Damian suggested meeting at the Märchenbrunnen [Fairy-Tale Fountain] next to Frankfurt’s bank district. It turned out that the fountain and its surrounding were a microcosm of what interest me.
Busts play an important role in my work. For me, they are not just cold and soulless pieces of bronze, stone or wood, but potential dialogue partners. Bust Talks is a series of conversations I am having with these unusual interlocutors who share their experiences and views to unfold a new impact in our present.
The naked nymph sitting on the top of the Art Nouveau fountain would be definitely an interesting conversation partner. Apparently it’s a North Korean replica! The bronze fountain was dismantled and the metal used for military purposes in the Second World War. In 2006, using old photographs, the fountain was recreated by a North Korean company called Mansudae Art Studio. The company is the world leader for (re)creating and renovating monumental sculptures. This is because they have the cheapest prices (thanks to the fatal working conditions in the repressive country) – and because the workers still use the traditional work methods (it turns out that this knowledge is an economical advantage of a technologically retarded country). It would be interesting to hear what the North-Korean reproduction is thinking about her location next to the erected buildings of the banks.
My work is a lot about conversations – about mediation.
“PS” like Performance Stage! The places for my performances are simple and unpretentious “ready-made stages” (this is how I like to call them). A stage is something that allows to change and redefine our daily rules and behaviour. And an improvised stage is as good as a proper one. My work Kunsthalle3000 is about finding these stages in public space and activating them with a temporary program.
This is me watching the Euro-monument next to the fountain. Apparently it is a great tourist attraction! Money plays an important role in my work. I regard it as a means of communication, a means of exchange. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s an intermediary for what we want.
The day of our shooting was also the last working day of Mario Draghi.
When we were sitting next to the Euro-monuments, a man came with a printed cardboard showing the photo of a woman. He asked Damian if he could also take a photo of him together with the cardboard lady. He explained to us that it’s a photo of his wife who just died. Her name was Elivra, “E like Euro”, he said — this is why he wanted to take a photo with her in front of the monument.
Back into the fountain! It was not filled with water when we made the shooting. Instead, it was obviously used as a public toilet — proved by the odour in some corners. I have been occupied and fascinated with the subject of public peeing for quite some time. Peeing in public is a battle, played out on fields economical, political, technological and sexual. Currently, I am working on a publication entitled “Peeing in Public” which is speaking about this multilayered phenomena.
Peeing corners may be a result of the lack of public toilets, but they still owe to the fact that ‘men can’ and are a demonstration of male privilege within the public sphere – and finding one in a fountain with a naked woman says quite a lot about our society.
There is also a strong connection between urine and money! Currently this manifests of course in the rise of public pay-to-pee toilets and the simultaneous demise of free public ones. But the business of ‘this business’ is much older: The Roman emperor Vespasian introduced even a tax on urine collected from entrepreneurs who set up amphora-type latrines on the city’s busy streets. Human urine had plenty of uses in ancient Rome. It was widely used by tanners to produce leather, or just to wash dirty clothes.
Titus, the son of Vespasian, was disgusted by his father’s new tax. Vespasian justified the tax by holding money under Titus’ nose and asking whether the smell disturbed him. When Titus negated, Vespasian had said: “pecunia non olet”, or “money does not stink”.
Text: Thomas Geiger
Fotografie: Damian Rosellen
Thomas Geiger was part of the curatorial project “ Museum der Kritik“ (fffriedrich, October 2019, Frankfurt) by the students of the master’s programme Curatorial Studies – Theory – History – Criticism: Pia Bendfeld, Mailin Haberland, Alke Heykes, Philipp Lange, Sarah Müller, Emily Nill, Sonja Palade, Seda Pesen, Alessa Sänger und Anna-Lisa Scherfose.