Ruins are unstable by definition. They are forms altered physically by time, culturally always. As art they are only partly aesthetic since they stand as remains of something else, of which they become shadows or echoes informing a critique. The exhibition IN IN THE THE FUTURE FUTURE casts a shadow in reverse by engaging with ruins, as future in the past, not as in the English grammatical verbal tense, but in its literal sense. This landscape marked by abandonment, made up of remains of Modernist architecture claims to be timeless. If an apocalyptic scenario is usually placed in the future, the black and white photograph of a rainbow taken in 1986 sends us back to the past. This photo projected on the wall was adapted for a slide projector, an obsolete piece of technology whose mid XX century’s metallic, familiar sound sharply punctuates the passing of time. The carousel is placed on a stand, partly aesthetic, partly functional, a constant element of classical modernist architecture. We can imagine, this landscape as a time capsule, temporally located at the moment when this photograph was taken by Kristin Wenzel’s father in former East Germany where the family lived. This personal detail is read as an artifact not in its literal sense but as an artistic position founded on the need for self-mythologizing.
The photo has a counterpart, an immaterial image of a ‘’rainbow’’, artificially created with light reflecting water, just like in the secondary-school lab. Largely speaking, the rainbow is a pure childlike image. Children make soap bubbles, make objects out of folding paper or cardboard. Within the architectural setting of the exhibition, Wenzel places the three parrots made out of cardboard in order to activate personal memories, an act which also triggers a re-evaluation of a whole set of socio-political structures. Everything is organized as to evoke the final image J. G. Ballard’s 1975 SF novel High-Rise, where the birds are the last inhabitants of a Modernist block of flats. Similarly, the parrots become the only witnesses to tell it further but to whom, since no cultural object can retain its power when there are no longer new eyes to see it.
The exhibition includes an approximate 1:1 replica of a newsstand, a kind of one person booth which juxtaposes outside and inside. Wenzel scouts for her perfect locations. Kiosks, abandoned display windows or provisional architectural structures with stories to tell starting from the 70’s in Bucharest or Berlin, become exhibition spaces for her temporary interventions. Excavating within our recent past is also revealing certain ideologies in/forming how institutions choose to archive our cultural heritage. If architecture is by definition political, Wenzel is in constant search of new and more complex ways to highlight it. The view of one of the parrots sitting on top of a four meter something high tower is partly obstructed by the ceiling beam from different positions of ElectroPutere gallery’s exhibition space. A purposefully violent act on behalf of Wenzel, whose interest in Modernist architecture comes with its associations of top-down management, its inbuilt universalism or purity of design. Small tiles partly cover the sculptures or are spread out on the floor next to them. They are copies after ceramic tiles picked up on the streets of Craiova, where they were produced before ‘89 by a now defunct factory. Her latest projects treat the obsolete as fertile ground for dealing with so much debated transition from state economy to global capitalism. Chapter 8 installation initiated in 2018 by CNTRM WRNHS Project Space is a site-specific intervention in an abandoned guard house in former East Berlin to be demolished by the end of 2018. Wenzel’s response to their invitation was to build a 1:4 scale replica of the same booth which she placed inside it, as an act of personal homage.
This cultural heritages which indeed are just ruins now are treated like that bachelor uncle at the Sunday family lunch, who you don’t quite know where to place him at the table. The dominant state of mind in Romania is still under the auspices of a self-imposed amnesia. Communism is generally understood in Eastern Europe, as an intermission or delay in the ‘normal’ development – a delay which, once it was over, left no traces other than a expected certain appetite to ‘make up for lost time’ and build a capitalism of the Western type. To recuperate and rescue some of disavowed ideals and artistic practices, as well as historicize objectively that period through the lens of its utopian ideals, is much needed now while keeping away from falling prey to nostalgia and become obsolete.
In popular culture around the globe, dystopian visions have not yet obliterated utopian hopes for more favourable futures. The abundance of films depicting the end of world has elicited a well rehashed phrase that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism, which in the good old fashion postmodernism springs up without having its source quoted. Yet, resistance to the maladies of the present can also be seen rising and falling as circumstance allow, sometimes enabling us to renew our attachments to life by embracing both its real sorrows as well as its possible joys. If dystopian landscapes are usually about some sordid future for the 99%, the exhibition IN IN THE THE FUTURE FUTURE reflects the future through the lens of an event belonging to the past. One hypothesis I have lately came across is that the end of the world already had happened, that we couldn’t get more self-destructive than we already have done so, which would allow us to focus on re-construction.
Curated by Mihaela Varzari
Kristin Wenzel attended arts academy in Münster and Düsseldorf and graduated in 2013 as a Meisterschülerin of Prof. Katharina Fritsch. Her latest solo shows include “chapter 8” (2018) initiated by CNTRM, Berlin, “nothing” (2017) at Sightfenster, Cologne or “Model for a Pavilion #2” (2017), Bucharest. In 2018, together with the artists Vlad Brăteanu, Alice Gancevici and Remus Pușcariu, she co-founded ”Template”, an artist initiative and exhibition project in Bucharest.
Mihaela Varzari lives in London, she is undertaking a PhD in History of Art at University of Kent, UK. She has previously studied at Birkbeck College and Goldsmith College between 2009 and 2015. She is an independent curator who has worked with artists like Liliana Basarab (Ro), Ziad Antar (Lb) and Heath Bunting (UK). In 2008 she has started publishing art criticism texts for Revista ARTA (Bucharest), thisistomorrow (London), IDEA arts+society (Cluj) etc.