|JUST STOP! - The Bus Shelter Project (1998)|
|As the child of Jewish parents who escaped to England I have for a long time been dealing with the question of art and memory in the context of the Shoah. In past years I've visited numerous sites and memorials dealing with the terror of the Third Reich in both Western and Eastern Europe. My main target was to see the sites and study the use of art in dealing with memory. |
Visiting such places or going to Holocaust memorials throughout Berlin it became clear to me that art plays an important role in conveying memory. Art first of all touches or reaches the spectator in a sensual context. The next step is usually a mental and logical reflection on both the message and style of the work of art concerned.
I'm convinced that both style and presentation of works of art are decisive aspects contributing to the success of a policy of memory. It's not a question of either the aesthetics or the presentation of a works of art but alone its ability to reach the spectator and convey to him or her, the desired message. In this context my bus shelter was to remind about an outstanding Nazi criminal: Adolf Eichmann.
Berlin already has many Holocaust memorials in numerous districts of the city. This made it unclear why the site of Eichmann's so-called Judenreferat (Jewish Department) in the Kurfürstenstraße 115 / 116 was not singled out for some form of reminder.
In 1995 I took part - along with Alexander Richter and Michael Kammertöns- in the competition for a National Holocaust Memorial. After ten years of debate on this memorial I've come to the conclusion that the decision to instigate a memorial must not alone lie in the hands of politicians.
|The bus shelter project is my second intervention. The use of a common bus shelter on bus line No. 100 in front of Kurfürstenstraße 115/116 is to bring a forgotten place back to the present and maintain that memory for the future. It was clear to me from the start that my idea needed support. |
First and foremost I had to win the assistance of Wall Ltd the owners of numerous public transport bus shelters in Berlin. The company head, Hans Wall required just two days to give an 'okay'. A bus shelter was lacking at the bus stop on Kurfürstenstraße, so his company had to go through extensive planning and lengthy application procedure to finitely get building permission.
Research work on the written contents of the memorial posters were catered for by Prof. Reinhard Rürup of Topography of Terror a public research centre and archive in Berlin dealing with aspects of mass terror by Gestapo, SS and SA during the Third Reich.
What reasons lead me -by way of artistic means- to turn a till then non-existent site into a memorial?
|Personal reasons |
First of all the feeling of personal commitment towards those members of my family murdered by the Nazis. The fact that I live in Germany and Berlin furthers the desire to ensure that the crimes of the Third Reich be never forgotten. Finally, living as a Jew in Germany and Berlin means a permanent extra strain on day-to-day life.
My lack of understanding why Berlin with its many Holocaust memorial had not, up till then, pinpointed the site of Eichmann's so-called Judenreferat.
The cultural office of the Borough of Berlin-Schöneberg informed my that the owner of the property on which today an hotel stands had no interest what so ever, to allow a memorial plaque to be attached to wall of the existing building.
Former Jewish brotherhood home in the
|Why a bus shelter? |
'Knowledgeable' and politically involved citizens in general visit memorials and memorial sites. A memorial site positioned in the midst of day-to-day life could perhaps reach less interested citizens.
Bus stops are transit areas where people stand for shorter periods of time. Bus schedules happen to interrupt the smooth flow of daily life. The most common thing people do in such a situation is either look at nearby shop windows or advertisements. My intention was to catch their attention unaware and tell them something about the place where they're standing.
The bus shelter happens to be at a bus stop on the very popular Berlin bus line No. 100 that links Zoo Station in the centre of former West Berlin with Alexander Platz Station in the centre of former East Berlin. On route the bus passes famous sites such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburger Gate and the famous Unter den Linden Boulevard. From now on the route includes a dark aspect of Berlin and German history.
|Artistic inspirations |
Marcel Duchamp's 'readymades' or 'objets trouvés' have always meant a lot to me. In the 20's the artist chose existing products such as a bike wheel and fork or a wine bottle rack and declared them works of art.
Another inspiration came from the project called 'Bus Shelter IV' by Dennis Adams from the USA. Adams was invited, to design a bus shelter for Cathedral Square in Münster in 1987. Apart from designing the actual shelter, the artist also attached photos to it about recent German history.
In 1993, Renate Stir and Frieder Schnock won a Holocaust memorial competition in Berlin-Schöneberg by suggesting the use of 80 plates carrying icons and texts that were to be attached to lampposts throughout the former Jewish residential area around Bavarian Square. Each icon and text quoted law or regulation levied against Jews between 1933 and 1945 to exclude them step-by-step from normal life. The 80 plates confront unprepared passers-by with aspects of the history of the area they are in.
In 1995, the same artists contributed to the competition for a National Holocaust Memorial just south of the Brandenburg Gate. Their suggestion was an actual bus stop on the site instead of a memorial. Scheduled buses where to leave the site for the actual areas of terror and mass murder throughout Europe. The long bus stop shelter was to be used for giving information on the sites of Nazi terror to be visited and show short videos about them.
My support for so-called 'conceptual art', where the artist develops a concept which is subsequently realised by the artist alone or along with others.