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Maya Schweizer/Clemens von Wedemeyer Present "Metropolis. Report from China" at the Frankfurter Kunstverein
Maya Schweizer/Clemens von Wedemeyer, Metropolis, Report from China (Turm), 2004-2006. Production photograph, 2006 © Maya Schweizer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011. Courtesy Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris, KOCH OBERHUBER WOLFF, Berlin

FRANKFURT AM MAIN.- Central to the exhibition is the presentation of the documentary film “Metropolis. Report from China” by Maya Schweizer and Clemens von Wedemeyer. The artists traveled to China in 2004 to do research for the project of remaking Fritz Lang’s legendary film classic “Metropolis” (1927). The two imposing mega-cities of Shanghai and Beijing seemed appropriate settings for this undertaking to the artists, given how these city landscapes reflect the emerging gap between the living conditions of the workers and those of the new rich.

As the result of their research, the documentary film “Metropolis. Report from China” (2006) presents the configurations of these cities in relation to “Metropolis” through discussions and interviews with the workers and architects responsible for the construction of the Chinese mega-cities. On the one hand, the film provides insight into the explosive growth of these modern Chinese urban centers, but on the other, it questions the impact of the unrestrained drive for modernization and progress. In their film Schweizer/von Wedemeyer repeatedly refer to social-critical issues and the architectural settings of major historical events: “Metropolis. Report from China” is an artistic comparison between Lang’s utopia of the 1920s and the current communist system that verges on capitalist working conditions.

For the exhibition at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Schweizer/von Wedemeyer present their film in combination with numerous photographs, film-historical material, slides series, placards recalling film posters expanding upon it to create a large, dense installation. When comparing Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and current transformation of Chinese mega-cities the project investigates aspects of the utopian in constructed environments and thereby raises the question as to the current relevance and social reality of such urban utopias.

Also on view is Maya Schweizer’s work “Newlaville”, which through the use of large posters combines slogans of a 2002 advertising campaign promoting the radical modernization of old neighborhoods in Beijing with visualizations of construction projects in Chinese cities as well as in Frankfurt, Chicago or Hong Kong. Printed on billboards, these text/image montages were put up in front of urban construction sites in Europe on previous presentations, which is to say, played back into the public space in the West. “Newlaville” suggests to compare the modernization efforts of various urban cities in the East and the West and explores the thesis that the notions surrounding the utopian city, and from any public participation in shaping them are generally similar. There are numerous connections to be discovered between the works “Newlaville” and “Metropolis. Report from China,” staged at the Frankfurter Kunstverein by Maya Schweizer and Clemens von Wedemeyer: the congruencies of cultural and political lines of tradition in China and in Western societal orders; the resulting search for or claim to originality and historical models; the utopian aspect of constructed environments and more. In both works, architecture appears as a backdrop or an arena of social power relations, if not as a sociopolitical actor itself, one who alternates between protecting and threatening people, between giving them work and taking it from them. A common shared perspective in this exhibition emerges in the question of public participation in the forming of society.

Clemens von Wedemeyer (born 1974 in Göttingen) lives and works in Berlin. After studying photography and media in Bielefeld, he studied at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig (1998-2002). Von Wedemeyer has won numerous international prizes for his short films, video works, and installations, including the Böttcherstrasse Art Prize in Bremen (2005) and the VG Bildkunst Prize for Experimental Film and Video (2002). The artist has had solo exhibition at the Barbican Center, London (2009), Argos Centre for Art & Media, Brussels (2007), Kölnischer Kunstverein, and P.S.1 MoMA, New York (2006). He has taken part in international group exhibitions at venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2010), Kunst-Werke, Berlin (2008) and the Sculpture Projects Muenster (2007). His biennial participations include the Sydney Biennale (2008), the fourth Berlin Biennale (2006), and the first Moscow Biennale (2005).

Maya Schweizer (born 1976 in Maison-Alfort, France) lives and works in Berlin. After studying at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig (2000-02), she studied fine arts at the Berlin University of the Arts. The artist and filmmaker has been awarded numerous prizes and fellowships, including the Toni and Albert Kumm Prize (2009), Villa Aurora, Artist Grant from the Goethe Institute Los Angeles and a commendation at the Short Film Festival Oberhausen (2006). In 2010, she exhibited at the Westfälische Kunstverein Muenster and has taken part in numerous international group exhibitions, such as the fourth Berlin Biennale (2006).

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