New guide on art in public space – #1, “Memory Memorial”, Elmgreen & Dragset, 2009

We are happy to inform you that our guide to art in public space in Berlin is nearing completion. It is designed to lead to the discovery of art the existence of which has hitherto not been given due recognition despite its impact on its surrounding space. The results of our extensive research will be published in printed form in due time, but until then we will post little portions of it every now and then.

We begin with a rather complicated matter, a work situated on Schöneberger Ufer, corner of Köthener Straße (close to Potsdamer Platz). The authorship of this installation, a stainless steel panel with a spotlight attached on top, was never made public, because it comments on a conflict of utmost political explosiveness sparked off by “The Memorial to The Homosexuals persecuted under the National Socialist Regime“ created by the very same artists this work can be ascribed to, the Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset.

As is common practise in Berlin when it comes to memorials, lengthy discussions spanning several decades had preceded its coming into being, and when it was finally unveiled, it not only didn’t receive the appreciation it deserved, it also enraged representatives of numerous minorities that had also been subject to persecution under the Nazi regime but hadn’t received a memorial yet. Today, the number of groups demanding a memorial exceeds the space capacities of Berlin (which, considering the expanse-inhabitant ratio, is one of the biggest cities in the world).

How to solve this conflict? Think “all in one”. And this is exactly what the memorial presented here is about.

Unfortunately, what was intended as a gesture of conciliation, has become the subject of what no memorial should ever become the subject of: ignorance. The idea to deliberately place it in an area marked by the absence of any form of urban infrastructure such as shops, houses or public transport and therefore void of any pedestrian flow to avoid any form of distraction, has backfired badly. But then, the fact that nobody ever visits it, only highlights the concept of the memorial. An empty panel, with a light not illuminating it but shining away into the sky, it may not display a message, but it contains one, and it reads: go look for the message! It is out there. Somewhere. Everywhere.

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