CLARA MOSCH and Early Art Actions in the GDR

curated by Stephan Koal

The exhibition is dedicated to the work of the producers‘ gallery Clara Mosch, which was founded in 1977 in Karl-Marx-Stadt (today‘s Chemnitz) and existed until 1982, as well as the group of artists of the same name that developed from it.
The exhibition combines original artworks, editions and posters together with photographs from the Ralf-Rainer Wasse archive of the collection of the Lindenau-Museum Altenburg. It is the first institutional „solo exhibition“ in Berlin thst explores the work of Clara Mosch.

Foto: © Lindenau-Museum Altenburg / Archiv Ralf-Rainer Wasse

The memorable name is an anagram composed of the beginnings of the participants’ last names: CLA = Carlfriedrich Claus, RA = Thomas Ranft and Dagmar Ranft-Schinke, MO = Michael Morgner, SCH = Gregor-Torsten Schade. As the first producers‘ gallery of the GDR, as well as with their own multifaceted work, the group is one of the most important representatives of the GDR avant-garde.

One thematic focus of the exhibition is on the land art actions and pleinairs that were closely associated with Clara Mosch. These unconventional actions not only reveal the remarkable work of the avant-garde scene around Clara Mosch, but also highlight the various facets of the environmental movement and the relationship with nature in the GDR. Very relevant is the action „Bäume verbinden“ (1983), for which members of the group climbed two trees in Tabarz (Thüringen) and bandaged the branches with gauze. With this action attempting to draw attention to the rapidly spreading forest dieback, that is still progressing today.

The „Leussow-Koffer“ is another significant work. The edition, which was produced in collaboration with the Akarde Gallery in 1978, will be on display in its original form in the exhibition. The work was created after the action „Leussow Recycling“, in that the artists constructed monumental objects from felled wood and then burned them. The printed wooden suitcase contains limited prints and photographs, as well as test tubes that are filled with the ashes of the action.

One of Clara Mosch‘s proclaimed goals was to draw more attention to the destruction of the environment. A situation that has not improved, but rather intensified 40 years later. Because of this, the actions of Clara Mosch have lost nothing of their relevance and urgency. It is therefore especially interesting to consider them in the context of today‘s
discourses on ecology and climate protection.

The actions of the group were extensively photographed by Ralf-Rainer Wasse, friend and extended member of Clara Mosch. Even though it is fortunate that the actions could be recorded this way, the abundance of the documentation is highly ambivalent. For Wasse was, as it turned out after the fall of the wall, one of more than 120 employees whom the Ministry for State Security had contracted to observe and „decompose“ the group.

With the kind support of the Lindenau-Museum Altenburg, the Galerie Barthel + Tetzner and the artists, in particular Thomas Ranft. We also thank Studio Huelsenberg for the exhibition design.