The Glaspavillon is a delicate, somewhat shabby structure, dwarfed by the imposing concrete edifice of the neighbouring Volksbühne – the East Berlin theatre for which the pavilion was originally designed as a functional building. But its almost entirely glass structure, its central location and its intimate proportions make it an ideal vitrine for single art works. In January 2007, the keys to the Glaspavillon – formerly home to Joseph Strau’s Galerie Meerrettich – were handed over to Katarina Burin, Philipp Ekardt, Heike Föll, Jan Kedves and Matt Saunders, who initiated a series of projects and exhibitions based loosely on the theme of Romanticism under the title ‘Institut im Glaspavillon’.
On a chilly September evening the Institut hosted its penultimate exhibition, a screening of the video Projection (2003) by British artist Anna Barriball. In this work, a white interior wall in the artist’s apartment occupies the majority of the frame. Barriball stands in the left quarter of the image, in front of an open sunlit window, looking out on a patch of garden. Her shirt, bedecked with an almost imperceptible rhinestone pattern, casts ethereal constellations on the wall next to her, which move gently as she shifts and sways. The five-minute loop is a melancholy meditation during which our eyes drift from the artist’s profile to the fuzzy lights on the wall, which look like one-celled organisms drifting in a Petri dish.
Barriball’s Projection was a fitting installation for this humble jewellery box of a building, with its infinite shadows and reflections during the day and its warm, glittering presence at night. It was also a modest contribution to the Institut’s ongoing series, which ranged from elaborate works-in-progress – such as a reading organized by Josiah McElheny of ‘The Light Club of Batavia’, a script based on a rare German ‘ladies novelette’ by Paul Scheerbart from 1912 about glass architecture – to minimal suggestions, including a stack of books constituting a selected reading list from Elizabeth Peyton (2007), to premiers of new works, such as Mathew Hale’s arresting triple-slide projection entitled TAXI STOP FIJI (2008).
Curator Saunders considers Barriball’s projected presence in the video as ‘the equivalent of Anna coming to give a lecture’. This flexible curatorial approach was characteristic of the Institut’s programme, which served as a venue for projects commissioned specifically for the space as well as for projects that weren’t necessarily art works, but which artists considered potential or unrealized works. Artist Gerry Bibby’s original proposal for the Institut’s final exhibition was to install a curtain in the windows of the Glaspavillon. Evocative of the presence of the theatre next door and the project’s Romantic theme, this would have provided a fitting and understated finale to the programme. Instead the artist installed sheets of screen-printed brick patterns across the gallery (Untitled Red Brick, 2008). This closing statement brought a poignant end to the Institut’s open, inventive curating, which for nearly two years drew intimate crowds and enchanted the passers-by who noticed flickering lights inside and wandered up to put their faces against the glass for a closer look.
First published in Issue 119