by Darshana RamdevApr 15, 2020
Bettina Pousttchi, born in Mainz and currently based in Germany, practices in Berlin as a sculptor, installation artist, and photographer. Pousttchi has participated at the Whitney Independent Studio Program at Whitney Museum, New York, and has had solo exhibitions at Kunstmuseum St.Gallen, Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg, Hauser & Wirth in London, Buchmann Galerie in Berlin, and Holden Gallery in Manchester, among many others. Her most recent display took place at Konzerthaus Berlin, featuring a large format photo installation.
The Konzerthaus is a historical institution, with the building dating as far back as the mid-18th century. Located on Gendarmenmarkt square, the space was initially used for the stables of the Prussian cavalry regiment of Frederick William I. This was demolished in 1773 by his successor, and rebuilt and inaugurated 15 years later and renamed the Königliches Nationaltheater. The theatre received a number of prominent visitors, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Friedrich Schiller and later even hosted composers like Liszt and Wagner.
In 1817, the building was destroyed by a devastating fire after which Karl Friedrich Schinkel, a notable German architect, was commissioned to redesign the structure. He presented the king with an exceedingly spectacular vision which, after being built, astounded artists and patrons across the world with its beauty. The theatre enjoyed many years of success before falling into neglect during wartime. In 1945 the SS units, enforcers of Nazi policy, set fire to the theatre. The building was rendered without function for many years, before it was rebuilt again in the 1970s. From this point onwards it has been known as the Konzerthaus.
Pousttchi’s installation, a massive photo installation covering the facade of the Konzerthaus, recalled this long, arduous and dramatic account which forms the history of this institution. The installation was in remembrance of Schinkel’s iconic work, unveiling the work as a part of the institution’s anniversary celebrations, exactly 200 years after it was built. The artist told us about the artwork saying, “Since 2009 I have been realising large scale interventions in public space. It all started with Echo on the facade of Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, where I applied 970 different paper posters on the four elevations of a temporary art institution to erect an after image of the Palast der Republik, a building that has just been demolished on that very site after a very controversial debate…”. Echo was a landmark in Pousttchi’s creative career, launching her work into international recognition. This led her to do more work in this medium and format.
She shared further saying, “After that intervention I was asked to realise further facade projects in different locations internationally. With Amplifier I was able to return my activity to Berlin, the city where I live. This recent photo-installation covered the main facade of Konzerthaus Berlin, one of the most iconic landmark buildings of the city. On the occasion of their bicentennial, the Konzerthaus commissioned this site-specific piece to celebrate their anniversary. The large-scale photographic print is developed from photos that I took of the building, transforming its perception into the unexpected. Amplifier draws on Karl Friedrich Schinkel's architecture, the building’s history as well as the urban context of Gendarmenmarkt”.
With Amplifier, Pousttchi played with perspective and scale of the viewer, encouraging one to reflect on the illusions with feign as true reality. The artwork toed the lines which separate photography and installation. She used a grayscale, monochrome aesthetic which lent a certain nostalgia to the work as well, moving the artist to consider the historical relevance of the monument. Pousttchi’s practice can also be related to structure, particularly in the urban environment which further raises questions about urban architecture and artefact.
She discussed her relationship to material and media saying, “Currently I am mostly working in sculpture and photography and very often there is also a connection to architecture. My facade works are photographic prints mounted on buildings, which then become sculptural. I like to explore the interconnections between the different fields, but I also like a very straightforward approach to sculpture like in my Squeezer series where I use street barriers like street bollards, crowd barriers and bicycle racks as a starting material. They can be singular pieces or they can be arranged in groups. My most recent sculpture series entitled Vertical Highways consists of crash barriers which I then transform to vertical structures in bright colours. These objects surround us every day and define our physical movement in space, however very often they remain unnoticed”. These objects toy with the viewer’s perspective of these ordinary objects, in observation of artefacts and constructs which we come into contact with on a daily basis. This pushes the observer to engage freshly with mundane objects.
Pousttchi’s next exhibition, Directions, will take place at Buchmann Galerie from September 10 to October 30, 2021.