Pavel Korbička



Lübecker Straße is a typical street in Berlin’s old quarter of Moabit, an area in which the circumstances of various time periods from the modern and contemporary history have left clear traces. You can tell by the design of neon lights that adorn shops here or there that the place belonged to West Berlin during the Cold War. In the 1960s to ‘90s, the quarter was known as working-class area, and until some ten years ago, its sight-seeing landmark here was the big prison building. Starting in late 2015, the wave of refugees has turned Moabit into one of the first stops of the arriving migrants.

Today Moabit is changing at a rapid pace, with a dynamic only too characteristic for Berlin. An increasing number of artists, students, tech professionals and start-ups have chosen to settle here - in new studios, co-working spaces, bars or small showrooms of young designers.

But let’s turn back to 43 Lübecker Straße. An innovative project is being carried out here, one which reflects the area’s entire logic and dynamics. Named SCOPE BLN, it aims to bring different creative people under the same roof. It is a work-in-progress platform that offers a residential base, but not only: It stimulates dialogue and networking between individuals from different sectors, with a focus on art and technology.

While the SCOPE BLN concept was being hammered out, the idea came up of a permanent artist-in-residence programme oriented towards international artists, architects, designers and curators working across disciplines and seeking creative artistic experiments, exchanges, professional collaborations and developments in a diverse environment. The arrangement that came up as a result has enabled artists to live and work for several months in Berlin, getting to know the local scene and community and, if possible, create site-specific works for the SCOPE BLN building.

In early autumn 2018 the SCOPE BLN Artist-in-Residence programme announced its first international open call, directed at artists who work with light. The underlying idea was the transformation of the large foyer. It is an impressive space - 14 m long, 4 m wide and around 4.5 m in height. A special feature are the big arches that define the rhythm of this entrance zone.

In front of the building is a street lantern - this light source is a traditional Berlin symbol -developed in the 1920s, originally powered by gas. These days it is fitted out with an energy-saving LED technology.

The in-residence programme was meant to make the street light enter the building and turn its foyer into a natural extension but also an artistic transformation of what takes place ‘outside’. At the same time, it was very important that a work be created that reflects the building’s architectural features without conflicting with them; it had to upgrade them and interpret them harmonically.

The open call received 48 applications, which meant that the judges’ task would not be easy. The panel included Dr. Carolin Liedtke, a lighting engineer at the Technical University in Berlin; Elisa Calosi, a cultural manager; Eyal Zucker, the founder of the platform; and Boris Kostadinov, the curator of SCOPE BLN.

During the debates, a portfolio came up that caught everybody’s attention with an understanding and mastering of light’s potential, with the scale and quality of the light installations realised up until that moment for various solo and joint exhibitions. It grabbed the attention with the adequate and professional manner in which it worked out the idea for the future SCOPE BLN work.

The portfolio belonged to the Czech artist Pavel Korbička. Apart from an extensive artistic biography, he had prepared an exceptionally precise preliminary sketch of what he plans to do. The sketch demonstrated that along with the intention to transform the space artistically, Korbička had a deep understanding of how a work of art can redefine the existing architecture without questioning it and without attempting to change it.

He arrived in Berlin to start his residence in the winter of 2019. In the months he spent in his studio, he created 18 projects as well as various variants of the installation.

Pavel sees the role of light installation as an integral part of space. In his sketches, there is this ‘musical’ understanding of a recurring, choppy rhythm. This understanding is then coupled with an architectonic insinuation of the future work. It seeks to carry at once an inner dynamic and stability.

Pavel’s process is slow, thought-out and includes numerous components of a variety of properties. He starts by studying carefully the context and particularities of the environment as an integral whole. He then turns to the architectural features and technical characteristics. Then a moment comes at which the artist thinks out the work’s aesthetic qualities - how it will fit, and work with, the environment.

In the case with SCOPE BLN, however, the process was far more complex. It was critical to take into account the fact that we did not have an exhibition hall. This was not a classic, ‘white cube’-type gallery space, but a multifunctional building that combined residential and creative activities. That was the reason that, on the one hand, Pavel’s work had to carry its remarkable artistic qualities, but on the other, it had to conform to all the utilitarian functions and the respective set requirements for a quality of living.

This condition - alongside of course with the requirement for a creativity of the idea - underlay the final choice. And it was a choice made very professionally, as Pavel Korbička is an artist with a deep grasp of the sense of working in a dedicated environment.

The SCOPE BLN installation is titled ‘Structuring Space’. The artists opted for long neon tubes. In the first section of the foyer, these tubes cross the corridor linking the opposing walls, creating a rugged though measured rhythm. In the second section, at the start of a staircase that leads upstairs, something unexpected happens. One of the light rods crosses the arch, bores through the wall and appears on the other side, right above the stairs leading to the upper level. The last light element descends dramatically from above. It ‘flies’ right from the upper floor towards the foyer. The neon ‘brushstrokes’ cross the arches, ignoring, as it were, any logic that might be in place. It is what constitutes one of the chief qualities of this installation. It does not follow the architecture-dictated silhouette as can be observed in many of Dan Flavin’s classic examples or in the works of contemporary artists such as Pablo Valbuena. Pavel Korbička’s structuring of space boldly comments on, it even defies architecture, but mounting no intentions for domination. This way the work creates a second, and new, architectonic layer, one which redefines the space’s visual rhythm. The installation is given a new structure without attaching any additional object-ness, but thanks to the fretted light ‘sketch’. This ‘sketch’ relies solely on sparkling white light and is not seduced by the potential for coloured lighting (which in this case would be superfluous). The neon lines encompass boldly imaginative, invisible planes which in the mind of each individual spectator would structure the scape differently.

Using this fundamentally deconstructionist approach, Pavel Korbička’s ‘Structuring Space’ has succeeded in constructing, in a remarkable manner, SCOPE BLN’s entrance spaces and has become a trademark for the whole building.

Boris Kostadinov