September 11 – October 18, 2020 – A TRANS, Schaufenster U-Bahnhof Kleistpark (U7), Berlin (D)

A-Trans in Berlin asked Ellen Rodenberg to make an installation in one of their Schaufenster-exhibitions in Subwaystation Kleistpark (U7). This season the theme of all A TRANS-exhibitions is A Femme City , dealing with the female gaze on urban developments. Ellen complied and decided to ask her male EX-MÊKH-companions Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen to design a pendant of her installation focussing on the element of gender in EX-MÊKH. The exhibition was opened friday September 11, 2020 by two performances: Knocking on Heaven’s Door van Kees Koomen and Opening Ritual van Ellen Rodenberg.

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-attribuut; de bestandsnaam is 20200911_184019.jpg

A Femmes City:”

“One could interpret the invitation of A trans as a challenge. When do we talk of a female gaze and of a female approach? What does it look like? I decided to involve the men of the EX-MÊKH-collective in this project in order to be able to hold the development of my work against the light of a male/female concept. . We discussed about the difference in strategies, upbringing, social behavior and networking. When do we talk about expressing oneself with personal character and where do we observe the influence of gender? To try and make this visible I decided to install one shop window myself, as a woman. So I asked the two men to install the second shop window with their work: one female, two men, two painters, one sculptor! The title FeMaler is an apt translation of this mix.

For my personal presentation I developed a procedure of applying paint with big strokes on white cardboard resulting in color forms. It is a method with which I leak diluted acrylic paint through cotton sheets. After it dries the sheets are removed and whimsical shapes appear. The results have a watercolor-like character. They are gardens for the imagination to wander in. There are all the possible associations one single form can already evoke. I think of the mental space being created by this approach. Imagine the memories in the future, the questions in the future, the possibilities of the female approach in the future.
The cardboard pieces will be installed in a precise manner but the result will look casual. This display in a shop-window must tempt for timelessness and thus create space, the incomprehensibilities will be helpful with this. What is it you see? A curious garden full of life? Or are you “Lost in Paradise”?

The second shop window will be of a totally different nature. Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen have been discussing the installation to be shown. Maarten Schepers has created an over-all design which we can associate with phenomena like show-box, diorama or bijou-box. Kees Koomen will add to this with work getting inspiration from his muses and the story of Actaeon.”

(Ellen Rodenberg, 2020)

The first words of welcome and to explain the programme were spoken by Isolde Nagel, initiator of A TRANS

Ellen Rodenberg:

FeMaler summarizes a dilemma. Femmes (Fr), female. maler(D), male (Eng), femaler (Eng). The theme, A Femmes City, and the U bahn location have both influenced the new work that has been developed. I have been looking for a concept that leaves room to discover new insights, directions and vistas. The Covid-19 pandemic made us uncertain about when to implement it, but feasibility was never a question. The opening and public rituals continued to contain uncertainties until the very end.

Preparations and artistic work process:

Ellen rodenberg’s test phase for the Schaufenster lasted 3 months. Laying cotton sheets and cloths on large sheets of white board, applying the thinned paint, folding it, drying it, pulling it loose, hanging it up, folded, hanging loose, curled up, creased, observing a composition in which the individual paint forms as floating in a space brought together to be entirely itself. There they are like a staged aquarium in which all attributes and living organisms are artificially and carefully composed together for the admiring eye of the maker and the viewer.

Underlying thoughts of what is actually female? What are feminine qualities? Can you tell from a work of art whether it was made by a woman? What’s the point of this sorting of kind? Who benefits from this? In any case, I saw advantages for dealing with the subject by involving the EX-MÊKH group in this. We have never made a distinction before, on the basis of male or female classification. In the conversations with the other two artists of the EX-MÊKH group it became clear to me that especially the way of working, reasoning and considering is different, possibly even feminine in nature. Where is the difference between character and gender? A distinction is always arbitrary. My conclusion was therefore: the two men will work together in one show-window and I as a woman work in the other display case.
Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Iragarai, Joke Hermsen bring me a new gender awareness.

The method has been practical. After a few conversations, I noticed that we would do best by using the proven method that we have been using as EX-MÊKH for more than 10 years. This theme can be interpreted in its own way for everyone. It means that everyone also proposes their own version. It will also be the first time that the spatial distribution is uneven in the beginning and it is not a point of discussion. Maarten Schepers made his own design for the display case, Kees immediately played with the idea of “the Muses”. In consultation they have brought several ideas into one artwork. Title: Have you seen the Stars tonight? Including the performance by Kees Koomen: Knocking on Heavens Door.

The  Schaufenster I had at my disposal was the same size. Like in a solo exhibition, I only have to deal with my own work. Although the theme played a role and the concept has led to an artificial division, I am curious about the outcome. What can be read from this?

Opening Ritual
Openingsperformance Ellen Rodenberg

I had pasted short pieces of tape in green and red on the Schaufenster.

The opening act consisted of simply removing the tape, which by the way did not hide anything.

The tape did, however, provide the temporary visibility of a “4th wall”.

After putting the tape on my pants I stepped into the role of hostess and handed out drawing books.

I invited the public to view the installation FeMaler and to choose part of it as inspiration for a drawing.

I photographed their drawings and it was posted on Instagram under the hashtag #Femaler_U7_Berlin

Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?

Maarten Schepers designed the shop window that was available for him and Kees Koomen. After hearing about Kees Koomen’s plans to do something with his muse-series, a series of small paintings inspired by the ever suddenly appearing muse during his life, Maarten designed a box to be installed in the shop window: a bijou-box or a box for bon-bons referring to feminine parafernalia with the theme A Femmes City in mind. In this box he would put square pedestals to put the paintings on.

Design Maarten Schepers

During the summer Kees did a lot of night swimming. He remembered Ovid’s story of  Actaeon, when he was lying in the water looking at the stars . Actaeon’s dogs ripped him apart because he saw Diana naked, bathing in a stream in the forest. Being torn apart by the manifold manifestations of beauty is a known predicament for artists. Because of this the artist painted of a selfportrait floating on his back in the sea  to later tear it apart for the exhibition. The parts of his body would support the paintings. Maarten applied some formal adjustments of the shop window: he changed the colours into the colours of the water and the sky at night, he lowered the ceiling on one side as to suggest more space adding perspective and he cut holes in the sky to suggest stars. He also put orange tape on the window above and under the image. The men decided to make the pedestals round and to partly paint them in the colour of the water.


Then Kees added his inspiration for the concept of the muse to the performance that would open their part of the exhibition: He decided to lie down in the water after removing his selfportrait to which he had added a rock from Provence, the part of France where troubadours would walk the roads from castle to castle to sing their songs to their muses. Lying down next to the rock he would hear those songs from afar, as he would also hear the knocking on the wall of the first muse he was aware of. He knocks along the rhythm of the song and frantically tries to reach the other side by knocking on the rock. Then he stands up, removes the rock and puts the pedestals in order. He tears his selfportrait in parts and puts them on the pedestals after which he arranges the paintings on top of it. Thus this part of the exhibition is open!

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Performance Kees Koomen during opening FeMaler