Power Lines, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Location: Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Client: International Building Exhibition Emscher Park
Artists: Martha Schwartz, Markus Jatsch
Size: 40 hectares
Status: Completed 1998

“Mechtenberg” is the only natural hill in the coal–mining area of the Emscher region. On this site, several elements that deal with issues of power converge: on the imaginative level, the mythical history around the god Wotan; on a political level, the monument for the chancellor Bismarck; on an economic and environmental level, the power lines of the energy industry. To heighten the topography, a geometrical structure of linear corn–fields is superimposed upon the hill. The linear structure of the corn is generated from and runs parallel to the electric power lines.

The “Red Corridor,” defined by two walls made from stacked hay bales, marks the axis from the Bismarck monument to the power lines. The corridor is colored red, a “power” color and the color of blood. The pathway between the hay bales is very narrow, forcing visitors to think consciously about who can pass when two people meet. In a very direct and immediate way, it presents the difficulty of dealing with power.

The “Black Room” is located at the intersection of the Bismark and power line axes. It is a circular room contained by stacked hay bales wrapped in black plastic. The floor is made of coal. This room is the “Black Heart” or center of the installation. Within this room, one might contemplate the high price we pay for power, both politically and environmentally.