Tarot der kleinen Dinge
curated by Helene Romakin and Lea Schleiffenbaum
1989 was the year in which two cultures collided: Everyday life in the East and everyday life in the West, in the different materials and forms that shaped their respective lives. Looking back overlaps become apparent, especially in everyday objects whose design affinity is unmistakable: razors, kitchen mixers, and typewriters. While today the products of the Western world dominate the Eastern ones in public perception, the East was left with the memory of a world of objects. After the fall of the Wall, the Documentation Center of Everyday Culture of the GDR in Eisenhüttenstadt, now the Museum Utopia and Daily Life, began to collect objects from the GDR with the participation of citizens. Today, the collection contains more than 170,000 objects.
At the invitation of curators Helene Romakin and Lea Schleiffenbaum, the artists' collective U5 looked at the extensive collection.
For the exhibitions, the artists intermingled objects from the museum’s collection with miniatures, sculptures, ceramics and everyday objects from their own studio, inviting the public on a witty, critical-feminist journey that evokes the magic of everyday life in an interplay between association and memory. The aim was not to remeasure contemporary history but to provide new access to past realities through the morphology of objects and products. Morphology is interested in an object's form instead of its functional properties. How does the object speak to those who view or use it? What meanings does it carry?
U5 allows collection objects and artworks to merge into one another following patterns of shapes and colors in an expansive installation. The arrangement is accompanied by an 89-piece tarot card set, the Tarot der kleinen Dinge. Instead of negotiating grand and abstract questions of life, the cards focus on the mundane and applicable.
Among the museum objects that have captured the artists’ attention is a box of photo slides from a GDR Antarctic expedition. The slides recount the history of the Georg-Forster Station, whose last expedition team commenced their service in October 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. These images inspired U5 to create several artworks: the video piece 1985, the series 6 Flags: Pictures from Antarc-tica, as well as six original Recreation Areas.
U5 deliberately refrains from extensive historical analysis and instead focuses on everyday anec-dotes, personal memories and youthful longings. Which stories are told, which are forgotten? How do our personal memories and ideas shape the perception of objects? Taking cues from the items’ materialities, colors and functions, U5 deliberately disrupt familiar attributions. An open space emerges from the supposedly bygone and closed past, which – also with the help of the audience – repeatedly gives rise to new narratives and contexts.
Two exhibitions were created by U5 in 2023 as part of the engagement with the museum's objects: I love Clark at the Brandenburgischer Kunstverein in Potsdam and, as a follow-up exhibition at the Museum for Utopia and Daily Life, The Cleaner, the Cat, and the Moon.
READ more: The Cleaner, the Cat, and the Moon.
Helene Romakin is a cultural scientist, independent curator, and author. Currently, she is writing her doctoral thesis on the Anthropocene and storytelling at ETH Zurich.
Lea Schleiffenbaum is an art historian and independent curator. With a focus on projects in public space, she deals with collaborative processes, as well as the formulation of individual and collective desires and their reflection in contemporary art.