Lieber Feind / Kære Fjende
“Lieber Feind, Kære Fjende” (Dear Enemy) is an art intervention of and an exhibition at a historical War Museum in Hanstholm Denmark. Birgit Bjerre has made 12 sitespecific art installations and has invited Alex Mørch to contribute with two sound installations. In the last phase of the war, vulnerability and fragility became difficult to hide on both fronts. At the end of the war, the Germans were young and small. When they arrived hungry at Hanstholm and ate the butter raw in the shop, their respect was lost. The artworks express fragility. The artworks are metaphors for being completely and utterly unprotected, a condition that can be mirrored in the other, so for instance the uniforms in “Enemy 1” and “Enemy 2” are without nationality.
“WEHR, VÆRN, (PROTECTION)”
Birgit Bjerres father Kristian Bjerre is 16 years old in Hanstholm 1944, when he made a weapon by assembling a Danish weapon and a German flare gun. The local blacksmith is asked to make individual parts, and he does not ask what they are for. A 16-year-old boy is worried about being taken by the Germans, he has done damage to their facilities, he is scared. So he makes a gun. It is not an easy decision, and it takes time to make the weapon. It is a single-shot weapon, so it does not provide much protection. Sometimes actions are insignificant and almost ridiculous against the “big machine” of war. But he tries. He can do something here. The weapon is stored in a beehive.
The “beeswax guns” in “Wehr, Værn” are castings of the weapon that her father made as a 16-year-old in Hanstholm. They were immersed in beehives in Thy in 2021, just as the original was stored during the war. The bees have gently protected and built around the wax guns, and in a few places taken bits of the wax. Four of the guns did not get that protection and are hanging completely “naked” amongst the others. On their own accord the bees build around the wax objects, and in some places, you can see honey in the honeycomb around the weapon. The bees have the fundamental task of gathering and preparing for the future. On the guns you can see varying colours – this is pollen. They are different because the guns have been immersed in the beehives at different times throughout the summer, so the pollen and plants change throughout the installation. Both honey and guns are a way to prepare for the future. The whole process is left to the fate of the bees.
“WAITING IN HEIZRAUM (WARTEN IM HEIZRAUM, VENTER I HEIZRAUM)”
Time can feel endless, it is without end, it is circular. Five years is a long time.
Getting home and ending the time cycle of war was impossible. The boiler room produced heat for the bunker. Here the infinity of time is the starting point for the artwork. 1870 days are hand-sewn on a fabric cylinder as a silent materialisation of the waiting time of the war. I have wished to feel how much 1870 really is, by sewing the days by hand. The fabric cylinder has the same dimensions as the searchlights over Hanstholm. They were 1.5 meters, and primarily caught moths. Moths were attracted to the carbon arc lamps. The males of the moths cannot resist the light. Light, homesickness and longing are basic elements that no one can resist.
The war lasted 1870 days in Hanstholm, the occupying forces and the locals all had to endure the time. For many Germans, the days were ultimately a countdown to coming home to a bombed-out country. As a young German said to my grandfather when he found him in his barn: “I do not want to go back, it’s all gone”. There is not a single place in the bunker where the soldiers have tallied the days. It was frowned upon if one expressed homesickness. That led to one of the most iconic love songs of the time “Lili Marlene” to be banned by the Germans during the war because it was about missing.