Close to the entrance to an area which is located not far away from the river Spree, you meet two guardians of brick stone, who seem to guard a hidden mystic place. The area is a hall and the hall’s gate is a barrier between everyday’s life and a scenario in which common things are extracted from their old context and put together en masse to tell a story about mankind and it’s needs. And how they stand there, they seem not only to be willing to tell us, the visitors, their story, but also among themselves.
Yet the first glimpse through the gate into the hall reveals a magic kingdom of warm lights and a hardly comprehensible plenitude of objects, which fill out almost every square-meter of the space from the ground high up to the ceiling.
Rapidly you lose yourself in the branched alleys of this dusky labyrinth. Every perspective is different, already the look back lets you doubt about where you came from.
Inside the corridors everything you once needed, loved or hated towers up. In their totality, all the things are carrying an innocent charm because they all seem to be standing there like forgotten, not needed anymore, and waiting for someone who would pay them attention for a moment or who would pick them up.
Uprising of things
It’s nearly impossible to count them all: a huge model aircraft from World War II, which seems to overfly a division of sewing machines; six old Polaroid cameras reflecting themselves in a facing mirror, waiting for the right moment to snap; long forgotten iMacs standing high up in a rack and presenting their coloured backs while they’re dreaming of better days. Shady wine-bottles in a basket on the floor wondering if one day they will find someone who is brave enough to drink from them, and plastic crocodiles, newly hatched from a kinder surprise, joining an afternoon coffee party with one of the dozens Teletubbies. Hundreds of remote controls with black bodies of different extent and small white digits standing at a wall, convey the impression of a New York skyline. And an army of chromly-blinking faucets cranes their long necks far over the desk like they would like to start a discussion with the screws lying below. Hanging bicycles and boats are crossing the air under the ceiling of the hall like a magical second traffic system high above the heads.
And over the whole crazy scenery boasts a giant emblem of the GDR.
Room in room
The room is divided in smaller, more or less separated partitions. Some of them are small cell phone shops in shiny neon colours, others appear like living-rooms with an exuberant furnishing, mostly arranged with bad taste: Heavy and cheesy pieces of furniture remind you, sometimes cosy, sometimes unpleasing, of the furnishing of grandparents and frequently a grotty scenery is transformed into an almost upper ambience by a set of chandeliers, hanging from the ceiling.
Every of these partitions has its own smell. Mostly it is sweet-mouldy, sometimes when lots of books are standing in a partition, it smells of mildewed paper and cigarette smoke. Many partitions are making sounds: In some of them you can hear an annoying radio-program, in others, Turkish pop-music or booming techno-beats.
But some of the partitions are also “closed”: The owners are not on site to take care of them. They are covered by a red velvet curtain, and only if you are standing on tiptoes and looking over the curtain you can divine the droll zoo of toys which is hidden behind it and sleeping. There, penguins, bunnies, fishes and dinosaurs are dreaming in peaceful solidarity of the coming weekend when the owner will appear again and open the partition to allow them the contact with the visitors.
The house of shoes and the house of clocks
Sometimes, a partition becomes an autonomous curiosity or a kind of theme-park: When it arranges itself to a kind of “house” and the goods create the walls of this house. You can meet such a house in one corner of the hall. It’s the house of shoes, which is covered completely by black boots, so you can get the impression that it is totally made of boots and other shoes. Somewhere in one of the four boot-walls you can detect a face, looking through the boot-window: It’s the saleswoman.
A few steps further you meet the house of clocks: Like a witch’s cottage from a fairy tale it’s standing there, covered completely from the top to the bottom and on all of its sides with porcelain plates, deer antlers, and furiously ticking clocks. Some of them are Black Forest-Clocks, so they are small houses as well.
The agglomeration of things tells countless stories. The chaos is fascinating but horrifying at the same time. Aversion and attraction are mixing together. This memory of human culture you can see here is deeply artificial. Or even artistic? It is artificial but at the same time vibrant in its richness. Often you feel yourself reminded of a colossal art-installation, many artists would never dream about.
Although most of the things, like plenty of the tasteless landscape-paintings, arranged in “Petersburg hanging”, are unbearable trash or an ugly lie in particular, they are nonetheless true in their unity. They are a true reflection of the upper and lower needs of people, of the good and bad taste. That’s why it would be wrong to judge over them. In contrast, they give the opportunity to decode humans’ dreams. Maybe the hall is a huge museum of things in the end?
Surely this space of phantasmagoria would have caused a strong effect on Walter Benjamin who has described similar phenomena in his famous “Passages”-work about the passages of Paris.
And we remain with a naive childish amazement, and the light disappointment about returning to everyday’s life when we leave the hall.
Photos and Text: Jarek Sierpinski
Pictures taken by the author