monochromcity, alexanderplatz, berlin, heikeklussmann

Galerie Goethe Institut


Monochrome City is shown at at the Goethe Institut Budapest.

Andrási Gábor

about Monochrome City

I started coming down with a fever in the airplane; I have no memory of Schönefeld Airport. My arm was sore from a tetanus shot. The next day it was so swollen that I couldn’t get my fencing jacket on. So the match was off. I stayed in my hotel on the Alex and wrapped myself in all the blankets. I lay there in a daze, half-asleep. It was winter, the sun having somehow never risen at all, the sky silver-gray and empty as it always is in Berlin. I closed the curtains and tried to sleep in that tiny cell. On the wall above my head, faint but recognizable, there appeared the image of the building across the street. It was a detail of the gridded facade, severely distorted. Dust motes danced in the clear ray of light that fell through the slit between the curtains.
These memories surfaced from the camera obscura of the past, brought back by Heike’s exhibition. I haven’t thought of them in thirty years. I think it was 1976, and nothing interested me less than the image on the wall. The others were at the match. I wanted to get better. The light played over the blanket. I let the slit and the picture fade away. Back then, I had no idea what a camera obscura was, or that the building across the street was called the Haus des Lehrers.
We often traveled to East Germany to compete. Strange and funny things happened to us, and some not so funny, as in the great Hungarian poet István Örkény’s mini-novella “Ahasuerus”: “Two Jews are walking down the street. The first Jew asks the second a question. The second Jew answers him. The two Jews continue walking. The first Jew, who in the meantime has thought of another question, asks it. The second Jew answers him. Sometimes this amuses them. Sometimes it does not. And so the two Jews continue walking. They also continue talking. Life, as you can see, is not always a bowl of cherries.”
The processing of the past—a horrible expression, but that’s what it’s called, “processing”—presents similar opportunities. Satire strikes me less and less as the best form of processing, and I find the opposite extreme, nostalgia, to be equally inappropriate. A mixture of personal dismay and a grim objectivity might do. That’s what Heike Klussmann is experimenting with. In her studio on the top floor of the former Haus des Lehrers on the Alexanderplatz, she has set up her camera obscura and taken pictures of the surrounding panorama. The images of the monochrome city, the interior of the building, and the exterior elements exhibit an eerie similarity, a structural equivalence, so to speak. But the shabby rooms (good for nothing now but studio spaces), the gutted neon fixtures, the plasterboard ceilings and lunar landscape outside, the unmistakable shapes of (ex-) socialist modernist architecture, are not just a historical memento mori, but also a memorial to the former East Berlin, capital of East Germany. Not a monument to an institutionalized communal memory, of course, but a personal element in the process of the self-analyzing relationship that connects today’s Berliners to the recent past.
Erecting a personal memorial is, in fact, the only alternative when the neophytic zeal for the destruction of the past—to avoid the trouble and the consequences of processing, and to spare oneself the self-analysis—seeks to obliterate a chapter of history. This zeal extends to the built environment, and soon the ensemble that was the Alex of the seventies will fall victim to it as well.
From the window, Heike’s camera obscura scanned the city slowly and patiently, capturing the panorama at last in black and white after multiple attempts. The camera obscura produces a negative image, which she has not turned into a positive. She was right not to, as that makes it clear what she thinks about Berlin and the past: She took her time, allowing personal memories to reinfuse monochrome history with color.
I too was searching for the personal in the monochrome city in Heike’s pictures, for that certain silver-gray I’d once seen from my hotel window. Of the horizon I saw not a trace: The sky covered Berlin like a dark cloud.

Gábor Andrási
Budapest, 2000

internalwaves, obudaitasarskoergallery, budapest

Internal Waves

Óbudai Társaskör Gallery Budapest

Internal Waves at the Obudai Tarsaskör Gallery, Budapest. Into the space is inserted a layer of blank newspapers, with a print-run for a medium-sized city. They are arranged in piles like playing cards being shuffled. Inside it is placed a seating arrangement, the inventory of the current place of exhibition. The seats are marked by different colours.