Highlighting Reality

Olga Zovskaya

The project is a response to the situation around the Rockel-Lampen system currently under threat of being destroyed – in a similar manner as their predecessors at Palast der Republik – because of the renovation of the former canteen (Alte Mensa), which has been turned into a coworking space located on the university campus next to Auditorium Maximum. Although in the winning renovation proposal the lamps are intended to be preserved in some form, their fate and future integrity are not fully clear. This situation reveals wider issues concerning state policies, socialist heritage and the process of decommunization, memory politics, the right of the residents to the city and its public spaces. This project is also a form of a dialogue with the exhibition PROTEST! that was taking place at the Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst from June 16 to August 18, 2019.

The design of the lamps located in Alte Mensa was originally developed for Palast der Republik in Berlin. The reactions against the demolition of Palast der Republik—protests, discussions, art and music events—made the lamps an important symbol not only of the building itself but of the political struggle of the people of the reunified Germany for the right to collectively define their memory and past. The lamps preserved in Alte Mensa are both an important artifact of the GDR era design of the ‘70s (see the expert opinion by Prof. Dr. Paul Zalewski) and a powerful political symbol. Thus, the decision to preserve or to destroy the lamps is political and could not be taken ignoring this context.

With this project Olga Zovskaya attempts to draw attention to the problem of top-down and hidden decommunization in the post-socialist space and to insist that the decision-making process involving (potential) destruction of socialist cultural heritage or its parts should be open and available for public discussion as opposed to the (frequently) opaque decision-making processes behind closed doors. The author is personally affected by these developments because she has been witnessing, how these questions are dealt with in Ukraine by means of administrative decisions that exclude a proper opportunity for public discussions and social involvement.
The author’s statement regarding the situation with the lamps and the necessity of their preservation was presented during the performative intervention on the terrace of Alte Mensa.
Everyone concerned had an opportunity to sign the statement. Research materials, the author’s spatial installation, and the documentation of the performance have shown at the exhibition at Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst.

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