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34  |   I D E A

Three wall pieces, 2001

Wall piece in five parts
Painted wood
Each part 40 x 30 x 4.5 cm.

Wall piece
Painted wood
40 x 40 x 4.5 cm.

Wall piece in two parts
Painted wood
Each part 30 x 40 x 4.5 cm.


In early August 2001, I mounted the recently completed MNEME on the wall of my new studio: a small ground-floor flat, cater-corner across the courtyard from the 1,300-square-foot, first-story apartment I had been living in since 1977. Before moving downstairs, I had used the large room that, in an earlier, more stately age, had functioned as the upstairs flat’s formal dining area as a studio. All of the works that I describe above were at the very least designed, if not entirely made, there.

IDEA I  [part 1], 40 x 30 x 4,5 cm, enamel paint on wood, 2001.

That erstwhile salon-cum-dining-room was a good example of a local, late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century German architectural anomaly known as a Berliner Zimmer: a so-called “Berlin room,” which served to link the more grandly appointed front section of a bourgeois apartment of the time to its utilitarian back wing. This position in the floor plan, however, brings with it the drawback that such a room ends up being short on natural light, for, regardless of its size, and despite the multitude of doorways it commands, a Berliner Zimmer only ever has but one lone, corner window—albeit, ordinarily, a quite substantial one.

IDEA I  [part 2], 40 x 30 x 4,5 cm, enamel paint on wood, 2001.

The daylight that fell into in our specimen, for example, did so through a slightly recessed, two-tiered, triple-sashed casement window measuring 2.9 x 2 meters (c. 9½ x 6 ½ ft.) overall. But as this expanse of glass gave onto an inner courtyard and our apartment was just one flight above street level, I had long since become used to working there by halogen and incandescent light. Moving to a ground-floor flat with every bit as little natural light had thus made little difference to my work in that respect. The upstairs room itself measured 35 square meters (c. 375 sq. ft.), with oak parquet flooring and a heavily painted and stuccoed ceiling whose height was close to four meters (c. 13 ft.). As the apartment’s back rooms had been partitioned off, following World War I, and turned into a second, self-contained unit (accessed through the courtyard by way of the former service entrance), our flat ended with its “Berlin room,” a situation that nicely did away with any cross traffic through it, while also providing additional wall space.

IDEA I  [part 3], 40 x 30 x 4,5 cm, enamel paint on wood, 2001.

The disposition of the rooms of my then-new ground-floor studio had also been altered during the past one hundred years, so that their original layout could only be guessed at, though there could be no question whatsoever as far as their more modest scale and the humbler materials from which they had been constructed were concerned. I was to find that both attributes affected the appearance of the work that I produced there. In these dedicated workrooms, however, I was free to do the loud and dusty wood-working and messy, sometimes toxic, painting tasks that I had been performing in our apartment for a quarter of a century: activities that, having long since become an insupportable imposition on my long-suffering husband and flatmate, Eberhard Blum—whose combination music and drawing studio, with its windows and balcony overlooking the street, was separated from the Berliner Zimmer only by a pair of heavy sliding doors—had proved incompatible with the demands of my new Mac G4 as well.

IDEA I  [part 4], 40 x 30 x 4,5 cm, enamel paint on wood, 2001.

At the time of the actual move to the new studio, I had just finished the planning for IDEA, so that it was designed upstairs yet painted and assembled downstairs. The work itself is a three-part series of small wall pieces consisting of flat, box-like wooden forms on which sections of track belonging to a child’s wooden train set have been mounted. Each section represents a distinct type of switching point or crossing, illustrating various thought patterns, or different trains of thought, so to speak.

IDEA I  [part 5], 40 x 30 x 4,5 cm, enamel paint on wood, 2001.

Almost all of these track sections have had their “male” and “female” connecting parts cut off, or filled in. Coated with a hyper-white high-gloss radiator paint, which makes them resemble industrial ceramic circuitry of questionable provenance, each piece of track has been affixed to a box-like wooden form whose surface has been covered with thick coats of glossy synthetic enamel paint in a warm off-white shade.


The images here show the five parts of IDEA I.