Marta Dyachenko, Joram Schön at Heit / Berlin

International Congress Basement – Der Mensch baut seine Stadt

Marta Dyachenko, Joram Schön 

04.06. – 08.07.2023

Eichendorffstr. 5
10115 Berlin

Photographer : Gernot Seeliger  

International Congress Basement: Der Mensch baut seine Stadt

The construction of the International Congress Centrum not only realized futuristic ideas, but also preserved a vision of the future: built out of the utopia of wanting to create a new world, international meetings were a major goal. In the spirit of the new world view and in the course of the reconstruction of West Germany, the congress center was created as an international, mobile and car-friendly place, but at the same time also to override of post-war German society and history. Renowned mechanics, mechanical engineers, architects and designers worked in high performance to show technologically innovative building possibilities using the ICC as a model for future building. Computer projections at the time predicted that by the end of 1993, 20,000 convention centers with more than 13 million attendees would be needed worldwide.The building’s “high-tech architecture” was transformable, with rooms that could be joined together and stages and seating tribunes that could be lifted off. ICC was developed as a transformational space and a changeable space of use, as a forward-looking architectural practice. ICC and Radio Tower became the gateway to the West. In fact, arriving at the building turned out to be an extension of the airport: after arriving in Berlin Tegel, a cab led directly to the basement of the fair, a transit zone, where the spaceship-like guidance system for mobile people was built: Messe ICC thus existed as a place without a location, as a city apart from Berlin. The sculpture Alexander vor Ekbatana – Der Mensch Baut Seine Stadt (1980) by the French artist Jean Ipoustéguy, which has been in storage since 2005, is also at the center of the considerations. The monumental sculpture extended on the forecourt as the installation of the showcase in the room. It shows Alexander the Great as a robot man, conquering the Persian city of Ecbatane. It is dedicated to the construction of a city, but is also read as a brutal conquest. The sculpture immortalizes man’s violence in overwriting and building over entire cities.

ICC – a building that always oscillates between utopian vision of the future and dystopian remnant of an imagined metropolis. As a political construct, it symbolized the struggle between West and East, of war destruction and reconstruction; as an international congress center, it symbolized the historical and social transformation of the times.
International Congress Basement: Der Mensch baut seine Stadt assembles socio- economic, political, speculative, and cultural perspectives on the ICC as an authoritative relic of a failed vision of the future, and explores the manifold transformations the structure has undergone to the present.2
The site-specific installation by Marta Dyachenko and Joram Schön at HEIT Berlin combines archival utopian Sci-Fi scenarios, their own works, and designs as well as questions explanatory systems of the monumental “building machine. „ 3
At HEIT, Marta Dyachenko and Joram Schön present a smorgasbord of relics that deconstruct and critically question the handling of the almost mystical relics of past times, the social transformation of architectures.
The showcase installation made by Dyachenko and Schön is determined by its materiality: a supporting steel structure picks up the shape of ICC with its upper edge; the repeating construction system imitates the fair skeleton. The spatial installation extends through all rooms of the exhibition and shows historical archives, collaged advertising catalogs, and postcards and expands them through visions and speculative retrospectives. The expansive sculpture occupies the gallery space, taking on the sheer mass of transformations and transformations of the convention center, living through it, collecting.

In their own works, Marta Dyachenko and Joram Schön combine monumental symbols of the big city with urban perspectives and fictional built environments: Twin Towers, highway, globalized supply routes. Offshore islands, irrational and forgotten moments-sculptures become arresting and take the casual of the historical narrative ad absurdum. In Schön’s drawings, the convention center becomes a pop-cultural spaceship that has no place in the rational world. People live on clay-like piles of mountains as high as skyscrapers; authenticity becomes a video game. Dyachenko adds a political-architectural analysis to the exhibition. She creates sculptural and fragmentary remnants of concrete that spread throughout the spaces like ruins. Ornamental emblems that look like awarded medals hang on the walls. Their works are always in a timelessness between something straight-standing and past. The works of the two artists show guidance systems, how modern man moves and steps into countries, cities, buildings to discuss a world that is no longer comprehensible to him.

– Marlene A. Schenk