Schwedt ready!

2014-01-04 13.46.49This post comes to you from Schwedt Oder. For non-German readers: it’s a town situated in north-east Brandenburg (Uckermark) on the Polish border. It was largely destroyed in WW2, and subsequently became a hub of industry. It’s still home to a major paper manufacturers and an oil refinery (an oil pipeline from the USSR ended there). In the 1960s and 70s,  the incoming workers needed housing and so a lot was built in the town during this period. Despite the dominance of GDR-era structures, Schwedt isn’t the mine of untouched East German public art that I had expected. Many of the buildings have been repainted in a defiantly un-GDR colours: pale yellows, pinks, oranges, purples and terracotas. But the upside of the town’s redecoration is its slightly toytown-esque feel, which makes it a jollier place to visit than many other towns in the former East. The downside is that you have to look a bit harder than usual to find things (apart from the very obvious GDR murals, more of these to follow) – my companion and I spent much of the day wandering around fairly nondescript housing estates, hoping that we’d suddenly be confronted by some amazing mosaic. Which we were, a couple of times.

The metal sculptures pictured below can be found on the sides of the lowrise Plattenbauten inside the Julian Machlewski Ring.  As usual, I have no provenance info (this has to change!!!), so what follows is just some speculation, rather than useful facts about the art. Given the context, I think we can, however, assume that these sculptures make reference to local industry or more general East German/Socialist achievements and ideals. 2014-01-04 13.46.56This one contains a classic East German symbol- the dove- representing peace – coupled with a very schematised flower. Nice and utopian. Maybe the flower could refer to something local? 2014-01-04 13.47.022014-01-04 13.36.33I assume this microscope with an eye relates to science of some sort (you wouldn’t know I have a degree in art history, would you?). It’s got a very nice 1960s sci-fi aesthetic. Looks like it could belong to some sinister global corporation.

2014-01-04 13.36.37 2014-01-04 13.36.182014-01-04 12.43.56This one is some kind of reference to the processing of dairy and corn/wheat products, I assume?

2014-01-04 12.43.37 2014-01-04 12.53.16 2014-01-04 12.52.43And this snake resembles the kind of thing that’s normally found outside pharmacies, which mean it has something to do with medicine/the pharmaceutical industry.2014-01-04 13.32.41

Yes, it’s a globe and compass, symbols which I’d traditionally associate with Urania, the Greek muse and patron of astronomy. But I’d also associate them with navigation. But what they mean in this context is a mystery. And the (cyrillic?) lettering inside a book? Anyone? 2014-01-04 13.32.32

 PS Thanks to Carsten for suggesting I visit Schwedt!
Advertisements

Kunst am Bau


An exhibition documenting the work of Kunst am Bau, a GDR artists’ collective, opens in Dresden this Saturday. KaB worked on many of the large scale urban developments in East Germany and shaped public art across the country . Formed in 1958, the group consisted of painters,architects, graphic designers, and ceramists. They produced around 2,500 works in Dresden, Halle, Leipzig & Berlin, including mosaics, murals, sculptures, fountains, molded walls (including the distinctive rippled walls), structural walls & playground features.

Despite being dependent on state patronage and approval, the group didn’t really subscribe to the official Socialist Realist style & embraced more radical styles such as abstraction and cubism. The work was space-age, utopian and pretty outlandish. Have a look at the elephant pictured below, built from prefabricated components:

The group was dissolved in 1990.
In years following the Wende, many of their works were destroyed and/or fell into disrepair.
The KiB exhibition brings together some of the KiBs surviving works, removed from their original architectonic contexts, photos of the ones which didn’t survive, as well as documents relating to the state commissions, and reflects the renewed interest in the once discredited visual culture of the GDR.

The exhibition is in their former studios in southern Dresden and runs til the 25. Sept.

http://www.kunst-am-bau-ddr.de/ausstellung-2011.html

Off the wall

This very striking wall and its ceramic sculptures are located in a very undignified position between two takeaways, a portaloo and a Plus supermarket in Schillingstrasse, Mitte. I can’t find any info about it anywhere. It’s pretty mad, radical design, even by East German standards. Schillingstrasse seems to have been a showcase for GDR design, with Cafe Moskau & Kino International at its northern end, this in the middle, and some great mosaics on the buildings at its southern end (see next post). This wall isn’t protected so unless the Denkmalschutz people get on the case, it may disappear – a lot of the surrounding area is still distinctly post-communist (see Berolinastrasse) and thus cheap, but also very central, making it prime demolition/redevelopment territory.

Pfauntain

Peacock fountain by Margit Schötschel-Gabriel (bronze & concrete,1978), Holzmarkstrasse, Mitte

This fountain is located on the corner of Holzmarktstrasse and Alexanderstrasse, next to the cafe zur Jannowitzbrücke. The Pfauenbrunnen (Peacock fountain) was executed in 1978 by Margit Schötschel-Gabriel, who also produced various sculptures for the Tierpark, including this very bizarre little fellow.