Shadows by David Černý

Shadows by Cerny

Mural art installation designed by David Černý with a multifaceted historic, artistic and psychological context for the Carossa Quartier at Streitstrasse in Berlin Spandau


Location : Facades of the 16 multi story houses inside the residential development 

Size : Full building heights

Execution: Facade Painting Company with paint according to CAD Data and technical requirements form building company & artist

Color Scheme : dark greys

The final version includes 8 shadow digital motives to be used in various constellations.

Wall 1 Motive A & B   Wall 2 Motive C & D  etc. 

Based on 8 Motives  a total of 72 combinations will be available

The Shadow principle

Since antique times countless myths and stories are known about imagery of the shadow. Especially in visual arts the shadow is a central element giving volume and contour, profile to objects and creating a visual depth.

David Černý’s Shadow proposal reduces the motives  to the bare, essential minimum and creates an interesting ambiguity.

The Shadow Art Encounter

Visitors will recognize the shadows from a large distance and will automatically be impressed by their size and dimensions on the walls.

From early childhood, every human understands the concept of the shadow and is regularly moved by its fascination. We remember observing, altering  and playing with our own shadow as children and we grow up to achieve more complex and intellectual thoughts as adults.

Literature, philosophy, psychology, art and architecture have created many famous examples highlighting various meanings of the shadow. Many of these aspects are deliberate or unconciously  available, shadows therefore have a meaning for everybody from the youngest to the most sophisticated and philosophical educated person. 

While the dimensions of the art work will be noticeable at all times its imagery is still temperate and reserved enough, not to dominate a visit  of the residential quarter. 

The art work is stimulating only, if the observer choose to engage with it.

Walking through the district and seeing the shadow motives will tell a different story every time to a person choosing to observe and experience the art work.

Residents of the building will obviously be stimulated more often to reflect on the art work. Under sunlight conditions the shadows on the wall will communicate with other shadows created by other buildings, surrounding objects and naturally people, adding more stimulation and possibilities to reflect on.


The final series of motives will be developed after the signing of an agreement with the artist.

The development of the pictograms will keep in mind the following requirements by the real estate developer:

  • a connection to Hans Corossa
  • a connection to physical labour – as a remembrance of forced labour used during WWII by Siemens

Commercial Proposal

  • Creation of 8 motives by the artist
  • Transfer of right for use on facades at the project, print and media use
  • Artist attendance for an opening event incl. press event
  • Artist statement concerning the project
  • Documentary of the many aspects of the art work by one text
  • Preparation of a English presentation for digital signage 

Base Price :  96.000 € excl. VAT

Additional motives beyond the base offer at 12.000 € each

Proposal for a publication / catalog

The artist suggests and strongly encourages to publish a catalogue and a website as digital signage to explain the many aspects of the art work. Naturally this maybe part of publication of the development as well. 

The artist will deliver an artist’s statement and suggests that additional third party authors elaborate more textual content like below. (Klick to open for additional information)


A white area and a missing centerpart of a shadow motives, which is just outlined, raises the question, what happened to the main part of the shadow ? 

The answer is in the historic context of the Carossa Quartier. The blank center is a refection about the untold stories of the people, who were used as forced labour on site during WW II.  While we see an outline of the existence, we notice that the inner self of the shadow is lost forever. With the historic context in mind the art work pushes to bring past and present intellectually together.

The shadows are to be seen as a reference to Art History in its completeness. 

According to the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder, both the Egyptians and Greeks take credit for the first picture. Pliny, however, writes that there is agreement that “it began with the outlining of a shadow.” He recounts a story of a young woman from Corinth, the daughter of a potter, who drew the outline of a young man’s shadow on a wall. She was in love with him and traced his profile before he departed on a journey abroad so she could remember him clearly. Her father produced a relief of her portrait, pressing clay into the outline of his silhouette and then firing his copy of the first drawing in a kiln.
According to the legend she invented the art of drawing and her her father invented sculpturing.

The shadows art-work is naturally a strong reference to ancient philosophy and Plato’s writings and reflections on light, form, truth, ideas, reality and the various perceptions of the same.

The Shadow allegory of the Cave is a story from Book VII in the Greek philosopher Plato’s masterpiece “The Republic,” written around B.C.E. 375. It is probably Plato’s best-known story, and its placement in “The Republic” is significant. “The Republic” is the centerpiece of Plato’s philosophy, centrally concerned with how people acquire knowledge about beauty, justice, and good. 

The Allegory is related to Plato’s Theory of Forms, wherein Plato asserts that “Forms” (or “Ideas”), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality.

Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge. In addition, the allegory of the cave is an attempt to explain the philosopher’s place in society.
Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

Today anthropologists claim, that the main cultural development of the human kind happened the moment the first hominid realized his own shadow on the wall of the cave and understood his ability to replicate his own picture by the use of dark material. They named the development Homo Pictor.

Hans Carossa is seen as a deformed shadow to underline the dichotomic vita of the author who was a celebrity during Nazi times.

Hans Carossa, (born Dec. 15, 1878, Tölz, Ger.—died Sept. 12, 1956, Rittsteig, W.Ger.), poet and novelist who contributed to the development of the German autobiographical novel.

After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Carossa chose the Inner emigration and rejected his appointment to the German Academy of Poetry, but in 1938 he accepted the Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt, and in 1941 at the European Poets’ Meeting he was appointed President of the European Writers’ League, which was founded by Joseph Goebbels in 1941/42.

Next year he stayed away from the embarrassing event. Despite his distance from the Nazi regime, Carossa was one of the most promoted writers. In 1944, in the final phase of the Second World War, Carossa was included by Hitler on the Gottbegnadeten list, the list of the six most important German writers.


Hans Carossa’s first publication, the poem Stella Mystica, appeared in 1907. This work, which is faintly reminiscent of a thirteenth century “Tagelied”, contains a classic theme which continues throughout the rest of Carossa’s writings: unshakable faith in the ultimate victory of the powers of light over darkness.

Adalbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl’s wonderous story about the man who sold his shadow to the devil in exchange for the purse of Fortunitas became world famous.

The story, intended for children, was widely read and the character became a common cultural reference in many countries. People generally remembered the element of the shadow better than how the story ended, simplifying Chamisso’s lesson to the idiom “don’t sell your shadow to the Devil.”

The Yiddish word schlemiel—borrowed from Hebrew shlumi’el—refers to a hopelessly incompetent person, a bungler. Consequently, the name is a synonym of one who makes a desperate or silly bargain. Originally the name meant friend of God, Theophilus.

In 1915 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner created a work cycle of 15 wood cut paper prints  on the base of the book. Kirchner saw parallels in the story to his own life and his feelings about inner turmoil.


Freud’s conception of the unconscious formed a part of the basis of the shadow consciousness that Carl Jung, his student and colleague, later put forward. Jung developed his theory of light and shadow psychology throughout his life.

Jungian Psychology Shadow Definitions
In Jungian psychology, shadow can refer to two different concepts. In one sense, the shadow includes everything in the unconscious mind, good or bad. In another shadow psychology definition, the shadow might include only the part of the personality that you don’t want to identify as self but still is a part of your unconscious mind. This dark side of your personality contains everything your conscious mind can’t admit about itself.
The Shadow And Archetypes
Jung was very interested in archetypes and often referred to them in his writings about shadow psychology. What are the archetypes? The word is used in art and literature to mean a symbol or motif that recurs, either in one work or across many.


Other work by David Černý

Prag Top Tower as shown on CNN

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