Substation

Lucy McKenzie, Markus Proschek & Philip Topolovac

 

Tempelhofer Damm 9
Berlin, Germany
 
opening 11th of November 2017, 6.30pm


For Substation McKenzie, Proschek and Topolovac focus on their shared interest in history, and their concern for the processes through which different histories comes to be layered on each other. They bring together works that instrumentalise objects, attitudes and techniques from Berlin’s complex past, including an architectural scale model, a hand-painted map and displayed artefacts.

Proschek and Topolovac are part-time amateur archaeologists who salvage objects on the fly from Berlin’s construction sites. These sites are a topographic by-product of the city’s transformation from a post-war / post-Soviet interzone into the corporate business centre it is today. Finds are retrievable in the short interval between their accidental exposure and their subsequent reinternment or recycling before a new tower block shoots up in their place. In their digs they uncover everything from household objects and architectural ornaments to glass melted in firestorms. Ornaments have a particular poignancy, because historically Berliners have systematically stripped their buildings of stucco details. This was (and is) justified for a variety of reasons: to supplant ornament with Modernist austerity; to enforce an expression of stern ethnic uniformity; and finally to conform to the precepts of doctrinaire city planning. The result is ‘deficient nakedness’ rather than the intended elegant, sober nudity.

Proschek and McKenzie have collaborated in designing a support for archaeological finds, in the process responding to the location of Beach Office itself and its vitrine-like architectural conditions. The work is inspired in part by the display techniques employed in the Soviet-era museums they visited on a recent research trip to Russia. With their anti-Imperialist foundations, these museums contrast with their Western counterpart’s current identity crisis. McKenzie’s hand-painted map gives the geographical location of the site at which the reconstructed objects on display were found: that is, near the route of the Berlin wall, here rendered in copper leaf. The style of decorative painting adopted for it mimics idioms developed in the West for predominantly commercial purposes, including tourism, shopping, and entertainment. In the Soviet Union this type of decorative work was exclusively channelled into state-sponsored projects such as museums and trade fairs, and executed in marble rather than papier-mâché.

Topolovac’s sculpture is a reconstructed WWII bunker originating from the German city of Trier, using the anachronistic medium of the cork model. Cork models were popular souvenirs during the eighteenth century for northern European travellers on their Grand Tour through the Mediterranean countries; they were keep-sakes of antique architectural landmarks. The anachronism of the model’s material coincides with the hybrid style of the functional defence building, which was camouflaged to resemble a medieval tower in order to blend in with the city. This was for obvious militaristic reasons, but it was also intended to merge with the ideas of national identity being promoted of the time of its construction. Also, by choosing a utilitarian building like a bunker from the recent past, Topolovac poses questions about the canonisation of architectural history and the neutralisation of a building´s context through this process.




Lucy McKenzie (born Glasgow 1977, lives in Brussels) is a visual artist whose installations explore the intersecting hierarchies of commercial, public and fine-art painting. She exhibits internationally, and has had solo shows at MoMA, New York, Tate Britain, London and Stedelijk, Amsterdam. Since 2007 she has collaborated with the designer Beca Lipscombe in Atelier E.B to produce fashion, design and exhibitions.

Markus Proschek (born Salzburg 1981, lives in Berlin) His paintings and installations often evolve around the ambiguous potential of ideological imagery, based on a system of references ranging from the (pre)historic to the contemporary, and introducing research-based footage into personalized counter narratives. Proschek shows internationally, mostly in institutions, including solo shows at Kunstraum Innsbruck, Salzburger Kunstverein, The Hellenic-American Union in Athens and the Austrian Cultural Forum, London.

In his work Philip Topolovac (born Würzburg 1979, lives in Berlin) investigates perceptions of reality within both socially and scientifically configured disciplines such as history, architecture, technology and geography. He received working stipends of Kunstfonds Bonn and Berlin Senate and is an alumnus of Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes. Topolovac takes part in international exhibitions and has had solo shows throughout Germany and Europe.