The City and the City

Vlad Nancă is the recipient of the KVOST stipend, that was announced for the first time in 2019. His solo exhibition The City and the City combines earlier works with pieces, that were realised during his six-week stay in Berlin as artist in residence.

Three iconic landmarks of the former East-Berlin serve as referential anchor points of his explorations into the urban space: Weltzeituhr (World Time Clock), TV tower and Haus des Lehrers (House of Teachers). Nancă, who was born in Bucharest in 1979, set out to retrieve some of his own childhood memories from the still existing socialist structures around Alexanderplatz.

His video work Dacia – 30 Years of Social History (2003) deals with the car model as the symbol of a now disenchanted faith in progress. On an old GDR postcard, he discovered a Dacia with a Romanian license plate, parked in front of Haus des Lehrers. The monumental mural on the building’s facade was created by artist Walter Womacka between 1962 and 1964. Nancă relates to Womacka’ aesthetics in two ways: by recreating fragments of his mosaic and by incorporating two of Womacka’s original works into the exhibition. A further item on loan is a cityscape by Bulgarian artist Kamen Stoyanov, displaying visual similarities to old images of East-Berlin.

By pointing out the commonalities of city planning in the former eastern bloc, Nancă sets the cliché of Berlin as “divided city” against the idea of a double city. In past and present, socialism and capitalism, Berlin seems to exist twice – just like the famous Weltzeituhr standing on Alexanderplatz and in the small town of Falticeni in the northeast of Romania.

The title of the exhibition The City and the City references a novel by British sci-fi writer China Miéville, describing how two separate cities can occupy the same space, yet keeping its occupants isolated from each other. Passages of the novel as well as Ben Okri’s The Freedom Artist form a vivid text collage, serving as soundtrack for another video work, that combines images from Alexanderplatz and Falticeni.

Nancă, who’s interest lies in the interrelationship between ideologies and architecture, traces the effects of totalitarian systems on their subjects. Contemporary Berlin-Mitte and the disappeared East-Berlin merge into a psycho-geography, were the urban space remains over layered with atmospheres, emotions and memories of the former eastern bloc.

Text by Diana Weis / 2019