Soft summer light shines through the milky windows onto Georg Korner, who stands in a grand hall. More than 2,000 figurines surround him. The clay sculptures with suitcases in hand and determination in their faces represent a population promenade.
There is a palpable energy in the atelier of the former chief sculptor of the Berlin Palace façade as the epic work nears completion.
The craftsman has spent 12 years reconstructing the overwhelming baroque scenes of the Berlin Palace façade. This demanding work required an intensive confrontation with the Italian and northern European Baroque and general European sculptural tradition dating back to Greek antiquity.
This overwhelming and disrupted mass, hurrying on its path, pulls us into its stream. A fascinating rhythm flows through the powerful work, which is growing daily. By October the total of clay figures in both groups will reach a complete set of 2,600. This is the plan.
The work is called “Transit,” in reference to Anna Seghers’ exile novel, which describes expulsion and flight. Korner read the book at 18 and forgot about it afterward, but in hindsight the themes of the literature never really left him. Transit – the passage.
The term refers to a mundane change of locations across a boarder, but it also describes a metaphysical transformation of people. Korner could have just created a single transitor, however it is the mass of figurines that gives the work its meaning. Transit is a message of hope and failure.
The first group of “Transit” consists of 1,600 sculptures in groups of five by five, standing at 20cm and spanning evenly over 64 square fields. The anthropomorphic statues, lightly turned towards the left, carry a suitcase in the right hand and are presented in the classic contrapposto position. The left leg is positioned to indicate forward movement.
The haste of wanting to move forward of the figures is captured in their postures as well as the masterfully carved expressions. A deep sadness hangs over the entire work. The pointlessness of the task is evident in the mass.
The long garments of the wanderers melt with the quadratic plateau, which serves as a base for the arrangement and orientation of the ceramic sculptures. Trapping the figures in this geometry represents the fateful paradox of loosing yourself – the freedom of the fugitives is also their curse.
Korner chooses the strict organizational principle of the square as a base form of the composition, giving the work its juxtaposition of rest and structure with the inevitability of limited space.
In the current of the unified strides and toting suitcases, the figures evoke images of the deportation of Jews during the time of nationalism. These pictures have become part of the collective consciousness, not only in the minds of the German people.
Still, Korner’s Figures are different. In their upright posture, defiantly enduring their fate, they rush stubbornly towards an undetermined destination. The lack of orientation is written on their faces.
Bent slightly forward, like the passengers of “Transit,” Georg Korner, actually Matthias Körner, receives his guests in the hall. He seems like a laconic smiling, dusty giant between his figures.
A certain mischievousness also characterizes the second part of „Transit“.
At completion, this work will comprise 999 single figures, standing at 30cm and filling 36 square meters. A forceful image is already building.
Side by side, in front of and behind each other, the figures align in a stair-like formation at a 45 degree angle: Holy figures, martyrs and prophets of every religion, delinquents of the Spanish Inquisition, stars, idols and icons of rock and pop music, mythological figures, fighters, soldiers with gas masks, comic book characters (such as Batman and Bart Simpson), veiled women, cult figures, suicide bombers with explosives strapped to them, as well as average people are included. They all find themselves in transit, going from one side to the other. Suicide bombers with explosives, sentences to death the heavily pregnant woman and batman, the avenger of the night.
This group also carries heavy suitcases and is positioned towards the left with one leg in front of the other, which carries a certain dynamism and tension.
A cruelly beautiful tableau of current affairs, this part of „Transit“ conveys grandiosity and grimacing. And like a roguish Woody Allen says: „I have no fear of dying. I just want to not be there when it happens. “
There is no way out for the fugitives. Their movement is perfection and tragedy at the same time. Korner has carried this subject with him for many years.
They say society needs new pictures to discuss migration. Voila – here is one.