Snowflakes and signs drift past the windshield. The video images of a car drive through the winter night alternate with shots from an airplane sailing over fields. But no, you can see a cloth with shaggy sewing machine drawings. “Storage” is the title of a video installation in a darkroom in the Kindl Center, which unmistakably revolves around the motif of the journey, including text and music from the soundtrack.
In 2008, Michaela Melián conceived this homage to a lost multimedia installation. “VariaVision. Endless Journey” by Edgar Reitz and Alexander Kluge was shown for a few weeks in 1965 at the International Transport Exhibition in Munich.
Mélian, born in Munich in 1956, shows in her first Berlin overview exhibition works committed to the principle of collage, in which she devotes herself to historical artefacts and personalities. There cannot be a single common thread in the story, which persistently links the past with the present. “Red Threads” is the title of the exhibition in the plural, many threads are spun here. It’s probably intentional that you can get tangled up in it.
It starts off as supposedly easy to consume, with crumpled cushions in fashionable colors on the first wall, which, however, are modeled on machine guns. Even the red sofa, which makes you want to take a nap, corresponds to the outline of the Mossberg Bullpup handgun, which was marketed in the US as a “self-defense weapon” but was also used by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The “Tania” cycle of works, from which the most recent works in the exhibition come, also bears witness to the entanglement in violence – a very contemporary feeling in view of the invaded Ukraine. A mural, a sound installation, a printed flag and drawings combine to create a deliberately blurred portrait of Tamara Bunke, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1937. She moved to East Germany with her parents after the war, joined the guerrillas around Che in Bolivia in the 1960s Guevara joined and chose the battle name Tania. In 1967 she was ambushed and shot. Her parents were communists who had fled from Nazi Germany into exile in Argentina. Her father was German and her Jewish mother came from Odessa.
In Tamara Bunke’s story, the themes of the 20th century intersect with totalitarianism, war, socialist modernity, emancipation and liberation. Bunke’s identity is a question of attributions and ideologically colored perspectives – it was celebrated in East Germany, rather forgotten in the West – and can only be pieced together from unreliable narratives, forged documents and Tania’s cover identity as an anthropologist.
The room-high “Fahne Tania” shows a phantom image from the search computer of the LKA Munich created in 1989 on white thin fabric. The artist had verbally described a photo of Bunke to the officer in charge, but he could only use male faces in the database for the reconstruction. There is no female counterpart for the iconic likeness of Che Guevara. Tania as a fading myth, as a void.
The eraser as a suitable tool for a mural: the picture appears like a mosaic, which runs around the wall on two spools like a film tape like a loop (actually the audience is running around).
It consists of “pixels” stamped on with erasers, which – viewed from a distance – show Bunke’s stations in life or indigenous sculptures that she examined in her parallel existence as ethnologist Laura Gutiérrez Bauer. Sound recordings of the musical cultures that Bauer, alias Bunke, researched were found in the backpack of the shot fighter. Therefore, Inca flute music can be heard from the loudspeakers in the exhibition space, alongside protest and revolution songs.
The sound mixes with the glass harp music that is part of the 2012 installation “Heimweh (Else Lasker-Schüler)”. Like a lighthouse, a slide projector with a rotating prism in front of it casts moving reflections from glasses, decanters and plastic objects on the fragile table landscape onto a curtain. “Girl-Kultur” is another large-scale carpet work from 2019, on which drawn kitchen designs from the 1920s overlap in a dizzying manner.
New building, weaving (reserved for women) at the Bauhaus, questions of emancipation and gender (in)justice play an important role. Melián’s work, made up of sheer “red threads” that converge in the Kindl center, seems like a palimpsest: simultaneously deep-sharp and difficult to read.
Maybe you don’t think too much and just drift like a snowflake. The “Mannheim Chairs”, designed for a library in 2016 and hanging from the ceiling, are ideal for chilling out. To sit, swing, listen to hypnotic music and look through the window at the silhouette of a city that was once divided into east and west.