The Show Window.
From Enchantment
to Enactment

Nadina Faljic

Whoever stands in front of the building at Kolmarer Straße 3 in Berlin will see nine pairs of eyes looking out at the street through the glass panes of the windows. The eyes belong to figures made of cardboard bearing the faces of significant personages, famous examples of human rights defenders and politicians who were imprisoned, including the LGBT activist Shakiro from Cameroon, the Turkish businessman Osman Kavala, the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the disempowered Burmese head of government Aung San Suu Kyi.

All are currently sitting in prison due to their political ideologies and active engagement or due to their sexual identity. The German artist Nasan Tur created his figurative work entitled Locked Up in April 2021 and exhibited his figures in his own as well as his neighbours’ apartments as part of the Berlin art project Die Balkone 2 (Eng. The Balconies 2), an exhibition layout with artistic contributions being presented through windows and on balconies in Prenzlauer Berg in the hopes of garnering the interest of passer-byers during the Corona pandemic.

In the context of a house, balconies and windows are openings, intersections between the private and the public. They represent a liminal space between inside and outside and connect the individual with a collective, residents with their city.

The show window shapes the aracdes and the image of the modern metropolis as an important means of advertising for commerce. According to Walter Benjamin, the passer-byer embodies the type of metropolitan flaneur on his search for nouveauté amidst the staged panoramas and the opulence of commodities behind glass. Goods seem like a magical attraction. Such product staging had already begun to stir curiosity in consumers at the turn of the 20th century with its object fetishism, enchantment, and jouissance or pleasure. The Parisian Palais Royal offers the earliest example of a large shopping mall. The stores were characterised by long windowfronts and were managed by a rising middle class in addition to aristocracy. These windows invited hours of strolling as well as capitalistic fantasies. In his work Parisian arcades, Benjamin takes a look at the new consumerist society.

In order to understand the meaning of nouveauté, we must return to the novelty in our daily lives. Why do all share with each other what is new? Probably to triumph over the dead. We do so, even if there isn’t really anything new.


For the first time in history, consumers are beginning to feel like a mass with the establishment of department stores. (Before, they learned this only from scarcity). Thus, the circus- and showpiece-like elements of commerce are increasing tremendously. A4, 1

After the experienced isolation and the absence of exhibition opportunities or visitors in theatres, museums, and galleries during the first lockdown, many exhibitions are being held in show windows out of a desire for art outside of a digital context. One thing that has stayed the same are strolls through the city.

In addition to the show windows of the arcade, another reference to Paris in the 19th century is of note: The invention of the diorama by Louis Daguerre played a decisive role in the history of visual culture and mass spectacles. His large half-transparent screen, behind which natural or artificial lights were able to create an atmospheric effect, is considered to be the predecessor of the cinema; however, such dioramas are more often used as entertaining instruments of pedagogy in science museums. In this context, it indicates a vitrine with a three-dimensional primaeval landscape using murals, props, animals, and figures. It appears frozen in space and time and influences the public’s perception and sense of reality. The diorama thus represents an earlier form of virtual reality in which fantasy and fiction coalesce with the creation and relaying of history, knowledge, art, natural sciences, and anthropology.

The gradual transgression of art in advertising spaces and conversely the influence of the vitrine aesthetic and the diorama on art developed from a desire for intellectual and emotional substance. Art instead of consumer goods. A relationship is formed between the observer and the observed object through an active, situated seeing. The renewed and deconstructed diorama functioned as a form of presentation with contemporary and political topics such as consumer behaviour, environmental pollution, and institutional critique at the latest in the 20th century.

With Locked Up, Nasan Tur calls on passer-byers to compare their own sensitivities, priorities, and limitations with those of the actors who have lost their freedom. “An act of solidarity,” as the artist calls it. A change of perspective and a renegotiating of needs.

The show window proves to be a diaphanous spatial border and at the same time acts as the intermediary between collectiveness, individual-ness, private, public, and art space. It symbolises an outer and inner thinking space between local and global and is a suitable, yet underutilised medium for countering analogue and digital rigidity.

Source list:
Walter Benjamin: Paris, Hauptstadt des XIX. Jahrhunderts. In: Gesammelte Schriften V, published by Rolf Tiedemann, Frankfurt a. M. 1982.

Selection of further literature on show windoes in art: Nina Schleif: Schaufenster Kunst. Berlin and New York 2004. Sandrine Le Corre: L’Esthétique de la vitrine, Paris 2018.

Examples of modern works and artists: Le Vide by Yves Klein, Le Plein by Arman, the Mannequin photo series by Lee Friedlander, the Bonwit Teller & Co. show window, recorded by Andy Warhol, Skulptur Sortier Station und Diorama by Thomas Hirschhorn, Touch Cinema by Valie Export. [Last accessed: 29.11.2021] [Last accessed: 29.11.2021] [Last accessed: 01.12.2021] [Last accessed: 01.12.2021] [Last accessed: 01.12.2021]

Translation: Kali Thaker
VOILÀ ist ein Kooperationsprojekt von MM, M und der Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. Das Projekt wird gefördert von der Stiftung Kunstfonds (NEUSTART KULTUR, Projektförderung für kunstvermittelnde Akteur*innen) und Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH.

VOILÀ is a collabarotive project by MM, M and the Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. The project is funded by the Stiftung Kunstfond (NEUSTART KULTUR, project funding for art-mediating actors) and Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH. 
VOILÀ est un projet de coopération entre MM, M et la Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. Le projet est soutenu par la fondation Stiftung Kunstfonds (NEUSTART KULTUR, Projektförderung für kunstvermittelnde Akteur*innen) et Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH.