of the



Reto Pulfer and
Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld

Ursus Olfaciens, Opening Reto Pulfer and  Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld

Bezirksamt Mitte [Source]

09/12/2017, 6 pm

Live Performance
by Eisklares Echo
[Mia von Matt and Reto Pulfer] 

Duration of the exhibition

09/13 – 10/29/2017

With a double exhibition by Reto Pulfer and Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld, the Bärenzwinger opens as a new exhibition venue in Berlin-Mitte. Side by side, the artists of the site's debut exhibition search for traces within this historical site: which are visible, smellable, audible, imaginable, perceptible, since the last bear, Schnute, died almost two years ago, leaving an animal-human absence in the bear pit?

The exhibition title points to the perhaps most transient of traces that can be experienced on-site. For Ursus Olfaciens, this means the scent left by the bear and the belonging sense of presence after its death, and at the same time, plays on the animal's pronounced sense of smell – likely a constant confirmation of human presence.

The cooled, abandoned rooms are heated. Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld, known for her work with alchemical processes, transforms the site into a sauna by means of a heated oven made from found stones which open wide the pores of the old masonry, the iron grating and steel doors of which bring to mind a small, cramped fortress. Within the pit, paralysis and numbness can dissolve, be set in motion, transform, detoxify. Schönfeld brews a site-specific sauna infusion and tea with herbs and berries picked from the vegetation-rife outdoor enclosure, as well as from the surrounding park, which visitors can imperceptibly absorb, experiencing the essence of the bear pit.  Newly constructed connections to the water system of the bear pit, through to the guard rooms, the drinking troughs of the bear cages, the water basins and the trenches of the enclosures, create an experimental well.

Reto Pulfer covers the skylight in the central space of the bear pit with a transparent textile in green and blue hues. The patchwork of fabric shows a map of Bern, birthplace of the artist and origin of Urs and Vreni – a gift from the city and the first pair of bears to inhabit Berlin's bear pit.

At the same time, the cloth can be read as an astronomical map of the galaxies in the constellation of Ursa Major. It engulfs the room with an intimate green-blue light, the view is steered into the interior of the bear cages and into the guard rooms. Straws on the floor, dust and cobwebs on the walls and bars, scratches on doors and hatches, bite marks in the wood, a calendar hanging on the wall left from 2015, a defunct phone – can all be observed in the rooms with a flashlight. Visitors will also stumble upon a transparent object, roughly the size of an adult brown bear, around which no-one can pass.

In a space once used as a broom cupboard, an installation unfolds that combines fragments from Pulfer's work: enveloped by an expansive, immersive painting, traditionally knotted ropes suspend self-built instruments, raku ceramics, power cables found on-site and nettle roots dug up from the right outdoor enclosure. This rhizomatic state is captured onto a small-scale painting. In the left outdoor enclosure, Pulfer allows more space for growing.

The resonance of a gong sounds farewell and new beginnings. For the exhibition opening's "Eisklares Echo" concert (Pulfer / von Matt), the music and clamor of the iron grating conveys the traces of the bears.

Curated by Nadia Pilchowski und Julia Heunemann


Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld (*1979 in Berlin) completed her studies in fine arts at Berlin University of the Arts in 2006. In her works, she reflects forms of the emergence of knowledge, power and truth. It incorporates methods from natural sciences, religion, archaeology or alchemy and implements them in various media such as photography, print, sculpture, installation or performance. 
Her works have been shown at numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the Gildar Gallery (Denver, USA), Aether Project Space (Sofia, Bulgaria); Zabriskie Point Geneva; Galleria Marso (Mexico City) and Goethe Institute (St. Petersburg), as well as in Hamburg's Kunsthalle, Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin); Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland and Muzeum Ludwig in Budapest. Schönfeld was granted a travel scholarship by the DAAD in 2005 and 2008, resident at Villa Aurora Los Angeles in 2011 and received the FOAM Talents Award of the Fotomuseum, Amsterdam in 2014. She lives and works in Berlin.

Together with Louis-Philippe Scoufaras (*1981, Montreal) Sarah Schönfeld formed the duo PPKK, founded in 2016. The duo see their collaboration as an informal nomadic lab which seeks to extract sources and meanings of specific contexts.



Reto Pulfer (*1981 in Berne) grew up in Arlesheim, Baselland and lives in Berlin. His space-filling, immersive installations from fabrics and found materials continue in performances, novels, music and painting. Since 2012, he has accompanied Mia von Matt under the name Eisklares Echo with improvised and music performances lasting several hours. In 2017, his monograph Zustandskatalog: “Catalog of States and Conditions” was published by Sternberg Press and featured at five individual exhibitions in 2015-2016, including: Center d'Art Contemporain Genève; Musée régional d'art contemporain Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerrannée, Sérignan; Spike Island, Bristol; Center international d'art et du paysage de l'île de Vassivière; Fórum Eugénio de Almeida, Évora.

Eisklares Echo is the collaboration of Mia von Matt and Reto Pulfer. The music performances by EE are attempts in transformation and rely on the intimacy of improvised timing. With synthesizer, electric guitar, kalimba, electronics, words and effects the duo creates extended, powerful soundscapes embedded in minimal visual magic. They formed in 2012 and played at galleries and clubs like Dingum, Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Swiss Institute, New York; Kosmos Theater, Vienna; Acud, Berlin.



Im Köllnischen Park

10179 Berlin

P + 49 [0] 30 901 837 461



Opening hours

Monday – Sunday
12am – 7pm

Admission free

Public Transport

U8 Heinrich-Heine Straße
U2 Märkisches Museum
U+S Jannowitzbrücke
Bus 165, 265, 248

Bezirksamt Mitte von Berlin
Amt für Weiterbildung und Kultur
Fachbereich Kunst und Kultur

Dr. Ute Müller-Tischler [Head of department]

Julia Heunemann, Nadia Pilchowski, Sebastian Häger [Art direction]

Evelyn Gregel [Communications]

Marie-Christin Lender [Education program]

Viktor Schmidt [Design]

Viola Vogel [Website]


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Supporter + Sponsors

With kind support from the interdisciplinary funding and district funds of the Senate Administration for Culture and Europe.

With many thanks to
Amt für Stadtentwicklung, Bauaufsichtsbehörde, Förderband e.V., Jugend im Museum e.V., Stiftung Stadtmuseum und KoSP GmbH.