Andreas Mühe's Bunker exhibition on the Kunsthaus Dahlem | EUROtoday

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Zweitausendsiebenhundert Kilometer Küste, vom Nordkap bis zum Fuß der Pyrenäen, umfasst der Atlantikwall, mit dem Hitlers Deutschland seine Herrschaft über Europa militärisch sichern wollte. Hunderttausende Tonnen Stahlbeton wurden ab 1942 verbaut, um mehr als zehntausend Bunker zu errichten, die meisten als Geschützstellungen, andere als Abschussrampen, Beobachtungsposten und Mannschaftsquartiere.

Nach Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs wurden einige der grauen Ungetüme gesprengt, die meisten blieben als leere Ruinen in der Landschaft stehen. Nicht wenige rutschten von den Steilhängen, an denen sie klebten, auf die Strände darunter, wo sie heute noch im Sand liegen wie zerbrochenes Riesenspielzeug, klotzig und kalt. Im niederländischen Nordwijk, an einer Schlüsselposition der einstigen Verteidigungslinie, gibt es sogar ein „Atlantikwall Museum“, in dem man sich, wie es heißt, „ein Bild vom Leben“ in den Bunkern machen kann.

Sechstausend Plüschbunker aus Bad Kösen

Im Kunsthaus Berlin-Dahlem, dem früheren Atelier des im Nazireich florierenden Bildhauers Arno Breker, hat der Fotograf Andreas Mühe jetzt einen musealen Spielplatz aus Bunkermodellen eingerichtet. Dazu ließ Mühe in der von Käthe Kruse begründeten Spielzeugmanufaktur Bad Kösen sechstausend Mini-Bunker aus grauem und schwarzem Plüsch fertigen, die er über eine dreihundert Quadratmeter große Fläche verteilte – einige sessel-, andere nur handtaschengroß, die meisten im Format irgendwo dazwischen.

Ihren optischen Halt bekommt Mühes Installation aber nicht durch die Plüsch-Massen, sondern durch drei in Bonbonfarben gestrichene, mit Pforten und Bullaugen versehene Halbkuppeln, die sich daraus erheben. Diese Gebilde stammen weder aus Wehrmachtsbeständen noch aus den Forts der französischen Maginot-Linie, deren stählernen Aufbauten sie verblüffend ähneln. Es sind Spielgeräte aus der Zeit der DDR, die mit den trutzigen bunten Objekten ihre Freizeitanlagen von Rügen bis Zittau bestückte. Mühe selbst, 1979 in Karl-Marx-Stadt alias Chemnitz geboren, hat noch mit ihnen gespielt.

Kriegsarchitektur zum Knautschen: Mühes Bunker-Modelle
War architecture to crumple: Mühe's bunker modelsAndreas Mühe, VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2024

The shock effect of this assemblage is dampened by its squishyness. One balances through the plush rubble with the mild irritation of a walker who has strayed onto a gymnastics practice area for soldiers' children. School classes have their strictly supervised fun here, older visitors stumble cautiously over cubic air raid shelters and cute artillery bunkers. Fortunately, the veterans of D-Day, on whose eightieth anniversary the installation opened, are spared this sight, because their experience of the concrete buildings from which they were shot at with 8.8-centimeter guns and machine guns was a completely different, deadly one. On the other hand, the viewer born later can warm to the thought of how closely the children's world of the Cold War was built to the military architecture of its predecessor, at least in the land of the Young Pioneers.

In the rear room, which Mühe set up together with Dorothea Schöne, the director of the Kunsthaus, the exhibition switches from amazement to reflection mode. Here, Paul Virilio's classic essay on “bunker archaeology”, which is displayed in a display case alongside other books on the subject, forms the curatorial centerpiece, around which various artistic approaches to illustrate Virilio's theses are grouped. While Joachim Bandau's lead sculptures and drawings use the bunker aesthetic only as a welcome addition to the range of forms of minimalist post-war art, Erasmus Schröter's photo series from the early 1990s aims at the center of Virilio's train of thought.

Like after an earthquake: “Bunker bombardment plate I”
Like after an earthquake: “Bunker bombardment plate I”Andreas Mühe, VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2024

For the French thinker, the coastal bunkers have been the “graveyards of the German dream” and “the last remnants of the history of borders” in a gift wherein anywhere on earth may very well be reached and destroyed by the projectiles of contemporary air forces; their curves, edges and loopholes reminded him of a time “in which opponents could still look each other in the eyes during a duel through the narrow slits in their helmets”.

Schröter, who died in 2021, translated this nostalgic emphasis into an optical herbarium of decay. In his images, the concrete ruins, which he illuminated with coloured spotlights and lit from inside, seem like destroyed and deserted temples of a monstrous cult. The idol worshiped in them has misplaced its energy, however its reflection nonetheless shines from the empty cavities. An artillery commentary tower, which the German occupiers had positioned a cross on for camouflage, has one thing virtually sedate in its helpless tilt. This matches completely with Virilio, who was so fascinated by the structure of the German bunkers that he and a good friend designed a bunker-style church that was in-built a suburb of Nevers.

Thematically no much less attention-grabbing, though aesthetically much less demanding, is a undertaking by the German-Turkish photographer Göksu Baysal. For “Istmılak”, Baysal documented the traces of bunkers that Turkey had constructed from 1940 onwards on the Thracian peninsula, on the Dardanelles and on the Bosporus to guard the metropolis of Istanbul and the doorway to the Sea of ​​Marmara – in the identical locations the place the Eastern Roman emperors of late antiquity had already constructed their defensive partitions into the panorama. Most of the bunkers have now been constructed over, however their stays nonetheless belong to the state. Baysal's pictures counsel that the bolstered concrete of battle is barely sleeping beneath the civilian shell; the fury of destruction that it embodies can escape once more at any time.

The exhibition ends with a sequence that Mühe, now again in his important inventive occupation as a photographer, took on a army coaching space in Saxony-Anhalt. They present fashions of bunkers that have been shot at to check the penetrating energy of artillery shells. The torn partitions, coated with sparse birch timber, tower into the night time sky like relics of an earthquake. We have no idea who shot them with what and when. In Andreas Mühe's images, time stands nonetheless. Only childhood by no means ends.

Andreas Mühe. Bunker – Real area of historical past. Kunsthaus Dahlem, till October 6. No catalogue.

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/kunst-und-architektur/andreas-muehes-bunker-ausstellung-im-kunsthaus-dahlem-19800215.html