But they nevertheless saved the existence of this place after the former nobility residence of the Maltzahn-Family was abandoned,“ she explains. Ever since the Soviet army occupied the place at the end of the Second World War, the house underwent many roles: as a refugee camp, as a quarantine for the wounded, as a restaurant, as a holiday camp, as a school, as a post office.
A hybrid himself, due to his past as a former Berlin GDR-citizen, Torsten Kunert intended to highlight the various faces of interieur. The appeal of a Lenin-Slogan, for instance, is up to the observer. „To my father they are authentic”, his daughter says. “And therefore they were most true to him, that’s why he cherished them.“
Preserving fragments can be seen as a reflection of his own history. For Torsten Kunert it is more than just nostalgic fondness to keep up with these traces of past. GDR-times versus manor house tradition – Kunert dares a unique approach to show the impacts of politics in this rural region, which has lost its former function and is now about to blossom in touristic terms.
„I like the contrast of baroque architecture, which is plastered with GDR-propaganda quotes and images. Some guests might dislike them, arguing, that they are inappropriate for such an elegant house”, Aileen tells me. „And there’s the clue to it: The broken parts of the house become exhibition pieces themselves, so they perfectly complete the fusion of the historic interiour and the modern photographs. My dad used to say: I want nothing fake in this house! Fake for him means to restore the original substance so you could not tell at first glance if it is old or new. But here, you can immediately see where the glory is gone forever. In that the house becomes a true storyteller of the past – with every phase of it!”
The visitor will find him- or herself standing in the remarkable stairwell, looking at a propaganda-quote of Walter Ulbricht, one of the most important politicans of the GDR, which says: „Denken ist die erste Bürgerpflicht!“ – „Thinking is the most precious civic duty!“.
But this is just the kind of provocative sphere, which gives the place it’s function as a center of art. It is not innocent, it is not just beautiful, it is also disturbing, it can shaken you up – but that’s exactly what art is there for: to not just enlighten, but to get your brain in motion.
You will find the old ceilings being cut in the middle and being extended by a rather plain version, you will find new doors in their bare wooden condition next to original ones, which have been restored but kept the old painting, new window handles on old frames. And please, take your time to admire the remarkable historic parquet. I counted more or less 15 different types so take a look down if you are just that kind of a wooden-floor-lover like I am.
Last but not least, there are these marvelous photographs which perfectly fit into these large rooms – taken by the likes of Andreas Gursky, Martin Schoeller, Helmut Newton or Marina Abramovic or Will McBride as well as some famous GDR-artists. Thorsten Kunert liked to be edgy, combining beauty with awkwardness. A theme which he extends in his collection. Aileen pauses for a moment: „That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? It’s about the cracks, which shape us.“