SculptureCenter will be presenting the first U.S. exhibition of German artist Henrike Naumann. The installation “Re-Education” will be composed of furniture and domestic items that beg the question, “What is the relationship between design and ideology?”
Naumann’s exhibit is inspired by her time growing up in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and how it transitioned into a more unified Germany. Her work focuses on how Western capitalism and greed transformations the social ideals of former socialist states, like Naumann’s own East Germany.
She puts into question the West’s idea of a “good life” and the consequences of those ideals. With a special focus on consumerism, socioeconomic discontent, antagonistic orientations to political power and virulent extremism. Her art asks “How should one read the politics of design?”
Naumann’s “Re-Education” is a large, museum-scale display staged in a parody of the “horseshoe theory.” The “horseshoe theory” was created in 1930s Germany and then recently revived in the 1990s. The theory was meant to establish the parameters of the political center and to treat far left and far right extremists as equal threats. This is as if they were the two ends of a horseshoe bending away from the middle and making the horseshoe into an unrecognizable mess.
Naumann’s work is meant to test ingrained ideas and expectations of the Western idea of democracy using a variety of found objects like faux-bois chairs and farmhouse doors. The objects come from different walks of life, from furniture found in the richest homes to average household items.
“Re-Education” is also meant to challenge the origins of classical rustic designs and fight the idealism and amnesia that clouds the style’s design principles.
The exhibit references 2 major events that affected European countries, especially Germany. The first being the installation of anti-fascist “re-education” programs that were developed by the Allied Forces to reestablish a sense of democracy in West Germany after the end of World War II. The second being the later, post-1989, self-“re-education” of those living in former socialist states.
Naumann’s “Re-Education” is perfect for this age, where so many people are hyper-aware of the rise in new, niche political identifications and cautious of misreading the history behind aesthetics. The show will make viewers think harder about the deeper natures of the objects and the history that is silently ingrained in our minds.
The exhibit will be on display at Long Island City’s SculptureCenter from Sept. 22, 2022 to Feb. 27, 2023.