Poster for the event, design unknown
Park Fiction was a communal action with the aim to save the last remaining green plot of land at the Pinnasberg of the St.Pauli neighbourhood in Hamburg from construction. It took place during the spring of 1996 and involved a vast array of groups contributing exhibitions, lectures, film screenings and performances. The effort proved to be successful, and the plot became a municipally sanctioned neighbourhood garden.
We belonged to the “ art section “ shipped in from Berlin by bus and were supervised by Christoph Schäfer and Kathy Skene, artists committed to social change, and from the beginning involved in the project, whereas we were “ guest appearances “. Our theme was “ Art in Public Space “. I wrote a little dramulet for the occasion, including three characters : Colette, Daniel Buren and his assistant. In the event, I performed the role of Colette in drag, Alexander Schröder, the gallerist and art-collector to be was Daniel Buren and Mercedes Bunz his assistant. St.Pauli, the infamous hotspot of pimping was not the right enviroment for me to perform in drag in the open, I was warned by spineless male artists pretending to be in the know of tough, male irascibility. Instead it turned out to be one of the most pleasurable experiences I can remember.
The following pictures show me, Alexander and Mercedes in our respective roles, and, within their own comedy, a lot of other actors : Ariane Müller, Martin Ebert, Judith Hopf, the late Marion von Osten, Gunnar Reski, Anne Philippi and members of the audience.
Lukas Duwenhögger as Colette
Mercedes Bunz as Daniel Buren's assistant
Alexander Schröder as Daniel Buren
Marion von Osten
Snapshots of the crime scene
Proposal for a commemorative monument for the persecuted homosexuals under National Socialism, the competition held in 2006, Berlin
This watercolour was my official entry into the competition
This detail helped the sculptor Annette Ruenzler to cast a mould for the model developed by Werk 5 for Documenta 12
,, Teekanne” wird eine Körperhaltung genannt, für die es sonst keinen Namen gibt : Ein Arm Akimbo, der andere seitlich bis auf Brusthöhe angehoben, mit einer vom Handgelenk an schlaff herabhängenden Extremität. Obwohl diese Pose aus dem Repertoire heutiger Männer so gut wie verschwunden ist, hat sie Lukas Duwenhögger mit ,, Celestial Teapot “ zur anthropomorphen und erhellenden Pointe eines Mahnmalvorschlags für die verfolgten Homosexuellen gemacht ( im Nationalsozialismus und danach, vorgesehen für den Berliner Tiergarten ). Indem er dieser Teekanne auf einen Sockel aus Eisenstreben verhalf, bestimmte er die sichtbarste und am wenigsten geduldete Markierung des ,, Homosexuellen “ ( und die paradoxe Bestimmung des ,, Affektierten “ als zu kultiviert und zu natürlich ) zum treibenden Ausschlussmerkmal und erhöhte sie nicht nur in einem räumlichen Sinn.
Das die damals zuständigen Auswahlgremien in diesem Entwurf, wenn überhaupt, nur den karikaturhaften Teil wahrgenommen haben, war diesem Paradox angemessen. Die weiteren Verwicklungen blieben da ohnehin unberücksichtigt : Die Katachrese aus Kupferkanne und weiβem Stahlgerüst zieht die Geschichte des Welthandels, der rationalisierten Bauweisen, der Abwertung der Angewandten Künste in ihren Kreis, und tritt dabei auf wie eine architectural folly des 18. Jahrhunderts, die diesmal allerdings auch jene tea houses mitmeint, die einst als Sextreffpunkte dienten.
In der Inversion von Rationalität in Exuberanz, von Abwertung in Erhöhung wirft Duwenhögger allerdings auch Fragen nach den Kriterien öffentlicher Repräsentation ( und deren Vorstellungen von ,, gutem Ton “ ) auf. Diese Teekanne ist viel zu überschwänglich, schön und einleuchtend, um als Bewerbung für eine moralisch so hochstehende Bauaufgabe wie ein antifaschistisches Denkmal durchzugehen.
The Teapot is a pose for which there is no other name: one arm akimbo, the other extended out to the side at chest height, elbow slightly bent. Hand dangling from a limp wrist. Although this posture has all but disappeared from the lexicon of men today, with The Celestial Teapot Lukas Duwenhogger revives it as the anthropomorphic and enlightened motif of his proposal for a monument to persecuted gays by national socialism, and later others in Berlin's Tiergarten. By placing this teapot on a pedestal of iron struts the sign of exclusion that it denotes is exalted both as a physical proposition and more broadly, in a cultural sense. The artist hones in on the most visible and least tolerated trait of the "homosexual" as well as paradoxical definitions of the "affected" as being simultaneously too cultivated and too natural.
Duwenhogger's observations on this paradox were underlined by the fact that the selection committee at the time failed to see anything in his proposal other than an aspect of caricature. Further complexities were not taken into account : a catachresis of copper teapot and white steel structure references the history of world trade, rational architecture and the debasement of the applied arts. Presenting itself like an 18th century architectural folly, it also connotes the tea houses that once served as sites for cruising.
By inverting rationality into exuberance and elevating debasement Duwenhogger also questions the regulation of public representation particularly in an implicit expectation regarding "decorum". This teapot is far too effusive, beautiful and self-evident to succeed as a proposal for an architectural challenge occupying the high, moral ground of an antifascist monument.
Manfred Hermes, Düsseldorf, 1985, artist's collection
Giambologna, Mercurio ( Hermes ), c. 1588, bronze
James Hadley, The Aesthetic Teapot, 1882, porcelain, courtesy the Museum of Royal Worcester
The Celestial Teapot, scale drawing for Werk 5, different media on paper
The Celestial Teapot, scale drawing for Werk 5, different media on paper, with cross section of teapot
Inner floor and outer platform including staircase
The competition for the "Commemorative Monument For The Homosexual Victims Under The Nazis” was in its endlessly protracted, undemocratic procedures, narrow-mindedness and incompetence, a desaster defying any description. But being the son of an architect who was time and again sorely tried by challenges more simple if you please, but certainly not less exposed to post WWII bureaucratic demands, I had expected the worst - in fact, the curators in charge, amongst them Josef Strau, had to mobilize all the powers of persuasion to convince me of the validity of my participation.
Besides, I had never been interested in monuments -- with the exception of fountains, monuments to the distribution of the indispensable element of existence. Especially the hypocritical austerity of the memorials to the slain and massacred left me cold. Didn’t they rather add insult to injury, their sleek surfaces reinforce the indifference and inhumanity that had led to those piles of anonymous rotting bodies in the first place ? It reminded me of the stripped-down catholic churches of the post WWII era, their penitential aesthetics serving as a cover-up for the notorious deal struck up with the Nazis : Do with the Jews whatever you like, but leave our flock alone.
After I agreed, the first step to be taken was to attend a congress which lasted for a week, twelve hours a day. It brought together experts of monuments and public gardens, representatives of the biggest gay groups, museologists, politicians, historians, etc and included visits of concentration camps, the already completed memorial for the Jews, the future sites of the gay and gypsie monuments and, of course, endless lectures.
These lectures stipulated, again and again, that a figurative monument was out of the question.
But I had taken stock of the site and its surroundings: A park surrounded by the new embassies after reunification, cubes of a predetermined height of 21 m, predominantly coated with bulletproof glass ; an amassment of bleak stone sarcophagusses in an artificially created depression ( The Peter Eisenmann designed Commemorative Monument Of The Jewish Victims Under The Nazis ) ; the not yet built Gypsy memorial, a black round pond with a swimming red rose in the middle to be constantly replaced, very nice but also dug into the ground, a formal device seemingly deployed to express the sinister weight of a murderous history ; and finally, in the distance, the only round shape rising above the trees, allowed to soar higher than the legally fixed “ Traufhöhe “, the Norman Forster cuppola of the new Reichstag. But rising cuppolas, onion domes and turrets had been once ubiquitous in Berlin, the most extravagant of them crowning the immense pleasure palaces of nearby Potsdamer Platz. These bulbous shapes were mostly covered in copper which after oxidation turnes into that inimitable aquatic green hovering between stone and sky, susceptible to ever-changing shadings through rain and shine, just like the sea. Maybe not anyone from the provinces chose these cathedrals of sin as their first destination after getting out of the trainstation, but amongst those who did the number of gay adventurers must have always been substantial. Descriptions in surviving letters tell you about airtube connections between tables for hooking up and giant soup-terrines whose lids were hydraulically lifted to reveal guilded live cupids flashing arrows amid volcanic steam.
The remembrance of that defunct world with all its delights of the flesh and its voluptuous forms had laid, in my mind, the foundation on which this monument was to be built.
You may say : To hell with soup terrines and teapots, palaces and cuppolas, when we have to face the ashen annihilation of life ! But I doubt that to impose dogmatic forms of what is proper to commemorate, and how to mourn, can be helpful in bestowing the dignity upon the victims, the dignity of which they once had been so cruelly divested.
But next to those flickers from the past, right in front of our eyes, the present situation of the chosen site in the park spread all around us, breathing and basking in the sun. As we were standing on the meadow, sprinkled with dandelions and pansies, the trees gently swaying in the breeze, while listening to yet another expert, I recalled the merciless, stony claustrophobia of Peter Eisenmann’s Jewish Memorial just across the street. In that moment I almost jumped to the conclusion that not only should the surface covered by the monument be reduced to a minimum, the flower – embroidered grass not be touched more than by fingertips, but that the entire structure should joyfully rise in a steel filigree like the unobstructing, desire – inducing electric pylons which always had so fascinated my father as examples for “ the beauty of pure engineering “
Thus the premisses were set : Defiant, soaring, playful, baroque – and social, since in the belly of the teapot whose spout in the shape of a limp hand pointed towards the Reichstag, was to be a speak–easy.
But nothing was to come of it. My proposition was vilified in an uproar of indignation to the point that the infuriated jury had to be told to relax and have a coffeebreak before returning in a more “democratic“ mood to negotiating table.
The competıtıon had turned into a trial about what was legitimate in a culture of mourning or not. The USA – imported Gay Lib, affiliated with the civil right movement, had turned from a struggle for equality into a coercive and punitive administring by powerful Gay lobbies for all – out assimiliation. Gay marriage, gay soldiers, gay police, I spare you the rest. The collateral damage to the faculties of aesthetics, morals, expression, even common sense are often overlooked, and put into question the culture of mourning which Germany claims amongst her highest achievements.
The winner. This picture shows the monument which conquered the hearts of the jury. It was the brainchild of the gay creative duo Dragset/Elmgreen, since then of international reknown, instead of being imprisoned for art-crimes against humanity. The hidden treat attracting the curiosity of these venerable citizens, lining up to have a peep into the dreadful sarcophagus from Mars, is a video of 2 men kissing. The unconscionable offense that gayness was represented as an exclusively male domain would have gone unnoticed, had it not been brought to the fore by an enraged lesbian group. Belatedly was it concluded - how long that debate took, only Allah knows - that a second video of 2 women kissing had to be added, for reasons of equality. Can Germany have democracy ?
Against Danish gay tristesse, the teapot in New York
Cross-section of "Celestial Teapot", including the likeness of The Great Houdini, oil on canvas, private collection; right, detail showing The Great Houdini
"Celestial Teapot" detail
"Celestial Teapot" as shown in Documenta 12, 2007
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