BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 2000 Museum of contemporary at Oslo 2002

Berlin Ostbahnhof is a relational project contexualising Berlin history of continuous transformation and lack of historical authenticity. The Project infiltrates reality and changes it. It navigates along certain traces and borders, occasionally crossing them in order to extend the gaze and reflect it.

The railway station BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF has changed name and identities analogously with the political changes in Europe. From Berlin -Frankfurter Eisenbahn, to Schlesischer Bahnhof and, during the time of the cold war in east Berlin, the station was called BERLIN HAUPTBAHNHOF. For a short time it was called Berlin Central. After the reunification of Germany in 1989 the station was given back its original name Berlin Ostbahnhof from 1936.

The significant sign on the roof of the station building, BERLIN HAUPT BAHNHOF, was one of relatively few neon signs made in the former DDR. The converted sign BERLIN OST BAHNHOF is nearly thirty meters long and 250 cm tall, –made with some hundred handmade neon tubes, and is a mix of the old and new letters. Most of these majestic letters, except the OS, stood on top of the station for more than twenty years.

As Deutsche Bahn (DB) is expanding and modernizing the transport-services of the new capital Berlin, the station BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF was in need for total restoration. The whole entrance hall has lately been reconstructed and the neon sign was taken down. «Der Bahnhof der Zukunft» has changed again and the letters have failed to survive the new millennium.

Following this process, I have been recording photos and video of the letters in various situations during day - and night time .Through discussions with the engineers working for Strabag and Holzmann, the destiny of the neon-letters proved to be relatively uncertain. The conclusion was that I bought the old sign for a symbolic sum and removed it from the construction area.

Künstlerhaus Bethanien The art piece, in its first step of realization, was presented as an installation in Künstlerhaus Bethanien, March 2000. This separate installation, allowed a large presentation with the live letters BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF arranged together in a sculptural situation. The installation at Künstlerhaus Bethanien also displayed a model of a larger vision: A European Tour. In a miniature scale – the neon sign was transported on two Märklin train wagons, running on a plaster sculpture (a three dimensional map) of Europe. Together with the model and the original neon letters, video clips from the history of the Ostbahnhof station were shown on monitors, and a soundtrack of manipulated sounds from the station filled the exhibition space.

Europe TOUR The idea is to see the concept of the Europe tour realized in full scale with DB as cooperative partner. The specific geographic name BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF, will be travelling by itself on a train throughout Europe. — The expectation of a station as just a HOST for other trains coming from Europe to Berlin, will be reversed, reflected and changed into another reality, as art. It is meant to travel to several European capitals, hanging as a tail on the regular trains, enlightening the environment during the journey, ending up in central stations such as: Paris Gare du Nord, Brüssel Central, St. Petersburg, London Waterloo, Budapest, København, Oslo etc. In each station the wagons will be disconnected from the train. With the neon letters still standing on the wagons, they function both as a sculpture and as pieces of reality, in a real context. Passengers will experience art, not only motivated from a formal esthetical tradition, but also from a social-political tradition. After a certain period, the wagons will be picked up by a DB train and transported to another European city, for delivery. The piece will be an exceptional way of showing European history, —on the move.

The installation at Künstlerhaus Bethanien as well as the European tour, will be documented as big format photographs and digital video DV. The rich source of documentation from BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF will, after having showed the project in several cities, end up as secondary photographic pieces and 3D multiples, as well as a catalogue or other kinds of printed matters.

Since only the middle part of the sign was changed each time the name was converted, the sign carries important and valuable traces of different times and different realities. The letters OS(t) in the middle, which replaced ten years ago the Haup(t), manifests visually the change with its brighter green body and even brighter white neon light compared to the other letters. It is a subtle documentation of the travel / transgression between different ideologies and the merge of the two German states. It is a geographic specific place but, with multiple identities. The station has welcomed travelers from all over Europe. It has itself traveled the journey through history, through Cold and Warm wars, yet physically it has been standing on the same ground for a century.

During the 20th century Deutsche Bahn has had great importance and influence for the German industry, for the strong German economy and for continental tourism. DB has become one of the largest companies in Germany by building up a large network of transportation in the heart of Europe. It has offered employment for thousands of people, and therefore also represents national and social security. DB has also been participant in the wars of this century. As an efficient tool for die Dritte Reich, DB made Holocaust logistically possible with its deportation of prisoners. Socially and politically Deutsche Bahn has been the symbol of German precision, high technical standards and reliability, —in both good and bad times. The standard has even become a reference for other railways world wide. An example appears also in the distinctively precise Märklins models of these famous DB trains, which present the fascination of technical finesse on German rails, —for the amusement and joy of both collectors and kids.

BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF will be a name in exile, rolling quietly around the continent. Sublime in its self-reflection, transported on wagons carrying their own history on their back; a glowing piece of an ever changing Berlin identity.