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Umzug und Amnesie ( RONGELAP )

'Relocation and Amnesia ( RONGELAP )'
concrete, earth, bucket, spoon, stationery, stamp, scale, aluminum, scaffolding, wood
Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin 2010

RONGELAP - This word is stamped repeatedly on envelopes stuffed with soil, leaving one to wonder whether it signifies a re-identification or a future destination. These discreet parcels fill several boxes (alluding to postal service) while other containers remain empty in a small, mobile compartment, ambiguously in a state of unfinished business or at the ready. Several meters away, earth is heaped against a wall adjacent to its source, a hollow dug deep in the concrete floor of the gallery space.

Rongelap is the name of an atoll of the Marshall Islands that literally means “large hole”, originally formed by a suboceanic volcano. It was profoundly effected by nuclear testing during the Cold War. United States test bombing from 1946 to 1958 caused decades of subsequent negligence towards the exiled people of this island nation. The cleanup necessary for repopulation of the atolls blighted by atomic fallout will cost tens of millions of dollars and will require removal and replacement of topsoil from the land. With these events stacked against its name, Rongelap's meaning is manifold: it is a crater, emptied of its inhabitants, a veritable void in international memory. Set on a tableau of Germany's own historical and architectural flux in Berlin's city center, the large hole at the Temporäre Kunsthalle sits almost antipodal to Micronesia, mirroring Rongelap's own banished government building at a maximum distance. While the textual repetition on the stationery acts to undo the amnesia of this historical event, the projected repetitive action of digging a hole proposes an activation of muscle memory. A double inversion of positive and negative space occurs through the soil's dislocation, renaming, and redistribution. The physical void facilitates figurative completion; removal is remuneration.

- Elizabeth McTernan