„Are you removing the puppet again?“ asks a young woman while passing by. She stops and stares at Various & Gould almost in an annoyed way.
The artist duo is standing on two folding ladders in the open passage under the high line station „Goerlitzer Bahnhof“ in Berlin-Kreuzberg. They both tinker about with scissors and a lighter at the cords of a life-sized marionette built from cardboard. The hooks and eyes are attached to the bars-like ceiling construction.
„No, we just have to fix it a bit!“ – The angry look in the woman’s eyes vanishes and she moves on. After a short while the two artists also have to assure a boy and his mother that they will leave the puppet at it’s place.
Within the few days and nights in which the figure has been hanging at this strange place, it apparently did win a number of friends – first and foremost Ben, a slim musician in his forties wearing a black hat. He spends much of his time here under the station, sitting there on the table next to the kiosk with his ragtag group of pals, drinking either coffee or beer and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Today is Sunday, and Ben recounts, how a young, blotto stranger has kicked the marionette with full force earlier this morning. The cords flew apart and the puppet crashed down onto the ground. Only the two severed arms were still dangling on the strings in the air. The folks at the table next to the station kiosk screamed out and got up, therefore the drunken guy bolted. Ben went directly to the marionette to raise it and patch it up again. Then he affixed it back on the cords as well as possible.
Everyday while looking after their puppet, Various & Gould find traces of minor repairs on the marionette, executed by someone else. A torn off foot being reattached with rubber band or the shoulder joint with an empty cigarette box and adhesive tape. Particularly Ben seems to take care of the marionette, although he is wearing a bandage himself. One of his fingers got splinted when Ben was beaten up three weeks ago and he shielded his face with his hands from the kicks. – „If the kiosk owner had not come at that very moment, I could have been …“
Here it actually comes to the essential of the marionette installation. Not only do particular passers-by get in touch with the puppet, but also random people theirselves are brought into contact. A real interaction is happening. For example did Various & Gould get to know the people under the station step-by-step during the regular mendings. Several times Ben and his pals, who probably don’t have much money themselves, have bought the artists a coffee. – „You can also have a beer if you like!“
They meet once, twice and then daily. Soon such initial questions about meaning and purpose of the marionette and the duration of it’s stay don’t have to be asked any more. Ben and the others are in the plot and explain everything to the passers-by and tourists who play with the puppet. Sometimes they demonstrate how to move the puppet or lend a hand to produce complex movements. The marionette – which by the way is called „Heinrich“ – has already survived 5 days and most notably 6 nights. He couldn’t have done it without the help of the people from Goerlitzer Bahnhof!
With the puppeteers changing constantly one gets to realize: Not only the marionette is being moved but also the people move themselves. Some just pull one of the chords briefly, others get totally into it, grab the strings with both of their hands and check out various sequences of movements.
The act of creating motions has quiet a mirroring nature. This becomes apparent at the very moment when a young woman in holey tights reaches for the strings and ties them directly round her knees and wrists to direct more strings simultaneously. It looks like two marionettes facing each other and being joined by the same chords.
There is a quote by Ben that fits this topic. During a conversation on the first day his joy about the puppet suddenly changes into melancholy: „So to speak, all of us are like marionettes.“, he says to Various & Gould. „Somebody pulls our strings and we move.“
On Monday Ben has to undergo an operation on his injured hand. This time he is the one being under repair, and someone else has to look after Heinrich. Unfortunately it is the very day some passers-by decide to cut the strings off and take the marionette with them – six days after it was installed under the station.
That’s the way it is: Publicly accessible offerings are being appreciated and treated by the people in very different ways. One week ago it felt naturally to Various & Gould to let go of Heinrich. But now thinking of Ben and all the happenings makes it kind of hard again.
Many thanks to Studio Nura and Lucky Cat for their photos!