A Letter from the Museum

An Interview with Alex Martinis Roe

Artist sitting at a desk in an nearly empty room

Alex Martinis Roe, Encounters: Conversation in Practice, performance still, 2010.
Image courtesy of the artist.

To obtain a letter from a vending machine – even from an art vending machine – is rather unusual. In this interview, Australian artist Alex Martinis Roe explains what motivated her to create the artwork “A Letters to Deutsche Post.”

Christiane Bauer: Alex, you drafted a letter to Deutsche Post, asking the officers to reissue stamps depicting Rahel Varnhagen and Hannah Arendt. When our visitors purchase the letter, are they supposed to send it to Deutsche Post?

Alex Martinis Roe: I don’t expect visitors to send the letter to Deutsche Post, because I didn’t ask them to. They can do whatever they like with it. If they send it off, I’m happy. If they keep it, I’m also happy. (laughs) What I hope, is that they read the letter and become interested in the story.

Why did you choose to make a letter for the art vending machine?  continue reading


Art, Trash, and One-Way Realism

A Conversation with Andrei Krioukov

Crushed Coca-cola cans with Hebrew and Arabic letters

Artistically-treated Coca-cola cans
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

As a contribution to our art vending machine, Andrei Krioukov treated and crushed Coca-Cola cans with Hebrew and Arabic labels. I met him and his wife Rita at their art school on Immanuelkirchstraße in Berlin. This is where Andrei teaches international students, who both study and take their state-recognized exams with him.

In our discussion Andrei talks about his fascination with the design of the famous cans and explains the elements of both trash and art they represent.

Christiane Bauer: Andrei, what fascinates you about the Coca-Cola can?

Andrei Krioukov: These cans are typical of our lives today. You can find them everywhere, but hardly anyone notices them. For me, the discrepancy between art and trash is an exciting subject: if a can is lying on the street, it’s trash. But if I pick it up and contemplate it, and I ponder what I can do with it, it turns into art.
An artist from the 19th century could paint garlic, an onion, or a pitcher of water. Today our lives are full of Coca-Cola cans.

The pitcher appeared in still life paintings as an object from everyday life. What significance does the can have? Do you see a can of Coke as a disposable article or as a modern cultural artifact?   continue reading


Art to Go

An old vending machine

This is what the vending machine looked like originally.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

Usually a museum is a place where you can contemplate art from a safe distance. Today, with the mounting of our Art Vending Machine in our permanent exhibition, that will change: now you can put 4 euros in the coin slot, and own a piece of art from the museum!
If you’re imagining a high-tech machine that produces art, when you read the words “Art Vending Machine,” or something like a soda machine, where you can pick and choose from a selection, you’re on the wrong track. Our Art Vending Machine has a supply of small-scale artworks that were created by artists especially for it.

Since a device of this kind isn’t commercially available, I bid online for an old vending machine from the 1970s. I found one in a sports center in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany and had it transported to us from there.

Design of a white vending machine with the inscription "Art"

After its modification, the vending machine should look like this.
© Design: Hanno Dannenfeldt

Following the machine’s arrival, the graphic designer Hanno Dannenfeldt worked on a concept for reconfiguring it, since it’s meant to be not only a container for artworks tucked into all the little shelves, but itself part of the exhibition. The design, called “Hanging,” dresses the automat in a simple white coat of paint with an eye-catching black inscription. It’s strung up on the wall with pink slackline cables.

The next steps of this procedure raised some unusual questions for me as a museum employee:  continue reading