this issue contains
>> Portrait Ursula Döbereiner / Kirstine Roepstorff
>> Lawrence Weiner: Interview
>> Cash Flow at the ibc in Frankfurt: Olaf Metzel

>> archive


13.4.1981, 1987, Installation
Ecke Kurfürstendamm/ Joachimstaler Platz, Berlin, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2005

He gave the chaotic arrangement the title 4/13/1981, and for many, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Not only because the artist had used objects for his sculpture that were highly charged symbolically in the turbulent inner-political atmosphere of the former West Berlin. He had also been outrageous enough to choose a title that commemorated the day six years previously on which a violent demonstration took place at precisely the same crossing in a Berlin plagued by street riots between the police and sympathizers of the squatting scene.

The fact that Metzel had actually been inspired by Piet Mondrian's famous painting Broadway Boogie Woogie was of no help to him whatsoever. The Christian Democrat mayor at the time, Eberhard Diepgen, was furious that the people's soul had been brought to a boil and declared the work to be "a pile of junk." Everyone called for the sculpture's immediate removal, which then came about after some delay. While the other sculptures, which were aesthetically decorative, but largely subdued in terms of content, can still be visited on Kurfürstendamm, Metzel's 4/13/1981 was dismantled at the earliest opportunity on the slim grounds of public safety. The irony of history has it that the work is now in the possession of a real estate firm from Bonn and enjoys a quiet and thoroughly peaceful existence next to the German headquarters of the entertainment concern Universal in Berlin-Friedrichshain.

Türkenwohnung Abstand 12.000,- DM VB, 1982, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2005

Perhaps the reactions at the time were so heated because Metzel used a material diametrically opposed to prevailing ideas concerning which materials are appropriate and artistically "valuable." Yet this has always been one of the trademarks of his art and has remained so to this day. Wherever the sculptor installs his works, he first combs the immediate area for architectural details or historical items that lend themselves to being appropriated in his sculptures as reminiscences.

Stammheim, 1984, Installation am
Württembergischen Kunstverein Stuttgart, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2005

This can mean all kinds of things: in the work Cash Flow at the ibc, for instance, it was the characteristic aluminum gratings covering the building's windows, and in the case of 4/13/1981, police cordons. It doesn't make much of a difference to Metzel; what is important is that a connection exists, that there is a single, noninterchangeable link. In strict terms, each of his sculptures and artistic interventions can only be shown in the location they were originally created for.

This method harbors an earnestness and integrity that situate his works in the area of morality, without Metzel himself becoming a moralist. Each of the artist's works confronts the viewer, whether he wants it or not, with initial stimuli and recollections that more or less gently force him to reconsider his own views, ideas, and values. With this principle, Metzel caused a great tumult in Stuttgart in 1984 when he installed a tremendous, three meter-high concrete wreath in front of the Württembergischer Kunstverein and painted the word Stammheim on the outside wall. In Berlin, he "destroyed" a factory in 1981 that had been slated for demolition (Sculpture Böckhstr. 7, 3rd floor) as well as an apartment and a gas station; he knocked the plaster off church walls and perforated the cornices of historical exhibition halls.

Yet Metzel, who has since become professor at the Munich art academy and who participates in exhibitions as renowned as the documenta in Kassel (1987) and Skulptur.Projekte in Münster (1987 and 1997), is by no means concerned with the shock he regularly inspires. On the contrary: something very different is important to him, something that does not announce itself loudly or with much aplomb, but which creates a space for itself in complete silence - the creeping repression, the twilight zone of individual and collective memory.

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