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Joseph Kosuth in Spheres of Interest

How did the art collection of ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) come to be? Which works were acquired when and by whom, and what can these decisions tell us about the socio-political conditions, trends, and protagonists of the time? How can we partake in and reconfigure collections like these from today’s perspective? For this exhibition, six international artists who are based in Berlin have been invited to engage in an open process approaching ifa’s unusual collection, which boasts a total of over 23,000 works, in all its nuances and layers.  

The historic structures of the ifa art collection, its exhibition histories, and specifically the partial preservation of the collection that once belonged to the GDR Zentrum für Kunstausstellungen (ZfK) all become opportunities for personal research by the six artists. They interrogate the collection based on their own “Spheres of Interest,” searching for overlaps, parallels, and omissions. The exhibition title references the eponymous artwork by Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, a pioneer of the GDR’s Mail Art movement, who—unlike her husband Robert Rehfeldt—was not represented in the collection until now.

Some selected works remained packed in their ifa transportation crates until recently, while others are returning home from long exhibition tours with countless stops, and still others have only just been restored. Such are the varied paths these works have travelled to come together now at the ifa-Galerie Berlin. 

Isaac Chong Wai has developed a performance referencing the woodcut The Mothers (1922–23) by Käthe Kollwitz, which revolves around the representation of a collective body marked by experiences of war. Lizza May David’s research is dedicated to representations of German migrant societies after the Second World War. Working from Joseph Kosuth’s lexical pieces, Ofri Lapid has created a “Language Tour” tracing their exhibition locations. Adrien Missika will present MOTUS, a local pop-up touring exhibition, for which he developed a cargo bicycle that activates selected Fluxus works in public space. Wilhelm Klotzek’s intervention includes pieces from the ZfK collection that have never before been exhibited, among them works by Wieland Förster and Carlfriedrich Claus, responding to these with an acoustic assemblage. Gitte Villesen casts a feminist gaze upon the collection’s omissions, choosing works accordingly. Her text and image tableaus address the directions of the collective process undertaken by the artists and curators. 

This intensive cooperation brings together critical and humorous observations, comments, and inquiries to influence one another and coalesce into a polyphonic form, a tapestry of interwoven relationships that offers new perspectives on the ifa art collection. At the same time, the exhibition stands for forms of connectivity based on a trust in artistic and collective processes. They touch on urgent moments in our present and highlight collective memories as well as new moments of action. 

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