Automaten, Münzstr.23 , Berlin / 2001-2004
Maybe what makes the Automatenbar so hard to describe is this refusal of clarity, although it is precisely this ambiguous codification that constitutes the room’s appeal. The Automatenbar is best understood in contrast to its surroundings – as a counterweight to Berlin-Mitte, as an alternative to the local predominance of commercialized space: for the Automatenbar is non-commercial and non-hierarchical, it is open and versatile. At the same time, it is a place of reflectivity. The cult-like veneration of old vending machines, which turns them from appliances that have ceased to be useful into elements of decor, points to a fundamental trait of our consumer society, as does the set-up with a surveillance system doubled back on itself where I am faced with my own image. Just as the Automatenbar questions the role of surveillance in our society, it also questions the relationship between public and private: it is a depersonalized space full of nothing but machines, only accessible to members, but always open, inviting strangers to come in and share; it is an intimate, introspective space, but this small intimate space attempts to create a new kind of public domain; although it is mirrored on the outside as a way of hiding itself, its strangely incongruent door (formerly the entrance for diplomatic mail at the East German Foreign Ministry) and the cameras outside incite (positive or negative) reactions from passersby.