Geschichtung 1: Am Deich 68-69 Bremen
Henrik Nieratschker's work Geschichtung 1: Am Deich 68-69 Bremen examines the parallels between the artistic, commercial, freelance, and salaried work performed under the roof of the Künstlerhaus Bremen. He brings together the current function as an artists' house with the building's previous uses for example as a spice and lumber shop in an autofictional narrative. The texts titled "Loading Dock / Laderampe" "Restaurant/Basement / Restaurant/Keller" "Attic / Unterm Dach" and Gallery / Galerie", are narratives in which Nieratschker weaves together different temporal layers from the history of the Künstlerhaus. In the four stories heard there, a complex narrative of the building's use across time emerges, weaving together past, present, and future.
“We are happy to welcome R/i/n for our artist residency this summer of 2031. In the next 2 months they will document all the work in this building …”
R/i/n were sitting on the edge of the loading dock, dangling their feet in the air, scanning the courtyard with alert eyes as the truck was slowly backing up to the ramp.
The door behind R/i/n stood wide open and they could hear K/e/n, heavily breathing, as they were stacking boxes full of various spices on a wooden half-size pallet that was about to be loaded onto the truck. R/i/n turned around, towards K/e/n, and then looked back down at the digital drawing in their ink-stained hands.
The permeable screen showed an intricate sketch of K/e/n operating the table saw that was now partly hidden behind the growing tower of spice packaging. In the image on the screen, they were fiercely leaning forward, their fingertips and eyes concentrated on the piece of maple wood that was just about to touch the blade of the saw, their whole body tense with expectation.
Now, while loading the pallet, their posture was totally different. Their entire body seemed hesitant, unwilling, even though their muscles were contracting intensely under the weight of the several large cardboard boxes they held in their rough-skinned hands.
Twenty minutes later—R/i/n had already started with a second sketch of K/e/n carrying packages—the truck was fully loaded and leaving through the narrow gate of the courtyard. K/e/n, standing on the loading dock, bent down to R/i/n and conspicuously said: “Let’s call it a day! You up for a drink? I’ll show you what I just got in.”
They didn’t wait for an answer but went inside and pulled a bottle from the wine display behind the table saw, the one that was usually reserved for the most exclusive customers.
“One of two super rare bottles! A Scandinavian vintage from 2027, it’s sparkling.”
K/e/n opened the bottle and carried it back to the loading dock; two champagne glasses were squeezed between the delicate knuckles of their other hand.
They sighed as they sat down next to R/i/n: “If I didn’t always drink these ourselves, I might not have to do this damn warehouse job anymore.”
Restaurant / Basement
R/i/n were trying to keep the ink from spilling further from the printing press. “Fuck!” Colorful liquids—blue-green, cyan, turquoise, mint, teal—were oozing everywhere and soaking into the paper, which was way too saturated already.
It had been very nice of R/e/k, who were operating the press during normal business hours, to let R/i/n experiment with printing the few satisfying drawings and photographs of office-work, woodwork, artwork, code-work, storage-work, catering-work, and all the other work they had collected around the building so far. But the way they were messing things up, R/i/n were afraid this would be the first and last time.
They tried to ignore the giggling from the desks behind them, where trainees of the Wood Trading Company (which also owned this print shop) were putting the company newsletter into envelopes that were then glued shut using a tiny wet sponge.
They also tried to ignore the slurping and sipping at the tables on the other side of the printing press, where the customers of the restaurant enjoyed their fancy dinners.
From time to time, trainees and waiters were emerging from the bar downstairs or the kitchen on the other side, squeezing by the printing press balancing trays of nearly overflowing glasses. Every time the door towards the stairs was opened, a stream of voices rose up from the bar (where the employee card tournament was in full swing) and broke R/i/n’s concentration. This was all a bit too much really.
R/i/n decided to abort their printing experiment. With dripping hands they left the room, not going down to the bar but out of the building to the river, leaving a colorful liquid trail behind them.
R/i/n thoughtfully observed H/i/r as they programmed the next operation of the giant computing machine, which filled most of the space under the angled roof of the house. It was H/i/r’s job to document all of the Wood Trading Company’s income and expenses. The results were stored in the heavy, built-in cabinet full of punch cards in the back of the room. The front of this beautifully crafted piece of furniture was embellished with a wooden inlay, made of various shades of golden brown iroko wood, that depicted a map of the world—a testament to the company’s more than questionable colonial past. R/i/n had spent a good chunk of the past few weeks watching H/i/r as they struck the keys on the typewriter-style keyboard of the keypunch, or marked sets of punch cards with diagonal lines using bright red marker.
R/i/n’s artist residency here was almost over and they had already started to clear out their art materials, electronic chips, fluorescent paint, rolls of foldable screens, and so on from the space next to the three roughly fridge-sized computer units. It had been fascinating to witness the anachronistic work with this outdated technology. The Wood Trading Company had only reactivated this building—which had been rented out for the artist residency program before—due to the extra high demand for wood after the recent global plastic ban.
In fact, H/i/r’s computing work had not only been fascinating but also highly distracting. R/i/n had basically abandoned their plan to document the workers in the warehouses of the company, which were located further down the river, and instead had created a simplistic but highly efficient A.I. program that shortened H/i/r’s entire calculation process from an entire week to about 2.345 seconds. 6 minutes earlier, R/i/n had revealed their plans to sell this software to the company’s owners and managing directors as an artwork, which was an optional part of the residency program.
H/i/r now descended the small staircase between the two levels of the room to put another set of punch cards into the reader of the computer. Turning around, floating in mid-air above the rubble in front of the one-story wooden construction that made up the front of the building, they said to R/i/n: “Looks like you, and me, are out of here soon! And to be honest, I cannot wait for it!”
R/i/n were surprisingly happy as they looked at the finished exhibition. They had felt like they pretty much wasted the last couple of weeks of their time being artist-in-residence here. They had just not been motivated, always distracted, void of ideas, not in the mood to work. But somehow it all came together in the last few days. Like it always did, in a way.
The largest room of the building, which was usually shared by the long-established spice mill in the older parts of the house and the newly moved-in import/export business as a storage space, had been cleared out and transformed into a gallery.
Actually, it had not been entirely cleared out. R/i/n’s installation was made of 4 objects that had been left in place during the transformation from workplace to gallery: a shelf, a ladder, a sack truck, and a small platform cart. This had actually led to a bit of confusion as the art handlers, who were setting up a row of office cubicles along the wall of the room for another installation, were blaming the employees of the spice mill for not doing their job of emptying the entire space.
The workplaces were now occupied by 10 art agencies who were offering their services for the time of the exhibition.
R/i/n were smiling. The objects had a really good effect on the space. And, even though the concept was super simple, they were not left with the much too familiar feeling that they could have done better. They slowly turned towards the door and, as they were about to leave, said to themselves: “Art is a funny business indeed.”
This contribution is part of the exhibition project Narrating the Gaps.