Speech manuscript by art historian Dr. Birgit Möckel for the speech she held in occasion of the show of ‚Chronicle of a Place‘ at Projectraum Alte Feuerwache, November 28, 2014 – January 23, 2015 in Berlin
“Space is at the heart of Jenny Brockmann’s artistic work. And connected to this – intimately – are human beings.” This was the opening sentence of a speech I held, four years ago almost to the day, on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition by the sculptor in the studio gallery at Lützowplatz. At that time, Jenny Brockmann presented, among other things, large kinetic space installations, moving sculptures, whose rhythm of opening and closing or rising and falling were connected intimately with the observer. Other spatiotemporal balancing acts followed, which revealed humans and space as sensual as much as physical symbiotic experiences, and which probed both dialogical and oppositional interactions.
Once, it was the observer who had to overcome his shyness and enter a moveable spatial structure in order to perceive this as a comprehensive limitation and fragile balance between the interior and the exterior with different spatial perspectives, and to try and reconcile its breathing rhythm with his own heartbeat. Another time, the space presented itself from a distance as a bright promise, in order to seal itself off shyly from the approaching observer. (The work “Shy Room” can currently be seen in Tel Aviv.)
In the meantime, these spatial limitations – once constructed as small and large models, with all their viewing angles and sightlines guided towards the interior – and the associated experiences of acquisition and change, have grown far beyond the horizon. With tireless inquisitiveness and immense scientific curiosity, Jenny Brockmann has been examining the influence of day and night cycles and climatic factors for some time, and establishes cross-border connections that emerge in her work.
In May 2014, heavy granite slabs rose and fell – by remote control, in the true sense of the word – at the German Consulate in New York, whenever the temperature in Berlin changed. Jenny Brockmann created a comparably airy transatlantic bridge at the same location by means of a light installation, whose cycle of light and dark appeared like a mirage, yet still represented a very real echo from the distant homeland.
Familiar with kinetic work since her time as a master student of Rebecca Horn, Jenny Brockmann deepens her comprehensive technical, architectural and scientific knowledge with every work she creates, not least through a range of cooperations with university institutions, which lead her further and further into spatiotemporal, corporeal and physical experiences of her all-encompassing endeavour of “Measuring the World” (adapted from Daniel Kehlmann’s novel about Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauß). Such as geometry as the original discipline of sculptors is nothing more, but nothing less than “surveying”, which, from time to time, enables a narrowing or deepening of one’s own perception through the perimetric focus – depending on the “direction” of the view, depending on the anticipation or expectation of concrete life realities.
Equipped with comprehensive research, prior knowledge and contacts, Jenny Brockmann travelled to New York, Istanbul and Tel Aviv between 2013 and 2014, all the while watching, researching, collecting – as a modern-day and very contemporary granddaughter of some Alexander von Humboldt – in order to familiarize herself in her own way in and along the footsteps of historical German immigration waves to these big cities, and to map with multiple layers the life stories as spaces of experience, and to locate these from a personally experienced perspective. The resulting authentically as well as scientifically performative documentation particles preserve condensed recollections of this expedition trilogy. In the exhibition, these are supplemented by literary and contemporary sources (cf. Films 1-4).
On strictly predetermined paths, be it the direct route from Asia to Europe on foot and boat over the Bosporus from the Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal to the historic Galata Tower, or – beginning at the temporary studio in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, to new destinations along a carefully calculated and mathematically defined Fibonacci curve, which were explored precisely day by day on a bicycle with a trailer full of research luggage – and, last but not least, one route led from New York on the East River. From the Williamsburg Bridge through the currents of the so-called Hell Gate, which are hardly discernible from land, to the north bank of Brother Island, Jenny Brockmann explored and experienced her own view of those historic route axes she had researched and read about – based on the trails and fates of former migration flows from Germany to New York.
Jenny Brockmann artistically documented each of these tours in full as the “Chronicle of a Place”. With a weather station in her luggage, a pencil in hand, a camera and camcorder focused on everything to be found along the way, she directed her view towards fauna and flora, towards the smallest particles on the ground, towards façades, buildings, through windows, courtyards, entrances on the side of the road to up high in the clouds, in order to capture everything, to scan using her eyes and her mobile “tools”, and to finally view, sort and arrange the entire travel relics into a documentary sequence back at her Berlin studio. This can now be viewed here in this exhibition in extensive excerpts and insights. With this selected “vocabulary” of three places, past and present are revealed in terms of archive, laboratory, encyclopaedia and also entirely individually.
Test samples, water samples, botanical relics and artefacts can be found alongside meticulously noted figures as the result of predetermined parameters, which Jenny Brockmann created for all three excursions. Black-and-white photographs of meetings with people and architecture along the way beyond tourist routes, which led to unexpected insights – depending on whom or what the artist encountered, both planned and according to exact plans, and yet still ultimately unexpected – depending on where the individual fixed points along the river, the historical axis or the ever-stricter Fibonacci spiral led her.
The experience spaces of this “Performance-Installation-Research Project” shown here by Jenny Brockmann are both multi-medial and multi-dimensional in the public space. Poetic texts provide a background and interpretation of a film from Istanbul from an historic perspective (Film 2). By means of an interview, the past is linked with the future through personal experiences of flight and emigration and the associated questions regarding home and identity in Tel Aviv (Films 3 and 4), and last but not least, text passages also serve to create a parallel mood for the journey on the East River (Film 1), whose shoreline can moreover be experienced in fine line drawings as a spatiotemporal border, as a horizon and from a bird’s-eye view. From here, the exhibition visitor is lead via a model-like topographic axis to the different levels in Istanbul, in order to trace and follow the routes on the basis of maps from a bird’s-eye perspective with their own eyes.
The experience spaces entered by Jenny Brockmann and imparted to us as observers are extensive, diverse and, without question, broaden our horizons. With a view back towards the past, the sculptor experiences and describes and feels – and we with her – the present as a universally comprehensive element, which can be experienced by earth and water and up to the clouds, always in a new way and with our own self.
Every journey is action and a continuous change of perspective through space, time and culture. Every item brought back, everything witnessed and experienced en passant continues onward and, here in the exhibition, as a decidedly personal collection, opens up trails and trace elements in the interaction between micro and macro cosmos, humans, nature and architecture, body and space: material, which the travelling and researching sculptor and architect Jenny Brockmann has laid out with a great spirit of discovery and discipline: “Chronicle of a Place” is not least a temporary offer to us all, the recipients, to discover the sites and artefacts of both the journey and the traveller for ourselves. Traces are to be found everywhere.
copyright by Dr. Birgit Möckel