Erik Smith “Test Dig No.1”, 2011
Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zetrum, Guest Project, December 4, 2011
Opening: 1 PM, Sunday, December 4, 2011
Place: Neue Grünstrasse between Kommandantenstrasse & Seydelstrasse
Public transportation: U2 Spittelmarkt
The artist Erik Smith began searching for building foundations to excavate in an overgrown, vacant lot in Berlin. After two days of digging, he unearthed the top of a curved wall, whereupon his shovel struck a hollow sound. Like an archeologist on the precipice of a chance discovery, Smith methodically uncovered a wholly intact, cast-iron, spiral staircase, a nineteenth-century remnant preserved below the “death strip” of the Berlin Wall.
The excavation is located at Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, on one of the few remaining “green zones” leftover from the Cold War division. The staircase and evidence of its discovery, an impressive pile of dirt and rubble, resonate in stark contrast to the massive construction sites and new buildings that surround it. At the center of this real estate frenzy, Smith produces an architecture, a staircase downward emerging.
Little is yet known about its history. The staircase is a recognizable entity, but like the missing floors above, anonymous and hermetic. As an artwork, Smith’s open-ended exploration calls to mind Nietzsche’s writings on the principle of a limited horizon – a space established in which one is not responsible to answer all questions or consider all perspectives. By holding them at bay, one can learn something else. In this way, it can be understood that the process of a discovery made in situ, with physical persistence, has its own status, and that knowing the "facts" might not help such a discovery, but only interrupt it.
Erik Smith (US) explores in recent works concepts of city, place and cultural memory, digging into and exposing their latent aspects, if necessary with a shovel. Selected exhibitions include The Ghost of James Lee Byars Calling, de Appel Center for Contemporary Art, Amsterdam (NL), Who, Among You, Deserves Eternal Life? – In Practice, Sculpture Center (NY), and Re-distribution of the Sensible, Magnus Müller Galerie Berlin. Smith has lived and worked in Berlin since 2003.