Images to the West: An Archive from the GDR. Trade Fair and Industry Design 1967 to 1990.

With Estelle Blaschke, Armin Linke and Doreen Mende.

The project Images to the West performs an archive of the GDR from different perspectives: an artist, a historian, a researcher, a curator, an architect, a student, a publisher and the archive’s author demonstrate a web of different approaches to a reading of 16,500 photographs in relation to the display strategies of socialism. The archive contains visual documents of production situations of state-owned-combines (VEB) in the GDR and of the presentations of VEB-consumer-products at the International Leipzig Trade Fair from 1967 to Spring 1990. Not only the size of the archive but also the conditions of production are unusual: The East-German Reinhard Mende worked as self-employed photographer under free-market conditions, commissioned by state-combines, to design photographically an image of GDR-economy for an international export, e.g. Non-Socialist-Economic-Territories (NSW) like West-Germany were a main trade partner. The Leipzig Fair marked an exterritorial zone that displayed socialism as a good for a capitalistic market. The image archive reveals, through photography, a construction of a socialist economic reality for an international market under capitalistic conditions and the concealment of existing living and production conditions in the GDR. Still, the project is neither an analysis of the past nor a historical review of GDR economy, socialist space or design. The aim is to point out the double-ideology and contradictions of a real socialism through the practice of exhibiting as a site for an actualization in the present. A project by Estelle Blaschke, Armin Linke, Doreen Mende and Philip Ursprung with Reinhard Mende, Matthias Judt, Kuehn Malvezzi, and Spector Books a.o.


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