Ella Littwitz

Habit/ at #1, 2012-2013

Plaster, mixed media and marble sand

150x150x160 cm

Habit/ at #2, 2014-15

Mixed media

205x170x170 cm

Habit/ at #3, 2014

Mixed media

230x185x200 cm

Habit/ at #4, 2014

Mixed media

295x170x170 cm

Untitled (Blind), 2013

mixed media

15x115x190 cm

Untitled (structure T), 2013

concrete

32X23x23 cm

Untitled (Blue Concrete), 2013

Concrete

11x11x198 cm, 11x11x213 cm

 

The Habit/at Project includes several pieces: Untitled (Conversion), a video work depicting the demolition of an old WW-II bunker wall; Untitled (Structure T), a miniature concrete model of Berlin’s huge Schwerbelastungskörper structure; Untitled (Blind), a photo of a bunker over a blind; and Habit/at (#3+#4), two one-man bunkers/ (Einmannbunker).

The remaining WW-II concrete bunkers spread across Germany have attracted Ella Littwitz’s curiosity as a resident of Berlin. Some of the larger bunkers have been converted after the war to residential or other uses, and some – particularly those designed as one-man bunkers for individual protection – have survived as useless scars in the landscape. The bunkers were built during the war mainly to protect key operators of strategic systems such as power stations and railroads targeted by air raids.

The large number of bunkers still dotting the German landscape represent a challenge in current urban space. Untitled (Blind) mirrors this difficulty, with the bunker depicted in it acting much like a blind which blocks the view behind it. The single-person bunkers indicate for the artist the tension between the individual and his surrounding space under extreme circumstances, a kind of assimilation of the human body in the armor designed to protect it. Littwitz’s preoccupation with the theme has been partly inspired by French theoretician and architect Paul Virilio, who in 1975 first suggested the idea that “If man has no need for the machine to live in his natural environment, he needs the machine ,to survive in a hostile one. Now during combat, the surface of the earth became uninhabitable and the simplest of gestures became impossible. This constraint modified the clothing – the uniform – and “the habitat – the casemate. Thus, according to Virilio, the relationship between clothing (habit) and dwelling (habitat) became particularly intimate. The miniaturized bunker, Untitled (Structure T) models a still existent Berlin building called the Schwerbelastungskörper, or literally, “heavy load-bearing body”. It was erected in 1941 in an attempt to test the ground’s ability to bear the heavy loads required under the Germania World Capital master plan designed by Nazi visionary architect Albert Speer. The idea was to build a gigantic victory arch on this location to embody the power of the Third Reich. The object in Littwitz’s work is one hundred times smaller than the gargantuan original design (12,000 tons, 21m in diameter, 14m high above ground 18m deep underground). After the war, it proved impossible to tear down the structure without damaging its urban environment; it was therefore declared a historical monument, attesting ever since to the Nazi regime’s megalomaniac city plans. The video work Untitled (Conversion) demonstrates the powerful energies required to erase the memory of these monolithic concrete structures off the face of the earth.

The artist’s reference to the urban challenges currently faced by Germany raises issues of preservation, destruction or conversion of war remains. As shameful historical remains, the bunkers enable her to explore how German society copes with its memories and past, which likewise refuse to disappear, either above or below ground.

 

1 Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology, NY: Princeton

.Architectural Press, 1994, p. 41

 

Ghila Limon and Tal Bechler, Herzliya Museum