An exhibition and digital tour around selected sculptures and architectural artworks from the Alexanderplatz through the Leipziger Straße to the Platz des Volksaufstands von 1953.
A project by KVOST – concept Stephan Koal
together with Edouard Compere, Martin Maleschka and Reinder Wijnveld
in cooperation with History App Berlin
The project “THERE YOUR ARE!” has made its goal to encourage a discussion about architectural art from the GDR, using the “Komplex Leipziger Straße”, which was listed as a heritage site 2020, as its springboard.
To that effect, a digital itinerary was developed in collaboration with the berlinHistory App, in which over 30 artworks from Alexanderplatz to Platz des Volksaufstandes von 1953 along Leipziger Straße are described and explained. Through this collection of texts and images, concrete knowledge about the artworks and artists can be communicated, in a format that is both expandable and long-term.
This digital education platform is connected with an exhibition in KVOST’s rooms, with objects and artworks from the collections of Fred Rubin, Martin Maleschka, Reinder Wijnveld, Gertraude Pohl, Kunstarchiv Beeskow and Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Mitte (WBM).
The exclamation “THERE YOU ARE!” expresses the happiness and relief in the moment of rediscovery. In this case, the meeting of the present and the past which awakens memories while bringing our familiar surroundings into sharp focus. This exhibition by KVOST focuses on the design of the city centre of East Berlin in the late 1960s and approaches it from three distinct perspectives.
Elements of the city infrastructure, together with fragments from disappeared buildings, are recontextualized through their translocation into the exhibition space. In this way, elements from the façade of the “Centrum Warenhaus” meet with street lights and a ceiling lamp from the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (today housing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs). These objects are all part of Fred Rubin’s collection, an artist who works with spare parts of past architectures and translates those building elements into works of art. He deals with places which are “always standing just short of oblivion, in the fight between forgetting and remembering.” He extracts objects from these places, objets abandonnés (abandoned objects), and transforms them into objets trouvés (found objects). Through this memory work, they gain a new lease of life. The ceiling lamp from the Central Committee, for instance, had already found its way into the foyer of the Nikolaisaal in Leipzig, in a collaboration with French architect Rudy Ricciotti. However, this installation proved to be too much of a challenge for the politics of memory: The lamp was removed, a testament to the great latent power inherent in these objects.
A window grating from the former Polish Cultural Centre at Karl-Liebknecht-Straße (on loan from the WBM) reveals the shifting boundary between infrastructure and architectural artwork, while it is itself being reimagined as a minimalistic visual composition.
The urban space of which these objects were once an integral part is represented by an assemblage of over 200 postcards from the collections of Martin Maleschka and Reinder Wijnveld. They all meld together to create a fragmented city map, made up of a hundred individual shots, mirroring the self-image of the GDR’s capital. The postcards, once utilitarian, mass-produced objects, are now both a historical source and witnesses to the city’s past. They depict disappeared buildings, reveal blocked sightlines and make it possible to experience the variety and versatility of the designed urban space.
A design sketch by the artist Gertraude Pohl of her glass and ceramic mural on the 37th floor of the Hotel Stadt Berlin (today the Park Inn) stands in for the category of architectural artworks. The energy, momentum, and vitality expressed by its vivid colours can also be found in Günther Brendel’s Bauarbeiter des Alexanderplatzes (construction workers of Alexanderplatz). The painting from 1969 is from the collection of the Kunstarchiv Beeskow. This example of an artistic approach to the rebuilding of the city centre is a celebration of the building process, the traces of which can be seen in the exhibition.
These three approaches, the physical traces and spolia of that which has disappeared, the postcards as an urban atlas and the artworks as an expression of hope and ideal, meet one another in KVOST. From this meeting, a distillate emerges, a concentrated impression of a particular place at a particular time. The invisible is made visible and throws a new light unto the present, inviting us to discuss the current developments in the cityscape.
Edouard Compere / 2021