Gertraude Pohl​​​​​​​’s artworks constitute an important contribution to the aesthetics of public art in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Pohl designed the floor of the main hall of the Palast der Republik in 1976 and created various murals for public buildings in the 1970s and 80s. These include the large-format murals for the industrial buildings of Stern-Radio in Marzhan, Berlin, the factory that produced a new generation of radios in the GDR from the mid-1980s, as well as a series of murals for the so-called Kinderkombinationen, that enlivened the standardized construction type for childcare facilities. Through her studies at the Academy of Fine and Applied Arts in Berlin and her travels to Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Finland, Karelia, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Uzbekistan, she developed an abstract language that challenged the figurative socialist-realist characteristic of the time and created works that enriched public spaces through the sensory rhythm of her geometric compositions.

Departing from her works in the Echos der Bruderländer exhibition, this conversation with the artist problematizes the amnesia of Eastern Modernism in light of her experiences. Themes addressed include housing programmes in the GDR where  artists were commissioned to create public artworks and which contributed to a large number of projects in the city centre and in the growing suburbs. Pohl also expands upon the different impulses that her murals’ practice generated, such as the series of flags she conceived, including Fünf Fahnen (1986), which give shape to the Beatriz Nascimento Hall in the current exhibition Remembering Pohl’s mural concept  as a ‘visual contribution to the working and living environment’ within the GDR, this conversation discusses the social function of art and its significance in shaping collective public space.

On the occasion of the talk, HKW presents Gertraude Pohl’s new publication Das Mögliche hat seine Spur im Sein. Kunst im öffentlichen Raum [The possible has its trace in being. Art in public space] (2024).