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Strasbourg, France

"Berlin: Views of the Prenzlauer Berg"

La Laiterie

Glaring blue bull's heads are all staring in the same direction, chewing noises are coming from a suitcase, and a nearby broomstick whirls and whistles tunes. This scene is from "Berlin: Views of the Prenzlauer Berg," an exhibition in the Laiterie, Strasbourg's new cultural center, financed mainly by the city of Strasbourg.

The curators and staff of the Laiterie are concentrating on young artists and artists with nontraditional training, and the "Prenzlauer Berg" show is part of a new series showing emerging artists from various European cities. "Starting with Berlin was more of a gamble than a strategy," says Marie-Anne Hitter, the show's organizer. The Laiterie focuses on the most dynamic European centers, and since the Wende, the German term for the process of reunification, the gravitational center of the Berlin arts scene has shifted. The avant-garde no longer lives in West Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood-now the liveliest area for the arts is found in Prenzlauer Berg, in the eastern part of the city. Under the Communist regime, this part of Berlin was a blue-collar district, and during the 1970s, critics of the political system gathered here, including writers and artists. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, new restaurants and bourgeois houses have emerged among the ruins and cheap bars, creating points of friction and a fertile ground for a dynamic arts scene. The result can be seen in the work of the artists included in this exhibition.

Peter Goitowski (Goi) and Frank Sanderink are the youngest artists in the show. Goitowski is the unseen whistler behind the broomstick piece. He places personal objects like shoes and glasses on the floor, and papers the walls with beer coasters that show himself and his family and friends in real life scenes that are obscene, funny, or dumb. Sanderink studied in Münster and Amsterdam. Years ago, he began to collect things that other people throw away: shoes, mattresses, cigarette boxes, tires, and gas cans. He recreates these objects in ceramic, with fired and enameled surfaces that givea new character to what he calls "trash culture."

Alex Flemming, Untitled, mixed media.

The Brazilian-born Alex Flemming's striking stuffed bull's heads sit on white plastic trash cans, staring at the ceiling. In other works, Flemming (who has mostly exhibited in Brasilia) sometimes combines mummified animals or furniture with text and with metal objects like wrenches and dishes. The resulting sculptures are emotionless and convey no discernible message.

M.K. Kähne was born in Lithuania and has recently switched from graphic art to installation. In Strasbourg, he showed a shower- suitcase, bristling with plumbing parts and containing his correspondence with the commercial suppliers of the materials. Like his earlier sausage-expanding machine and sausage-piercing machine, neither of which was in this show, his sculpture demonstrates the influence of Dada. Reinhard Zabka's work also has a Dada look when exhibited in the West, but in its original context, Communist East Germany, the work was understood as ridiculing the government. In his installations, nonsense and politics are equated; the head of Lenin, for example, hangs next to a dog's head. In this political context, his nonsense installation in Strasbourg, including turning and shaking umbrellas, pots, and chewing suitcases, makes sense.

Bruno Ulmer is a French artist who works in Berlin part-time. He creates installations using pre-war public bulletins, discovered a few years ago in an old building, that offer unique historical testimony. On his kiosk for the "Prenzlauer Berg" show, an announcement calling for the registration of all young men of military age is posted next to a notice from someone looking for a lost brother.

Henry Stöcker, Der neue Morgen (The New Morning). Terra-cotta. La Laiterie

Henry Stöcker's Aufmarsch (Deployment) (1991) also describes social conditions. Stöcker was born in Rügen, an island in the Baltic, and studied in Rostock and Berlin. His abstract sculptures recall the Cold War symbolism of East Germany, particularly the bombastic military parades of the Communist era.

With a staff of 10, the four-year-old Laiterie is organizing concerts, dance performances, discussions, and readings, as well as exhibitions of painting and sculpture. The next exhibition in the series on young European artists will focus on either Barcelona or Liverpool, but plans are not yet finalized. As Marie-Anne Hitter says, "We are a team of spontaneous activists, always having more plans than time and money."

-Erika Sieberts

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