Interview with Bettina Pousttchi
b. 1971, lives in Berlin
Johannes Fricke Waldthausen: What brought you to Berlin, and how does the city play a role in your practice?
Bettina Pousttchi: I moved to Berlin in 2005, after living in Paris, Cologne, and New York during my studies. Berlin has become a very open and international place with a very active art scene. I really like living here and it is my base, but I also travel quite a lot.
Many of my works have their point of departure in Berlin. The photo installation Echo on the façade of Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin referred to the historical sight at the Schlossplatz and its recent urban transformation. The sculptures of the “Squeezer” series are made of street bollards and are named after streets in Berlin. For the photo series “Take Off”, I took pictures of the Berlin Airport Tempelhof in 2005, that was still operating then but that was about to be closed down. In Berlin the presence of history is so strong that you cannot ignore it when you live here.
JFW: What does the city of Berlin offer an artist these days?
BP: Berlin offers very good working conditions for artists, and at the same time it is a very interesting and exciting place. But the city is changing a lot, many experimental spaces get lost; many neighborhoods are turned upside down. Nevertheless, it is still a great place.
JFW: What is your interest in working with architecture?
BP: For several years I have been realizing photographic works on façades of various buildings. The starting point was often the urban and historical context of the respective building. Echo on the façade of the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin was referring to the Palace of the Republic, a building which had just been demolished at this very spot. The site-specific photo installation consisted of 970 paper posters which were mounted directly to the four elevations of the temporary building. Together they formed one motif, which recalled the Palace of the Republic for the duration of six months, like a visual echo or afterimage of the recent loss.
Framework, installed on the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt in 2012, dealt with the redevelopment of the Old Town right next to the art institution. I photographed half-timber houses in the close neighbourhood of the Schirn Kunsthalle to develop a new pattern that referenced this old and rediscovered construction method at the same time as it referenced Middle-Eastern architectural elements. This transnational black-and-white ornamental frieze was placed on the glass elements of the postmodern building housing the Schirn.
Working on architecture about architecture allows for an artistic practice between architecture, sculpture, and photography. It is a different way to materialize a photographic file and to bring back the digital to the physical world.
JFW: Your sculptural and photographic work starts from notions of time and memory. What is your interest in time?
BP: When working with photography and reflecting on the photographic image, the subject of time is essential. The subject of urban space is also inseparably connected with the dimension of time.
JFW: Can you talk about your current exhibition “Off the Clock” in Berlin ?
BP: This exhibition will move around notions of time in photography, sculpture, and drawing. I will present the first half of my ongoing photo project World Time Clock, for which I take photographs of clocks on public buildings in different cities of the world that lie in different time zones. The photographed buildings range from government buildings and train stations to clock towers of churches and shopping malls. The clocks always show the same hour—five minutes to two—thus equating the remote locations through the sameness of a global, unified time. This photographic world time clock will be finished when clocks on public buildings in 24 time zones have been photographed. The project was started in 2008 in London and will be completed in 2013. The photographs in the exhibition show clocks from Los Angeles, Anchorage, Honolulu, Auckland, Doha, Moscow, Seoul, and Mexico City.
Parallel to these photographs, the exhibition will show drawings, as well as new sculptures made of transformed street bollards. Each sculpture consists of the same object in different temporal phases. The sculptures take their names from streets in Berlin.
JFW: What are your upcoming projects?
BP: After the Berlin Gallery Weekend I will go to London for a new façade project. The photo installation Piccadilly Windows will be shown on the historical Edwin Lutyens building housing Hauser & Wirth Gallery, as part of their group show “Trade Routes”. The work will be visible from inside the gallery as well as from the outside—London’s Piccadilly—for the duration of three months.
“Off the Clock” is on view at Buchmann Galerie Berlin from April 26th through June 22nd, 2013.