Beauty and Decay

Berlin, 2014

Gold leaf
Wallstrasse 83, Berlin, Germany
Project: Espace Surplus. Between you and me
Bettina Springer is a curator specializing in “urban art”. In 2006 she embarked on the Espace Surplus project, which didn’t have a specific location, it traveled around different spaces of Berlin, many of which have already disappeared as such. This nomadic project went on changing location and stimulating areas of the city that it specifically focused on. She invited me to design a project for a building located in Fischerinsel, one of the oldest districts of the city. It had been acquired by a real estate company and it was in the process of being transformed from ruins to new construction. When I went into the space, it was impossible not to be amazed by the beauty of the decadence of it. It spoke of another city, Berlin they say was as beautiful as Vienna. The Berlin before the wars. I thought it was the ballroom of a hotel, but it was actually where a metal company was based. Given its features and its historical value it was listed as a Denkmal (a protected building), so, as it was a building in transit, and protected by its monumental value, the interventions had to be ephemeral and respectful.

Any work had to be approved by a conservator-restorer. I thought about how beautiful that place was, and what time had done to it, which is why I decided that my intervention would consist in highlighting the damp patches and the cracks on the floor, by covering them with gold leaf. The two things that I used for conceptual inspiration were applying the gold leaf on the sculptures of Buddha and the Japanese kintsugi technique. When a tile, or a glass plate breaks, the Japanese rebuild these objects with varnish and gold dust. This is how they highlight the cracks, and they use gold to render the break visible; it also increases the value of the object. Something similar happens with people; every single one of our cracks makes us discover our strength. So I decided to side with decadence and stage the soul of the place, by applying gold leaf on the areas that had been damaged by dereliction. I felt that Berlin was changing and that the aesthetics of that time was nearing its end.