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Pulling Strings in Berlin; "Heinrich" The Public Marionette

Posted: 07/18/2012 4:38 pm

"All of us are like marionettes," says Ben, "Somebody pulls our strings and we move."

Various and Gould can't be sure that their own strings didn't get pulled last week when they installed on the street a life-sized replica of one half of this German street art duo. Hanging from the beams below a train station in Berlin-Kreuzberg, the cardboard puppet named "Heinrich" had gone on display two or three times indoors before but the artists wanted to see how he would be received by passersby in the public sphere.

"Before we were even done installing people showed up and started to play intuitively with it by pulling the strings," they told us as they described their surprise at what would become a six day experience.

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © V & G)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Studio Nura)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Studio Nura)

People from all walks of life and ages took interest in this naked man hanging out near the bicycles, and many took his movements into their own hands. The artists visited the site regularly to observe the interactions, and often found that a mirroring of movements, a sort of dance, took place. They said, "Not only was the marionette being moved but also the people moved themselves. Some just pulled one of the chords briefly, while others would get totally into it, grabbing the strings with both of their hands, experimenting with various sequences of movements." Their lifeless creation somehow brought the street to life, and vice versa.

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Studio Nura)

Sometimes there was damage to Heinrich that they needed to repair when visiting him first thing in the morning, and he suffered one violent episode that left his arms dangling by themselves from the hooks in the ceiling above. But he also gained a protective crew of friends who call this area home, including the 40-ish slim musician named Ben with a bandaged hand of his own. Drinking coffee or beer with his buddies all day, Ben took on a protective air toward the puppet, instructing people how to use the strings. To their amazement, the artists often found that their creation had been repaired; a torn-off foot was reattached with a rubber band and a shoulder joint was rejuvenated with an empty cigarette box and some adhesive tape.

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © V & G)

What began as a fun experiment with a puppet that they were ready to part with eventually transformed into a bonding experience they had not predicted. Watching individuals interact with the strings became like poetry. "It looked like two marionettes facing each other with both being joined by the same chords," they say. Finally one day Various and Gould found that Heinrich had been cut down from his strings and taken away, perhaps to someone's home.

For their experience, they cannot help but think of the people they met, and what Ben said about everyone being a marionette. Public artists know of course that public art will always be subject to the whims of the public. What they didn't expect was to find that their puppet project might have had some heart strings attached to it.

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © V & G)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Lucky Cat)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Lucky Cat)

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Ben and Heinrich, Various & Gould (photo © Various and Gould)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Lucky Cat)

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Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Lucky Cat)

2012-07-18-brooklynstreetartvariousandgould_marionettestudionura0712web5.jpg
Various & Gould "Heinrich" (photo © Studio Nura)

The artists wish to thank Lucky Cat and Studio Nura for their photography, support and help with this project.

"Heinrich", a life-sized marionette by Various & Gould
Installed at Goerlitzer Bahnhof in Berlin-Kreuzberg on July 10, 2012.

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This article was also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.

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