DOUBLE BOUND ECONOMIES READING AN EAST GERMAN PHOTO ARCHIVE, 1967–1990 EXHIBITION FROM MAY 6 – JULY 1, 2012
Reinhard Mende: 04439_05 Vertreterempfang in Falstaff Rundgang Minister Mozambique 16.03.1978 (c) Reinhard Mende / PRODUZIEREN 2012
HALLE 14: Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, Baumwollspinnerei, Leipzig
Double Bound Economies begins with a photo archive from the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The photographer of the archive is Reinhard Mende. Produced as commissioned works, these photographs document and dramatize the situation of productions in Volkseigene Betriebe (VEBs; people-owned enterprises) and the Internationale Leipziger Messe from 1967 to 1990.
The trade fair in Leipzig was then the most important site of trade between the East and the West, and so these photographs in particular mark an economic space that had two sets of ties: socialist ones, in terms of its production, and capitalist ones, in terms of its presentation. They included ties to the countries of the former Non-Socialist economic region (NSW), such as the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Sweden, and France, as well as countries that since the mid-1970s had been involved in revolutionary struggles for liberation, such as Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.
From that starting point, Double Bound Economies moves toward contemporary artistic and spatial positions, historical and theoretical analyses, and the production of a video project. The various forms of practice, both in terms of reading the archive and of the sometimes independent actions of the artists, raises the following core question: What forms of articulation are available to us to grasp the contradictions of the mutual involvements of socialism and capitalism in the form of design and visual production and to make them useful for current problems?
As a freelance photo documentarian in the GDR, Reinhard Mende worked independently of the usual agenda of the socialist planned economy and thus, much like the East German photographer Evelyn Richter, pursued a practice based on fees, which from the early 1970s onward was not unusual, especially in the context of the trade fair in Leipzig. He produced a body of work comprising around sixteen thousand photographs commissioned by various GDR collective combines. Seen from today’s perspective, they reveal a distanced view of the subjects they depict. At the same time, these photographs initiate a policy of ambivalent memory that vehemently refused any nostalgic reconstruction of a historical moment.
Double Bound Economies is centered on collective practice as a method of bringing things up-to-date, both in relation to the presentation of the archive and in the spirit of a curatorial method. Artists, theorists, scholars, and former participants were invited to view, comment on, or select from the archive. This collective work method resulted in a polyphonic dramatization of the archive while also reporting on a nonlinear approach to the GDR.
For example: Thomas Weski made a contribution to the exhibition and catalog. By selecting photographs from the archive, Katrin Mayer realized a new installation of text and images. Bettina Allamoda is showing a new, large installation based on her long-standing interest in forms of design and display in the GDR. Kiluanji Kia Henda produced a work concerned with the traces of socialism in Angola. In parallel with these new works, existing works are also being shown: Christopher Williams is presenting photographs taken in Senegal and elsewhere in the mid-1990s. KP Brehmer’s works compare the economic developments of the FRG and the GDR. The cinematic works of Harun Farocki and of Allan Sekula and Noël Burch address the mechanisms, symbols, and visual production of capitalist economies. The contribution from the Otolith Group sheds light on socialist internationalism between India and the East bloc countries. Malte Wandel explores the living conditions of Mozambicans who were contract workers in the GDR. There are interviews with the photographer Reinhard Mende; the economic historian Matthias Judt; Hans-Otto Bräutigam, the former permanent deputy of the FRG in the GDR; the designer Peter Herbert Beyer; and Helgard Hirschfeld, the archivist of the Leipziger Messe.
Double Bound Economies is directed by the curatorial team of Estelle Blaschke, Armin Linke, and Doreen Mende. It consists of a traveling exhibition (architecture: Kuehn Malvezzi), a publication (design: Werkplaats Typografie, Arnhem; publisher: spector books, Leipzig) and a website that will make the archive accessible to the public for the long term (www.doubleboundeconomies.net).
Double Bound Economies opens as a guest exhibition in the independent art center HALLE 14 in Leipzig Station, which since 2002 had been using a twenty-thousand-square-meter production hall on the grounds of the Baumwollspinnerei in Leipzig for exhibitions of contemporary art and other art projects. Double Bound Economies has been produced in collaboration with the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe and is supported by the Stiftung Federkiel.
Centre de la photographie, Geneva
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
The project is funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation).
Reinhard Mende, b. 1930, photographer (D)
Bettina Allamoda, b. 1964, artist (D); Addis Belete, b. 1976, photographer (ET); Peter Herbert Beyer, b. 1933, Designer (D); Fabian Bechtle, b. 1980, artist (D); Hans-Otto Bräutigam, b. 1931, Diplomat (D); KP Brehmer, 1938-1997, artist (D); Haile Gabriel Dagne, b. 1941 (ET); Paola de Martin, b. 1965, design historian (CH); Harun Farocki, b. 1944, artist (D); Mark Fisher, b. 1968, theorist (UK); Laure Giletti, b. 1986, graphic designer (F); Otolith Group, Kodwo Eshun, theorist, b. 1967, and Anjalika Sagar, b. 1968, artist (UK); Sven Johne, b. 1976, artist (D); Matthias Judt, b. 1962, economic historian (D); Kiluanji Kia Henda, b. 1978, artist (AO); Helgard Hirschfeld, b. 1949, archivist (D); Valeria Malito, b. 1984, design student (IT) and Katja Saar, b. 1984, design student (D); Kuehn Malvezzi, architects (D, IT); Katrin Mayer, b. 1974, artist (D); Allan Sekula, b. 1951, artist/theorist (USA) and Noël Burch, b. 1932, critic/filmmaker (USA); Kerstin Stakemeier, b. 1975, art historian (D); Philip Ursprung, b. 1963, art historian (CH); Thomas Weski, b. 1953, curator (D); Malte Wandel, b. 1982, artist (D); Christopher Williams, b. 1956, artist (USA, D).
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