of laundry in fact represents the entirety of the people who work and live around and in the Paulskirche.
In the gallery rooms of the DG reception hall a washing machine has been installed, in which this mountain of laundry is gradually cleaned. In the drum, the individual items of clothing lose their history, their social stigma. The hierarchies represented in the clothes begin to disappear. The soiling is loosened from the fibres, diluted – and yet it also interacts with everything else. The garments are all treated alike in this rotating tub and washed with the same water. They rub up against one another, they share a space in which they are cleaned of the dirt from their very different usage histories. And after the wash, they hang on steel ropes stretched across the gallery to dry – a pair of hotpants next to a priestly tunic, a sleeping bag with a perforated lining next to a silk scarf – so that they can be used again after the end of the art installation.
During a wash, the rotating laundry drum was filmed and the video projected onto the circular, majestic rose window over the west portal of the Paulskirche. The church thus appears as a gigantic washing machine. This references the symbolic level at the centre of all religions: the concept of purity, immaculateness has always played a central role in them – the repetitive rituals of purification that are carried out by the clergy and have to be strictly adhered to, were evolved for this purpose and are performed by the clergy for all to see. In these liturgical actions, body and soul are closely linked with each other, and questions of representation are part of the essence of the rituals.
In this installation, Empfangshalle also addresses all these questions by linking the private with the public through its symbolic visual language, the spiritual with the concrete, the artistic with the everyday.
Solo exhibition at two locations
A Joseph Beuys action
Joseph Beuys – person, artist, myth, mocked, glorified … in conjunction with the film portrait by Andres Veiel, artist duo EMPFANGSHALLE invites you to active collaboration on the concept of social sculpture. The issue here is not the historical Beuys, however. Instead a contemporary image will be created in which each participant can individually position him- or herself in relation to the artist.
Sponsored by American Vintage and Curiger Travel AG.
Pasinger Marienplatz, Munich 2015
Participatory Installation in public space wihtin the Artfestival “Pasing by”
Twelve large clam shells surround the Mariensäule at the Marienplatz in Pasing, their golden colour and circular arrangement forming a unity. The oversized clam basins are filled with a special sand used by metal foundries in sand casting. Together with the artist duo Empfangshalle, as part of an art action taking place over several days, all Pasing residents are invited to come up with ideas for casts. The public can also bring their own small objects, to cast them in pewter or model them as they wish in the sand. The resulting figures are then covered in gold leaf. The sculptures arisen in this way will serve to expand Pasing’s golden centre into businesses and homes, connecting the public with semi-public and private space.
with Funda Gül Özcan, 2014
Video 7 min, Installation 200 x 150 cm
This work is a joint production by Empfangshalle, Funda and numerous artists of the studio collective KvB. A central theme is the building in the Katharina-von-Bora-Straße in Munich, where the studio community works: the former heating and power station for the Führerbunker at Königsplatz. A two-part installation arose from a video and an auto-nomous sculpture; a leftover. The visual vocabulary makes use of symbolisms specially developed for the purpose which arose with the artists’ research on this theme. The video begins with a speaking sculpture on the capstone of the entrance arch to the property, a boy’s head from the NS era. At the manifesto on art, passers-by gather spontaneously beneath the speaker. At the conclusion of his speech, the boy spits fire onto the street, setting off a torchlight parade. With torches in the form of the “middle-finger salute.”
The parade winds its way in the depths of the heating chimney of the building. Between the scenes, the “Opferauto” (”sacrificial auto”) makes its appearance, a small car with television sets as passengers. “Just do it” flickers over the screens in allusion to advertising phrases adopted by the far-right scene. At the end of the parade a torch is thrown into the night sky and returns altered, in the form of two white marble dice.
In the installation the “leftover,” the demolished roof of the “Opferauto” with the marble dice, is positioned opposite the screen as if in a drive-in cinema.
This large-format production could be realised only with the energetic cooperation of the collective and our network. Thus, for instance, high-speed takes could be realised with a RedCamera.
a cooperation of EMPFANGSHALLE an HAVE IT
Video 21 min, Pristina 2018
A part of the MultipliCity project series of the City of Munich
The approx. 20-minute video work “Seeds of Concept” was created in a collaboration between Empfangshalle and the Kosovar artists’ collective HAVEIT.
The video series is framed by shots of small shops, never completed, located directly below a magnificent new church building, and looking as if crushed by it.
A wide variety of places, thresholds and non-places in the capital Pristina were considered. Seven videos show how these places were transformed into performative settings.
The artists explored the current political situation in Kosovo, albeit with very different approaches: symbolically, when sunflower seeds rain down on the artists’ collective HAVEIT or a young man at a bus stop walks up and down as if driven, as if trapped behind invisible bars; or concretely, when a conversation about art and accident between Empfangshalle and HAVEIT in a public library is interrupted by the superintendent, who bans them from the premises; or in an abstract sense, when the ventilation shaft of a shopping mall below it is circled, protruding like a sculptural heart into the grey of the surroundings and sucking in and expelling breathable air.
You’ve gotten all dressed up, redone a lot of things, or at least set them in motion, you’ve tried to close the wounds, and now you, girl, also want to have fun, maybe with a basketball, there, in the dark twilight, where there are no points to be scored.
funded by EMPFANGSHALLE
Art Project for Heidering Prison, Berlin
Architectural Art Project for the Senate, Berlin
Opening March 2014
A sculpture outdoors and an installation indoors are pictorial, integral parts of a concept which includes the comprehensive societal localisation of the people in Heidering Prison. A wind turbine is a central part of the outdoor sculpture. It serves as a pedestal for a three-dimensional figure, as the point of departure for the photographic operations of the installation in the building’s interior and – finally – as a commercial power generator – the financial basis for a socio-cultural programme in the prison.
1. Outdoor sculpture
A vertical wind turbine is raised on the prison grounds. The turbine is approx. 30 metres high and painted light grey. A somewhat more than life-size figure of a man is standing on the top of the facility, holding its right hand as if shielding its eyes while on the lookout, and whose gaze is plainly far off in the distance. Starting at a particular wind force, the rotor, which is on a vertical axle, begins to turn, and the figure above it revolves with it.
2. Indoor installation
A total of seven safety-glass cylinders, open facing downwards, are distributed throughout the building at selected locations. 360° panoramas are to be seen on the inner surfaces of the cylinders. The panorama images show the landscape around the prison and were taken in the course of a year with a special camera from the rotating top of the wind turbine. The photographs, assembled into panoramas, were taken at different times. The respective lighting atmosphere, weather, different times of day and seasons allow the same landscape to appear in ever-new variations. As the rotor may move while the photos are being taken, they range from slightly unfocused or blurred to complete resolution, depending on the rotation speed. By contrast, when there is no wind, photos with crystal clear definition result. Completely different, individual panoramas of the same landscape are thus affixed to the insides of the seven cylinders. For a complete view of the panorama, the viewer must turn on his or her own axis. In this way, an analogy with the figure on the lookout at the top of the wind turbine arises.
3. Socio-cultural programme
The Brandenburger Heide area is a good location for wind turbines; solid proceeds can be expected from the wind turbine facility in the wake of the Renewable Energies Law. Cultural options for the inmates (live band appearances, artists’ workshops, readings, drawing courses, etc.) are made possible through the profits from wind energy.
Video Installation, 30sec
Video installation – Waschstation, 2017 – 2019
Washing one’s hands is one of our most commonplace actions, we master it quasi- automatically and usually do not pay it all that much attention. But in its participatory spatial installation “Washing Hands”, Empfangshalle focuses on precisely this process, thus opening up a completely new perspective on this routine activity. The audience members have to involve themselves in a new experience. That is the precondition. They don’t just wash their own hands, they use only one hand to wash the hand of another person. The routine is broken up, a simple action becomes strangely unfamiliar. For this purpose, Empfangshalle has installed a kind of washing station, a stele with two sides: one of them is concave and equipped with sensors to let water flow and to film the act of hand-washing. Directly after the hand-washing, the participants can watch a video of it on a monitor wall on the opposite side of the stele. There they can watch the action 25 times more slowly, i.e. the action is greatly distorted by an extreme slow-motion, creating an incredible feeling of nearness. The images, which run in virtually hypnotic prolongation, emanate a sensuous intimacy that could not appear in real-time. The hands perform an almost sensual choreography, which has nothing more in common with the pragmatic level of cleansing. They seem to be turning about in the water jet for their own sake – a highly ambivalent representation that confronts the viewers with an unexpected ambiguity and challenges their viewing habits in relation to their own bodies. By addressing this ever-present, but often not perceived sensuality Empfangshalle (in the sacred context of a church) opens up a highly dense symbolic space that alludes to ancient and biblical motifs (“one hand washes the other”; “washing one’s hands of the matter”) and also evokes the central role played by the change of perspective that enables two strangers to meet each other eye to eye.
with Thomas Adebahr
Diet Gallery, Miami, 2009, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China, 2010
Why do people go to museums – why does the number of visitors to museums increase with every year that passes? In 2009 Google has begun to make paintings by great masters from the world’s leading museums accessible to art lovers via its platform, Google Earth, starting with 15 masterpieces from the Prado in Madrid.
Viewers can take note of details of the works that museum visitors can scarcely make out with the naked eye, and may do so relaxing in front of their own home computer screens. They do not have to stand in line for hours for tickets and then have to peer over the heads of others to see the works only incompletely and at a distance. Since the differences between image and reality, original and copy are dissolving, only what is personally experienced counts as real – only what has been made by hand, has an aura. And all who go to museums take photos, make pictures, to make sure of their access to reality, as a reality check on themselves. In their joint projects, the German artist duo Empfangshalle, Corbinian Böhm and Michael Gruber, and the German filmmaker Thomas Adebahr have spent years investigating the theme of reality and image – probing the questions of what images tells us about reality and how reality enters into a picture. For these artists, “China” and “Walter Benjamin” are ideal material for their work, in and for the times we live in. In the era of globalization, Chinese factories and workshops are becoming manufacturing sites for the West. The Chinese production sites for any and all products are the contemporary technologies with which the added value of the global economy in accordance with the standards set by the West becomes possible in the first place. And the work is mostly done by hand. For this reason, these reproduction sites are the artists’ medium as well, their workshop, their studio, their manufacturing site. In Dafen, the world’s capital city for copying works of art, located in southern China, the artists are having copies made of Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:” 38 pictures, oil on canvas, approx. 1.8m x 1.4m each double page becomes an oil painting. Every single letter, the fine structure of the paper, the way the lines shimmer through on the other side, the fold and other details, are recorded by the painters – each in his or her own way. Each double page is done by a different workshop, a different painter, every copy with a different handwriting. The paintings are framed on location following the artists’ guidelines. Normally, the painters in Dafen make copies of originals. Customers from all over the world have famous paintings copied by hand, to possess something that for them has at least in part the qualities of the original. The copies profit from the aura of the original. And the original in turn gains in significance through the dissemination of the copies. But for the “Benjamin Project,” the oil painting’s original is the identical typeface of the book that has been reproduced thousands of times. Chronologically, the auratic painting, the original, only arises after the double pages of one copy of many identical books have themselves been copied by painting. Paper, a cheap picture carrier, is replaced by expensive canvas, printing becomes brushstrokes, offset color is replaced by oil paints, mechanical printing by handicraft. Thoughts take form as pictures, and the content of the original, the content of the whole, is contained in each of the 38 pictures. The image as a form and carrier of thought gives theoretical content a visible shape. The picture as a means of expressing thought makes the aura of the text visible and lends the concept a unique, non-reproducible presence.
dual-channel video installation, 2016
In their video installation “Gläubiger & Schuldner” (Creditors and Debtors), Empfangshalle enter a place where wealth and misery literally face each other. Not far from the Munich central train station (Hauptbahnhof) and close to the artist duo’s studio is the Abtei Sankt Bonifaz (Abbey of St. Boniface), which with its soup kitchen, clothing depot, showers and medical practice has served as a central point of contact for the homeless for many years. On the other side of the Karlstraße is the Lenbach Gärten, a comparatively new and most exclusive building complex that includes a 5 star hotel, office and residential buildings with concierge and doorman service.
And between them two men in dark clothing, crossing this Karlstraße in an endless loop, as if it were a threshold. While the path of the one leads from the abbey church’s holy water font to the fountain on the Piazzetta, the other’s path takes the opposite direction, from the Arcadia of a square in Mediterranean style monitored by a security service to the church portal, where the homeless camp at night under the arcade of the columned roof. The path of the two artists crosses briefly, but no interaction occurs. Their eyes remain on the respective destinations of their path: the fountain and the holy water font. There, they then perform a ritual of purification – the washing of hands performed by all cultures as purification of the body, and the sign of the cross with holy water that evokes Christian baptism as symbolic cleansing of (original) sin.
To be sure, the destination turns out to be no more than a way-station, as it seems as though neither of the two men is entirely at home in these spheres. In each case the other appears more attractive. And thus the path leads neither into the interior of the church nor into the private rooms of the luxury buildings. Empfangshalle doubles back, again and again, only to perform the purification ritual anew, once again, as if seeking to obliterate in the one place the traces of the other.
The paradox of rich and poor, materialism and spirituality co-existing side by side is captured in an image: the ritual that itself marks a threshold – hygiene as separation of public and private, and the re-enactment of baptism at the threshold between the profane and the sacred – is dissolved and becomes a walkover.
In Connection with the Exhibition Concept OVERTURES von ARTCIRCOLO
Artistic works in public space are accompanied by imponderables and uncertainties, a fact of life that mostly applies to the phase of planning and approval. This uncertainty – or put positively – openness – constitutes an essential element of the phases of Empfangshalle’s actual carrying out or exhibiting of their works. A striking example of this is the proposed sculpture project Gelsenlos in Gelsenkirchen-Buer, Germany. A “los” – German for “lottery ticket” – thus even a “Gelsenlos” – juggles with hope and chance by its very nature. Thus, many hopes are bound up with the time-frame of Empfanshalle’s works; all that is certain is that – at first, at any rate -there will be one less unemployed person in the city – the one employed by Empfanshalle to sell these “Gelsenlos” i.e. Gelsen Lottery Tickets. The supposedly self-contained work of art will be set in motion by a lottery win, and not before: This will release several huge water fountains, re-creating for a few moments the outlines of the tower pinnacles of the St. Urbanus Church that had been destroyed in the war. Empfangshalle makes use of water as construction material here so that the church may regain its towers and the city of Buer its landmark; in the context of the church water refers to ancient rituals such as baptism and purification, thus also referring back to water’s cultural significance in our society.
By involving an “unemployed” street seller of the magazine by and for homeless people, “fifty-fifty,” in the art project – something that takes place long before and practically independently of the spectacular water events – Empfangshalle refers to a societal structure that also affects water and that increasingly eludes both feasibility and our hopes and wishes, as well as commanding its own potential. The “unemployed” street seller who also displayed his magazine in a kiosk built by the artists near the church and next to the “Gelsenlos” Lottery Tickets, widened the scope of the project by locating it in a dimension of completely differently motivated public presence and attention. Our reaching for the water faucet that immediately produces splashing, bubbling water, is bound up with unshakeable optimism only as long as we shut our eyes to a whole series of decisive preconditions (and their fragility). Indeed, we may well speak of good fortune today when water splashes out of our taps, in spite of all administrative and technological efforts.
Berlin, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, 2006
new spaces in public in connection with Artcircolo, Video-Installation, 6 min
“as if we were alone” was shown at 52. Venice Bieniale, 2007
Dealing creatively with new communications technologies and their impact on our life, our culture and our behaviour in everyday situations has been the basis on which the artist duo “Empfangshalle” developed their vision of a trans-societal project in the form of film and installation. Corbinian Böhm and Michael Gruber view their art as a form of communication and a process of interacting with the public. In this spirit, “Empfangshalle” has performed research in international metropolises such as Barcelona, Hongkong, Guangzhou and Berlin, analysing mobile telephone users’ behaviour and visualising, through dedicated stagings and sculptural interventions, new spaces and gestures which develop when using mobile telephones. There are many examples for how we create “mobile privacy” in which to communicate at our leisure: the user who stares at the ground, making his rounds in apparent pursuit of an invisible line, obvious to his surroundings, or someone on a bus, passionately discussing his relationship while cupping his hand to shield himself, or the “business stalker” fleeing from a spot of no reception. Starting from the realisation that “Whoever uses a mobile phone will distance himself from his surroundings through real or virtual spaces”, the artists, in their future-oriented short-feature film, formulate tentative “mobile telephony spaces” being offered as part of a world wide telephony service. The result is “documentary fiction”, which takes the audience onto a journey to a borderline area between certainty and illusion, into a space where fact and fiction mix.
In cooperation with Vodafone Group Research & Development, Germany.
Shenzhen, China, 2008
Shenzhen is an expanding economic metropolis in China. Workers are flocking here from the entire country. Their families often stay behind in their homelands. The workers thus travel back and forth between the two poles of their lives. They can be compared with the surf ceaselessly rolling onto the shore, a continual to and fro.
Equipped with newly-purchased shoes, the workers meet for a dance with the waves. The sea sets the rhythm and energy of the dance through the workers’ following the water line as closely as possible.
Augsburg, Germany, 2004
Art in public space and photographs
Empfangshalle installed a new, fourth fountain in the series of famous Renaissance fountains in the Maximiliansstrasse in front of the Gallery. The Gallery’s four guards joined back to back to create this temporary fountain. Each took a swallow out of a bottle of mineral water and spit the water in a high arch out again, while displaying his own allegory. With their corresponding personal allegories in their hands, one guard stood for Loyalty (a dog), another for Knowledge (a cross-word puzzle), another stood for Handiwork and Crafts (brush, artist’s stencil), another for the Arts (a bronze sculpture). This fountain was documented in photos and displayed in the exhibition.
The ramp of Empfangshalle, Munich, 1999
Trailer on DVD “beetween private and public”
Pictures shall be our topic; however, they are neither the conventional kind – for example, ones that a person could carry into a museum – nor the kind that exist only in our minds and that can merely be written down as an idea. Böhm and Gruber, whom we shall henceforth refer to as Empfangshalle, replace the so-called autonomous art object with intervention in existing infrastructures. In this context, objects, furniture and so on can be used, but always in a context that also represents a part of the works. This can mean creating new connections by linking objects with visitors; or by smuggling closed systems into other infrastructures (Tupperware party and art gallery – we bring them together). Empfangshalle found their inspiration literally right outside their door. The suburban train that went directly past became one of the first objects that they worked on. It wasn’t the train, the cars, the rolling material that they were interested in, but the structure: the train as an arrangement of complete, random strangers who are linked to each other only by the place they happen to be and the situation they are in, which includes occasionally looking out the window as they move from point A to point B. One should imagine this situation from the perspective of the studio, as trains constantly go past and one is observed by the passengers for a fraction of a second. The trains delivered a potential audience to the door for free. Empfangshalle took the audience seriously, that is, saw it as an audience, by staging performances on the ramp that lasted only a few seconds. The project “3 sec.”, named for the audience’s interval of perception, took shape in this way. Such a project is a sculpture, for it has all the elements of sculpture: the ramp as a pedestal, the protagonists and their actions as content and form, and finally an infrastructure that includes an audience. This infrastructure is not added later, as in a gallery or museum, but is an integral part.
Ortstermine, Art in Public Space
Empfangshalle brings wishes and advertising together and brings mega-posters to Munich from all over the world, to display them on advertising spaces. On two conditions: The product or service being advertised is to be unobtainable here, and second: even deciphering the message is impossible for most people here, because the words are composed in foreign alphabets. The selected advertising eludes our comprehension. But Arabic characters, Thai letters awaken the most varied associations – positive as well as negative. The pictorial composition speaks its own language. The commercial motivations can be transformed into aesthetic compositions that fulfill purely artistic criteria. The transfer becomes transformation; and the advertising loses ist function thereby. And what is alien, foreign is highlighted as if by a stage-light.
Augsburg, Germany, 2004
Municipal Gallery in the Höhmannhaus
The artists had the bronze fountain figure removed from the Mercury Fountain (1599) by Adrian de Vries for the duration of the exhibition. The statue was set up again in the near-by Gallery in the Höhmannhaus. A table and three chairs were raised onto a platform in such a way that visitors could take a seat with Mercury at the table. Snacks were served there, in which one or two visitors, the guard and Mercury could take part each time. The guard served bread and butter… The social situation is the focus of attention in “Bread and Butter.” Augsburg’s landmark symbol of Mercury was removed from ist public position and integrated into a new, “personal public space” – into a tableau vivant in which visitors, museum employees and Mercury joined together into a complex, living sculpture.
Art on Site, Kaliningrad, Moskau, 2009
Ambermosaic, from a public fotoshooting, 230 x 133 cm
The Dom Sovetov, the House of the Soviets popularly called “the Monster”, stands in Kaliningrad. In front of it, the city’s young people gather on the square of the former castle. Rumour has it that the Amber Room is located in the cavernous spaces down below. A photo shoot staged by Empfangshalle was the starting point for a public contest. The citizens chose their “Beauty” for their “Monster” via various media. The winning picture was made into the largest known amber mosaic and exhibited in the local amber museum.
Interview with the artists’ group “Empfangshalle”
What were your impressions of Kaliningrad? Were they different from those of your first trip?
One’s first impressions are the most important ones. One’s opportunity to see a city objectively lasts only the first three days, after that, one is no longer fresh. That is why our first trip was also the most intensive phase of our work. We talked for hours at a time about everything we had seen. We felt like treasure hunters – and that also influenced our choice of material: costly amber. How did you structure your project work? Our project work was like collecting pieces of an amber mosaic: matching each individual piece of amber with the next one, searching for the piece that fits. This is just how we gathered our impressions and sought to put together a complete picture with them. We quickly realized that the image of the House of the Soviets and the history of the place where it was built were important to us, as it is a genuine symbol of this history: nobody lives in it, but still it exists, and the city and its inhabitants have to think about what they want to do with it, and how to live with it.
In your view, is history the most important issue in Kaliningrad?
History is still an open wound in Kaliningrad. Both the war and the post-war years live on in the flesh and blood of the city to this day. It is as though people cannot relate to their city even now. So many layers of history are mixed together here. First, there is the old Koenigsberg, a very important image for the city’s people. The Russian population feels drawn to their old roots in Koenigsberg. The Soviet era comes next, during which what was left of the Old City was destroyed and the new one was built. The third layer is the present, with its pursuit of everything new, with advertising, with its brilliance and dynamism. And we asked ourselves: what might the symbol of a modern Koenigsberg be? If we bought a postcard of Kaliningrad as a souvenir, what would it show? We decided to create our very own, personal souvenir of Kaliningrad. We took amber from the city’s history, the House of the Soviets from the Soviet period, and we asked the Kaliningraders themselves about the present. Why did the image of a girl and a car become the answer to this question? Most Kaliningraders find the House of the Soviets monstrous and an eyesore – totally unsuitable as a symbol of their city. We therefore asked ourselves about beauty and ugliness: what Beauty might be contraposed to what is monstrous in the eyes of the inhabitants, to their Beast? We therefore began to investigate the Kaliningraders’ ideas about beauty. Beauty is very important to people here. Women invest huge amounts of time, money and energy in their appearance, and men in the beauty of their cars. One sees fashion shows wherever one goes, in every café there is a TV showing fashion shows. We had never seen anything like it! So our Beast, the House of the Soviets, was unthinkable without its Beauty. What we like about this idea are the contrasts between past and present, of lifelessness and vitality, what the city’s people find ugly or beautiful. But maybe things are more complicated than that, and in this situation one can never say exactly who is Beauty and who the Beast.
Art on Site, NCCA Moscow and Goetheinstitut, 3. Moscow Biennale, Russia
KLOPSTOCKSTR. NO. 6
Video, Loop 28 minutes, Empfangshalle, 2005
To be played on a monitor set up 90° sideways
The video presents a calm, meditative image: an urban high-rise, an architectonic monolith as if made for film. Only the clouds, reflected on the window panes as they drift by, make it clear that this is a video. We hear a rushing sound in the distance: city traffic.
Surprisingly, in this new work Empfangshalle seems to concentrate on the sculptural aspect of architecture and to forget their usually very pointedly formulated social interest.
But all of a sudden we see and hear someone calling. In a second, the people living in the house go out onto their balconies, open their windows, and yell the building’s house rules very angrily and emphatically down to the street. Then the noise fades, the people disappear, and the monolithic building is once again seen as an unapproachable sculptural form. A “play” that is at once both surreal and political, and a metaphor for anonymity, order and urban space.
art in public space, Munich, 2003 – 2006
“Homeland” is something that cannot be handled or depicted. “Homeland” is a feeling that is composed of the most varied moods, memories of experiences and hopes for a happy life. Not until this feeling has been matched up with a section of the real world can an image, “a picture of my homeland”, arise. Empfangshalle converted a garbage truck into a camper so that these pictures could arise. The men were to set off on their way in the camper – one after the other – to photograph their very own, personal feeling of “Homeland”. One single photo, in which the camper was always to be visible, was to say everything, tell their stories, answer all questions. Back in Munich, each of the “Homeland” photos was displayed on the garbage truck with which the garbage man who took it worked every day. In this way a mobile exhibition swarmed out into the city in the morning in which the garbage men showed and explained their photos of their homelands to the people of Munich. Communication and interactions on the street are the art worker’s media in public space.
supportet by Quivid and Abfallwirtschaft München
BUDDY, WHERE DO YOU COME FROM, WHERE ARE YOU GOING
Documentary film of the same name as the art project, 2004
A film by Thomas Adebahr and Andrea Zimmermann together with Empfangshalle
Three garbage men were accompanied by the camera on their journeys to their homelands, to München-Neuperlach (a suburb of Munich), to Accay in Turkey, and to a small village in Ghana. Thus an 80-minute film arose that was nominated for the Civis Prize for 2004.
New York Brooklyn Bridge in Spring, 2001
The view of the skyline invites countless couples to take souvenir photos. Empfangshalle requested a photo of one partner taken by the other. And with the couple’s own camera. The developed photo was to be sent to Empfangshalle later. Please let us hear from you… The infrastructure that Empfangshalle utilizes lies between intimacy and public space. A pair of lovers place themselves in the public space of a tourist-y souvenir photo. Actually, this would remain a private matter in spite of the public setting, if Empfangshalle had not joined in. Empfangshalle frames one of the partners and co-opts the range of feelings arising here through a mixture of affection (“darling…”), pride and vanity. Almost like a real-live talk show!
spotlighted neon sign
Between 1966 and 1968, “Der Brühl”, a neighbourhood in Leipzig’s city centre was rebuilt in accordance with socialist renewal after extensive destruction in the Second World War. In the process, among other things, three parallel, ten-storey prefabricated buildings arose, which were a popular backdrop for television addresses by SED politicians. A proud symbol of a new era and for the future viability of the still young, ambitious German Democratic Republic. On the roof of one of the buildings, the city greeted out-of-town and foreign visitors with the sign “Wilkommen in Leipzig!” (welcome to Leipzig), set in illuminated letters and visible from far off. The buildings had been increasingly deteriorating since reunification in 1990. The sign no longer lit up, the paint had peeled off and the neon tubes were for the most part broken.
In 2005, with the aid of a ten kilowatt spotlight, Empfangshalle lit up the sign once again for one night. The photo of the glowing welcome in the form of an oversized postcard is a final “souvenir.” The residential buildings of the Brühl were demolished in late 2007.
Diocesan Museum Freising, 2009
Installation for the high altarpiece “The Assumption of Mary,” 26 plastic chairs, stackable, metal ring, 5.30m in diameter
As part of the exhibition “Paradies – Neue Blicke auf einen alten Traum” (Paradise – New Views of an Ancient Dream) in the Freising Diocesan Museum, the artist duo Empfangshalle hung a free-floating circle of Italian plastic chairs in front of the former high altarpiece of Freising Cathedral (“The Assumption of Mary” by Ludwig Löfftz, 1886). The circle corresponds to the painting in both colour and form, and references eternity and transcendence.
Gangway in the Fürstenfeldbruck school centre, 2009
Walkable sculpture in the form of a gangway, Kunst am Bau project
There is a gangway, 4.50m high, in the school centre’s access area. The silver shine and gold markings lend the staircase the appearance of a mysterious artefact. A gangway as image of departure and transition: take-off and flight. A symbol of education as a path. Step by step we climb, until we finally reach the platform, just as one class after the other is completed until graduation. The final step on solid ground. Where we go from there is left up to each one of us. The Golden Gate is the gateway to adulthood. The image is simple and clear: it stands for one’s own freedom. Each student aims for self-determination. Once at the top, he must rely on himself, how he arrives there, what he takes with him, will characterise his path. Sitting on the staircase and musing, such thoughts might occur to one or the other among us.
The Golden Gate becomes a meeting point of the students. It is both an arena and a sculpture. The image of mobility suggests lightness. It is a living symbol of the students’ development. One stands exposed there: as an airline passenger at the moment of entry takes a look around and waves one last time. From below as from above, the Golden Gate conveys its image in a lively and appealing way. The sculpture with the title Golden Gate becomes a place of communication for students and teachers, a sign for the school, a symbol of freedom, departure, the future.
Artcircolo, Literaturhaus Munich, 2000
Readings for a floating public
A red, four-axis truck-mounted crane lifts up a ring, on which 32 green seat shells are mounted, with steel cables. But after only a few centimetres, the upward movement stops, and the public take their places in the seating shells, thereby making the ring swing, turn and start moving. One can access the inner circle and swing oneself onto a seat via two mobile stairways, much like airport gangways. Moreover, a stack of individual seats stands ready from which the public can avail themselves and select a place on solid ground. Dispensing with motion is also an option. Empfangshalle has entitled its complex work “Laden und Löschen.” The work functions only together with us, with the public. The process of “Laden,” loading, begins at the moment we mount the ring to take our seat. This is in fact a loading of a work of art with the load of our bodies, and at the same time a metaphor: we load the ring with our personal energy, through our participation we load the work with significance. Something occurs with the work through our loading: the direction of the movement changes according to whether we sit completely still, swing or communicate with other people. The concept of “Löschen” (delete, empty, eliminate) is just as complex: it refers to the unloading of a ship, for instance; here it is the material unloading of the work of art at the moment we leave it. At the same time, we delete our influence on the work, leave no traces, but instead make room for the next participant. The temporary aspect of the work becomes unmistakeably clear through the conceptual pair “Laden und Löschen.” The setting up of the work is also temporary: “Laden und Löschen” takes place at fixed, pre-announced times. Not continually available, it is comparable with the celebration of a ritual, although without a master of ceremonies and with a more or less random public. The by no means everyday return of the event becomes an artistic epiphany of the communicative act represented by the act of taking one’s seat. This impression is supported both by the floating situation of the ring, which is entered as if by gangway stages, as by its form itself: the circle is predestined for ritual events, is the Round table, and much more. But counter-posed to such lofty ambitions, it is here also a swing, inviting one to sway together or opposite each other. Here, Empfangshalle is taking certain considerations further, which have appeared in various ways in their works to date. One central aspect is the approach to the public. Taking the public, luring it as it were with a fun swing, to then have it become, unawares and entirely of its own free will, a part of the sculptural image, is one of Empfangshalle’s long-term guiding concepts. The fun becomes a catalyst of the essential, the sculpture. In the case of “Laden und Löschen,” the crane, the circle of seats and of course, the public combine to form the sculpture. The sculpture is provided with the crane, serving so to speak as a pedestal for an utterly light, simple, even filigree structure, which in turn harmoniously fills out the square’ area and space (whose communicative aspect the theme of the exhibition series Piazza is intended to bring to mind). Perhaps, with “Laden und Löschen,” a harmony can be produced in the coming together and swinging of the public. One can try it out to see for oneself how difficult this is.