Nischen / Niches
City of Bern
Text installation of 90 enamel panels in the urban space of Bern
along the 7 "Biodiversity Year" walks
Biodiversity and (species) diversity are phenomena that, in addition to the biological-sustainable perspective, also have political and cultural significance. The City of Bern's "Biodiversity Year" aims to protect, preserve and (re-)generate habitat in which the diversity of nature becomes possible and visible. This visualisation is not a purely biological, but also a socio-political concern to give people present in the habitat insight into the necessity of biodiversity and to change the mental attitude of how beauty, value and use of nature are thought and spoken about.
The signs by artist Tine Melzer are set along seven walks, which point to special projects/places etc. in the context of the Biodiversity Year. Some of the short sentences and word sequences name rare and endangered species in Bern (flora, fauna, fungi) and relate them to the people walking. The poetry of these proper names creates their own word fields and images - and evokes these creatures in people's imaginations in the middle of urban space. The sentences highlight singularities without being didactic.
The value of endangered animal and plant species is often hidden, their "beauty" not immediately conforming to convention - and they prowl in niches. In biology, a niche refers to the conditions under which a living being can survive and reproduce. The word niche promises both protection and security. The city also offers niches for people: small cosy and necessary places. Niches are places that one often passes by inattentively: they are easy to overlook, heterogeneous, in surprising places. Niches are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. Niches are found, not sought. Like niches, Tine Melzer's text panels surprise us in everyday life with often ambiguous statements.
Diversity, according to the artist, means the juxtaposition and chance encounter of different things. In human communities, it is visible forms of life that do not always correspond to one's own. Diversity stands for the other, the new, the unknown and makes one's own singularity clear. No one is everything at the same time; differences make for a diverse and thus valuable world. Diversity is a value in its own right that requires tolerance, curiosity and serenity.
Diversity interests the artist here in two ways: as biodiversity, but also as diversity of perspectives and interpretations. Without biodiversity, man will not survive in the long term. Without ambiguity, man will become culturally impoverished. The meaning of sentences is discovered by each reader individually - and differently, for example, depending on context and previous knowledge. They can make readers see and experience the city in a new and different way. With the "Nischen" project, Tine Melzer wants to make such encounters possible for all walkers, passers-by, joggers and dog owners.
"Nischen" is a project of the Commission for Art in Public Spaces of the City of Bern on the occasion of the Biodiversity Year of Stadtgrün Bern. The production was supported by Luk Wartenweiler (Werkstatt Tscharnergut) and David Zürcher.