In the former TGP Post building that temporarily hosts the Stedelijk Museum, Club 11 and many other cultural companies W139 has a temporary exhibition space in the basement. At the time of the exposition the building was difficult to access by public transport.
The experience starts at the main entrance of the Post CS building. There’s an ‘underground cube’ at the roof of the entrance and an illuminated sign ‘perron’ (platform) above the stairs leading downstairs.
The hallways you end up in give the impression of the underground halls. When you walk through the basement you pass by a chilly waiting room with long rows of plastic chairs and four monitors on the corners of every wall showing images of the empty platform alternated with images of people in a moving metro.
When you walk on you see information notices with a map of the subway and an empty timetable. Then you will end up at a passage with a punching machine on both sides and a barrier in the middle. Along a sloping floor (accessible to wheelchair users) you end up at a platform that gives off the recognizable ‘ping’ (introduced for blind people).
All the basic ingredients of a metro station are present: the platform with on both sides a black hole, the rails with a yellow electricity conductor, a few chairs along the wall, the clock with a digital information notice board and surveillance cameras.
But it is like waiting for Godot. There will never be a metro and if you watch closely you will see that only the seconds hand of the clock moves. There is no information on the digital notice board. The rails are made of wood, even though they look very real. The screws that seem to attach the rails are in fact bitter macaroons.
W139 reached a record number of visitors. Some people were really misled after having been waiting on the metro for half an hour and once even for an hour. The reactions of visitors vary from recognition, amazement, frustration, admiration, wonder, anger, calmness and of becoming aware of the room and the environment.
The platform is 30 metres long with on both sides a black wall on a distance of 6 metres. Almost every wall is part of the setting. Parts of the setting like: the ‘underground cube’, notice boards, metro posts, punching machines, barriers, the clock with digital notice board, rubbish bins and the electricity conductor next to the rails are all existing parts that are lend out by the GVB (the public transport company) in Amsterdam.
Made possible with support of: GVB Amsterdam and Van der Pol bouwmaterialen
Photos by Henni van Beek and Maze de Boer
Parool, 16 February 2005