Berlin, Plänterwald: As the Friday afternoon advances and the city soundscape recedes, the songs of birds and the gentle rustling of the treetops gradually take over. Aboard tour boats, music occasionally floats by from the Spree, the wind softens banging from the power plant on the opposite bank, and further on, teenagers sing their Friday night joy amidst the trees. Spring green is notably the primary colour.
The Spree Park is a ruin and has been for over two decades now. Shrubs that have sprouted sway in the breeze, waterways glimmer amongst the brush and paths are covered in overgrowth. Ruins can be interpreted as signs of a past that have yet to completely fade. But ruins also extend towards a future and therein lie their possibilities: a semantic reinterpretation, a handling of them, an aesthetic reordering. This is what two works now propose for the Spreepark Art Space.
Text and visual artist Sabine Scho and Jan Kampshoff, who together with Marc Günnewig forms the duo modulorbeat, open the Spreepark Art Space program by drawing on the rampant nature, the ruins of the amusement park and the history of the site. Thus, we need to take at least a brief look into the park's history: One can leaf through the "History of the Spreepark" (by Dora Busch, Monica Geyler-von Bernus, Birgit Kahl), in which we learn about the straightening of the Spree, the expanding industry and the development of the site into an amusement park in the 20th century. On the twentieth anniversary of the GDR, the Volkseigene Betrieb Kulturpark Berlin opened as Kulti as the only permanent amusement park in the country.
When ruins are unable to look towards a future that already begins in the present, they ultimately decay, fading into the landscape. That alone could be understood as a palimpsest, a covering and overwriting of a text. This brings us back to the late Friday afternoon, to Scho and Kampshoff, to the spring sun: Before long, the guests will gather under blue rods, between flowerbeds still shyly overgrown.
For where a specialty restaurant once stood in Kulti, Jan Kampshoff has exposed a sculptural dimension: The supports, beams and struts of the former roof construction that once lay on top. Restoring or replacing what was necessary, what remains is a floating construction, divided today by nylon mesh, and furnished with wide benches. Suddenly, we see the aesthetic surplus of a spatial framework from the Würzburg Mero modular system, which from 1969 held the roof above its rectangular foundation. The floor slab traces former kitchen and sanitary facilities down the middle, at each corner, guests could dine with an unobstructed view of the park, served socialist cuisine from four regions.
The Mero construction came to the Spreepark as the completion deadline was getting tight, and planners from West Berlin were brought in to help without hesitation. It now shines in fresh gentian blue, as do the elongated benches. Kampshoff describes the reference to the blue hour, the still semi-awake period after sunset, when the world seems to lose its angularity, shaking off everything unpleasant. Or prolongs the residual dreams into dawn. Such transitions, Kampshoff refers to them as moments of transformation, are associated with fresh colouration; art history knows blue as the "colour of distance". With the evolution of perspective painting, it became a signifier of distance, and later of longing. For the evening they have arranged light, to amplify the blue hour and later fade away in a sound installation - in day-to-day life, the construction will remain a variable space and sculpture.
And while all around the evening is indeed blue, we can now listen to the lyricist, author and photographer Sabine Scho beneath the framework. During her residency at Spreepark, she has continued the concept of overwriting. To this end, she has hung five flags from the Mero sculpture, and five more at the end of the disused Spreeblitz roller coaster.
Her banners evoke the principles of naming, of determining place and belonging; she has drawn her motifs from the park itself. They are photographs, printed largely in colour reversal, with a legible code, if you will: The flags accompany nature's regaining momentum against the manicured park, providing companionship to what botanists call ruderal vegetation - plants that take over manufactured landscapes when humans turn their backs on it. Scho talks about the dwarf duckweed, the stiff-bristled stonewort alga; only considered "endangered" since 2018, things have been worse. On the site, both are doing well.
Pictorially, autumn leaves flow into the oversized cocoa cup of a carousel, another reference to the history of amusement: When Disneyland expanded into Europe, a French theme park boarded. The rides from France were bought into reunified Berlin and were intended to provide a new start. What remains of them are outlines, decaying constructions, paint remnants and rust. On Scho's flags, vines reach out to them, a falcon watches over an explosion of colour immersed in the absurd. As Scho begins her reading - texts on colour plays, motifs from the past, associations - a helicopter lifts up out of the city, slowly and deliberately taking its course, as if to listen carefully.
As the evening grows darker and the Bersarin Quartet - notably in pairs - strums soft sounds into the evening, one may notice that both Scho and Kampshoff have chosen very minimal interventions. Actions that are careful to gently accompany the slow overgrowth of the park with semantic purposelessness. The overwriting has in itself an open dynamic, it can be used in future projects and continued. But it should not disturb the eradication of the wild.
A Change in Colour, Mero-Halle in Spreepark Berlin
Friday, 29. April 2022, 18 - 22
A former restaurant turns blue and becomes a walk-through sculpture that celebrates change with sound, light and words. Two performative formats focused on the pleasure value of the Spree Park colors - the flora, fauna and built structures.
18:42 - Flags, flora, fauna and fairground rides
Lecture Performance and Installation by Sabine Scho (Photographic Author, Berlin) with Matthias Holtmann (Artist and Neurobiologist, Berlin)
20:32 - Blue Hour
Installation with 8-channel sound and light performance by modulorbeat (artist and architect collective, Berlin/Münster) with Bersarin Quartett (sound artists, Münster)
Welcome and artist talks as interludes moderated by Katja Aßmann, Artistic Director Spreepark Art Space
Photo/Film: Frank Sperling
Text: Lennart Laberenz