Daniel Libeskind designed the zig zag that is the Jewish Museum Berlin and named it “Between the Lines”. It’s a remarkable building, the outside of which gives little clue to internal structure. The design emerged by mapping the physical addresses of prominent Berliners who connected Jewish tradition and German culture prior to the Holocaust (JMB 2018). This he overlaid with a straight line, and where they intersected huge voids were created extending from basement to roof. Some of these voids are inaccessible, but may be partially observed through slit windows. All this I remember from a visit in 2004, but the thing that reverberates still is what was between the lines, in one of the voids, Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) installation by Manashe Kadishman. Some 20,000 open-mouthed iron faces cover the floor, a floor on which you may choose to walk. If you do though, you don’t really walk, you shuffle with care, yet the pieces move beneath you, clank and clang reverberates in the void, and the now and then becomes very immediate and questioning.
In 2010 Michel Francois exhibited at S.M.A.K in Ghent, Belgium. The exhibition was described as showing how we make and unmake the human world via endlessly recycling discarded materials, elemental resources and seemingly valueless matter reflecting the simple beauty and essential fragility of humanity (van Eecke, 2010). One of the works, Walk through a line of neon lights (2004-2009) comprised a serried array of fluorescent tubes laid parallel on a gallery floor, forming a rectangular carpet of glass through the brittle centre of which the artist walked. The line of crushed glass and jagged edges create in me a desire to walk that same walk while neon tubes can still be obtained. Of the artwork I ask, may I be invited to walk too? If so how will I walk?
Ann Hamilton has a body of work which has been characterised as questioning and animating the processes that link perception, knowledge, expression and experience (Geldin 1996). Her large installations frequently include enormous numbers of (semi) repetitive objects. The floor often becomes part of the work, and engagement with the work can require walking on that floor. In one piece, part of the capacity of absorption, 10 tonnes of linotype slugs that were once lines of text, covered the floor, such that “every step noisily reminded viewers of their bodily movement and the linguistic systems they seemed to be drowning in”.
van Eecke, Christophe (2010) Final days: Michel Francois at S.M.A.K.Metropolis M
Geldin, Sherri (1996) In the body and the object: Ann Hamilton 1984-1996. Ohio State University, Columbus.
JMB (2018) Jewish Museum Berlin accessed 7 June 2018 https://www.jmberlin.de/en/libeskind-building