Experience Utopia, 2005
Empty food packages
approx. 650 x 900 x 600 cm

View on the exhibition Artist.Archiv - New Works on Historical Holdings
Akademie der Künste am Pariser Platz, Berlin

Walkable installation with original works from the Bauhausarchiv of the Akademie der Künste (Bruno and Max Taut, Hans Scharoun, etc.)

The idea is related to expressionistic-utopic architecture drawings and documents from 1919-1921.

New Works on Historical Holdings

Artist.Archiv is an artistic workshop on the theme of the archive. Eight artist were invited to consult the Archive of the Akademie der Künste, which with holdings of over 800 artist from all genres is most important archive of its kind since 1900 in German speaking countries. The new works are specifically commissioned for the exhibition; the archive materials at the source of the works are presented in the Archive Studio.

The Way to Experience Utopia

Miguel Rothschild approached the Archive full of curiosity, in search of fictions and dreams that would ignite a fire within him. Initially he devoted intensive attention to the literature section, but then on discovering utopian Expressionist architectural projects from around 1920 his enthusiasm switched to the architecture department. He spent a long time in this collection, deeply involved in contemplating original works, devoting great care to taking photographs and noting technical details for subsequent use in the development of his own project.

After the First World War came to an end various leftist political groupings and esoteric artistic circles were established with the aim of creating the preconditions for a more peaceful humanity through art and architecture. These fresh hopes, inspired by the October Revolution in 1917 in conjunction with the consequences of catastrophic defeat in war, marked an emergence out of the old order and offered fertile ground for utopian ideas. Bruno Taut took the social responsibilities of an architect very seriously and in 1918 he published his visionary plans for reshaping the Alpine landscape. He proposed developing the area by deploying glass, crystal, jewels, light, and colour in projects expressly intended to be “unpractical and without utility”. One of his contemporaries, Adolf Behne, wrote: “As an elemental activity building is capable of transforming a human being”. Another expression of that Zeitgeist is to be found in plans (c. 1919) by architects Hans and Wassili Luckhardt, who for a time explored the “room-like protective cocoon” of a room. The attraction of caves consists of “their indefinable limits and ungraspable volume. They play with closeness to natural phenomena” (Hans Luckhardt). These plans stayed on paper and thereby retained their visionary character inclusive of technically unresolved architectural extravaganzas. At the time they were conceived the faith, the client, the technology, and the money for implementation in reality were lacking.

The forms of Expressionist architecture are now technically possible and frequently deployed in eye-catching prestigious buildings or glassed-in shopping malls. Then utopian ideas run into a void. A feast for the senses with inventive uses of water and light, with glittering craters and ravines, and with lavish, richly-coloured, spiralling marble staircases – but, compared with their visionary precursors, the philosophy has vanished in this new manifestation. Today human transformation takes place on another level; today the word utopia is a label.

In his variation inspired by the original designs, Rothschild elevates and transfigures utopia to the highest consumer good. In Experience Utopia he has developed a room-high, walk-in temple building which is itself made from product packaging. The temple structure takes up formal and conceptual elements from its Expressionist forerunners: it is simultaneously a place of devotion, a monument, a house of heaven, and a cult building. It allows the visitor a three-dimensional stroll through his sweetest dreams. All kinds of colourfully printed food packets are bizarrely combined in the walls and structures of this edifice with openings spanned by sweet-wrappings. Mouth-watering temptations such as cream cakes, exotic biscuits and chocolate ice, filling potato puree and fast rice, are the building-blocks for Lucullan architectures intended, as a side-effect, to make us happier. The pillars consist of 836 Bourbon vanilla ice cartons, and the roof construction is made from 1008 breadcrumb packets and 450 cornflakes boxes. Altogether well over 5,000 packets have been used in this construction, without their contents, however – as if this may involve an empty promise.

In a gesture of sympathetic redundancy the temple pays homage to the drawings whose utopian essence inspired Rothschild’s work. Instead of an altar visions from the Archive’s architecture department are presented on the walls and in the display-cases of the chapel-like temple space. The artist selected specific works from Bruno Taut’s extensive collections, the Crystal Chain correspondence, and the archives of the Luckhardt brothers and Hans Poelzig where these were his model and inspiration. Utopia as a homage to utopia.

Helen Adkins
Curator of the Exhibition

Vitrine with original works
from the architecture archives

Experience Utopia