Der stille Portier

Kinetic object

Stainless steel, aluminium, concrete, 25 x 25 x 75 cm
Installed at Kirchenfeldbrücke, Bern (CH)
Realisation with Urs Gehbauer, Bern


Der stille Portier

Technical basics
Der stille Portier (‘The Silent Porter’) consists of a block of concrete, measuring 15 x 15 x 15 cm, which is mounted on steel balls. Its lateral mobility on the one hand, and the inertia of the block on the other, cause the block to mechanically shift minimally when subject to vibrations. This movement is transferred to a long vertical needle and indicated by its oscillations. Operating without electricity, the “measuring device” draws all of its oscillation energy from the ground.

Artistic concept
Despite or because of the fact that one can easily envisage the original lamppost, the empty pedestal for illuminating the old bridge northwest of the Kunsthalle Bern, it begs the question: what would a new vertical structure look like here and what function would it serve today? The vibrations of the Kirchenfeld bridge are transmitted to Helvetia square – like the leverage of a wrench to a nut. Accordingly, every large moving mass on the bridge (tram carriages, buses) triggers a ground motion. The critical point is the head of the bridge, the site of the strongest leverage. This prompted me to ask: what motion do these vibrations describe? What vehicles, what vehicle speeds, what sequence of carriages generates the most complex oscillations? Furthermore, any discussion concerning the issue of design raises the question: what are the essential, defining features of a seismometer, specifically in relation to conventional devices? Does every measuring device need a recorder, a clock? And what happens to the measurement if these are absent?