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Treffpunkt Niemandsland, "Vor Ort", Langenhagen

Treffpunkt Niemandsland: Artists, Zen und High Mountains Brenner Pass, Austria

The comic effect resulting from surprise but also from the tension of expecting something to happen which then doesn't, are important factors in their installations. Even the confrontation of cliches that normally don't go together. We are talking about two Berlin artists, Stefan Micheel and Hans Winkler, who call themselves collectively pttred, and whose art actions are often prepared over a long period and then carefully executed. In '95/'96 they fulfilled a one-year fellowship at New York's PS 1. In a daring action, they manipulated the lighting of the Statue of Liberty, so that for one night it was aglow in red light.

In February '97, in Langenhagen, a small city near Hannover, they announced on posters an event in which the German terrorist Ulrike Meinhof would be speaking about her 1972 arrest there. On the appointed day they erected a fake rostrum in the market square and in the evening shined a spotlight on it for an hour. Ulrike Meinhof, who died in prison in 1976, did not show up in person but was remembered by the 80 or so people who had gathered in the square. But an entire chapter of Germany's early history, which for 25 years had been taboo and unexamined, was the main theme of discussion and mirrored itself, for example, in the media and in overzealous statements from politicians.

In the summer of '97 they turned their attention to the Alps, that mountainous landscape in the middle of Europe. Geographically, a difficult-to-surmount obstacle between middle and southern Europe; historically, a significant area since antiquity; and above all stands the Brenner pass, upon which they focused their action. This place, which is across roads between cultures and nations, and the landscape around the pass crossing, is an area which can be described as a "no-mans-land." Stefan Micheel and Hans Winkler have converted a mountain shelter into a hermitage library. A lonesome place of quiet but also a curiosity, a Holy Grail of knowledge in the middle of this rocky panorama of nature. Visitors, after registering themselves in the nearby village, can obtain a key. "Treffpunkt Niemandsland", or "Rendezvous No Mans Land", is 2100 meters high, west of the Brenner Pass. No one else will be encountered because the converted shelter, near the Italian-Austrian border, can only be used by one visitor at a time, and only for a few days.

Everything that goes with the life of a hermit is there: a cot, folding table and chair as well as a cooking area, and naturally: books. 50 scientists, philosophers, and writers were contacted worldwide and asked to send their suggestions for the library selections. For example TC Boyle, McKibben, Fritjof Capra, Peter Handke, and Rupert Sheldrake. On one's own in the shelter, in isolation, can be especially creative and stimulating, an opportunity to discover fields of activity; in a diary which is provided one can write down experiences or silent contemplations. Thoughts perhaps on the end of the Middle Ages, on 13.4.1336 when Petrercas, whose equally God-fearing as well as blasphemous wish for knowledge culminated in climbing the highest peak of Provence's Mount Ventoux to contemplate its distant view, where typically, in a moment of realization he reached for a book: In the Confessions of Augustinus he hit upon the place where the philosopher councils that the recognition of nature does not lead to self knowledge but just the opposite, that man must rely upon himself. Petrercas's conflict between Medieval piousness and Modern natural science found its historical continuation in the Romantic contemplation of nature, which always accompanies the destruction of nature. The ambivalent process of alienation from nature through human knowledge and technical capabilities is a theme that in the work of both artists form p.t.t.red, Hans Winkler and Stefan Micheel, continually finds ironic refraction; From the summit of Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, they once hacked off chunks of stone and pulverized them in a concrete mixer in their Berlin loft gallery, in this way with their twitter machine giving back to nature the Romantic atmosphere of various places.

Registration for the hermitage library takes place in the railway station bar at Brennerort on the Italian side. There one also receives maps for the two hour ascent–from behind the last house begins the steep climb into Alpine wilderness. The stay is not without its dangers, even though the artists were permitted to install a lighting conductor: natural and spiritual energies accumulate in the small shelter, which can represent a real shelter but also a place of shaman spirits. The library will be open next summer from 7/1 to 10/1/2000.

Kai Bauer

New York, New York 2000