Ein Denkmal für die erste Homosexuelle Emanzipationsbewegung

Martin Binder, Giannis Delagrammatikas, Raju G.C., Sajana Joshi, Malivina Panagiotidi, Jonathan Ryall, Igor Sovilj, Ino Varvariti and Xue Wang

All the designs for the monument were collectively conceived in the group under the supervision of Professor Wolfgang Knapp at Art in Context (UdK). The Group "Hirschfeld AG" comprised of multidisciplinary international artists with the educational background on Art, Media, Design und Architecture.

For more information, please see „Ein Denkmal für die erste Homosexuelle Emanzipationsbewegung – Präsentation der Entwürfe“ (PDF - 1.8 MB), accompanying exhibition catalogue, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, November 2015.

Calla: Bunt gegen Homophobie

Materials: Glass-fibre reinforced plastic, steel, powder coating in six colours
Dimensions: Stems: Height from 264 cm to 322 cm, diameter from 8 cm to 11 cm, Flowers: Diameter from 36 cm to 108 cm, Total height: From 331 cm to 420 cm

The ambiguity of its identity and the discussion over the categorisation of the calla lily form the core of this concept. Despite its name, the calla lily is neither a calla nor a lily. In the 17th century, the plant was registered as a calla genus by the botanist Carl Linneaus. The botanist Karl Koch recognised later that the plant was its very own genus, which he then decided to name after the botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi. In this design, the plant highlights that identity and more precisely sexual identities are neither static nor easily definable. The differing stages of bloom, that the six flower heads are designed in, are a reference to the different stages that the emancipation movement finds itself in worldwide. 

The design is made up of six larger-than-life calla lilies, coloured in the six colours of the rainbow. The flowers stand as tall as 420 cm and the flower heads are as wide as 108 cm. They stand on a 350 cm x 550 cm surface and are arranged in differing distances so that visitors can move through them.

For the international reach of this design, the recognition value of the rainbow colours is a central element. Its colourfulness emphasises the positive approach it takes to the theme and distinguishes it from the pre-existing landscape of monuments and memorials in Berlin. The approximately tenfold enlargement of the calla lilies, which can move slightly in the wind, allows for greater visibility and increases the awareness of the symbolic impact of these botanic exaggerations.

The calla lily stands as a symbol for the de-polarisation of a bipolar model to which Magnus Hirschfeld's scientific understanding of human sexuality laid claim. Among other areas, Hirschfeld researched into hermaphrodism; known today as intersexuality and transsexualism. Hirschfeld also introduced the term 'transvestite' into society as early as 1910. He was convinced that transsexualism was a form of intersexuality. The monoecy (the presence of female and male blooms on a plant) of the zantedeschia aethiopica (the calla lily) emphasises this aspect of his research.

Due to the differences between people and plants and the differing modes of reproduction, the parallels between species are not directly comparable. The design addresses the monoecy of the calla lily and refers to a similar physical and psychological phenomenon in people. With this a space is created for potential reflection on sexual diversity and non-conform sexual identities. The appearance of these flowers brings connotations to both male and female sexual identities, as well as erotic connotations.

An emancipatory movement requires a group of people, who campaign and fight for a common goal. In this sense these calla lilies stand together, a coming together which speaks for the diversity and difference being fought for.

Kratzen: Ein Denkmal als Prozess

Materials: Stainless steel, powder-coating in six colours, over-coated with black paint.
Dimensions: Six fastened together steal beams, 225 x 300 x 10 cm

A black curved wall standing on Magnus Hirschfeld Ufer is the starting point of this monument. Which, through active participation from visitors, will change its form. Hidden under the black layer are the colours of the rainbow, one colour for each of the corresponding steel beams. At the top edge of each beam, the underlying colour is visible. Through scratching away at the black layer with keys or coins, visitors can scratch in marks and in the process reveal the underlying colours. With this, the risk of vandalism to a monument to this topic is constructively transformed as scratching motions and memory traces from visitors uncover the rainbow colours.

This scratching is a reference to the repeated damage done to the two memorial plaques already standing on Magnus Hirschfeld Ufer. The vandalism comprises of the deformation of the plaques, covering both sides with graffiti tags and symbols as well as the scratching out of the eyes of the figures portrayed on the plaques. The curvature of the monument, with its imagined continuation, connects it with the original site of the Institute for Sexual Science on the other side of the Spree and reminds us of its important role.

This form of productive interaction and destruction reminds us of the earlier destruction of the library at the Institute for Sexual Science by national socialists in Berlin in May, 1933. Further examples for homophobic vandalism in public space are; the damage done to the Monument for Persecuted Homosexuals under the National Socialist Regime in Tiergarten, the vandalism of the Rosa Winkel Memorial Plaque for persecuted homosexuals in National Socialism at Nollendorfplatz in Berlin and the repeated arson attacks on the Rainbow Sculpture in Warsaw, Poland. The collective scratch-activity from visitors forms a lively movement, leaving traces of togetherness and making the solidarity with the first homosexual emancipation movement visible. Similar to the appropriation of discriminatory terms by gay communities and the resulting destigmatisation of terms such as: schwul, homo, queer or gay, this proposed monument utilises appropriation as a strategy for reversing the meaning of vandalism. The symbolic undermining of this form of destruction turns the scratch-activity into a positive, productive act.

The underlying colours emerging over time increase the visibility of the monument. Through the scratching away of the overlying black layer the monument will change and vary, offering a public space where liberation and emancipation are brought to the fore. The more scratching takes place, the more colourful the monument be-comes and the more these six colours break out from under the black layer. An active participation is required, one which is accessible to visitors regardless of height and which can be done spontaneously with objects found in pockets. The height of the monument is designed to prevent the overlying black layer from disappearing completely, reminding us of the necessary continuation of the homosexual emancipation movement and the aims which still need to be reached. The scratched-in traces left by visitors to the monument contribute to an active place of remembrance.

Spektrum: "Anders als die Anderen"

Materials: Historical street lamp made of cast aluminium, powder-coated paint, light source: dispersive prism, concrete, metal lettering Energy source: Electricity instead of gas
Dimensions: Street lamp: Height ca. 400 cm, width of lamp head ca. 60 cm, post diameter ca. 12 cm, concrete plate ca. 200 x 200 cm

A lilac coloured city lamp from the time of the Weimar Republic, during which the Institute for Sexual Science played an important role in the homosexual emancipation movement, will replace one of the existing lamps lighting the riverside. A prism built into the head of the lamp disperses the light source into a prismatic spectrum. At night the spectrum can be seen projected onto a white concrete plate laid into the ground between the lamp and the memorial plaques on Magnus Hirschfeld Ufer. Set into the plate is a quote from The Lavender Song written in 1920 by Kurt Schwabach and Mischa Spoliansky, which translates as follows: "... We only love the lilac night, which is "schwül"*, because we are different from the others..."

The substitution of the existing street lighting with a historical local street lamp from Hirschfeld's time, almost like a remnant from a different era, creates a direct relationship to his historic and still relevant initiative. This substitution interrupts the architectural rhythm created by the row of street lamps running along the riverside promenade. The lilac coloured historical city lamp breaks this sense of normality in the standard lighting. It becomes an important element of a monument, which prompts passers-by into contemplation and could potentially become a meeting place for people. The connotation of the colour lilac with homosexuality at the beginning of the 20th century supports its usage in this design.

Conceived as a night-and-day monument, the city lamp functions in the daytime as a marker in the landscape, standing out due to its distinctive form and colour. At night-time the floor is illuminated by the prismatic colours. The night played an important role for the gay scene in 1920's Berlin, partly because of the sense of freedom and protection it offered. Bars and cabarets were important meeting places for homosexuals and members of the transgender community, still playing an important role in contemporary Berlin for gay communities.

The Lavender Song set into the concrete plate describes the difficulties experienced by homosexuals in everyday life and the vital role that the night played for people meeting secretly. The theme is also explored in the film 'Different from the others'. Directed by Richard Oswald in 1919, with contributions from Magnus Hirschfeld.

By night the prismatic colours projected by this monument can also be seen on the bodies of visitors and passers-by walking across the ray of light. It allows for a range of possible interactions between the subject and monument-object. It gives the impression that one could bath in the light along the riverbank. Different weather conditions influence the phenomenon and change its visibility and effect, for example: Fog, rain and snow. The prismatic spectrum includes within it all the colours of light. With this in mind, the diversity of the sexual orientation of people is reflected upon. Behind the appearance of unity is hidden diversity, behind diversity, unity.

*Schwül translates as “humid", only slightly differing from “schwul” meaning gay in German.

Welle: Ein wandelbares Denkmal

Materials: Stainless steel, concrete, lasered acrylic plates, individual inscriptions Dimensions: Stainless steel frame: 360 x 150 x 358 cm, strength 7 x 7 cm, twenty-four stainless steel rods: Different lengths, diameter ca. 1 cm, lasered acrylic plates: Diameter 10 cm, strength 0.3 cm

This design consists of a static sculptural element, which allows for different forms of interaction from visitors: Personal contributions to the monument are part of the concept and hoped-for.

The static element, a rising wave made of stainless steel, curves over the heads of passers-by on Magnus Hirschfeld Ufer. Set against the current of the Spree, the wave breaks in the direction of the historical site of the Institute for Sexual Science, founded by Magnus Hirschfeld and the current government quarter. The positioning of the sculpture is a reference to the courage needed to go against the “current" and more specifically the courage shown by Hirschfeld in his fight for the abolishment of paragraph § 175. The wave itself can be seen as a symbol for the emancipation movement and furthermore as a support for the constantly changing part of the monument.

The body of the sculpture is made up of criss-crossing metal rods, held together by the outside frame. Visitors to the monument can hang plates, specially designed for this purpose onto the rods. Names of important protagonists in the homosexual emancipation movement, messages, drawings and wishes can be written on the plates. The use of an individual's handwriting opens up the possibility to leave a personal trace. Through the hanging of these colourful plates onto the rods the diversity of the movement manifests itself. The variety of personal contributions results in a form of collective authorship, open to all written languages.

With time the plates will be hung up and taken away, resulting in the wave constantly changing, in flux. The plates, printed in the six rainbow colours should be on offer at multiple sites in Berlin, for example, museums, galleries and shops or over the internet. The rainbow colours will not however arrange themselves into the symbolically recognisable order, rather group themselves into a diverse mix of colours on the sculpture.

This design is an attempt to create a place made active from the visitors themselves. An incomplete monument that connects the beginnings of the movement in Berlin during the Weimar Republic with todays fight for the self-determination and equal rights of non-heterosexual lifestyles.

Zwischenstufen: Eine unbequeme Idee 

 Material: Concrete, coloured metal
Dimensions: 450 x 500 x 120 cm

The form of this monument design refers to the theory of sexual intermediary stages from Magnus Hirschfeld (1926), which laid claim to the existence of great amount of sexual orientations in people.

The rounded form of the monument consists of a circle of steps. At the point where the first steps would be expected to join with the last steps, the form opens outwards. The first two stops are both 60 cm high, dividing themselves in half in stages around the form until the steps become as low as 2 cm. The number of steps in the last physical stage is not easily recognisable, an affect further exaggerated with the application of the coloured metal strips. In the first instance the dimensions and nature of the object allow for associations with platforms, forums and seating accommodation.

With the imagined continuation of the dividing steps, the form reminds us symbolically of Hirschfeld's ground breaking theory and recognises its pioneering role for todays concepts of human sexuality. The opening out of the form points towards the other side of the river, towards the historical site of the Institute for Sexual Science, founded by Magnus Hirschfeld. The site of his institute, situated in direct proximity to todays Haus der Kulturen der Welt, was destroyed in 1933 by the national socialists, its library collection burned.

Sitting and climbing, which appears at first glance comfortable, is due to the straying from the rules of ergonomics, only at certain points possible. Differing body positions in relation to the form are provoked and feelings beyond comfort and the usual experiences are evoked. The monument becomes a place to linger a while, as well as a place to reflect over ones own body. The formal language is accessible to a wide public and can be supported by an explanation of the theory of sexual intermediary stages.

The coloured metal strips, set into each step, interrupt the monochrome concrete blocks and refer to the rainbow colours; although in an unorganised sequence. The monument can be used in this form as a event venue, viewing platform or as seating. It emphasises the diversity hidden under the initial division of two steps.

Präsentation der Entwürfe  / Exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt ( 5 - 15.11.2015)

The designed developed collectively by nine artists (referred above as Hirschfeld AG) under the supervision of Professor Wolfgang Knapp and in cooperation with Lesbian and Gay Federation Berlin-Brandenburg; were shown at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) from 5. November to 15 November 2015.

The official opening of the exhibition followed with the speech from Klaus Wowereit, Staatssekretärin Barbara Loth, Bezirksbürgermeister Christian Hanke, UdK president Prof. Martin Rennert as well as LSVD-Landesvorstand Ulrich Keßler. The exhibition was accompanied with a concert from the Band, Django Lassie.

The Working Group (Hirschfeld AG) of postgradualen Masterstudiengang „Art in Context“ supervised by Wolfgang Knapp at Institut für Kunst im Kontext, Universität der Künste Berlin; were nominated for Respektpreis, 2015 for their long term involvement for the Realisation of "A Monument for the First Gay Emancipation Movement"; along with physician Dr. Jörg Woweries, Activist Nasser El-Ahmad, and Activist Annet Audehm.

Denkmal Design's Images and Texts © Hirschfled-AG, 2015, Berlin. 
Fullscreen cover : Map designed by Igor Sovijl and Xue Wang.
Texts and images embeded in linked PDFs © Respective Authors, Organisations and credited print media, websites and other sources.