*after Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt
ifa Gallery Berlin’s exhibition series Out of the Box adopts a practice of reexamining individual works from ifa’s art collection, which become part of an artistic/curatorial Revision. In the upcoming exhibition Spheres of Interest* artists Isaac Chong Wai, Lizza May David, Wilhelm Klotzek, Ofri Lapid, Adrien Missika and Gitte Villesen open a dialogue, marked by different artistic approaches, with selected artworks from the collection.
Inka Gressel and Susanne Weiß
How did the art collection of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – ifa come to be? Which works were acquired when and by whom, and what can these decisions tell us about the socio-political conditions, trends, and protagonists of the time? How can we partake in and reconfigure collections like these from today's perspective?
The historic idiosyncrasies and structures of the ifa art collection, its exhibition histories, and its composition specifically via the partial preservation of the collection that once belonged to the German Democratic Republic's (GDR) Zentrum für Kunstausstellungen (ZfK) all become opportunities for a collaborative artistic-curatorial investigation. Isaac Chong Wai, Lizza May David, Wilhelm Klotzek, Ofri Lapid, Adrien Missika and Gitte Villesen interrogate the collection based on their own "Spheres of Interest", searching for overlaps, parallels, and omissions. The exhibition title references the eponymous artwork by Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, a pioneer of the GDR's Mail Art movement, who – unlike her husband Robert Rehfeldt – was not represented in the collection until now.
The exhibition shows these artistic examinations together with the works from the ifa collection. Some works have hardly been exhibited at all, remaining packed in their yellow ifa transportation crates until recently, while others are returning home from long exhibition tours with countless stops, and still others have only just been restored. Such are the varied paths these works have travelled to come together now at the ifa-Galerie Berlin.
Isaac Chong Wai has developed a performance referencing the woodcut "Die Mütter" (The Mothers) (1922-23) by Käthe Kollwitz, which revolves around the representation of a collective body marked by experiences of war. He invites performers to sing mourning songs to open up the body of resistance and protection depicted by Kollwitz. Lizza May David's research is dedicated to representations of German migrant societies after the Second World War. In the process, she came upon Franz Klekawka's "naïve paintings" from the 1970s. Working from Joseph Kosuth's lexical pieces, which have spent the last 22 years travelling the world, Ofri Lapid has created a "Language Tour" tracing their exhibition locations. Adrien Missika will present "MOTUS", a local pop-up touring exhibition, for which he developed a cargo bicycle that activates selected Fluxus works in public space. Wilhelm Klotzek has used elements of urban space to create a display that functions as a bridge between the different exhibits. His intervention integrates the gallery's façade, shifting the attention of passers-by from the street to the artworks inside, and includes pieces from the ZfK collection that have never before been exhibited. Klotzek has also chosen to show works by Wieland Förster and Carlfriedrich Claus, responding to these with an acoustic assemblage. Gitte Villesen casts a feminist gaze upon the collection's omissions, choosing works accordingly. She has also developed text and image tableaus that further address the directions of the collective research process undertaken by the artists and curators. This intensive collaboration brings together critical and humorous observations, comments, and inquiries. They touch on urgent moments in our present and highlight collective memories as well as new moments of action.
The ifa collection
The history of the ifa art collection is closely intertwined with the concept of the ifa touring exhibitions, in which curators develop since the 1970s monographic exhibitions presenting works from Germany in order to show them internationally. They are presented in museums and cultural institutions both large and small. Socio-politically relevant projects that communicate contemporary artistic tendencies are also a focal point of the collection. Works from the ifa are currently being shown in 20 exhibitions, and a further selection of the collection is out on loan to museums.
Since 2020, the ifa galleries in Berlin and Stuttgart have been inviting contemporary artists to engage in dialogical encounters with individual artworks from the ifa collection. "Out of the Box" stands for this practice of re-evaluating individual works.