“Extending Kippenberger’s METRO-Net” is a large-scale sculptural installation by Klaus Scherübel designed as an homage to and continuation of the “METRO-Net” project by German artist Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997). It is situated in Notre-Dame-des-Bois, 230 km south-east of Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Inspired in all likelihood by a film scene in which the comic Buster Keaton emerges from a subway exit in a deserted, icy landscape (The Frozen North, 1922, directed by Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline), in 1993 Kippenberger began mapping out an idea for a utopian public transit system: an imaginary subway network with entrances, exits and ventilation shafts installed around the world. Before it could be “completed”, the project—a tongue-in-cheek commentary on globalization, but also an echo of underground culture and a reflection on the independence of artistic action in the face of institutions—was cut short by the untimely death of the artist. Kippenberger had time, however, to build a few installations of his imaginary network: permanent subway station entrances on the Greek island of Syros (1993), in Dawson City, Canada (1995) and in Leipzig, Germany (1997), an air shaft at MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles, plus portable units exhibited at documenta X in Kassel and at the Skulpturen Projekte Münster, both in Germany, as well as at Metro Pictures in New York (also 1997). But the acquisition of the Dawson City entrance in 2008 by a U.S. museum, and its subsequently dismantling and relocation to that institution’s reserves, has jeopardized the existence of “METRO-Net” in its original spirit.
Mindful of the risk that this work of art might disappear, Scherübel aims to revitalize the project in the spirit of Kippenberger, favouring an “active conservation” approach. He has designed a new subway entrance, which has been permanently installed in an exotic locale, as was the case in Syros and Dawson City. An agreement reached with the municipality of Notre-Dame-des-Bois, near the Mont Mégantic National Park in Quebec, has enabled the extension of the “METRO-Net” to a rest stop at the entrance to the village. Following Kippenberger’s conceptual tropes with respect to the construction materials and styles, the new entrance references the local architectural context, in the form of a rustic “boom town” look (a nod to the village’s gold-rush origins), the modernist style of the Montreal metro, as well as the first station seen in the Keaton film.
The creation of this work was made possible by the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.