neutraVDL
NEUTRA VDL HOUSE
and WENDE MUSEUM AND ARCHIVE OF THE COLD WAR present


COMPETING UTOPIAS
An Experimental Installation of Cold War Modern Design from East and West in One Context


at Neutra VDL Research House
July 13 - September 13, 2014
Public Opening: July 12, 2014 6-10 PM

Poster Design:
David Hartwell, 2014
Visiting Hours:
Fridays: 6-9 PM
Sat/Sunday: 11 AM - 3 PM
Admission is $10.

Competing Utopias is a design collision that should never happen. But somehow, in Los Angeles, in 2014, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it will.

This installation is a ‘mash-up’ in the most provocative sense of that word. Its force comes from the collision of two design cultures that have been kept apart but have been visually connected in ways yet unexamined. What we propose is an experimental installation that presents Cold War modern design from East and West in one context.

Competing Utopias is organized by two Los Angeles institutions: the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences and the Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, each a different type of museum. The Neutra House is an iconic Los Angeles mid-century modern house museum, designed by Austrian born American architect Richard Neutra. The Wende Museum is the largest archive of Cold War artifacts in the world. Both ‘institutions’ originated in German speaking Europe, both subsequently landed in Los Angeles. Their collections embody two forks of a Cold War history.

The Cold War was fought not just with guns, but also with art, design, and culture. Who would formulate the vision for the future of humanity? Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, historians, curators, and artists are investigating the divisions between East and West in their visual expressions of modernity — how were they different and how were they similar? Form knows no political boundaries or foreign languages — in this most basic sense the ‘cultural Cold War’ was a truly global competition of ideas and ideals.

The strength of this installation comes from its simplicity; that a cultural disruption is arranged by just a few simple acts. All of the objects from the Neutra House will be removed and Cold War objects from the Wende collection will repopulate the home: chairs, tables, lamps, phones, pictures, books, cooking utensils and even Stasi surveillance equipment, to be stand-ins for the removed originals. While the installation will not have any physical labels in order to provoke an unimpeded conversation about the contrasts and similarities of modern design, digital information will be available online and on site-specific iPads provided for further research and exploration.

The installation is meant to ask more questions than it could possibly answer. Why do design objects from the East fit so seamlessly, often invisibly, into a high design mid-century home from the West? Is Cold War design from West and East so different after all? And how has Los Angeles as a place of this cultural collision altered the meaning of these design histories?

Competing Utopias will challenge and broaden our understanding of Cold War design and will compel us to reflect upon an entirely new context for these histories that is the installation itself.

Special events will be presented in conjunction with the installation, including lectures and summer dinner parties with luminaries in architecture, design, film, as well as screenings of ‘rediscovered’ DEFA technical and zoological documentary films from East Germany.


Curators: David Hartwell, Bill Ferehawk, Justin Jampol, Sarah Lorenzen, and Patrick Mansfield

Postcard Narratives and Artworks: Katya Tylevich and Alexei Tylevich

Wende Team: Sarah Davis, Kate Dollenmayer, Joanne Kim, Christine Rank and Donna Stein.

VDL Team: Kate Bilyk and Johnny Tran.

Cal Poly Pomona architecture student and alumni tour guides: Ashley Amparano, Yan Aung, Christine Aydt, Chriscelle Banas, Lindsey Calabrese, Joseph De Santiago, Annelise Denton, Alex Gomez, Kenneth Huang, Ryssa Marquez, Jose Mero, Levy Minemann, Devin Miyasaki, Kuniko Nickel, Andrew Oliver, Jeff Palmer, Juhee Park, Hailey Peitzman, Pegah Rezai, Andrew Rhee, Abigail Robles, Richard Sanchez III, Noam Saragosti, Summer Thomas, Micheal Torres, and Namrata Tulsianey.

Funded by: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Media sponsors: Kultur Projecte Berlin, AIA LA, Goethe Institute, and Buttermilk Inc.

Outreach support from: Erin Cullerton.


East Bloc*Busters
Summer movie nights at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences August 8th and September 5th, 2014

In conjunction with the exhibition Competing Utopias, join us for two Friday evenings of 16mm and 8mm films from East Germany and the Soviet Union, projected in their original formats. Drawn from the Wende Museum's extensive collection of educational, amateur, and animated films, titles such as "Turn Left at the Moon" (a 1957 puppet animation on the launching of Sputnik), "The Preparation and Use of PVC," and "Through Moscow by Taxi" will surprise and delight you with their depictions of work and leisure activities, scientific and industrial processes, and with their vivid color and careful craftsmanship elucidating even the most obscure topics. We'll also screen a small selection of our vintage home movies, affording an intimate glimpse of everyday life at home and on travels throughout the East Bloc.

These events are free, but seating is limited! Please RSVP to info@wendemuseum.org and include the words "East Bloc*Busters" in the subject heading.

Friday August 8 - East Bloc*Busters I
Friday September 5 - East Bloc*Busters II

Popcorn and drinks on the patio at 7:30pm; films begin at 8pm
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