I would hunt these gray forms until they would transmit to me a part of their mystery. (aus Bunker Archeology)
Paul Virilio, 1975
As monumental forms made of concrete, the bunkers dot Europe’s landscape; from Berlin and Germany, to French Brittany, the English Channel, even to the northern and southern coasts (as the “Atlantic Wall”). In Italy, Austria, Germany, etc., bunkers can be found in the middle of cities as oversized, indestructible bodies. The National Socialists called their bunker construction project “Fortress Europe”. Their dark past is firmly inscribed in the bunkers. However, their archaic form, far removed from ideological tastes, planned purely for utility and efficiency, removes them from any temporal and local classification. What is past here can be future elsewhere and vice versa. In all its monumentality, heaviness and hardness, the bunker paradoxically stands for the flow of history and meaning. The only constant is the dichotomy between attack and protection. While bunkers on the French coast are now a popular meeting place for young people and a playground for children, elsewhere in the world new bunkers are being built for war.
Andreas Mühe, who has traced these strange structures on many journeys along the “Atlantic Wall”, takes the metaphorical potential of the bunkers as the central starting point for a large-scale installation. It is the first sculptural work by the artist, who is known for his precisely constructed photographs. Mühe takes the transformation of the bunker to the greatest possible extent: He reduces the monumental dimensions of the hard concrete bunkers to a human, tangible size and transforms them into small, soft objects – like cuddly toys that children play with. Instead of a singular monolith, Mühe creates many small “cuddly bunkers”, like a sea of bunkers that floods the exhibition space. The cuddly bunkers are handmade regionally by the Kösener Spielzeug Manufaktur near Naumburg.
In the installation at Kunsthaus Dahlem, the soft, small bunkers swarm out like many small offspring after a large, old stone has been picked up after many years, revealing a pile of small crawling creatures underneath. In stark, diametrical opposition, the heaviness and roughness of the bunker – in its artistic translation – becomes something soft. The amalgam of steel and concrete, of history, identity, memory, fortress and shelter no longer hurts as a cuddly toy. It can be touched and taken away. And yet it can topple again: The sea of bunkers becomes an army of bunkers elsewhere.
With the kind support of