„Palast der Republik – Utopia, Inspiration, Controversy“ at the Kunsthalle Rostock, with works by over 40 artists, recalls a vanished and yet unforgotten building in Berlin. For a few weeks the Rostock exhibition will be accompanied by the show „Palast der Republik. Satellite – Kunsthalle Rostock at KVOST“ in Berlin which will act as a greeting to the city and at the same time as an invitation to Rostock.
With Árpád Bondy & Margit Knapp, Gerd Danigel, Georg Eckelt, Thomas Florschuetz, Fred Rubin, Berit Petzsch & Dana Mosemann, the exhibition shows six artistic positions, who are participating in Rostock and present more works in the Berlin satellite. In photography and video, the exhibition at the Kunstverein Ost approaches the building from its creation through its use to its demolition, thus offering the opportunity to encounter the Palast der Republik in Berlin again.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog published by Mitteldeutscher Verlag.
Árpád Bondy and Margit Knapp approach the Palace of the Republic in a special way with their film Der Hausmeister und sein Palast – ein Berliner Schicksal. They accompany their protagonist, a janitor, at work. The palace has been closed since September 19th 1990 due to asbestos-related risks, but was taken care of for some years after that. Without any final decision about the building’s future, the ritualized work of the remaining employee seems like a theatre play set on an oversized stage. Frozen in time, his day-to-day business of classifying and separating, cleaning and repairing retroactively highlights the exhaustion of material and time.
In 1973 Georg Eckelt received an order to create a photo documentation of the unique building Project „Palace of the Republic“ for the VEB BMK Ingenieurhochbau Berlin (state-owned construction operations). Eckelt, a free-lance photographer, had previously created vibrant imagery of industrial designs of the GDR. This long-term contract to document the construction of the Palace, led to an enormous inventory of photographs of the city, the building site and the completed palace. The image series Projektion der Terminierung shown here, was created between 1973 and 1976. Thousands of family photos document that the palace was a popular destination for outings for citizens of the GDR. Eckert’s son, a photographer also, took pictures of the palace’s ruins in 2004, that are on display in Rostock and retell the family’s story.
The series Palast by Thomas Florschuetz is set in the
building’s carcass after it’s decontamination from asbestos. The photographer traces the aesthetical strength of the ruin by showing sections of the steel construction, lights reflected on the surfaces, following architectural rhythms through the structures space. This fascination with the raw architecture, it’s bare columns and levels are accompanied by blurred views of its surroundings. The Berliner Dom, the Alte Dom and the Alte Nationalgalerie are seen through a streaky window. These vistas in the middle of Berlin’s historical district are likely to remain unchanged – no matter which building will offer them in the future.
In his work, the artist Fred Rubin uses and maintains pieces of bygone architectural structures. His installation Memento mori ¬− Gedenke, dass du sterben musst! points to transience by using a physically extremely sturdy object. One of the original windown from the Palace of the Republic is turned into a paradox, by symbolizing finiteness in a permanent way. About his installation and its background, Fred Rubin says: “The vivid glass façade of the palace is dead, it’s golden sheen just an illusion, the pastiche is flattened. The presentation of an alleged era in the form of a palace for the people and its triumphant failure as represented by its disappearance are interwoven in diverse ways.” Rubin elevates a remnant to something new: “The remaining palace window, displaced in time, becomes a witness to the triumph of failure, a victory over its own demise. The onlooker becomes a vivid part of the installation by his mirror reflection. He is transient, while the object on display is abandoned and worthless yet permanent.” The transmission of an architectural detail into an object of fine art as well as its political dimension ignite a heated debate.
In his photographs, Gerd Danigel observes people’s
everyday routines. The main foyer of the Palace of the Republic was a popular meeting place, with no entry fee or obligation to consume. The teenagers on the red sofas and the separate portraits convey the atmosphere of this room famous for its lamps. In his work from the 1980s Danigel observes the fringes and side stages of every ay life in the Palace of the Republic. In his images, personal encounters with friends and family, walking, waiting and the boredom of a public space are condensed into meaningful moments. His portraits of teenagers, couples and groups visualize the social and cultural meaning of the Palace of the Republic.
In their film ZWISCHENZEITRAUM. Chancen für einen Ort mit Erinnerung?, Dana Mosemann and Berit Petzsch document the public discussion surrounding the temporary usage of the ruin after it’s decontamination from asbestos. Through interviews, among others with Manfred Prasser, Amélie Deuflhard, Philipp Oswalt, Bruno Flierl and Christian von Borries, they meet protagonists of the different life phases of the building. In addition, the filmmakers present visual impressions from the inside of the building in 2003/2004 as well as short statements from visitors.
Texts by Elke Neumann