This exhibition by Daniel Buren (born 1938) and Bettina Pousttchi (born 1971) was initially inspired by the work Conversations in the studio 3. This saw Pousttchi recording her exchange with the French conceptual artist Buren – a conversation between artists from two entirely different generations about public art and its limits, but also about points of view and what the artists have in common.
With their exhibition in Kunsthalle Mainz, Bettina Pousttchi und Daniel Buren are now not only continuing their cooperation, they’re even ramping it up a notch: two artists who work with space and location will coordinate with each other to establish a relationship between new site-specific works and existing works. As a venue with exceptional architecture and history, Kunsthalle Mainz is the ideal setting for this project. It opened only nine years ago after an extensive facelift, having been originally constructed way back in the history of Mainz as a boiler and turbine building by the city architect of the time, Eduard Kreyßig. From 1887 until well into the twentieth century, it supplied the Mainz customs port and harbour as well as the Neustadt district with electricity. During World War II it offered Mainz families protection and shelter from the aerial bombing. It was only when the customs port area was being repurposed and redesigned that the decision was made to construct a Kunsthalle as an art venue. The conversion of the single-storey brick boilerhouse, completed in 2007, resulted in windowless white cubes which provided a stark contrast to the listed Wilhelmine exterior. The narrow gap which used to exist between the boilerhouse and engine sheds now contains a twenty-one-metre-high tower, which leans at an angle of seven degrees. This marked distinction between small cabinet-style rooms and generously proportioned white cubes, between architecture from the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, and between two very different functions over the course of history, makes the Kunsthalle the ideal domain for Daniel Buren und Bettina Pousttchi’s spatial interventions. Pousttchi’s works frequently undermine objective relationships between time and space by connecting the histories of places, former architects and artists with the current functions of buildings and their appearances. Buren, on the other hand, rejects any kind of reference to or influences of “external history” in his works and installations, which make use of vertical stripes. This all adds up to an exhibition where expanding and imagining history meets the negation of narration and specific time references.