Eastern Sugar Oberbayern
Schafhof – European Center for Art
Freising / Munich, DE
23. 4. – 4. 7. 2021
The exhibition project Eastern Sugar Oberbayern consists of two individual presentation parts - the solo exhibition Sugarloaf Manufacture and Archive by Ilona Németh and the collective exhibition Crossing Borders.
Sugarloaf Manufacture and Archive
curator: Nina Vrbanová / SK
exhibiting artist: Ilona Németh / SK
In collaboration with Marián Ravasz (architect), Olja Triaška Stefanović (photo essays) and Martina Slováková (videos)
The participatory installation Sugarloaf Manufacture reconstructs memory through the fundamental human activity of a working process. Symbolically it transmits the past into the present and revives the production process and jobs lost by thousands of employees of the extinct sugar factories in the former Eastern Bloc. Visitors can produce the sugarloaves and take half of their own production home as a souvenir.
The interactive installation Archive in the form of a figurative storage depot presents the current state of sugar factories as ruins of the savage capitalism of the early 1990s. It contains photo portraits of sugar factories in the Slovak territory and video interviews with key-players of the sugar industry.
The participatory installation Sugarloaf Manufacture induces real factory premises in an austere design of the food industry. In this case, the artist also reconstructed the memory through such a fundamental human activity as a working process. The installation is not only intended to enable the performance of manual work, but also to facilitate mental participation (layers of remembering, empathy, identification etc.). In the “open workshop”, in which sugarloaves can be manually produced a half of the production can be taken home from the exhibition as a souvenir or a kind of a “memory object”, the artist engages ordinary visitors, and, where possible, also individuals with a personal story or experience working in a sugar factory. Through a temporary work activity, the artist opens the floor for the viewer´s empathy, as well as critical reflection on the loss of values brought about by post-revolution transformation processes, as well as global political and economic events, which resulted in the gradual demise of the sugar industry in the region of the former Eastern Bloc (loss of jobs as a social and cultural value). For this exhibition, the large-size installation implemented in cooperation with architect Marián Ravasz has been newly adapted to the gallery premises and supplemented with new objects. It expands the gallery context to a new engaging and socially involved function. Symbolically it transmits the past to present, reviving the production process and jobs lost by thousands of employees of the extinct sugar factories.
The large-size interactive installation Archive was implemented in cooperation with architect Marián Ravasz. In the paradoxical form of a figurative deposit, it encodes the present face of sugar factories as devastated ruins of the savage capitalism. The paradox of the artwork lies in the involvement of a seemingly neutral form of a depository system, as we know it from memory institutions such as museums or galleries. The present time and the current state of factories are expressed in the museum archive with reference to the past. Its layers, that can be symbolically “pulled out of memory”, contain the installation of current photo portraits of almost all sugar factories (their architectural as well as interior remains) in the Slovak territory. The artist, together with photographer Olja Triaška Stefanović, mapped and recorded the particular “crime scenes” and their individual narratives. From iconic images of factory chimneys through the corroding skeletons and desolate fields to the bourgeois dwellings of the former entrepreneurial culture. The Archive is a synthesis of a long-term research by Németh focused on the history and gradual decline of the Slovak sugar industry. It settles accounts with the key players, critically reflecting their role in the post-revolution transformation that has fatally impacted a broad area of sugar production and trade. In addition to photographs, the Archive is made up of a collection of video interviews with key-players of the sugar industry, as well as video essays, into the concept and production of which the artist engaged Martina Slováková and Cukru production.
The collection of video documents that the artist conceived in the framework the post-production tools as oral history, offers, in terms of information and essential and yet visually suggestive exposure of the central theme – the transformation of the sugar industry after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The interviewees of the research simultaneously include different actors of the given processes fulfilling different positions: public officials, directors, or profiteering investors, but also employees of former sugar factories, who, on the contrary, have lost their jobs and the job-related relationships, social, cultural, and economic values. In the visual composition of the videos, the actors´ memories and narratives are confronted with the reality of devastated or even completely destroyed factories, which we can see “live” in authentic video footage and drone footage. Specifically, on the occasion of the exhibition at Schafhof, the artist expanded the range of perspectives and views on the topic in the context of new borders between West and East, structured based on capitalism and market rules. In addition to different positions, we can also perceive a specific level of (un)involvement and convenient interpretation of ultimate responsibility, which is quite impersonal, melted down in the processes of privatization and the onset of capitalism and, ultimately also of regulations adopted by the long-dreamed-of and desired European Union. The extinction and loss, in this case, do not find a culprit – “that's life” – as Christian Laur says. The video recordings were co-edited by Dóra Rudas.
curator: Alexis Dworsky / DE
concept: Eike Berg / DE
exhibiting artist: Heath Bunting / UK, Mladen Miljanović / BA, Wermke/Leinkauf / DE
The exhibition Crossing Borders presents artistic positions that explore, question and overcome in subversive ways borders in and around Europe.
The Berlin based artist duo Wermke/Leinkauf draws a line from the German division to the present in their reenactment of Überwindungsübungen (Exercises in Getting Over). The Bosnian-Herzegovinian artist Mladen Miljanović transforms depictions from military books into a guide for refugees on how to cross borders. The British internet artist Heath Bunting documents his adventurous crossings of European borders in the real and virtual world.
Wermke/Leinkauf: Overcoming Exercises
Reenactment, Berlin, 2015; Installation: 6-channel Slide projection, framed C-Print, handout
The Berlin based artist artists duo Wermke/Leinkauf is especially known for their work in which they replaced the two US flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with white flags. The works of Wermke/Leinkauf often deal with political issues and are very site specific. Thereby climbing and overcoming obstacles is used as an artistic strategy.
In the exhibition in the Schafhof their work Überwindungsübungen (Exercises in Getting Over) is presented. The starting point for this project are historical archive photos that show East German soldiers simulate the overcoming of the Berlin Wall – to make it more difficult to overcome this border. Wermke/Leinkauf transfers these fake escapes into the present and carry out the corresponding overcoming exercises along the former German-German border in Berlin.
Mladen Miljanović: The Didactic Wall
Engraved drawings on a marble wall, handbooks, 2019
Mladen Miljanović is an artist from Bosnia-Herzegovina whose works were shown among others at the 55th Venice Biennale and in many galleries and museums, especially in Eastern Europe. The starting point for his work The Didactic Wall were illustrated books that he came across during his time as a soldier. They contained information on how one can overcome wire fences and orientate in the wilderness. Miljanović transforms this military information into a guide for refugees. This shows us that Europe is still separated by borders that are almost insurmountable and life-threatening for many people.
Heath Bunting: BorderXing
Performative adventure; multimedia installation and internet platform, Tate Modern, London and work in process, since 2002
Heath Bunting is internationally known as a net artist and was represented at documenta X, among others. For two decades, Bunting has also been practically investigating how borders in Europe can be crossed unofficially: He goes on subversive hikes and explores secret routes. Bunting documents his adventures on the Internet – with maps, a botanical guide and advices on how to hide from watchdogs. He gives lectures on this and workshops in public spaces. His ongoing cross-media project BorderXing not only illustrates the limitation of physical borders, but also that the Internet is not a limitless space.