«An experience-machine: ICC Berlin»

Stella Roos (Monocle) and Thomas Oberender in conversation about the artproject «The Sun Machine Is Coming Down»


Stella Roos: Was this always a space that you had in the back of your mind that you wanted to stage an exhibition in?

Thomas Oberender: Absolutely not. It’s too big, it’s too long out of business as a building, and there is a very complicated debate about the situation politically. Last time I heard about the building was when the refugees were living here in 2015. But there is a whole generation who never entered the building. Also, they don’t appreciate the architecture from the outside, this crazy old aluminium container, but most people like it once they’re inside. I like it also from the outside.

SR: Was it very difficult to get approval for this exhibition?

TO: Honestly not. I think the times are changing. I think the hard time for the building was 1989, the opening of the wall, which made it less attractive overnight. All the focus was suddenly on the east in the old historical centre. The situation was more international than before so the idea that this building was the incubator for the best of the Berlin economy that brings audience and happenings to the city and helps stimulate the event economy, it was not necessary anymore. This old concept of huge megastructures was outdated. There was also a problem with what you are representing in a building like that: what kind of event has the power to fill a 1000-seat hall, what kind of power needs places like that. So, we have conventions from the church, conventions from parties, but it’s never in a human scale, it’s always a big political event. Of course, there’s this old-fashioned way of making parties for thousands of people but this is also not what we do anymore, not because of corona but times change. And so, the building fell in a deep sleep, or maybe the audience fell in a sleep, and it was not a focus of attention. In the last years neoliberalism, gentrification, and all of these phenomena meant that living in Berlin became more expensive, space became rarer, people started to miss the luxury of open and public places that they had had before. One of the biggest was this building, so my intention was to open it for the city again. The former west is also now becoming more interesting for the whole city. People are more curious about what remains of the older west because the older east was so much destroyed.