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Sigmund Jähn Döner Kebab Stand & Sigmund Jähn Park celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first German in space. On August 26, 1978, Sigmund Jähn flew on board Soyuz 31 to the Soviet space station Salyut 6, as a participant in the Intercosmos Space Program. Remarkable for times when both East and West Germany distinguished their heroes as clearly belonging to their respective states, Sigmund Jähn was declared, somewhat presciently, the “first German cosmonaut”.
To mark the occasion, Skulpturenpark permitted Bozhkov to rename a section of its park Sigmund Jähn Park and run the Sigmund Jähn Döner Kebab Stand for 7 days, 20 hours, and 49 minutes - the duration of Sigmund Jähn’s flight. During business hours (noon - 6pm, daily), tasty Turkish döners were cut and served from the spinning, celestial spit. The project involved the döner wagon, a life-size sculpture of Sigmund Jähn, and a series of hand-painted billboards, which presented the Intercosmos Space Program and its internationalist and futuristic aspirations. A live-feed, telescopic, surveillance camera focused on the food stand and cosmonaut from an adjacent building’s top-floor suite, and transmitted to a black and white monitor at street level. The issues of the piece were further underlined by a 23-minute musical piece composed by Yotam Haber, in collaboration with Bozhkov. Played from a radio in the döner wagon, NASA Voyager sound recordings of Jupiter provided a space for Beethoven’s “Turkish March” to encounter contemporary Turkish rap. Everyday sounds – walking, eating, playing and grooming cross paths with Islamic prayers and speeches by Erich Honecker, Kemal Ataturk,and Helmut Schmidt, only to dissolve into YouTube performances of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca”, Janissary music and German car commercials.
Bozhkov’s elaborate project intertwined topically unrelated, but significant conversations from the past with the present. On one hand, it opened a conversation with the problematics of articulating a national identity, and on the other, at the role space programs play in the “nostalgia for the future” experienced today. If the focus of the surveillance camera was any indication, it also celebrated the döner (invented here in Berlin’s Kreuzberg), as well as the potential multicultural face of post-division Germany – or is it post-German division?