janet grau

public attic / ausgestellter speicher

public attic / ausgestellter speicher

Installation with photography, video, audio, texts and objects, 2006

public attic / ausgestellter speicher is a work about the things we collect, the things we keep, and the things we decide to get rid of. It’s a work that brings to light the neglected and the forgotten things, and lets us get to know their stories.

For this project, I visited 34 people in Dresden and the surrounding area who were willing to show me some of the things they kept in their attics. We talked about the objects, and I asked them to tell me why they’d kept them.

I used various media (photography, video and sound) to ‘collect’ these objects, and to construct the ‘public attic’. The installation evoked the character of an attic, and the visitors were allowed to rummage through the objects in the exhibition.

The attic owners/users answered my questions about the objects they showed me. On the outer walls of the room, questionnaires – filled out at each attic visit – were displayed, showing the answers the attic owners/users gave to my questions about the objects they showed me. To help participants answer the question ‘Why is this object kept in storage?’ I provided a checklist of various possible reasons (e.g., Reminder / Surprise, Narrative Potential, Investment, Connection to a Strong Emotion, Spatial Considerations, Sense of Duty, etc.; see one of the 34 questionnaires).

"German building regulations now allow only six square meters of storage space per residential unit to accommodate the need to store things and the stories they tell in one of these special memory rooms. Janet Grau makes this need public with a wonderful plea. In her installation, the intangible treasures hidden in boxes, suitcases, old cupboards and chests become visible and audible."

After the opening of the new permanent exhibition of the Stadtmuseum Dresden, the ‘public attic’ was on display for six months in the Depot der Gegenwart.

The installation contained many boxes and suitcases with objects I’d borrowed from the attics I’d visited (i.e., things I was allowed to share with others). The photos were pasted directly onto the paneled walls or onto the boxes, and the video sequences were presented on two monitors (with headphones). Next to an armchair in the corner, an audio piece narrated a list of all the things I had ‘collected’ in the words of their owners (narrator: Kerstin Katrin Birn).

Over the course of the exhibition, new objects and stories were added to the collection. The exhibition catalog for public attic / ausgestellter speicher (48 pages, German and English) contains personal and critical reflections as well as images and stories.

Read texts from the catalogue:

My heartfelt thanks to all the people who showed me their things and told me their stories:
Henner Grätz, Ute G., Sigrid G., Manfred G., Gundula Sell, F. Altmann, E. Altmann, Christiane P., Anton Grün, Edwin Z., Katrina G., Erika & Jochen, C.S., M.Z., Inga S., U. St., Ditteke, Henning, Steff, Maik Nicke, Eva Schulze, Thomas B., eth, Patricia G., Daniela, M.F., I.P., Elke D., Steffen Altmann, Holger, Frau R., Elly, nil omni, Familie Köhler.

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