Unlike so many other military buildings in Berlin after the end of World War II, Luftgau-Kommando III remained remarkably intact. Even with the removal of the swastikas and the bombastic brass eagle that once perched on its roof, the building’s past resonates in every crevice. Taking that into account, Fluentum’s curators Junia Thiede and Dennis Brzek have made its legacy and architecture the focus of the group show, Time Without End, which runs until December 11.
The curators commissioned four artists – Margaret Honda, D’Ette Nogle, Richard Sides and Florian Wüst – to create predominantly video-based artworks in dialogue with the building. The main exhibition space in the atrium, surrounded by an imposing imperial staircase, is filled with these and other selected works, forming a challenging meditation on architectural narratives and the lingering presence of the past.
The first piece you come across is Wüst’s multi-layered curatorial work ‘…bauen ein besseres Leben’ (…build a better life). “Florian is an expert on cinema culture in West Berlin,” Brzek explains, “and we wanted to include something that showed West Berlin’s rich visual culture, revealing insights into how Germany could be renewed after the atrocities of the Second World War.” Included in Wüst’s assemblage is a cringe-worthy film from 1951, showing a stiff local couple as they discover the laid-back charm of their new American counterparts.
Seventeen years later, West Germany’s student movement would rail against such wilful naivety. In the buzz around “prosperity and rebuilding”, Brzek explains, “denazification might have been overlooked. The ‘68 student riots were a critique of the German government’s affiliation with its Nazi past and the US programme, which was focused more on economic prosperity than on a deeper political and spiritual reckoning.”
We were fascinated to find out that Fluentum, which is so dedicated to the moving image, has such a cinematic past.
British artist Sides responded to the concept with ‘The Daily Mail’, a disconcerting and wholly unexpected video work. Interweaving banal conversations between friends with pop music and near-empty street views, the viewer is put into the position of the eavesdropper – a feeling further enhanced by the small chipboard wooden shack that encloses the whole installation.
Beside it, Nogle’s ‘materialoutpost’ is a dense and intriguing film that could eat up hours of your time as it disentangles established narratives on visual culture and power structures. The artist’s own off-screen voice gives it the feel of a compelling lecture delving into art history and Hollywood cinema.
Time Without End emerged out of the much larger research project In Media Res, which examines how narratives are constructed through the prism of this space, whose own history is something of a blockbuster. Once an integral node in the Luftwaffe’s network of war and violence, the Luftgau-Kommando III in Dahlem was briefly occupied by the Russian Red Army in 1945 before becoming the centre of power for US occupying forces. From here, General Lucius D Clay orchestrated the Berlin Airlift to deliver food and fuel to Berliners during the Soviet blockade of 1948. “We often get Americans coming in, telling us their stories of working here,” says Brzek.
After the last American GI left the building in 1994, film crews moved in. In 2009, Quentin Tarantino shot three scenes there for his Jewish revenge thriller Inglourious Basterds. Fellow curator Thiede is a bit starstruck by the place, you might say. “We were fascinated to find out that Fluentum, which is so dedicated to the moving image, has such a cinematic past.”
Time Without End, Through Dec 11, Fluentum, Dahlem