Politics With a Wrecking Ball: Demolition in Contemporary Art

    • IMG_7694
    • Presentation speakers
      • Stefanie Gerke, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin ,Germany


    After the Cold War, former East Germany witnessed parts of its cultural identity disintegrate when its government building, the Palace of the Republic, was demolished. If architecture is ‘politics with bricks and mortar’, demolition is politics with a wrecking ball – a short-lived manifestation of what is momentarily and officially not wanted in the changing faces of contemporary urban identities. A rising number of artists visualize these unwanted buildings: The Palace’s decay and its dismantling, for example, attracted internationally renowned artists like Sophie Calle, Tacita Dean or Reynold Reynolds. They represent just a fraction of contemporary artists that broach the issue of (mostly postwar) architecture being razed to the ground. In fact, in 2008, philosopher Boris Groys commented on the paradox of the vast number of artworks dealing with demolition: “Within the terms of modernism, destruction is the best way to conserve. For we are living in a cultural environment, in which, on various levels, all destructions are documented, archived, interpreted and processed artistically.”It shall be questioned in what way demolition images can be analyzed as an alternativehistory of architectural and thus also political and sociological preferences. What counter-images of a city do artists create by showing its demolition objects, by transferring the material legacy of these unwanted objects to media like film or photography? The presentation wants to combine a survey of demolition in contemporary art with reflections on collective memory, aesthetics of decay, identity creation ‘ex negativo’ and the role of artists in establishing counter-images of official political measures.