Soziale Sollbruchstelle

Encompasing video, sound installation, photography and collage, Soziale Sollbruchstelle is an interdisciplinary artistic research project that iconizes and creates a fictitious universe for a forgotten piece of utilitarian technology. The work draws out patterns and juxtapositions surrounding practices of technology between a historically significant communist state and contemporary consumerist culture.

Manufactured from 1962-1989, the ‘Trolli ESM II’ was one of the very few models of lawnmowers made available to the people of the former socialist state, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Its most striking characteristic is its motor hood. Sitting on top of the machine, with two mysterious looking horizontal air vents, it looks like an anthropomorphic spartan warrior adorning battle armour. There is an added sinister quality to these objects, as decades of use has marked them as if they have endured a lifetime of battle.

Soziale Sollbruchstelle deconstructs this household device and transposes it into the high definition/sleek aesthetic setting of present day consumer electronics design and marketing. By concealing and revealing its attributes, this series treats the old lawn mower like a rarified object of luxury and desire. Viewers are compelled to step into the mysterious universe of the Trolli and confront up close how the glossiness of its setting falls away as the detail of its embattled and timeworn patina takes over. Soziale Sollbruchstelle evokes both a militant history and sci-fi dimension, where the Trolli is at once both worn out and weathered yet primed for combat against a future of unkempt lawns. Within the mystifying narrative built up by the works, the austere, robot-like icon further acts as an analog for the ominous nature of a society of unease, connected to machines of questionable intelligence, power and control.

Soziale Sollbruchstelle is an interdisciplinary artistic research project carried out during a fellowship at Berlin Centre for Advanced Studies in Arts and Sciences (BAS) / Graduiertenschule at the Art University of Berlin from 2016-2018.

The resulting works in this project include:
The Watch, video installation
Sirens, sound installation
Armour, sculptural installation with found objects
Tower, photograph
Lookout, photographic tryptic
Operation Manual, photographic collage
Government Issue, photograph
Soziale Sollbruchstelle, publication (deutsche Übersetzungen finden sie am Ende)

Artistic Collaborators:
AGF (Antye Greie-Ripatti)
Sophia Gräfe

Further artistic support and expertise from:
Jemma Woolmoore
Lena Maria Loose
Carolin Meyer
Artist Carpenter Berlin
Daniel Stigler

Soziale Sollbruchstelle was funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin and realized with the support of the Berlin Centre for Advanced Studies in Arts and Sciences at the Berlin University of the Arts. The artist further gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Halle14 Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst.

Feedback Babies


The Fisher-Price Nursery Monitor (circa 1983) was a low watt household radio set originally intended to “let parents be in two places at once” by broadcasting the cries of a baby in distress to a mobile receiver accompanying a parent outside of earshot. However, when in very close proximity these devices produce audible feedback that sounds uncannily like whimpering electronic babies. Feedback Babies is an electromechanical sound apparatus that makes use of slow moving motors to automate these transmitters in order to create nuanced feedback patterns.

Electrostatic Bell Choir

The Electrostatic Bell Choir is an electromechanical sound installation that plays with the static electricity emitted from discarded CRT television monitors. This static (that can be felt when one places their hand on the screen when the TV is turned on) is gleaned for its potential to generate subtle movement and is used as the driving kinetic force in the artwork. Sets of static bells consisting of ultra lightweight pith balls and bells from old grandfather clocks and rotary telephones are mounted in front of an assembly of twenty reclaimed Cathode Ray Tube television sets. A control circuit cycles the TVs on and off in alternating sequences which causes static to build up on the monitors. This static charge agitates the hanging pith balls, causing them to waver and lightly strike the bells, resulting in quasi-melodic compositions. The TVs are muted, tuned to various channels of white noise and physically spacialized in order to devise a dynamically layered soundscape textured with the signature high-frequency hums, pops and buzzes of the cathode ray tubes warming up. Although compositions are programmed into the piece, it inevitably takes on a character of its own as the static fluctuates and dissipates in response to ethereal nuances (i.e.: changes in air quality such as humidity). The glow of the screens and the subtle resonance of the bells magically punctuate the dark surroundings of the installation.

Production of this work was made possible with the generous support of Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst in Oldenburg Germany, Le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and Hexagram Concordia.