Private View: 21 November 2008, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

Exhibition Run: 22 November 2008 to Sunday 4 January 2009

Curated by Bart van der Heide

With Speicher, Cubitt Gallery, hosts the international debut of German artist Michaela Melián’s (Upper Bavaria, 1956). The German noun “Speicher” covers a range of mutually related meanings: it stands for ‘memory’ or even the physical storage space of an attic. One can say that the Cubitt exhibition features Melián’s interest in the politics of memory and reflects her intrepid curiosity for the forgotten attics of Europe’s Modern history.

In this vein, Speicher retraces the steps of VariaVision-Unendliche Fahrt, an ambitious multimedia installation of sound, film and text, which disappeared shortly after it’s failing display at the 1965 International Transport Exhibition in Munich. Despite this disappointing outcome, the installation represented one of the first attempts in Germany to rejoin art with the avant-garde, after the Nazi regime had separated the two. Melián’s re-enactment, through empirical research and artistic interpretation, casts a light on this specific moment in history when a promising development was nipped in the bud. Speicher aims to revive the first installation by accessing some of its original components in a compelling narration: interviews with the people involved and a specially commissioned film; strengthening German art critic Jan Verwoert’s view in the accompanying catalogue: ‘Every past has its own future’ (Speicher, Koenig Books, 2008).

VaraVision was commissioned when it’s prime contributors, Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz, taught at the School of Design in Ulm. In the short period of it’s existence, from 1953–1968, the Ulmer school exerted a strong influence on German and international design, art, and media history. It resumed the forcibly terminated tradition of the Bauhaus, defining the concepts of modernism, utopia, design, everyday culture, education, sciences and early digital culture in the spirit of a democratic and aesthetic new start in Germany after 1945. For the project, Kluge and Reitz were seconded by Josef Anton Riedl, who introduced the project to one of the first electronic studios in West Germany, constructed in 1959 by the Siemens Studio for Electronic Music (Munich).

Addressing this historic condition again in 2008, opens an inspiring polemic on the construction of an avant-garde identity and its ethical, political and social influences. Michaela Melián returned to the Siemens Studio (currently housed in the Deutsches Museum Munich), recorded the studio’s sounds, tones, and noises, and made them the basis of a new composition. Embedded in them, a polyvocal collage of texts can be heard, addressing the original topic of VariaVision (‘the subject of traveling’). Personal interviews with all the participants involved in VariaVision (including the technicians) provide a context of first-hand experiences, anecdotes and personal reflections.

Speicher is realized in partnership with the Ulmer Museum (Ulm) and The Lentos Kunstmuseum (Linz).

A collaborative publication was produced by all partners and published at Koenig Books. The publication includes texts by German art critic Jan Verwoert and will be available at Cubitt and all Koenig book stores.

Cubitt’s exhibition programme (October 2007 – March 2009) is supported by: Outset Contemporary Art Fund, 176/Zabludowicz Collection, the Free Rein Foundation and others.