Dani Gherca

Dani Gherca, “Ikonoklasmus Stalinallee,” 2020

Deutschsprachige Version des Artikels

Representations of power are often destroyed when the tide turns, in the context of revolution, uprisings, and political turmoil. In such situations, iconoclastic urges are usually first directed at figural representations, such as monuments and portraits of rulers, but it can also be directed against buildings like churches, castles, and other grand structures. During the Fresh A.I.R. Scholarship of the Stiftung Berliner Leben the Romanian artist Dani Gherca developed this theme in a six-part photographic work “Ikonoklasmus Stalinallee” (Stalinalle Iconoclasm) and, as indicated by the title, wishes to thereby complete the destalinization of this Berlin boulevard currently known as Karl-Marx-Allee.

Immediately after World War II, the Stalinalle was upheld as a model project among the state building programs of the German Democratic Republic. Under Stalin, innovative modernist urban planning was rejected as decadent and western. Instead, the political leadership of the Soviet Union dictated a conservative view of architecture for all the Eastern Block states, which prescribed a historically inspired, monumental aesthetic using elements of classical Greek buildings and based on the local traditions of representative architecture. This program was implemented along Stalinallee, which was to form the central axis of East Berlin, demonstrating the strength of the communist regime and providing housing for the people, so-called “workers’ palaces.” 

For his iconoclastic project Dani Gherca chose three of the most prominent buildings/ensembles along the grand boulevard, which was renamed Karl-Marx-Allee in 1961, eight years after Stalin’s death in the era of destalinization. The boulevard had, however, been completed earlier in accordance with the Stalinist doctrine. Unmistakable in the photographs are the two towers and domes of the buildings at Frankfurter Tor, the high-rise ensemble at Strausberger Platz, and the giant C-Nord apartment block. Most of the photographs were taken from below, front on, or from a diagonal. Two of the photographs were tinted red, as if they had turned red due to aging or were taken at night. The buildings thus seem strangely removed, as if from another place and time. Upon closer examination, one realizes that the images have been digitally retouched. On the photograph of the famous, monumental apartment block, the entire ornamentation of the tiled façade has been erased; the Doric columns and the decoration on the architrave of the entry gate have been removed, and even the decoration on the wrought-iron balcony railings has disappeared. The building, one could say, now appears modern and pared-down, although no less massive. Another image shows one of the towers of the Frankfurter Tor buildings from a diagonal. Here too, one can see that changes have been made. The dome is only one story high; the roof construction is made up of nested and overlapping forms recalling a Cubist painting and is transparent in certain places; the façade is largely monochrome. The imposing look of the building has been softened. The other photographs also show indication of manipulation.

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By removing the ornamentation and historicizing building elements of the building and by emphatically proclaiming this as an act of iconoclasm, Gherca draws our attention to the ideologies upon which these buildings were constructed and which continue to shape how they are perceived. In an era when the monumental buildings of former rulers are being re-erected, his project can be viewed not so much as a serious proposal but instead as an indication for the necessity of rethinking how we deal with past architectural ideals and modernist buildings, such as those constructed along Frankfurter Allee (the extension of the former Stalinallee) where buildings were constructed in 1961 in accordance with modernist concepts and which deserves more recognition.

Text: Dr. Kea Wienand

About Dani Gherca

Dani Gherca, born in 1988 in Bucharest, is a visual artist who currently uses photography and installation as an artistic form. He belongs to the emerging generation of Romanian visual artists who share a renewed interest in linking documentary photography and conceptual approaches.

He studied photography at the National University of Arts Bucharest and his works were internationally exhibited at contemporary art institutions, such as Museo ICO Madrid, Tate Exchange Liverpool, ESSL Museum Vienna or MNAC Bucharest.

The online showcase of Fresh A.I.R. #3

Fresh A.I.R. showcase

The online showcase offers an opportunity to get an overview of the highly diverse projects of the third group of Fresh A.I.R. artists with their different kinds of media and aesthetics.

On view are video and photographic materials about the individual projects, each of which is accompanied by an explanatory text that aims to offer insights into the work’s aesthetic experience.

learn more abouth the online showcase