Travelling with Ayse Erkmen
Weggefährten in Berlin's Hamburger Bahnhof

Issue no1
Feb-Mar 2019
Circulation

The Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin: once the railway terminus of the service between Hamburg and Berlin, nowadays a museum of contemporary art. Where during the nineteenth century travellers and trains left for the Northwest, visitors can now take a look at the work of conceptual artist Ayşe Erkmen. The former station is a prime location for an artist who likes to react on her environment and for whom making connections between places and objects is very important.


The interventions and installations by Erkmen are usually temporary. In most cases they only exist for the duration of the exhibition, leaving no more than memories afterwards. Nonetheless curators Britta Schmitz en Bettina Schaschke – in cooperation with the artist –have succeeded in creating an overview of Erkmens otherwise ephemeral works. In Weggefährten – which means companions or fellow travellers – Erkmen recycles a number of her earlier works, adapting them to their new surroundings. By according the locality a high value in recreating the works, she has managed to change them into memories of their predecessors instead of merely copies.

Weggefährten attempts to link the in- and outside, up- and downstairs of the museum. I-MA-GES (1997/2008) for example consists of two blow-ups of sporting people, she found in a commercial image bank. The lower part of the images is on show on the ground level of the museum and stretches from floor to ceiling. The upper part is shown in the corresponding gallery on the first floor, making it look like the image stretches through both floors. All through the exhibition Erkmen has created obstacles, like Portiport (1996/2008) (consisting of anti theft gates) hindering the visitors’ paths. Upstairs visitors are greeted by a wildebeest moving thru and fro on tracks (Kuckuck, 2003). Having safely navigated past the wildebeest one enters the piéce de resistance of the show: Gezeiten (2008) a new work by Erkmen consisting of a complex ruckus of sounds, images, video’s and objects under a dome of seatbelts.

The most striking examples of Erkmen’s attempts at creating synergy between her works and their surroundings are No time/no flowers (2008) and Das Haus/Ev/The House (1993/2008). With its two zigzagging pink lines No time/no flowers accentuates the original station clocks of the Bahnhof, while Das Haus/Ev/The House (originally a project for DAAD gallery in Berlin) contemplates the ‘honesty’ of the museum architecture, by removing its glass ceiling and lowering the otherwise hidden lighting system into view.

Erkmens work leans heavily on her conceptual and contextual approach, making it difficult to recognize any consequent use of material, style or form. The most that can be said is that there is a minimalistic air to it. What makes Weggefährten interesting is fact that the works on view are at the same time old as well as new, combining the familiar with the adventurous. The adaptational approach gives Erkmen the possibility of looking for new values and connections in her oeuvre. It even gives her such a wealth of possibilities that the Hamburger Bahnhof’s overview seems too small for the possible scope. The curators solved this by publishing an extensive catalogue with essays and descriptions. Those who want to have a crack at finding all the meanings, connections and messages in Weggefährten would do better to read it, because in the exhibition itself visitors are left with only their own associations.

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Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 1 — 2019