In the studio with Bernd Behr

Posted: Mon Jan 18 2010

Bernd Behr uses film and sculpture to investigate the relationship between human activity and the built environment, often making reference to esoteric architectural projects by Erich Mendelsohn or texts by Le Corbusier. His studio is in Camberwell.

Last time we met, you were exploring Sars and sick building syndrome…
'That all finally came together in a slide piece and two large photos in which I fabricated landscapes with this sprayed concrete that you find everywhere in Hong Kong.'

That's right, you called it 'shot-crete'…
'Since then it's all turned more archaeological. I was looking at this military site in the Utah desert where they used to test napalm on a replica of a housing estate in Berlin. I've also been in Shanghai, filming a gated community being built in the Bauhaus style called “Weimar Villas”. It's part of a whole new town development designed by Albert Speer Jnr.'

As in, son of Nazi architect Albert Speer?
'Talk about complicated father-son relationship, right? It turns out he's a very active city planner, working in China and the Middle East. My footage is of the construction of these white cubes from mounds of dirt, but is shown running backwards like some kind of archaeological ruin in reverse.'

What are these impossibly angled concrete chairs you're making?
'They're Arne Jacobsen legs with glass-fibre and timber frames on top, which are sprayed or plastered with concrete - the whole South Bank was built like this. I think of them less as brutalist furniture and more as objects for contemplation, just as Chinese scholars kept rocks on their desk as aids for thought. They could be archaeological specimens or architectural salvage too, but they're not meant to be genuine and I hope people don't sit on them!'