Watch out

Credits: Boris Messing

A project space known as The Watch calls a rather unusual building home: a former GDR guard tower in the former East Berlin district of Treptow. An archive of the site’s now 30-year history of artistic use will be on view for Berlin Art Week

It’s an inconspicuous structure—easily overlooked if you don’t know what it is. Yet the former GDR border tower in Schlesischer Busch park in Treptow is one of only two well-preserved border watchtowers in Berlin. The other is in Kieler Straße; there are a handful more in surrounding Brandenburg. But ›border watchtower‹ is a misnomer, really. Built in 1979, the structure has been a place for art longer than it ever served for surveillance. A group of artists took it over as early as 1990—one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall—and turned it into the ›Museum der verbotenen Kunst‹, or museum of forbidden art. Two years later, it was listed as a historical monument. So the tower has been used for artistic and cultural purposes for more than 30 years.

Foto: Jo Zahn
Jo Zahn, Notizblock mit Zahl der täglichen Besucher*innen des Grenzenwachstums

Foto: Jo Zahn
Jo Zahn, Denkmalgeschützte Beschilderung im Wachturm mit dem Datum der letzten Überprüfung (03/86).
Foto: Jo Zahn
Jo Zahn, Renovierungsarbeiten im Grenzwachturm nach einem Wasserschaden (3).

Foto: Jo Zahn
Jo Zahn, Renovierungsarbeiten im Grenzwachturm nach einem Wasserschaden (2).
Foto: Dominique Hurth
Jo Zahn

The Watch is marking this year’s anniversary with a Berlin Art Week presentation of its archive encompassing documents, flyers, videos, and much more. The exhibition presents three decades of creative output from various artists and places individual works in relation to one another. Artists who have worked in and around The Watch will speak in person about their experiences with the site. While art created directly after German reunification dealt intensively with the GDR dictatorship, the choice of subject matter became freer and more varied as the years wore on. The place has seen the creation and realisation of radio pieces, but also opera—and a great deal of Conceptual Art. The Watch is one of nine winners of this year’s ›Project Space Award‹; this is its first year participating in Berlin Art Week.

»A group of artists occupied it early as 1990—one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall—and turned it into the ›Museum der verbotenen Kunst‹, or museum of forbidden art.«

Attending to the archive are Dominique Hurth, Jo Zahn, and Chris Gylee. Each has had a residency in the tower; Zahn and a group of collaborators have helped shaped the programme for years. The project space awards residencies of up to six weeks; each residency follows a specific motto that serves as a framework for artists from every discipline to engage with the tower and its surroundings. The current residency is devoted to ›Care-Taking‹, a concept sketched in a booklet by Max Brück, one of the artists-in-residence. Brück and Melanie Jame Wolf, another artist in the programme, will present the results of their work in tandem with the Berlin Art Week presentation of the archive. The creativity continues.

THE WATCH
caretaking: 2020—1990
9—13 SEP 2020
Talks from within the Tower
12 SEP, 3—5pm
Special opening hours Berlin Art Week
9—13 SEP, 2—6pm

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