Put Your Eye In Your
conversational documentary recording Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net
Station in Dawson City, Yukon (2007)
Your Eye In Your Mouth is a 22 minute broadcast-length documentary that
explores the individual contributions that lend narrative form to the
public history of Martin Kippenberger’s Metro-Net subway
entrance/sculpture in the town of Dawson City, Yukon.
discussion I conducted with the builder and designer of the Metro-Net,
German art patron, part-time Yukon resident, and friend of
Kippenberger’s, Reinald Nohal, is used as the basis to develop a
narrative script for the documentary. The video combines recorded fact
and contributed fiction to explore a lateral reading of this public
subject. A book accompanies the video and contains photo-documentation
of the Metro-Net in Dawson City, the material debris found at the site,
and travel instructions for reaching Dawson City, Yukon. This project
introduces a scenario addressing the variables involved in constructing
an identity for a public subject. The source material (the book) and
the subjective account (the video) combine to reveal the role of the
audience member (myself in this case) in composing authorial
suggestions for a found source. Within this work the public history of
a subject becomes malleable relative to an acknowledgment of an
alternative reading of the Metro-Net and the excavation of a minor
history through my own investigative course.
A series of hand drawn and printed posters were, and continue to be, developed as a form of dissemination for this work.
Poster No. 1, pencil crayon on paper
Poster No. 6, pencil on paper
Poster No. 8, pencil crayon on paper
Poster No. 9, ink on paper
Poster for Pavillion Projects, slikscreen
collection of images taken at the site of Martin Kippenberger's
Metro-Net Station in Dawson City, Yukon. The book records the condition
of the Metro-Net Station over several years, the landscape surrounding
the site of the Metro-Net, and a series of drawings using Bunkhouse
Hotel stationary that were done by Kippenberger while visiting Dawson
City in 1995. A travel guide for reaching Dawson City, Yukon is
included in English and German. The book also includes an introduction
to the history of Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net project.
Published by Presentation House Gallery and YYZ Artist's Outlet.
Installation images from the exhibition at Etablissement d'en face projects, Brussels, Belgium
for Put Your Eye in Your Mouth: a conversational documentary recording
Martin Kippenberger’s Metro-Net Station in Dawson City, Yukon
1994 the Austrian architect Reinald Nohal introduced the 2nd of Martin
Kippenberger’s Metro-Net Stations to the residents of Dawson City,
Yukon. The Metro-Net system was conceived as an inter-global form of
transportation that would enable members of the secret society The Lord
Jim Lodge the ability of teleportation in order to meet with one
This is a story that explores one account of the Metro-Net’s existence as specific to the landscape it inhabits.
First, a little introduction to the site.
City, Yukon. Established in 1902 and situated along the Klondike River,
is an 8 hour drive from the Artic circle and 6 hours from the nearest
city of Whitehorse. Originally a gold rush town, the areas population
has dwindled from an 1898 high of 40,000 people to a modest 1,200.
Today, Dawson City is host to a variety of people that contribute to
its peculiar identity in Canada’s north. Throughout the summer months
motor homes arrive daily and the town displays its past with
re-enactments, historical tours, monuments, and the always present
panning station. During the winter months the town all but vacates
leaving a community of locals who’s relationship to the area has grown
far beyond the initial search for gold that first brought attention to
the landscape 100 years ago.
its history Dawson City has played host to an economy of response. As
gold was discovered in the 1890’s the vacant landscape became flooded
with people eager for wealth. As this new population grew the area was
explored to supply building materials to house the miners and secondary
economies that sprang up to support the gold rush: a post office,
Hotels, brothels, restaurants, Bars, fisheries, carpenters, and a
mason’s lodge. The land that Dawson City occupies is made up of
permafrost earth. Layers of dirt overtop of a foundation of ice. As a
result buildings are erected on top of the land utilizing a series of
platforms as support for the foundation. To penetrate the landscape
would signal a building’s demise. The unstable soil would shift along
with the ice bed below and eventually the structure would be consumed
by the landscape. As the gold rush began to subside an economy of
nostalgia, tourism, was set up. Like a giant ruin, visitors travel to
Dawson City and tour the streets; reconnecting with a past that seemed
comprised of a pioneering spirit. Decades later, the natural resource
of age and nostalgia for the Klondike has begun to dwindle. In its
stead the population of Dawson City has made a break with one history
in exchange for building another.
let me introduce the subject of our discussion. Constructed in 1994,
the Metro-Net Station is built of 8 inch Yukon spruce logs and set into
the ground. As with other buildings in the area the lumber was sourced
from the immediate forest. A stairway leads visitors downward to a pair
of wooden doors once chained shut but now forced open due in equal
parts to a curious community and the pressure of the landscape that is
attempting to reclaim the structure. The hand carved doors are
emblazoned with the emblem of the Lord Jim Lodge. A fraternal secret
society whose motto is Nobody Helps Nobody, indicated on the doors with
an NHN just below the group’s emblem of a large sun, cracked by a
hammer along with a pair of dangling breasts. 4 poster cases line the
inside of the Metro-Net. Once containing posters of Kippenberger’s
exhibitions around the world, they have sat vacant for the last several
years. The broken plexi glass that shielded each case now sits propped
in a corner of the yard. Dispersed around the Bunkhouse property are
piles of debris. Material that was cast off after the initial use had
finished. Possible relatives of Kippenberger’s Metro-Net, now overgrown
In 2003 I
first traveled the Metro-Net Station. Two years later I returned to
Dawson City and in the summer of 2005 I met with Reinald Nohal to
discuss a couple things that had been on my mind.
Conversation with Reinald Nohal, July 31st 2005 Dawson City, Yukon Canada
R: Do you need something?
Z: Oh no, I’m good. I’ve got coffee thanks, and, uhhm, some Tylenol for the headache.
So, do you come back often?
R: In the earlier years I spent half of my time up here. I came here 23 years ago. I built a home here and got really involved.
Z: It’s definitely that kind of place. Where you can do that, you can find your spot. Friendly too.
R: They mostly are. If they don’t shoot you, they are a friend.
Z: How I understand it, is that you are the architect, the builder of the Metro-net and The Bunk House?
Yeah, I built the Bunkhouse. There are very long winters up here when
you have time enough to plan everything, and it makes it possible to
build very fast. To think ahead in every detail. So you don’t have to
think once you start building, you just rely on the blue print. (How to
Build A Hotel)
When I built the Metro-Net, the people who came
by would ask: “What are you building there?”, I’d say “It is a subway
station.” “huh?”, German bullshit… “Is it a bomb shelter?” Nice idea,
no it is a subway entrance. Or “Is it a beer cooler?”, also a very
practical idea. “No it is a subway entrance.” “So is it the entrance to
the goldmine?” “No, it’s a subway entrance.” The brilliant and
astonishing thing was that the Indians would pass by and I would tell
them about it, they would just laugh, laugh, laugh. They understood the
idea. Also, the world spanning idea, the mystical…they understood the
meaning of it, the nuance.
Have you read the little text?
“Senseless But Not Useless.” It was practically written that the white
people are mistaken. It was either a goldmine or a beer cooler, ok!
Sounds reasonable but it was not what it was designed for.
Origins of the Metro-Net Station (a rainy day in Syros, Greece)
The Metro-net subway entrance happened because my business partner in
Berlin was married to a Greek women who owned a huge property on the
Greek island of Syros. There was an old cistern that went into the
ground and then Martin was there visiting. He said “Yeah, okay, we
build an underground station there!”, and I just happen to be there, we
made a plan and it was built. I think that was about 1993. We had a
little party for friends who came to the island and celebrated.
Z: So was the walk-down into the cistern already there?
R: Yeah it had been falling apart. It was just a hole in the ground.
Z: Then you put the railing on top for that one and the emblem for the Lord Jim Lodge?
The railing happened while I was there, we integrated it into the
structure. I had found it on the ground somewhere near the cistern
while walking around.
Z: So the first Metro-net was kind of found object… something that you discovered in the environment?
and then Martin said: “Reinald, aren’t you living up there in the
North, somewhere in Alaska? Why don’t you build me another one up
there?” “Ok” I said, “But we don’t build it with concrete, we make it
in a wooden structure.” And then one winter shortly after our
conversation I drew up a plan, he said “Yeah, its good” and then ten
years ago he came up. There is a movie, we have a very amateur video
about the opening. Martin cutting the ribbon
Z: Is it there a copy of it here?
R: I don’t have it here.
When you were building the Metro-net in Dawson, because the ground is
all permafrost, did that come into play when you designed it?
Yeah, we couldn’t dig that deep. We could only go so far. So we dug
until we hit the ice. Until we couldn’t go any further into the ground.
Well, Because of the nature of permafrost it will inevitably collapse.
And as far as I know the Sculpture is the only thing that descends
below ground in the area.
R: Martin knew it will age, in dignity hopefully, and rot in awhile. Not much will be left in 100 years.
R: But we knew that when we built it.
The Inevitability of a Sponge-like Landscape
Something that I’ve noticed is that the Lord Jim Lodge emblem is on
each of the subway entrances. I know a little bit about the Lord Jim
Lodge, through the amount of writing about it. I know it’s this
fraternal brotherhood idea, and something I find kind of fascinating is
that, if and when it collapses and is discovered later, this
archeological group will have evidence of a secret society. When the
earth is removed and those huge pieces of timber you used to build with
are cleared away, you’ll find a brightly painted pair of doors with
this secret society emblem on it.
R: This group, they will not know what happened.
(scene of North Umbria Archeological Society, est. 2105)
One Obstacle and Three Propositions Belonging to a Hand-Made Book
When I came here two years ago I went and talked to a person at the
tourist office, and said I was looking for the Martin Kippenberger
sculpture. They had no idea what I was talking about. “It looks like a
subway entrance.” I said.Nothing. “It’s on the Bunkhouse property.” And
then they were like: “It’s the mine shaft.” That has become part of the
popular reference for its history up here.
R: They should have known. Maybe you talked to the wrong person.
Z: I caught a bad person that day.
R: Nobody really understood or thought of the importance of Martin. They don’t know about him…it doesn’t matter.
It seems like the party you are going to have for the anniversary will
be a way of re-introducing Kippenberger. It will act as a kind of
reference point for the town to historicize.
R: The guy
that made the Metro-Net book will be coming from New York. He has never
seen it before. I told him there will be a party so he will fly in. And
we’ll get him to do a speech about Martin. I wouldn’t trust my
credibility up here. I never made a lot of sense.
that you left for me, I never understood what you meant with Schrift.
It never had anything to do with the Metro-net. Manuel Bormich may have
known Kippenberger, but not closely. He came here because my old friend
Oswald Weiner, who also lives here, Manuel visited him two or three
Z: Well two years ago
when I first came to Dawson City I met Gudren who was then taking care
of The Bunkouse and asked if there was anything related to the
Metro-net, or related to Martin Kippenberger in anyway, she brought out
this photocopied book. But it wasn’t identified immediately as to who
specifically produced it. So I, with my limited knowledge, made these
connections as to what was in it. I was making these pretty abstract
connections. The book had these maps of Dawson City with identification
marks, and then some absurdist quotations: Joseph Beuys posing for a
scotch ad and then drawn up as Hitler. And then there was a page in
there that was a guide to staking a land claim in the Yukon for gold. I
identified the measurements and one of them was that a Yukon land claim
stake had to exist exactly four feet above the ground. And then when I
read this article that Gudren had also pulled it was you being
interviewed by the newspaper here in 1994, talking about the
measurements and one of them was that the ballistrude will exist four
feet above the sculpture. So it was me drawing these mathematical
connections. This identity of the land, then this mysterious identity
of the sculpture, and how it’s discussing the land claim, and then
you’ve got the Lord Jim Lodge emblem down there. And I came up with
something… You know, senseless but not useless.
R: I think I’ll have to take a closer look at the Schrift. I’ve never read it, it’s just something I’ve had for awhile.
Secret Social and the Discovery of Hidden Treasure
Z: Are you a member of the Lord Jim Lodge?
Yeah. It was something for show. There was nothing in writing. We
inserted $20 bucks into a piggy bank and you became a full member.
Z: No rings, badges?
R: No annual meeting, no nothing! Sometimes we get together and do things...
(We have found this after we’ve cleaned up the mess here...) We have found some drawings.
R: And I brought them to show you. I had almost completely forgotten about them.
Z: It’s the classic hotel drawings.
R: I had the paper printed a while ago.
Z: I’ve seen the Hotel-Hotel series. The book that Koenig published. He definitely made a lot of drawings.
R: And he was fast!
is Annie Henry she has lived for over 100 years and she was here when
we opened. She’s over 110 now and I want her to come to the
anniversary. She will be the oldest person in Dawson City.
Z: Smiling teeth, handgun. Deadly combination.
This is the Yukon Quest, a famous dog race. Larry had not won the race
that year. So Martin drew this portrait to wish him good luck for next
R: Yeah, Guggieville.
Yeah, I stopped by this the other day. It’s hilarious that the
Guggenheim family was here around the turn of the century. And that the
people who run it know have no relationship, kind of like “Yeah, it’s
the goldrush so we’ll keep it.”
R: Angel parking! Not angle.
the time when he did them, we never thought much, just nice drawings.
He was a very close friend and never did I suspect that he was that
important of an artist. He was just a friend to me. And then we did the
Z: Well, I
almost think that is more important. That it’s a discussion with your
friends, and then these things happen. That if it wasn’t for your
conversations and you being in Dawson City, this wouldn’t ever be going
R: Write down your address and keep in communication
Z: I appreciate you taking the time to talk.
R: It has been very enjoyable…so far. I am very hung-over today. Too much crown royal.