Exhibition Henrike Naumann: Re-education

President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the White House horseshoe pitch, Washington, D.C, 1992. Photo: David Ake/Getty Images

Thu, 09/22/2022 -
Mon, 02/27/2023


1st US exhibition by Berlin-based artist Henrike Naumann

Join us at SculptureCenter for Henrike Naumann: Re-Education, the first exhibition in the United States by Berlin-based artist Henrike Naumann, on view September 22, 2022 – February 27, 2023.
Naumann’s installations of furniture and design objects are composed as scenes that ask pressing and enduring questions: What is the relationship between design and ideology? How should one read the politics of design? Inflected by her own formative years growing up in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and then a unified Germany, Naumann’s work often considers the social transformations initiated by Western consumer capitalism as it reached former socialist states and ideas of the “good life” that have arisen globally (if unevenly). 
At SculptureCenter, Naumann has developed a museum-scaled display of dozens of furnishings and domestic items staged in a critical parody of the dubious “horseshoe theory.” The “horseshoe theory” was developed in Germany in the 1930s and revived in the 1990s both to establish the parameters of the political center and to treat far left and far right extremisms as equivalent threats to its order – as if they were the two ends of a horseshoe bending away from the middle and out of control at the same rate. Naumann’s exhibition rejects such superficial categorizations of centers and extremes by conducting an idiosyncratic survey of rural sensibilities in American interior design, from faux-bois chairs to the farmhouse doors of the suburban cul-du-sac. Looking at the United States as an interested outsider, Naumann’s work uses found objects to test received ideas and expectations of the democratic “West,” as well as the fraught idealism and amnesia expressed in the norms of certain rustic contemporary design principles. Well-suited for an age that is both hyper-aware of niche political identifications and wary of misreading aesthetic cues, Naumann’s work prompts viewers to engage in a conspiratorial questioning about the deeper natures of the objects that define our daily lives: is there such a thing as a libertarian sofa, a far-left stool, or a neoconservative armchair, and are they sold in different stores?
Naumann’s exhibition references two phenomena: first, the deployment of anti-fascist “re-education” programs developed by Allied Forces to reestablish a footing for democracy in West Germany after World War II; and second, the later, implicit, self-“re-education” after 1989 of those living in former socialist states, such as Naumann’s native East Germany. For Naumann’s post-1989 generation, “re-education” happened through an imported, American pop culture (Naumann cites The Flintstones as a touchstone) and increased consumer agency – in essence, the GDR entering Western history through retail and media. Reframing dormant Cold War-era geopolitical conditions, Naumann’s project opens a new consciousness of how we live among the ruins of twentieth century ideologies that were exported and reimported by U.S. power over the last several decades — now especially visible to a generation born just as the Cold War drew to a close.
Henrike Naumann’s (born 1984 in Zwickau, former German Democratic Republic; lives and works in Berlin) work reflects socio-political problems on the level of interior design and domestic space and explores antagonistic political beliefs through the ambivalent aesthetics of personal taste. Although rooted in her experiences in Germany, Naumann’s work has addressed the global connectivity of youth cultures and their role in the process of cultural othering.

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Henrike Naumann: Re-Education is curated by Kyle Dancewicz, Deputy Director, SculptureCenter, with Christopher Aque, Exhibition & Program Manager. Project Curatorial Assistant: Leo Cocar.