Das Fundbuero – – How we work today…

Drawing from the Das Fundbuero archive, built through 6 years of participatory projects in Weimar and Leipzig, Germany, this installation looks at the roles of work and consumption in the lives of people living in East Germany, as well as the relationship between these facets of life in official policy.

The installation divides the space into two “rooms”. The painted text spanning the walls of both spaces – “How we work today, we will live tomorrow” – is the English translation of a GDR slogan that itself makes the link between these two spheres of activity for the GDR citizen.

On the work side, one wall features pages from a real estate catalog of factory buildings produced as part of the privatization of state-controlled businesses. Audio clips concerning the role of work from interviews with Fundbuero participants play in the background. English transcriptions are projected on the table in the center of the space.

A set of vitrines link the spaces, again using the GDR’s own slogan to emphasize the work/life relationship (“my hand for my product”). The work side features union membership cards, apprenticeship and employment contracts and other items focusing on the central role of work in organizing people’s lives. The consumption side features everyday products that were the result of this work.

Resting on the couch, one can listen to audio clips with a focus on experiences with consumption, and how these experiences differed after the political changes of 1989. English transcriptions are projected on the wall next to an array of unused, surplus East German shopping bags.

This installation was commissioned for the show “Land, Body, Industry” at the Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota. I put this installation together in a short timeframe and with a small budget, though with significant technical support from the gallery for installation and sorting through the many hours of interviews for relevant excerpts. It was possible to pull things together so quickly because the themes of industry and labor are such a  natural fit for the GDR. I was also able to design the installation directly to the space and equipment available from the gallery, again simplifying the process.