What is the Next Station project?
We’ve taken 3 subway stations in Berlin – Gesundbrunnen, Rosenthaler Platz and Möckernbrücke. At these stations there are these big billboards where normally there are advertisements. We’ve installed photographs taken in Ukraine’s subway stations, images of people sheltering because of the Russians rockets and drones. When you stand in Berlin subways, these very large images are like a direct window into the Ukrainian subways.
Of course people are not sheltering all the time. There was a time when it was more quiet, especially in Kyiv. But then in recent weeks Russia began to send these rockets again to civilian targets.
What sort of feelings do the images provoke?
The images somehow feel very quiet. You don’t see any graphic violence or blood. In this way you get another kind of access to the topic. Seeing these people sheltering, you understand what this could be like.
But, for instance, when you look at the photo of the old couple (detail), in a way it’s just a really nice photograph. Only when you understand the context do you see that it goes deeper, deeper maybe than if you see dead bodies of people who have been killed in this war.
Why display the photos on the U-Bahn like this?
While we go to work, people in Ukraine are having to shelter in subways. Displaying them in this space is very important to the project. It’s not just a coincidence.
We could also have done this in an actual gallery or somewhere like that, but then only a certain circle of people will come, and these are people who already know about the topic. So I think that’s why it’s a good opportunity to go into public space. But, of course, this must be done in a responsible way. We can’t show the graphic violence of the war. But maybe that would not be a good approach anyway, because then people may just turn away and say, OK. I don’t want to see this.
Berlin’s subways are perfect because they are almost like a gallery. You are able to stand really near the pictures. It’s like you are looking into this other world. Both similar, and completely different.
When you stand in Berlin subways, these very large images are like a direct window into the Ukrainian subways.
Do you have plans to show these images elsewhere?
This is something we need to think about. This is just the beginning. We had one installation in May already, but it wasn’t official. We just printed some similar photographs and put them up at the train station near Treptower Park. On May 9th, Russian Victory Day is celebrated there. We knew that a lot of people would be there, so we just thought we had to try something. People stopped to look. And this is also something I hope will happen in the subway, that people who maybe normally don’t use so much media, or are not so interested, see the images.
I could imagine exhibiting them in another public space, but still also using a significant context. Maybe in a city like Dresden in Saxony, where people are more, let’s say, Russian-friendly. It’s important to give another point of access to this topic.
When people step onto their train and leave the station, wow would you like them to feel after seeing these images?
It would be good if people would take just a short moment in their days and let it somehow sink in. The war began in February. At the moment, people are a bit tired and they see costs going up as a result of the war. We wanted to make this topic visible again.
In the media, you see images of destroyed houses. But once you have seen hundreds of destroyed houses, you just think OK, that’s another destroyed house. You don’t get any emotional contact or any idea of the reality of the situation or what it actually means for someone to have their home destroyed.
The photographs featured in ‘Next Station’ were taken by Ukrainian and international photographers Maxim Dondyuk (Ukraine), Pavel Dorogoy (Ukraine), Serhii Korovayny (Ukraine), Jędrzej Nowicki (Poland) and Emile Ducke (Germany). The images will be on display in the Gesundbrunnen, Rosenthaler Platz and Möckernbrücke U-Bahnhofs until November 24th. Learn more about n-ost here.