She immediately discovered the error in the system. Amused, Bärbel Bas walks down the row of “stewards” with the federal eagle emblazoned on their backs. Traditionally, the heraldic animal turns its head to the right. In Marion Eichmann’s six-part paper collage, someone steps out of line and looks to the left. The “federal eagle, somewhat naughty in terms of protocol” is her favorite, says Bundestag President and SPD politician Bas at the opening of the exhibition “Sight.Seeing Bundestag. A year in the heart of democracy”.
The place initially inspired her with enormous respect, admits the artist, who has lived in Berlin since 1993, where she first studied at the University of the Arts and later at the Kunsthochschule Weißensee. “I filter my inspiration from the environment. Like a camera eye – without judgment and without hierarchy. To do this, I first had to free myself from this reverence and also ignore politics.”
A small collage showing the west facade of the Reichstag building as a black silhouette seems like a gateway to the behind-the-scenes of Parliament, an ordinary, closed world. Eichmann shook off the feeling of being alien and forlorn in the extensive architecture by running – initially around eleven kilometers a day through the four parliament buildings.
She looked into the hidden nooks and crannies of the political machine, focusing on the everyday and the ordinary. Apparently casual things like the window cleaner on the round window of the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, the intercom system with the filigree logo of the “police” or the “defibrillator”, which counteracts the ventricular pathos with an ironic note. In the event of cardiac arrhythmia, please take this in this House in an emergency.
Although Eichmann likes to go into large format with her filigree paper cuts and does not shy away from overwhelming motifs, pathos is far from her. Rather, the technique with which she developed her three-dimensional painting and drawing – combining paper cut, collage and relief – is able to undermine the view of what is sufficiently familiar.
The democratic structure also appears fragile when the feathers of the federal eagle stand out like spikes in the plenary hall or when red and white barriers are collaged in front of the graphite drawing of the west portal with the lettering “Dem deutscher Volke”.
While the representative appears brittle due to the displacement of a facade projection or the fragmentation of individual motifs over several frames, Eichmann transforms the unspectacular and banal into true-to-scale objects. So deceptively real that you almost walk past it again. If it weren’t for this materiality and tactile presence that lend charm and humor to a simple site plan, a quiet sign or the exit and street signs.
Eichmann does not put a deep thorn in the flesh of politics, but the subtle shifts in levels of reality and interpretation open up surprising perspectives. For the visitors as well as for the members of the Bundestag, on whose behalf the art advisory board acts.
Emerging from the Art Commission established in the late 1970s in 1995, the committee, made up equally of all parties, decides on art-in-architecture projects and exhibitions of the Bundestag as well as on the collection of contemporary art with the purchases for the Artothek – the members of parliament and employees :innen provides items on loan for her offices.
Since 2015, commissions have also been awarded to artists who deal with the past and present of Parliament. This ranges from a short film in which Juliane Ebner tells the biographically inspired story of a family between the end of the war and the fall of the Wall, to Simon Schwarz’ comic portraits of first-generation parliamentarians.
“We develop the exhibitions based on the logic of the collection,” says Kristina Volke, deputy head and curator of the Bundestag’s art collection. “The artistic results are created – unlike the art-in-architecture commissions – in an open process, which is also about building mutual trust.” contributed to the MPs.
Marion Eichmann was inspired and fascinated by the buildings for the commissioned project. Originally, four or five new works were planned, but in the end there were 106. More than two-thirds of them can be seen in the MPs’ lobby, another part in the Tammen Gallery until September 3rd.
The Art Advisory Board, chaired by the President of the Bundestag, decides which works are to be purchased. Which should definitely be a favourite. The personal heart of the artist, in turn, is the glowing yellow “HM 10P” pallet truck. an eight-part paper collage in original size and most beautiful meticulousness.
With all the buttons and cables, the hydraulics and work platform. It’s not good for representational purposes, but it’s ubiquitous in everyday life and perhaps a new symbol for the cogs and wheels, the ups and downs of parliamentary processes in the plowing for democracy.