WESTALGIE by HENRIKE NAUMANN at IKOB MUSEUM [from 20230124 to 20230416]

[Photos: Lola Pertsowsky]

The installation artist Henrike Naumann finds her inspiration in various sources: art, product and graphic design, fashion, sculpture, and video. She combines these media to form installations that work simultaneously as period rooms and exhibition spaces. Neumann’s most important source of inspiration, however, is her own biography. Born in the GDR, she was an active witness to her country’s transformations, rocked by the German reunification’s unkept promises, the proliferation of neoliberalism and unbridled consumerism in the 1990s. With an observing gaze, she probes the relations between architecture, interior design elements, and political ideology, as well as the power structures underpinning them.

It is in this sense that, in her works, she refers to the German Expressionist painter Emil Nolde, whose proximity to the Third Reich makes his works’ presence in the German Chancellery during Angela Merkel’s time in office all the more questionable. The fact that Naumann shares her hometown with Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt, and Uwe Mundlos, the infamous trio of Nazi terrorists who became known as the National Socialist Underground (NSU), speaks volumes. Henrike Naumann is constantly pursuing answers to the question of how the interior design of rooms and the objects within them unconsciously affect their users or consumers. She questions the apparent neutrality of the furniture we use to decorate our interior spaces, focusing on their ideological messages and building bridges between history, interior design and a collective unconscious.

For her exhibition titled “WESTALGIE” (“Westalgia”), Henrike Naumann takes us on a trip to the year 1990. The starting point for her work Anschluss '90 (“Annexation,” 2018), initially created for the steirischer herbst festival 2018 edition, is the interest for how Austria could have responded to the German reunification. Her alternative historical scenario imagines Austria voluntarily joining the Federal Republic of Germany, providing the latter’s expanding capitalist ambitions with a new consumer market. For IKOB, she takes this thought experiment one step further. What, she asks, would have happened if the German-speaking community of Belgium had decided to do the same? What would the region look like?

The exhibition is presented in cooperation with the Centre d’art contemporain – la synagoge de Delme, where Naumann presented the same initial question in 2021 – except for it being in Northern France. To open up the museum’s thematic spaces in novel ways, Naumann invited artists Tom Bogaert and Merle Vorwald to appropriate its ground floor.

HENRIKE NAUMANN (b. 1984, Zwickau, DE) is a German artist originally trained in theater and film set design. She often focuses on questions of German identity. Born in East Germany, she grew up with neo-Nazi youths dominating the cultural scene in certain parts of its rural areas, and subsequently decided to examine the historical background of this evolution as well as of current events, seeing the two aspects as mirrors of each other. Naumann has exhibited works, among other places, at Centre d’art contemporain – la synagogue de Delme (FR), Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (DE), and SculptureCenter, New York (USA). She lives in Berlin.

[Text: Frank-Thorsten Moll / Lara Duyster]

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