U5: I love Clark
January 27 - April 2, 2023
curated by Helene Romakin and Lea Schleiffenbaum
Two cultures collided in 1989: daily life in the East and daily life in the West, in the various materials and forms that shaped their distinct lives. Today, if you look back, you may still detect overlaps, especially in the design of commonplace items like typewriters, kitchen mixers, and razors. While the West's products currently outweigh those from the East in the eyes of the general public, the East was left with the memory of a world of objects above all else. The Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR (Documentation Center for Everyday Culture of the GDR) in Eisenhüttenstadt, which is now the Museum for Utopia and Everyday Life, began collecting items from the GDR with public participation after the fall of the Wall. More than 170,000 items are currently part of the collection.
The artists' collective U5 looked through the extensive collection at the invitation of curators Helene Romakin and Lea Schleiffenbaum. The purpose was to enable access through the morphology of things and products rather than to remeasure present history. In contrast to its utilitarian characteristics, morphology is more interested in the shape of an object. What draws people to view or use the object? What connotations does it have?
With I love Clark, U5 takes listeners through associations and recollections, where the superimposition of realities and presences allows for new interpretations and connections. Through a find of slides titled "Pictures from Antarctica" from the former German Central Institute for Teaching Materials Berlin in the collection holdings, U5 unfolded a possible approach via the Georg-Forster Antarctic Research Station established by the GDR in 1976. After the Berlin Wall fell between the political systems, the station, located 15,000 kilometers from home, persisted for several years. It did so by surviving the state in which it was created.
U5 combines their own miniatures, sculptures, ceramics, and non-German everyday items with items from the Documentation Center for Everyday Culture of the GDR in this exhibition. In doing so, they strip the GDR artifacts of their historical context. A recent video piece furthermore highlights the various narrative levels of the artifacts and shows their backgrounds. The show explores how old conversations can be reinterpreted, which stories are remembered and lost, and what more is left of youth's yearnings than perfume, dripping candles, eggnog, and ozone records.
The exhibition is supported by the Landeshauptstadt Potsdam, das Museum für Utopie und Alltag, Beeskow und Eisenhüttenstadt, and ProHelvetia. We also sincerely thank Gabriele Fritzsche of Casino Perfume Saxonia.
The Zurich-based artist collective U5 was founded in 2007. U5 works in different media with an agenda that defies traditional notions of individual authorship.
Helene Romakin is a cultural scientist, independent curator, and author. She is currently writing her doctoral thesis on the Anthropocene and storytelling at ETH Zurich.
Lea Schleiffenbaum is an art historian and independent curator. She realizes her own projects and exhibitions in public space, among others, for Neue Auftraggeber.