A TRANS, Schaufenster U-Bahnhof Kleistpark (U7), Berlin (D)
September 11 - October 18, 2020


A-Trans in Berlin asked Ellen Rodenberg to make an installation in their Schaufenster exhibitions in Subwaystation Kleistpark (U7). This season the theme of all A TRANS-exhibitions is A Femme City dealing with the female gaze on urban developments. Ellen complied and decided to ask her male-EX-MĘKH companions Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen to design a pendant of her installation focussing on the element of gender in EX-MĘKH. The exhibition was opened friday September 11, 2020 by two performances: Knocking on Heaven's Door van Kees Koomen and Opening Ritual van Ellen Rodenberg.




A Femmes City. I interpret the invitation of A trans as a challenge. When do we talk of a female gaze and of a female approach? What does it look like? I decided to engage the men of the EX-MĘKH-collective in this project in order to be able to hold the development of my work against the light of a male/female concept. . I had discussions with Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen about the difference in strategies, upbringing, social behavior and networking. When do we talk about expressing oneself with personal character and where do we observe the influence of gender? To try and make this visible I decided to install one shop window myself, as a woman. I asked the two men to install the second shop window with their work: one female, two men, two painters, one sculptor! The title FeMaler is an apt translation of this mix.

For my personal presentation I developed a procedure of applying paint with big strokes on white cardboard resulting in color forms. It is a method with which I leak diluted acrylic paint through cotton sheets. After it dries the sheets are removed and whimsical shapes appear. The results have a watercolor-like character. I think of gardens for the imagination. I think of all the possible associations one single form can already evoke. I think of the mental space being created by this approach. Imagine the memories in the future. Imagine the questions in the future. Imagine the possibilities of the female approach in the future.
The cardboard pieces will be installed in a precise manner but the result will look casual. The display in the shop-window must tempt for timelessness and thus create space, the incomprehensibilities will be helpful with this. What is it you see? A curious garden full of life? Or are you “Lost in Paradise”?

The second shop window will be of a totally different nature. Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen have been discussing the installation to be shown. Maarten Schepers has created an over-all design which we can associate with phenomena like show-box, diorama or bijou-box. Kees Koomen will add to this with work based on the muses and the story of Actaeon.

(Ellen Rodenberg, 2020)

The first words of welcome and explaining the programme were spoken by Isolde Nagel, initiator of A TRANS

The collaboration

Maarten Schepers designed the shop window that was available for him and Kees Koomen. After hearing about Kees Koomen’s plans to do something with his muse-series, a series of small paintings inspired by the ever suddenly appearing muse during his life, Maarten designed a box to be installed in the shop window: a bijou-box or a box for bon-bons referring to feminine parafernalia with the theme A Femmes City in mind. In this box he would put square pedestals to put the paintings on.

During the summer Kees did a lot of night swimming. He remembered the story of  Actaeon, when he was lying in the water looking at the stars . His dogs ripped this Greek man apart because he saw Diana naked, bathing in a stream in the forest. Being torn apart by the manifold manifestations of beauty is a known predicament for artists. Because of this the artist painted of a selfportrait floating on his back in the sea  to later tear it apart for the exhibition. The parts of his body would support the paintings. Maarten applied some formal ajustments of the shop window: he changed the colours into the colours of the water and the sky at night, he lowered the ceiling on one side as to suggest more space adding perspective and he cut holes in the sky to suggest stars. He also put orange tape on the window above and under the image. The men decided to make the pedestals round and to partly paint them in the colour of the water.


Then Kees added his inspiration for the concept of the muse to the performance that would open their part of the exhibition: He decided to lie down in the water after removing his selfportrait to which he had added a rock from Provence, the part of France where troubadours would walk the roads from castle to castle to sing their songs to their muses. Lying down next to the rock he would hear those songs from afar, as he would also hear the knocking on the wall of the first muse he was aware of. He knocks along the rhythm of the song and frantically tries to reach the other side by knocking on the rock. Then he stands up, removes the rock and puts the pedestals in order. He tears his selfportrait in parts and puts them on the pedestals after which he arranges the paintings on top of it. Thus this part of the exhibition is open!


Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Performance Kees Koomen during opening FeMaler














After installing the show window we left it three days like this until the opening. The start of the performance in the shopping window
is the painted image of a naked man, the artist, lying in dark waters and looking up to the sky to the stars above.

Next to his head is a large stone from Provence in France.


Then the artist appears in white clothes, takes the image, a self-portrait, and pins it to the wall.


He lies down next to the stone as if he starts to sleep. All of a sudden he raises his head to listen. Then he starts knocking on the stone
as if to tap to music, at moments he starts knocking harder to draw attention to someone knocking.


After some time he stops knocking, looks at the stone and takes it away.


Then he starts putting six pedestals in the space, painted at the bottom as if they were standing in the water.


When he is satisfied with this he takes the image from the wall

and he tears it apart in two arms,

two legs,

a torso and a head. He puts these parts over the pedestals.

The public follows his action with concentration

Then he takes six paintings inspired by his muse from behind

and puts them over the pedestals.

Checking the positions...

And this is going to be shown during the exhibition period under the title : "Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?"
as the male gaze of Maarten Schepers and Kees Koomen



The title FeMaler summarizes a dilemma. Fe femmes (Fr), female. maler(D), male (Eng), femaler (Eng). The theme A Femmes City and the U bahn location have both influenced the new work that has been developed. I have been looking for a concept that leaves room to discover new insights, directions and vistas. The Covid-19 pandemic made us uncertain about when to implement it, but not about feasibility. The opening and public rituals continued to contain uncertainties until the very end.

Preparations and artistic work process,

The test phase for the Schaufenster (Ellen Rodenberg) lasted 3 months. Laying cotton sheets and cloths on large sheets of white board, applying the thinned paint, folding it, drying it, pulling it loose, hanging it up, folded, hanging loose, curled up, creased, observing a composition in which the individual paint forms as floating in a space brought together to be entirely itself. There they are like a staged aquarium in which all attributes and living organisms are artificially and carefully composed together for the admiring eye of the maker and the viewer.

Underlying thoughts of what is actually female? What are feminine qualities? Can you tell from a work of art whether it was made by a woman? What's the point of this sorting of kind? Who benefits from this? In any case, I saw advantages for dealing with the subject by involving the EX-MĘKH group in this. We have never made a distinction before, on the basis of male or female classification. In the conversations with the other 2 artists of the EX-MĘKH group it became clear to me that especially the way of working, reasoning and considering is different, possibly even feminine in nature. Where is the difference between character and gender? A distinction is always arbitrary. My conclusion was therefore: the 2 men will work together in one show-window and I as a woman work in the other display case.
Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Iragarai, Joke Hermsen bring me a new gender awareness.

The method has been practical. After a few conversations, I noticed that we best use the proven method that we have been using as EX-MĘKH for more than 10 years. The theme can be interpreted in its own way for everyone. This means that everyone also proposes their own version. This is also the first time that the spatial distribution is uneven in the beginning and not a point of discussion. Maarten Schepers made his own design for the display case, Kees immediately played with the idea of "the Muses". In consultation they have brought several ideas into 1 artwork. Title: Have you seen the Stars tonight? Including the performance by Kees Koomen: Knocking on Heavens Door.

The  Schaufenster I had at my disposal was the same size. As with a solo exhibition, you only have to deal with your own work. Although the theme played a role and the concept has led to an artificial division, I am curious about the outcome. What can be read from this?

Opening Ritual
Openingsperformance Ellen Rodenberg

I had pasted short pieces of tape in green and red on the Schaufenster.

The opening act consisted of simply removing the tape, which by the way did not hide anything.

The tape did, however, provide the temporary visibility of a "4th wall".

After putting the tape on my pants I stepped into the role of hostess and handed out drawing books.

I invited the public to view the installation FeMaler and to choose part of it as inspiration for a drawing.

I photographed their drawings and it was posted on Instagram under the hashtag #Femaler_U7_Berlin


The situation before opening


Taking away the tape from the fourth wall

And putting it on her pants

After which the installation coul be seen

Then explaining her ideas about the exhibition

and about the installation she made

asking the public to participate

explaining the idea of making drawings in the sketchbooks she took along

inspired by the installation she made

The public reacted with enthusiasm

and drawings were made

 and shown to the artist

It is not easy

But results are great

and with many interpretations of details of the installation

Animals are seen mostly

and stories are being told

Reflections in a glass window

And politics....

Don't forget the hashtag for instagram!