Zur Zeit hat das Gästezimmer Sommerpause
Monika Stricker und Manuel Graf at BÜRO DC
 
Monika Stricker and Manuel Graf (both *1978) generate forms in their respective works that address architectural visions of the twentieth century, evaluate them and develop them further. For the BÜRO DC exhibition in Cologne, they propose an imagined space as the representation for thought structures.  
 
For the exhibition in BÜRO DC, Monica Stricker built a sculpture using the Barcelona Pavillion as a point of departure. She uses the materials chosen by Mies van der Rohe, though only the clamps, the outer walls of the original are shown. Her primary concern here was not to create an exact duplicate, but rather to create a new form, a sculpture, that illuminates and allows us to recall the pavilion as an icon of modernity.
 
The Mies van der Rohe Pavillon was built for the world fair in Barcelona in 1929 and stood only a short period of time before it was demolished. "Its appearance was not determined by any kind of function. [...] the space flowed between separated verticals and horizontal levels. But the flow of space was braced by parenthetical walls at each end of the podium. Between these walls, the building 'was' a slow dance on the podium." (A. Draxler, 1960) We have photographs and discussions to thank for our ability to remember the Barcelona Pavilion, as well as a reproduction built in 1986. Of course it also maintains unique its power and meaning as one of Mies van der Rohe's key works.
 
Monika Stricker's work calls this memory once again to conscience - stepping inside the structure is only possible in our imaginations. The exploration of outside and inside remains closed to us, the Pavilion seems to be a stage onto which the viewer can project himself. The work stands as a representative for the dissolution architecture as a closed system, it seems to reference a time of profound change. Monika Stricker lets us look at everything, she lets us think back but most of all stand ahead: to a unique poetic form, charged with still-fascinating material and light.
 
Manuel Graf shows his film Shulmantonioni (2004), in which he uses one of the photographs by Julius Shulman along with the film Zabriskie Point (1970) by Michelangelo Antonioni. We see modernistic interiors (the visually singular "low cost housing" used for Case Study Houses) that were built in the Los Angeles area in the sixties and eventually became, through Shulman's camera, icons of the ideal life for the time.
 
Graf's camera roams these computer-generated rooms that have been decorated in a contemporary style and eventually become a temporarily delayed slow explosion of window panes, walls and furniture. These explosions dissolve the room in a shallow and almost cynical way; the rooms don't shudder, the fragments sway in a gravity-free room, but at the end they seem to still be standing. The "hippie-ish" original music by Pink Floyd that was used in the Antonini films underscores these shallow explosions. The guitars wail dramatically, but never radically. Everything that seems "definite" dissolves - even in its length and slow pace, Graf remains faithful to the film. The architecture replaces the capitalistic or dominant power or force, as the "dreams of the younger generation are reflected - like they imagine life on Hollywood Hills to be, without ever having been there." (Paul Goldberger, after Shulman, 1998)
 
This desire is still contemporary today, even when seen critically, as Antonioni already has when he blows the wealthy from their caves and liberates the underprivileged through his final blow, though in the end he never succeeds in freeing them. Even Manuel Graf dissolves this world; as postmodern architecture did, he works in a playfully eclectic way with found forms, all the while using them to generate his own dynamic dramaturgy.
 
Influenced by their studies at the Akademie Düsseldorf (first under Magdalena Jetelovà, then under Rita McBride) both artists developed ways of working with modernity, with pop culture and film phenomena as well as science fiction contexts - a method that is certainly characteristic of their generation, along with the question of how to situate oneself in cultural history, how to think of and create new forms in this context. Monika Stricker and Manuel Graf show us the poetic and powerful result of such thoughts, which are in so many ways more self-sufficient than purely referential.
 
Kathleen Rahn