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19 Jan 2010

Producing a Place at Neuer Sachsischer Kunstverein, Dresden

Invitation card designed by Kay Bachmann & Philipp Paulsen

Producing a Place


22 January – 24 March 2010
Opening: 21 January 2010, 7:30 PM

+49 341 64 04705

Neuer Sachsischer Kunstverein e.V.
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 56, 01109 Dresden
Telefon 0351 43 82 23 13
Telefax 0351 43 82 23 11

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Curated by Ilina Koralova

With: Martin Dammann, Heike Gallmeier, Oliver Kossack, Daniela Kostova, Kristina Leko, Via Lewandowsky, Marion Porten, Jozef Robakowski, Isa Rosenberger, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Tilo Schulz, Sean Snyder, Adrien Tirtiaux, Frank Voigt/Petra Lorenz

The exhibition Producing a Place (German title: Einen Ort herstellen) organised by the Neuer Sachsischer Kunstverein (New Saxon Art Association) is the first exhibition to be held at its new home in Hellerau. Hellerau, its history and the present day, is thus the starting point and focus of Producing a Place.

NSKV sees itself as the true successor of the Sachsischer Kunstverein that was founded in 1828 and enjoyed the patronage of such renowned personalities as Johann Gottlob von Quandt and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Their commitment to the arts has to be seen as an expression of the growing confidence of the bourgeoisie. The ideals of this social class were also reflected in the art of the 19th century. Some decades later, the middle classes (entrepreneur Karl Schmidt deserves a special mention here) proved pivotal in fostering progressive ideas, which for example found expression in the foundation of Hellerau. The architectural concept of the Festival Hall designed by Heinrich Tessenow marked a high point in the application of the principles of Modernism. From 1909 until the outbreak of the First World War, Hellerau was a thriving centre of the arts. Artists of international standing, such as Upton Sinclair, Emil Nolde, George Bernard Shaw, Franz Kafka, Oskar Kokoschka and Henry van de Velde visited or worked here. The rise of National Socialism and the subsequent socialist regime of the GDR contributed to the demise of these traditions, but not without leaving behind their own marks.

The architectural complex of Hellerau together with all the cultural institutions that are located there resembles a palimpsest. Many layers of history are discernible in this place, one on top of the other, the newer layers partly concealing the old. Here, it becomes clear that every era brings and seeks to impose its specific system of ideals and values. In the process, historical events that help to legitimise the respective societal ideals are pushed to the fore, whilst others fade into obscurity. The visibility of these historical layers is an important characteristic of Hellerau that has been incorporated into Festival Hall's overall restoration concept.

Given that the Neuer Sächsischer Kunstverein is celebrating its 20th anniversary, the exhibition also provides the opportunity to investigate through works of contemporary art the culture of memory as a dynamic process. The artists selected all deal with the politics of cultural memory and commemoration, to reveal the ideological constructions and analyse the myths that constitute memory.

The title of the exhibition 'Producing a Place' alludes to the fact that a place, its multiple connotations and meanings are not merely givens, but that these are actively produced by different groups of people and their respective interests. Indeed, the NSKV is presently establishing itself at a new location in Hellerau. At the same time however, the title refers to the productive process of creation and development, not only in terms of tangible products but rather the symbolic production of ideas and visions. Producing a Place also deals with this topic. Some of the artists isolate the role of architecture as a central theme, investigating how it supports and embodies societal ideals, as well as how it changes as a result of the different political ideologies of the 20th century. This particularly applies to the works of those artists who 're-enact Hellerau' by highlighting and bringing back to life specific aspects of Hellerau's history. Strategies of staging, stage performance and theatricalisation are central to many of the works in the exhibition, to establish a direct dialogue with the programme of the Festival Hall.

This place offers ideal conditions for the investigation of Hellerau as a 'utopian design for a new unity of work, living and culture' . Here, a further aim is to once again reveal and investigate invisible or forgotten aspects of history. The 20th century in Europe was dominated to a great extent by the socialist regime, the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Prior to 1989, art and culture were exploited by politics and commerce (economy) in different ways in both the Eastern bloc and in Western Europe. Some of the artists examine what conceptions of a 'socialist' or a 'free capitalist' society imply, and the iconographies and visual codes related to these models. In addition, the failure and heritage of socialist Modernism as well as forms of critique of current (neo-liberal) capitalism is a major interest of many of the artists. Some of the works investigate how the transition from a planned economy to a 'free market' with all its consequences for society has affected the lives of the people in post-socialist states.

The themes that have been outlined here in brief do not however result in a rigidly structured exhibition as the art works thematize more than one aspect of a particular problem. The artistic contributions overlap, expand on and complement each other. The layout of the exhibition space preserves this multiplicity of voice, the proximity between the respective artworks emphasises their differing conceptual approaches and enable new modes of interpretation. Considering the specific architectural requirements of the exhibition location – the exhibition had to be divided among different rooms as well as outdoors. It was necessary to develop a specific design, which establishes striking visual connections between the individual artworks and functions simultaneously as a system to guide visitors.