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With this project, Pat Binder won the competition to create a contemporary memorial sign at the former home of Karl and Käthe Kollwitz in 1997, commissioned by the Cultural Office of the Prenzlauer Berg Distric in Berlin. For years, a sculpture attributed to Käthe Kollwitz commemorated the house, which was destroyed by a bomb in 1943. When a new building was to be constructed on the site, the sculpture Mother and two Children was transferred to the grounds of the district office after its restoration.
The Foto/Graphik Galerie Käthe Kollwitz consisted of an illuminated billboard normally intended for advertising, placed in front of the house Kollwitzstraße 56A (corner Knaackstraße). Between October 1997 and December 2005, Pat Binder showed there for 3 months at a time a work by fellow artists produced as a large-format UV screen print (118 cm x 175 cm). According to a contemporary approach, the artwoks owe respect to the humanistic spirit of creation of Käthe Kollwitz. With this project, an active commemorative sign (Denkzeichen), as well as a new possibility for art presentation in the urban space was created. The public-relations work and the openings of each presentation were as much a part of the project as the production of a silkscreen edition for the exhibitors. After the end of the lightbox-gallery (known as "the smallest gallery in Berlin"), this print collection is a lasting testimony in remembrance of Karl and Käthe Kollwitz.
Thomas Flierl, then Senator for Science, Research and Culture, described Pat Binder's project as "undoubtedly one of the particularly successful examples of public remembrance culture, which not only does not refuse discussion, but explicitly encourages it and at the same time withstands it. In the meantime, it can also be considered internationally as a reference project of discursive culture of remembrance."
Participants: Nuria Quevedo, Ulrich Wüst, Thomas Florschuetz, Esther Shalev-Gerz, Via Lewandowsky, Dmitri Prigov, Bettina Munk, Santu Mofokeng, Nanne Meyer, Urs Jaeggi, Miguel Rothschild, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Helga Paris, Kubiak & Rauch, Lenka Clayton, Mark Lammert, Alberto Simon, Tina Bara, Laura Kikauka, Aura Rosenberg, René Francisco, Joachim Richau, Maria Sewcz, Patricia Pisani, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Wang Fu, Martin Colden, Karla Sachse.
Works of the Denkzeichen 4. November 1989 at Alexanderplatz: Diller/Flügge/Freitag/Rauch, José A. Figueroa, Jimmie Durham, Erzen Shkololli.
During the development of the project, the following basic ideas were important to me: Habit and everyday hectic make art invisible in public space. A 'memorial sign' disappears from perception very quickly after it has been placed, and commemoration then no longer takes place. But how can it be filled with life, how can the remembrance be kept alive? The audience that the work should address is a very broad one. How can it be reached? How can the work unfold in a complexity that attracts the art speiclists as well as neighbors and passers-by, making them think or arousing their curiosity to want to know more about its meaning and purpose? How can the work fulfill the informative and didactic function that many expect of it? A memorial sign is anchored in a specific local-temporal context, in this case the district of Prenzlauer Berg in the German post-reunification period. As a foreign newcomer, I felt very strongly the tensions that the changes caused. Couldn't the work also play an integrative role?
In order to approach all these questions, I found a static art object to be insufficient. For me, the memorial sign should not be a Kollwitz substitute, an imitation of Kollwitz' art, or a gravestone, or an architectural decoration. In other words, not an art 'product', but a living, unfinished, evolving concept that should appeal to many people as a dynamic perceptual space, who should thereby become part of the memorial sign; an integrative project in which many perspectives could be included and which could unfold in different directions and develop meanings over time. I was looking for an artistic solution, for commemorative strategies that would build a bridge between the humanistic, socially critical spirit of Käthe Kollwitz's work and our present day.
In the case of the Kollwitz Commemorative Sign, one of the things that interests me is that a single artwork/art project can be at once individual and collective, local and global, real and virtual, one-of-a-kind and reproduction, for professional and general audiences, visible day and night, monument, gallery, edition, collection, traveling exhibition, art promotion, art education tool, sponsorship strategy, meeting place in urban space, and support for non-profit community projects.
For me, it is more important today, and also closer to the spirit of Käthe Kollwitz, to develop art concepts, to stimulate discussions, to promote dialogues and processes of understanding, and to create cooperation networks instead of producing art commodities for the art market.
With the exhibition 29 x Foto/Graphik Galerie Käthe Kollwitz at Museum Pankow, 10 December 2005 - 28 January 2006, conlcuded this project. In the catalog all exhibited works are published with information about the artists as well as the interview with Pat Binder and further texts.
[Catalog as pdf-file]
Denkzeichen 4. November 1989
on Alexanderplatz in Berlin
The memorial art project, run by Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt from 1999 to 2003, commemorated the largest rally of the democracy movement in the GDR (German Democratic Republic - Eastern Germany). In an illuminated billboard on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, the project presented works by artists from different countries who deal with the individual and collective effort to establish and protect democratic conditions, as well as with the conflicts of the individual between adaptation and resistance, resignation and civil courage.
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