The “Galerie der Gegenwart” (Gallery of the presence) is the established place for contemporary art in Hamburg. I am long term impressed by one piece that was installed there from the very beginning. The stalactite machine.
Bogomir Ecker, Tropfsteinmaschine, 1996-2496 © Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Photo: Elke Walford
You enter a small room through a narrow passage. A wall of glass is dividing the room. Through the glass you can see a tube construction coming through the ceiling with a drop of water in an opening. Directly underneath is a plate based in a loudspeaker-membrane–look-a-like–construction. On the membrane you see traces from the water that dropped down over the years in form of a stain, but you have to wait some time (20 seconds) to see a drop falling down. And there is NO stalactite.
On the wall you find a graphic, that shows how the machine is working: rain is being catched by a funnel and held in a tank. From there it’s led to a place that looks like a filter-system and then further on to the room you’re standing in.
The walls consist of limestone-plates with a width of ca 50cm. One of them has a zero, a vertical line and a 5000 printed on it. You can guess that it takes 5000 years for the stone to grow 50cm, and yes, I read in an information about the stalaktite machine, that it will take 100 years to let the stalactite grow one single cm. Exacly like in nature.
On the ground level of the gallery you will find the filter-system: it’s a biotope. Laurel is growing in the earth of the biotope and under the earth is a 20cm-layer of chalky pepples. Here the water is enriched with carbon dioxide and chalk which is essential for building stalatites.
This is, what’s so interesting to me about the machine: It’s an impressive serious installation and it’s doing close to nothing! I can see no stalactite growing even although I know the machine for at least five years now.
Therefor it offers a different regard on time. We are used to see times changing very fast and we measure time in comparision to our lifespan. We know about history but it’s hard to realise how slow some things happen. One example would be the growth of resources like stone and oil…
Bogomir Ecker “The Stalactite Machine”
Date: 1996 – 2496
Place: Hamburger Kunsthalle
Address: Glockengiederwall, 20095 Hamburg
Tel: +49 (0)40 4285 45765