Sonja Hornung

Projektraum Erkelenzdamm

In the form of a comprehensive archive, Opened attempts to trace the stories, interventions, and moments of change stemming from the project Emptying flags, exhibited in public space of the city over many months.

Neue Berliner Räume presents the follow-up exhibition to last year’s project Emptying flags by Sonja Hornung. Opened packages the project’s comprehensive archive in a fragmentary presentation.


Flags are carriers of ideological messages. Loaded with history and geography, they are symbols of domination. They predetermine identity. They include some and exclude others. This potent symbolism is part and parcel of a system of order that influences every individual at every moment.


Using her own system, Sonja Hornung generates flag patterns that have no historical basis: flags with no meaning. New flags are formed by chance. The artist retains the freedom to alter, exchange, or add new parameters to her system. The production of meaningless flags thus unfolds. As such, it borders on self-contradiction. The original significance of the flag is emptied out, while its frame is retained, and refilled with form and colour. Processes of disassembly and reassembly render visible the dynamics of the system from which the flag emerges. The artist brings together two mutually exclusive ideas, ‘flag’ and ‘meaninglessness’, opening a space to scrutinize the mechanism anchoring a flag to its signified and territory.


Borders exist, but their inverse – or absence – is born out of the same reality. Those borders, traditionally maintained between nation states, between ethnic groups, or between types of bodies, go hand in hand with their opposite: a borderlessness that is becoming a complex part of the everyday, be it in the form of global knowledge and information-sharing, or the transnational market of finance and trade. This ‘borderlessness’ is such that that it produces new, invisible forms of exclusion. Sonja Hornung’s long-term project probes this ambivalent space.


Importantly, the project moves beyond abstract terms, using public space as the realm to play out these tensions. Through public interventions, Sonja Hornung attempts to render visible a troubling borderless political space, and as a part of this she has annexed both used and unused flagpoles within the city.


Several months after the original exhibition project, Opened traces the stories and marks from these interventions.



Sonja Hornung

Projektraum Erkelenzdamm

Erkelenzdamm 11-13

10999 Berlin

8 April to 12 April 2014


Guided Tour

Michael Birchall & Sonja Hornung

11 April 2014


“I remain intrigued by the puzzle presented by an object that does not signify. […] Flags usually bind together nation with territory, and bodies with space. I wanted to see what happens if you take the potency of this symbol and prevent it from signifying, so that its potency can float freely, standing for anything or nothing at all. When I first started testing out the idea, in Flags with no meaning, I was interested in a sort of globalism, and an altogether naïve kind of utopianism. […] But at some point I began identifying aspects of borderlessness that already exist: the stateless individual, for example, or the global neoliberal capitalist market. That complicated things immensely, which made me want to tease out the concept in different (social) contexts in order to understand better.”
— Interview mit Sonja Hornung, a.muse, Julie Anne Miranda-Brobeck