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14 Feb 2013

'Border Theories - Elian Somers' at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam


‘Elian Somers - Border Theories’
Image: Elian Somers, Kaliningrad - Border Theories, 2009-2013

'Border Theories - Elian Somers'
Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam
http://www.smba.nl

Info

16 February - 7 April 2013 Open: Tuesday – Sunday
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free entrance

Contact

mail@smba.nl

+31 (0) 204220471
+31 (0) 206261730

Address

http://www.smba.nl
Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam
Rozenstraat 59
1016 NN Amsterdam
The Netherlands

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It is with great pride that Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA) announces the solo exhibition by Elian Somers. By using photography and historical documentation, Border Theories investigates the relationship between architecture, politics and history in three Russian cities. In the 20th century Birobidzhan, Kaliningrad and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk were designed, built and redeveloped under the Soviet regime, with the utopian vision of a socialist city as the guiding principle. By examining their development, Somers reveals how visions of urban planners, nourished by political convictions, could control but never fully overwrite a city and its history. Coincidentally the exhibition is held in the Netherlands-Russia year, in which both countries deepen and intensify their relations.

Somers recorded these cities with an eye for the urban planning experiments of the past. Rather than using photography as a vehicle for architectural idolatry, she places her photographic observations in the context of archival material, text fragments and urban designer's plans. In this way she unfolds an account of how architecture is employed as a political instrument, to rewrite history in an urban landscape. Border Theories brings to light the several political agendas that lie behind these specific cities, but are not always equally visible or expressly present on the surface.

All the blueprints and urban planning visions that were developed over the course of time from different political convictions all conflict with one another, and are selectively erased or deployed. Here Somers's investigation touches upon a practice that is still very much with us today, because any succession of urban planning projects is ultimately a reflection of constantly changing political ambitions. Border Theories can be seen as a collection of such aspirations, and ultimately poses the question: from what convictions are cities and buildings designed and built, and how are these convictions made visible or, on the contrary, hidden?

Elian Somers (1975, Sprang-Capelle, The Netherlands) took her Masters in Architecture at the University of Delft and her Masters in Photography at AKV|St. Joost in Breda. Her photographic work is often a component of a long-term project in which she investigates the ideological foundations and history of an (urban) landscape. In these projects she frequently makes connections between photography and texts and other archival material, for instance to reflect on the modernistic utopia. Recent group exhibitions in which her work has appeared include ´Between The Map and The Territory´, TENT, Rotterdam; ´Learning from... Rotterdam´, Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven, Wilhelmshaven, Germany (2012).

During the opening of the exhibition Elian Somers's book Border Theories will also be presented. This publication is the result of the artistic investigation Somers undertook into the interplay of ideology, history and urban planning in three cities on the extreme boundaries of Russia. Photographs and texts cast light on the shadowy zone between plan and reality in Birobidzhan, Kaliningrad and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and the way in which urban planning is employed as a political instrument to write – and rewrite – history in the landscape.

Photography: Elian Somers; Texts: Hester van Gent, Elian Somers, Kerstin Winking; Translation: Sylvie Hoyinck, Eric Wulfert; Graphic Design: Hans Gremmen; Printing: Drukkerij Mart.Spruijt; Publisher: Fw:Books
‘Elian Somers - Border Theories’ is accompanied by SMBA Newsletter nr. 131 with an introduction by Joram Kraaijeveld and contribution by Roef Griffioen. The SMBA Newsletter is bilingual (EN/NL) and available for free in SMBA and as pdf on www.smba.nl.

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Lecture by Dr. Bert Hoppe

Saturday 23 March
3 p.m.

In the context of the exhibition Border Theories, the histo¬rian and Russia expert Dr. Bert Hoppe will give a lecture about the 'virtual history' of Kaliningrad and the politics of reconstruction. In this lecture he will give an outlook on the relation between politics and urban planning under Soviet administration between 1945 and 1970.

Bert Hoppe (1970, Gevelsberg, Germany) is editor for nonfiction at Rowohlt-Berlin. He studied at the Humboldt and Technical Universities in Berlin as well as at the Viadrina University in Frankfurt/Oder. Hoppe did his Ph.D. at the Humboldt University on relations of the KPD to Moscow under Stalin. He worked for many years for the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin, and occasionally writes articles for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Berliner Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He has published several books including A History of Russia and On the Ruins of Konigsberg:
Kaliningrad 1946-1970.

Language: English
Admission free, reservation through mail@smba.nl
More information at www.smba.nl

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The work Border Theories has been made possible by the Mondriaan Fund.
The lecture of Bert Hoppe is kindly supported by the Goethe Institut.
Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam is a project space of the Stedelijk Museum.