DDR- und BRD-Design – Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede

In aktuellen Debatten rücken Gemeinsamkeiten im Design aus West- und Ostdeutschland verstärkt in den Fokus. Eine Sammlungspräsentation zu dieser Thematik beschäftigt sich derzeit im Neue Museum – Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg, in Kooperation mit der Neuen Sammlung München. Ziel dieser kleineren Ausstellung ist es zu zeigen, welche Gegenstände links und rechte der „Mauer“ ganze Generationen prägten.[1] Dabei soll „nicht nur eine Zusammenschau vergleichbarer, gestalterischer Lösungen und übergreifender Phänomene, sondern auch Einblicke in unterschiedliche Herangehensweisen“ entstehen.[2]
Das NMN präsentiert in einem Raum insgesamt 88 Objekte aus Ost und West, sortiert nach sieben Themengebieten. Neben „Klassikern“ des Designs wie Nich Roerichts TC 100-Hotelgeschirr oder Mart Stams Werkstattstuhl werden viele weitere Gegenstände zur Schau gestellt, die mitunter weniger bekannt sind. Alle Objekte verbindet, dass sie – so die Kurator_innen – den Alltag eines Konsumenten prägten.

Blick auf die Sektion der Tisch- und Hängelampen, Photo von Yves Vincent Grossmann

Bei der Aufstellung der jeweiligen Gegenstände fällt auf, wie wenig sich die gefundenen Designlösungen aus Ost und West teilweise unterscheiden. Welche Kaffeemühle, Tischleuchte oder Schreibmaschine mit oder ohne „Made in West-Germany“ produziert wurde, lässt sich heute auf den ersten Blick kaum noch zielsicher sagen. Es gelingt den Ausstellungsmachern dadurch bei vielen Alltagsgegenständen zu zeigen, wie vergleichbar das Design aus DDR und BRD teilweise war. Wenn man sich dabei die Aussage von Martin Kelm in Erinnerung ruft, dass es nur ein „Design im Sozialismus“ und kein „sozialistisches Design“ gäbe, dann lässt sich diesbezüglich in der Sammlungspräsentation dazu wenig finden. Vielmehr bekommt der Betrachter den Eindruck vermittelt, es gäbe nur „ein“ deutsches Design – unabhängig von dem jeweiligen Wirtschaftssystem. Selbstverständlich ist dies nicht das Ziel der Kurator_innen aus Nürnberg und München.

Blick auf die Sektion der Küchenobjekte, Photo von Yves Vincent Grossmann

Die Ausstellung im NMN ist vielmehr ein interessanter Beitrag zur Frage, welche Gemeinsamkeiten und Divergenzen im Design von Ost und West erkennbar sind. Wurden während dem Systemkonflikt eher die Unterschiede betont, so werden seit den 2000er Jahren häufig die einigenden Elemente hervorgehoben. Es besteht bei dieser Darstellung rasch die Gefahr, Verbindendes oder Unterscheidendes zu stark zu betonen. Die Ausstellung in Nürnberg positioniert sich interessanterweise dahingehend, dass sie Gemeinsamkeiten stärker betont. Ob sich diese Deutung verallgemeinern lässt, müssen weitere Studien zur deutsch-deutschen Designgeschichte zeigen.

[1] Internetseite zur Sammlungspräsentation: http://www.nmn.de/de/sammlung/aktuell-in-der-sammlung/east-and-west-ddr-brd.htm.
[2] Wandtafel zur Ausstellung.

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Visions of Sustainability in Design History

Gary Anderson and his original design of the recycling logo, by Gary Anderson, CC BY-SA 3.0

The term „sustainability“ has become increasingly importance in many social debates. Current design history research looks at the aspect of „sustainability“ as well. In mid-June this year, a workshop entitled „Environmental Histories of Design“  was organized by the Norwegian Professor Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo) along with Finn Arne Jørgensen (Umeå University) at the Rachel Carson Centre at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. A Norwegian research group has been working on aspects of sustainability in design history since 2014. The team, led by Kjetil Fallan, runs its own research blog: www.backtothesustainablefuture.net.

The aim of the workshop in Munich was to discuss previously disregarded historical ties of design and sustainability. The contributions can be grouped into two different approaches. Arguments were either object or discourse-oriented, while both approaches have their advantages. More relevant is what questions are being asked. I methodically pursued a discourse analysis approach, thus it was very exciting for me to see how international colleges work with discourse analyses on design topics. I will briefly introduce three examples and bring in some thought of mine.

The debates in West Germany about design and obsolescence were explored by the Wuppertal Professor Heike Weber. The aspect of a planned life cycle of objects is currently discussed controversially. From a design historical perspective, we know relatively little about this topic. Weber argued, rightly so, that the life cycles of consumer items in the 20th century must not have necessarily reduced. This simplistic story must be questioned critically. The importance of the designer can certainly provide information about the historical development in the field of obsolescence.

The Norwegian Ida Kamilla Lie (University of Oslo) presented first results of her PhD project (based on her master’s thesis), in which she dealt with Victor Papanek’s importance for Scandinavian design discourses. Papanek was active, from 1966 to 1970, in the Scandinavian Design Students Organization (SDO). Particularly important was the question of the social responsibility of designers to society. Lie pointed out,that Papanek played a key role for the former generation of buddying designers. At the same time, this example is a profound analysis of how design discourses were already globalised in the 1960s and 1970s and then rapidly and widely adopted.

Diagram_Tags_Umwelt

But what did the relationship of environmentalism and design mean in relation to the Federal Republic of Germany? I will try to discuss this shortly on the basis of published articles about environment and industrial design. The following graph shows the time distribution of published debate contributions, such as books, newspaper or magazine articles, which deal with „Umwelt“. This visualization of my literature database illustrates that the concept of environment was addressed from the 1960s to the 1990s onwards. Striking is the rapid increase from 1970 to 1972. A likely explanation could be the publication of Victor Papanek „Design for the Real World – Human Ecology and Social Change“ from 1971, as well as the publications of the Institut für Umweltplanung at Ulm (the successor of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm). Papaneks book introduced the term “international environment” to the design discourse and experienced a varied reception.

Another interesting feature of this statistical distribution are the major differences between the years 1973-1974 and 1975-1976. The strong increase from 1973 to 1974 could be interpreted by the effects of the first oil crisis. This was a relevant development, which also affected the work of industrial designers. However, this shows that the environment was discussed by Papanek’s initiative in the Federal Republic until 1972. In the year 1973 significantly fewer players were published on aspects of the environment. This discussion is related again to the context of the oil price crisis of 1974.

The difference from 1975 to 1976 seems plausible if one considers that at the international ICSID Congress in Moscow 1975, the newly established Working Group „Environment and Design“ presented its results. The results of the ICSID working group were followed by a lot of West German Design, but not discussed further during the year 1976. Gabriele Oropallo (University of Oslo) deals with this aspect in his doctoral thesis. He presented parts of his research results at the above-mentioned workshop at the Rachel Carson Centre. Oropallos research will problematise and analyse the ICSID group, headed by GDR designer Martin Kelm. Remarkably, the contemporary understanding of the term environmental “Umwelt” is not congruent with the current meaning. Nevertheless this shift in meaning is also a big challenge for all researchers‘ in the history of design.