Whatʼs on
3. May 2021


Building, Art-in-Architecture and Design in Eastern Germany and Europe in the Post-War Era, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz

Two-day conference (stimulating ideas, debates, presentations) for researchers, scientists, artists, citizens, cultural politicians and activists

Dates: 1 – 2 October 2021
Organizer: Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz
with the support of the Kulturstiftung des Freistaats Sachsen/Culture Foundation of the Free State of Saxony and the European Capital of Culture Chemnitz 2025 Office
Venues: Stadthalle Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Kunstsammlungen am Theaterplatz

Over the past decade, modern building, art-in-architecture and design in the immediate post-war years, beginning in the 1950s, have received increasing attention and been reappraised, following a long period of neglect, disregard, partial destruction or defacement. MODERN MATRIX covers the many modernist movements, styles and tendencies, ranging from late Modernism, post-war Modernism, Brutalism, Western Modernism, deferred Modernism, socialist Modernism, the second Modernism to GDR-Modernism – the term Eastern European Modernism has recently enjoyed a comeback.

This upsurge in interest has been promoted from the scientific point of view in particular by historians of architecture and urban planning, by art historians and cultural scholars and by conservationists responsible for listed buildings But there is also a notable surge in public interest and civic involvement, leading to local, regional and European initiatives and digital platforms. Knowledge being generated and information disseminated is attracting widespread attention, enhancing the public image of Eastern European Modernism.

The term Eastern European Modernism stands for a special position in relation to other modernist tendencies and deserves to be considered separately, with a focus on developments in buildings, art-in-architecture, design and everyday aesthetics in the wake of the reconfiguration and reconstruction of Eastern Europe. This independent analysis should encourage a re-evaluation and debate about the criteria applied to date in the adoption of international modernist tendencies at the European level, for, “GDR Modernism should not merely be assessed according to the yardsticks of worldwide Modernism, but should be seen to have made its own independent contribution to the debate about these criteria. (…) A comparison with tendencies in Western Europe shows that the modern architecture of the Soviet Zone/GDR was open to stimuli from an international building culture that was eager to try out new things and willing to establish its own achievements on this foundation.” (Andreas Butter and Ulrich Hartung, Berlin)

This international conference aims to address and promote such theoretical considerations and scientific approaches in keynote lectures, paying special attention to GDR post-war buildings, art-in-architecture and design in comparison with West German and European architecture and design in the post-war period (Sessions A-D). Equally welcome are presentations of artistic approaches and the findings of artistic research relevant to the MODERN MATRIX I EASTERN EUROPEAN MODERNISM (Session E). These sessions will be complemented by a forum of local urban, regional and international initiatives aiming to preserve the artistic and cultural heritage of Eastern European Modernism and will underline the importance of their photographic, documentary and archival collections for addressing Eastern European Modernism in science and research (Session F).

The aim of these three types of sessions is to ascertain what features Eastern European Modernism and other European post-war tendencies have in common and what specific differences they are characterized by. How is post-war Modernism regarded and assessed in the different European countries and societies? In what way are the modernist concept and repertoire of forms interpreted in architectural, urban planning and formal aesthetic terms? Which traditional trajectories from before the War have been taken up again and how are these being developed further?

How does the European community today treat the cultural-artistic heritage of post-war Modernism, especially with regard to its potential for underpinning identity? In what ways can this diverse and many-voiced cultural heritage be preserved and in what way and by whom can it be communicated to later generations?

We invite proposals for contributions (length: 20 to 30 minutes), visual presentations and chairing of sessions (abstracts in German/English, max. 400 words and short biographies); deadline 15.6.2021, with the subject heading MODERN MATRIX I EASTERN EUROPEAN MODERNISM by email to: kunstsammlungen@stadt-chemnitz.de.

The following thematic sessions are planned:

  1. Eastern European Modernism – a different kind of Modernism? Reflections on and analysis of the concept of Eastern European Modernism in the context of European Post-war Modernism: values, norms, contexts, traditions and cultural transfers between East and West
  2. Building, space and the city at the interface of Socialism and Modernism: planned economy and architectural utopia, collectivity and individuality, architectural ensemble and individual building, types of buildings (this may include a consideration of the special construction demands of industrial buildings)
  3. Art-in-architecture (in theory, material and form) in the context of complex urban and environmental design
  4. Everyday forms and visual communication: design, script and advertising graphics in the context of work, living, leisure, sport, transport and spatial movements.

Further sessions will be devoted to artistic research (E) and to involvement and communication (F). The conference is planned as a hybrid attended event at the Stadthalle Chemnitz.

The Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz is organizing the two-day international conference against the backdrop of the successful acquisition in 2019, with the support of the Sächsische Landesstelle für Museumswesen (Saxon State Office for Museum Affairs) and the City of Chemnitz, of the collection of the designer Karl Clauss Dietel (*1934) and a stronger programmatic focus on design in Karl-Marx-Stadt in the European context. In parallel to the conference, a selection from the Dietel Collection will be presented in the exhibition simson, diamant, erika. Formgestaltung von Karl Clauss Dietel at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz from 27 Juin until 3 October 2021. Programme and exhibition are sponsored by the Culture Foundation of the Free State of Saxony and have been developed in collaboration with the European Capital of Culture Office 2025 and C³ Chemnitzer Veranstaltungszentren GmbH. The conference was conceived by Jeannette Brabenetz and Dr Frédéric Bußmann. The aim of the conference is to contribute to the thematic focus on Eastern European Modernism in the run up to the European Capital of Culture 2025, along with the conference Kunst und Welt im Übergang. Visionen und Skepsis im Jahr des Mauerbaus 1961 (Art and the World in Transition. Visions and Scepticism in 1961: the Year the Wall was Built) on 9 and 10 September 2021 at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz organized by the Carlfriedrich Claus Archive.


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