Originally a site specific installation at Nollendorfplatz U Bahn Station in Berlin, this piece compares the tumulus times German writer Walter Benjamin endured living in Pre World War 2 Berlin to today’s rapidly changing, tense world. Nollendorfplatz, evaluates historical circumstances, societal values, geographic location in relation to the cult of art as it changes with advances in technology.
The train station, both the miniature used in the piece, and the specific location of the original installation is a symbolic time machine, dragging citizens backward and forward in time. The years leading up to World War 2 and the rise of the Nazi party were full of technologies that reshaped the human experience. As the technological landscape shifted people were facing political polarity, propaganda warning against “the other”, armed militant groups, a constant fear of war and economic strife. These years, which influenced Benjamins later writings are practically parallel to the years we face today as we become increasingly more connected, invent more modifying technologies, become globally connected, and face the horrifying growth of fascist regimes.
Benjamin explains in his work that we aren’t quite ready to know how to use these innovations. Unfortunately, new found technology—at the time meaning military technology, now meaning something like Twitter, is often abused by fascists and their misinformed followers. His essay, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, written after his exhile from Berlin living close to the cinema next to Nollendorfplatz, explores the authenticity of a piece of art, referring to the then new art of cinema pulling artwork from it’s purposeful time and place and showing a copy of it in a theater. This is a relevant topic in relation to the rise of Post-Net Art, and the ability to see art on your screens from anywhere in the world.
Some of the recordings I used in the projected film were from movies, propaganda films, and travel promotions from Germany between the years of 1931-1937. In that timespan, the first highway was built in Germany, cinemas were popping up on every corner, more and more cars were driven, and everyone traveled to far off places by plane than ever. Also interspersed are recent video and images of the station. As the viewer jumps forward and backward in time, they consider the current global situation where propaganda and technology are used as tools of destruction in relation to already manifested timelines, particularly in Benjamins lifetime Berlin, and the atrocities that followed his last train ride out of the city.