Article by Sarah Gretsch, photos by Benjamin Busch in Berlin; Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2013
A place, a space, a moment overflowing with whimsy. The place: the prominent former city-center Postfuhramt, which until last weekend housed C/O Berlin. The space: a room tucked away in the clouds, above the daily-treaded exhibition rooms. The moment: right in time for the closing weekend.
‘A room that was never meant to be’ was a one-time exhibition, curated by Neue Berliner Räume, that took place in a never-before-seen subjacent hall of the C/O Berlin building on Oranienburgerstraße. The space was created by closing the hall’s ceiling after the Second World War, and has not been seen publicly once in its years of existence. As the pending renovation of the Postfuhramt is soon underway, the room will surely disappear again. In a somber celebratory note, this exhibition presents the melancholy works by artist Jodie Carey from the Elegy series (2012).
The lucky few, who in various manners were informed of the event, entered in whispers and climbed numerous flights of stairs after patiently waiting their turn in the hushed rear courtyard. Greeted by near darkness and precarious flooring, visitors wavered their way through the vacant attic space to find at the end a blinding glow. Since the original intention was to spread light through multiple stories, the space is entirely bathed in light from a ceiling of skylight panels. Immediately soft hues of yellow bounce around the small space, bringing a welcomed sense of calm and clarity. Breaking this silence, the heartbeat quickens realizing the weight of such a unique moment.
The space is not only a secret, but also a stunning merging of new and old, bright and dull. These contrasts are both thanks to the space and its unique architecture, but also to the perfectly tailored curatorial program. The openness of the ceiling with its hazy light seeping through thick plates of glass contrasts the heavy layers of architectural surfaces, peeling away in sections from the previous elements–– a tangible representation of the building’s history. The works also play upon this notion of time, layers of history, peeling pieces, and decay. Both the works and the room were stripped of their former elegance, and with this, the space carries an overwhelming sentiment of loss, missing, melancholy.
Consisting of five cohesive images printed upon original photographic plates produced in the 1920s, the works of art are layers of history alone. At this time, such a material was at the center of photographic technique; but in this context, the plates are elevated above photographic material and fade into the elements the room themselves, mimicking the tiles and moldings wrapping the surrounding walls. As the plates’ function in photography has since disappeared, architecture like this space has also faded into such rarity. Just as these plates were found and reused by the artist, similarly was the space found and repurposed even if just for one day.
Jodie Carey delicately produced digital prints allowing elements of the originals to peek through. The layers within these pieces mirror the layers in the walls on which they rest. Even further, and coincidentally, a fleck of blue paint in the exact hue as Carey uses in a number of her prints, peeks out behind plaster. Instead of being hung, the photos simply rest on a thick molding which in this way appears as a shelf, as if the space were always meant for such a context, making it only harder to accept the fleeting impermanence of the moment.
Sarah Gretsch is living in Germany since January 2012. Originally from the United States, where she pursued her Bachelor’s in Art history, she is now continuing her studies in Berlin.