Und hin und wieder flattert eine bunte Tüte in den Zweigen..., 1998 / 99
A project for the Alexanderplatz tube station (Line U2) in Berlin by Thorsten Goldberg & Andreas M. Kaufmann
Starting considerations
We want to paint grey and so neutralize the billboards, which all have the same red frame, between the (likewise framed) signs reading "Alexanderplatz" on the station platform. In order to change the line of sight on the one hand, and in order to accentuate the gestural sweep of the station architecture on the other hand. Situated in the centre of Berlin, Alexanderplatz is a traffic junction and meeting point that makes it a place of differing velocities but also one where people wait. This multilayered function is addressed by the intervention we propose, which simultaneously underscores the architecture of the curved platform along with its qualities as a place of experience.

The project
A carousel slide projector is installed at a height of approximately 2.50 m on 42 of the red-painted pillars executed as standard T-beams. Each slide projector projects onto the 24-cm-wide back of the next pillar, on whose front is again a carousel slide projector beaming onto the one in front of it, and so forth. The direction of projection on the rows of pillars lining either side of the platform corresponds with the direction of travel of the adjacent tube trains. The magazines are filled with slides showing the international sign-language alphabet. The slides change at intervals of two to three seconds. Each magazine contains a sentence "written" in sign language and functioning as part of the whole body of text of 42 sentences. From most angles, it can be read as an endless loop. A text written in the Roman alphabet, by contrast, would scarcely be legible due to the mass of other printed matter -- advertising, travel information and instructions -- scattered around the station. With the billboard surfaces painted the same grey as the station tiles, they now blend into the walls so that the curvature of the subway station is emphasized. The red billboard frames are now more empty and schematic, their concordance is more distinct with the red-painted girders and with the pillars on which the projectors have been installed.

Certainly, many tube travellers will be briefly irritated by the constantly changing hand-signs, and then go on their way. All the same, this disruption of the usual situation may well preoccupy some passengers, or even prompt them to investigate the immediate question of what the signs mean. Such passengers might then discover the A4-size folding leaflets with the sign-language alphabet that are distributed in the holders on the platform, and then try to decode the projections. A large quantity of these leaflets will be printed, so that the holders can be permanently replenished. But the hand-signs have some meaning even for visitors unwilling to spend time translating the sentences - the elegant curvature of the station is brought to their attention, the red pillars can be seen as bar lines dividing up a piece of music. Travellers who take the trouble to translate the projected sentences with the aid of the printed alphabet will possibly come across something they just saw, or are familiar with from previous visits. The text deals with observations made during a tour of Alexanderplatz. It describes fleeting impressions, chance observations, passing thoughts on what was seen and experienced similar to what we encounter every day when we walk through a city. This written vision of interwoven thoughts is analogous with the labyrinthine passages leading to the intersecting underground and overground train lines at Alexanderplatz station.

Of course, the viewer is at liberty to make the round of the columns and read the correct sequence of text. Alternatively, they can dodge back and forth over the platform, decoding at the same time, and like anyone else make their individual ways over Alexanderplatz. The text is not a paper chase, in other words, but is kept open despite its specific relation to the site. The projection becomes a visual interrogation of the station architecture and its urban location, prompting the visitor to think about the identity of the place. And because they can change their standpoint at will, they can also discover that every perception is subjective and site-related. They might begin to think about their own projections and ultimately about the way they meet their own reality, and while doing so may experience the act of seeing as a knowledge-heightening process.

Technical data: 42 carousel-projectors, 42 slide-magazines, 42 timer, grey paint.