The picture is part of the exhibition Traces of Interest. It shows eight people in black clothing hugging each other tightly.
Photo: Isaac Chong Wai

Out of the Box: Traces of Interest

ifa Art Collection

14 Mar 2024
19 Jun 2024
ifa-Gallery Stuttgart
Charlottenplatz 17
70173 Stuttgart

Traces of Interest is the third part of an artistic-curatorial excavation of the layers and narratives contained in the ifa’s extensive art collection. The exhibition brings together ideas and art works issuing from a reflective process, which began in Fall 2021 with artists Isaac Chong Wai, Lizza May David, Wilhelm Klotzek, Ofri Lapid, Adrien Missika, and Gitte Villesen.

In the previous, two-part exhibition project, titled Spheres and Chains of Interest, the artists reflected upon the mission and context of the ifa’s collecting and exhibition practice and thus opened up a dialogue for new perspectives on its inventory of East- and West-German art works. In 1992, in the wake of the radical right-wing assaults in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, Günther Uecker developed a complex of works titled "Der geschundene Mensch" (The Battered Man) for the exhibition toured globally by ifa. These works addressed the "Maltreatment of man by man." He took words like "strangle," "scream," "cry," "nail," smack, and "revile" from the Old Testament and gave each one of them expression as a visual object. Uecker’s artistic stance has lost none of its impact over time. We present it at the entrance to the exhibition in Stuttgart.

Traces of Interest juxtaposes critical and humorous approaches and perspectives. The exhibition touches on urgent issues of today’s world and highlights the need for collective memory as well as action. The reclining figure is a classical motif of sculpture. In this show, three "reclining figures" face off: a sculpture by Heinrich Apel from the collection of the ZfK (the GDR’s Zentrum für Kunstausstellungen, or Center for Art Exhibitions), which is exhibited here for the first time in over thirty years; a wooden figure by the autodidact Erich Bödeker from the exhibition "Naïve Art;" and a reclining figure quietly enjoying a cigarette by Wilhelm Klotzek.

The three reclining figures all seem to gaze at the video of Lizza May David, whose performance is inspired by indigenous songs and myths from both sides of the Pacific Ocean, in Mexico and the Philippines. Her sonorous "mmmms" spill over into the surrounding space and resonate with David’s painting, whichin turn—enters into a dialogue with the text and image collages of the Chinese-Filipino artist Elisa Tan. For David, when confronted with the empty drawer for "Asian Graphic Art" in the ifa depot in Stuttgart, decided to symbolically fill this gap.

Ofri Lapid initiated a complex chain of translations, which is based on Joseph Kosuth’s lexical oeuvre "Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)" and follows the touring route of the exhibition Kunstraum Deutschland from the year 2000 on. From this, she also developed a polyphonic performance with the same title, using over 30 voices. Lapid’s process, like the parlor game "broken telephone," has terms used by Kosuth translated successively from one language to the next, following the exhibition’s touring route, and thus deconstructs the ostensible definitions of the terms "meaningless," "purple," and "volume." The alienating effect which results creates a critical distance to Kosuth’s black-and-white linguistic pictures, while at the same time the linguistic spaces of the exhibition’s more than 30 locations are reproduced acoustically here.

Gitte Villesen’s film "Strings and Berries" is an homage to Hannah Höch. Taking Höch’s collage "Seidenschwanz" (Waxwing) as its point of departure, Villesen follows the bird into various gardens and epochs. At the same time, she brings in traditional role perceptions and references to two Afro-American feminist authors, Octavia Butler and bell hooks. Here, the garden house in Berlin-Heiligensee, where Hannah Höch moved two weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, also has an important role to play. Höch used this secluded site to hide documents and art works of her friends from the National Socialists.

Wilhelm Klotzek’s "ZfK-Blende" (ZfK Panel), originally created for the façade of the ifa Gallery in Berlin, brings to light for the broader public miniature sculptures from the collection of the ZfK. Klotzek is linked by an artistic affinity with Carlfriedrich Claus, who formed a part of the critical avant-garde in the GDR. In the early 1990s, the ifa put together a touring exhibition called "Denklandschaften," which helped bring international recognition to Claus’s work.

Taking the concept of the touring exhibition as his starting point, Adrien Missika founded, with MOTUS, a mobile, two-wheeled art space, which intervenes in the public space with a zero-carbon footprint. For this project, Missika re-activated works from ifa’s Fluxus exhibition. The chess sets of Takako Saito dialogue with the photographs of Endre Tót, who in the period immediately following his emigration from Budapest to Cologne mainly played chess. Missika commissioned a new interpretation of Dick Higgins’s composition in Berlin, while the polluted water from the Rhine river of Joseph Beuys and Nicolás García Uriburu inspired him to create a Pop-Up Exhibition on a Netto parking lot.

Isaac Chong Wai’s affinity to the work of Käthe Kollwitz led him to her woodcut "Die Mütter" (The Mothers, 1922/23), which depicts a collective body marked by the experience of war. This work on paper with sculptural effect inspired Wai to develop a similarly titled performance in 2022. The performers, in the ruins of Berlin’s Cloister, give voice to Kollwitz’s depiction of resistance and protection and lead spectators to a room of healing.

Curated by Inka Gressel and Susanne Weiß in collaboration with Wilhelm Klotzek.


13 March 2024, Opening Ceremony

Wednesday, 13 March 2024, 17:00 – 21:00

Opening of the exhibition in the ifa Gallery

See Exhibition Opening

15 March 2024, Guided Tour

Friday, 15 March 2024, 16:30 – 17:30

Guided Tour in the ifa Gallery

To the Tour

16 March 2024, Long Night of the Museums

Saturday, 16 March 2024, 18:00 – 01:00

Long Night of the Museums in the ifa Gallery

To the event

27 March 2024, Workshop

Wednesday, 27 March 2024, 18:00 – 19:30 

Workshop: Exhibition in motion

To the workshop

18 April 2024, Guided Tour

Thursday, 18 April 2024, 16:30 – 17:30

Guided Tour in the ifa Gallery

To the Tour


21 April 2024, Family Art Sunday

Sunday, 21 April 2024, 10:30 – 12:30 

Family Art Day in the ifa Gallery

To the Event

26 April 2024, Guided Tour

Friday, 26 April 2024, 16:30 – 17:30

Guided Tour in the ifa Gallery

To the Tour


04 May 2024, Guided tour for visually impaired people

Saturday, 04 May 2024, 14:00 – 15:00

Guided tour for visually impaired people in the ifa Gallery

To the Tour

23 May 2024, Guided Tour

Thursday, 23 May 2024, 16:30 – 17:30 

Guided Tour in the ifa Gallery

To the Tour


29 May 2024, Workshop

Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 18:00 – 19:30 

Workshop: Exhibition in motion

To the workshop

31 May 2024, Chess-Event

Friday, 31 May 2024, 18:00 – 20:00

Chess to watch and take part in

Cooperation with MOTUS feat. Takako Saito

To the Event

09 June 2024, Curator's tour

Sunday, 09 June 2024, 15:00 – 16:00 

Exhibition tour with the curator Inka Gressel

To the Tour

ifa Galleries

The ifa Galleries show the visual arts, architecture and design of a globalized world. They have been addressing contemporary art and current cultural and socio-political developments in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe since 1971 in Stuttgart and since 1991 in Berlin. Exhibition series afford insight into art scenes all over the world and reach across national borders. Conversations, lectures and discussions allow visitors direct contact with artists and curators.

ifa Gallery Berlin

ifa Gallery Stuttgart

ifa Gallery Stuttgart

Charlottenplatz 17
D-70173 Stuttgart

Telephone: +49.711.2225.173