Eiko Grimberg (born 1971 in Karlsruhe, Federal Republic of Germany) works with photography, video and text. His art form of choice is the visual essay. In many of his works he examines political signs in public space. This includes architecture, as well as Grafitti and garbage. The excesses of everyday life constitute a central consideration in his work. Whether it’s neoclassical columns and capitals or banknotes and coins – these are the types of atavisms in architecture and monetary transactions he uses to show irrational and unresolved moments.
In three of his key works that deal with the reconstruction of cities and their central squares and public buildings, he highlights the ideology these structures and spaces all contain. In 2013 his book of photographs titled Future History was published; in it he closely examines the architecture of Italian fascism. In the constructions made by the Mussolini regime in Italy, but also in Italy’s former colonies, he identifies a coexistence of the modern and the neoclassical. In his 2017 intermedial work The Pool, he traces the reconstruction of Moscow’s city centre – from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour during the Tsarist era, to the soviet swimming pool, to the return of the church in contemporary Russia.
In 2020 his book Rückschaufehler was published. He has been monitoring the construction of the Berlin Palace since 2011 and investigating its concomitant layers of German history. Within the current reconstruction project, he exposes the various transitions: from the German Empire, to the Nazi regime, to West Germany and East Germany and, finally, a reunited Germany. Eiko Grimberg lives and works in Berlin.
On bookshelves, they initially appear as clear political signs: the blue volumes of the Marx-Engels-Werke (MEW). Which volumes of the 46-volume edition from the Karl Dietz publishing house in East Berlin are we talking about? Usually it is volumes 23, 24 and 25, because they contain Das Kapital. There is some dispute about the interpretation of the writings. Are they to be read state-socialist or value-theoretically, economistically or socio-politically? Have they been read at all, and if so, how thoroughly and how widely? Their meaning as political (or even cultural) signs shifts with their context. How is the space in which they stand set up? What are they in chaos, what in utmost order? What if all their neighbors are in their tradition, Adorno, Kracauer, Benjamin for example? What if art volumes are added? Where does their ideological value move in the case of an applecomputer, where in the case of original works of modern art?
If the rumours are true and parts of the demolished Berlin Palace ended up in an ape enclosure in East Berlin’s zoo, Tierpark, then the GDR administration did indeed have some sense of humour. And the notion that the bronze from a melted down Stalin statue was used to cast a sabre-toothed tiger for the Tierpark, or that the polished marble cladding from the Reich Chancellery was used in the construction of the nearest underground station, smiles on the “irony of history”. Eiko Grimberg follows the trail of bricks.
The term “Rückschaufehler”, or “hindsight bias”, points to a tendency to distort the memory of one’s own past predictions, based on what we know now of the actual outcome. We correct our predictions after the fact. We do not want accept how wrong we might have been. Berlin’s various urban legends and realities, which he pursues in this project, have in common that they desire to correct history.
Or the bias or mistake may be in hindsight itself. In a second leg of this long-time project, Eiko Grimberg documents, in essayistic form, the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace – an enterprise that was undertook with no sense of irony.
His book of photographs titled Rückschaufehler was published in December 2020 by Kodoji Press.
In his photographic project “The Pool”, Eiko Grimberg deals with an area in the centre of Moscow that has, in its own way, hosted the entire history of the twentieth century. Until 1931, it was home to Russia’s largest Orthodox church. The Soviets had it demolished in order to construct the Palace of the Soviets in its place. After the war broke out, construction was halted; after Stalin’s death, the project was finally buried forever. Then, at the beginning of the 1960s, a swimming pool was built in its place. Because of its modern facilities, it was soon world renowned. Directly after the fall of the Iron curtain, the swimming pool was covered up and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour reconstructed – where the band Pussy Riot would later stage their famous performance. Eiko Grimberg investigates a rather ideology-free phase of this area – the time of the pool. He collects eyewitness accounts through interviews and searches for graphical material from the period. At the same time, he explores contemporary Moscow, looking for architectural and artistic traces of the earlier Soviet years and the Stalin era.
Ongoing project, since 2016
2 Venece, Florence
4 Sabaudia, Modena
6 Lido di Ostia, Rome
8 EUR Rome
9 Napels, Genoa
In the 1920s and ’30s Italy experienced a massive construction boom that included urban renewal projects as well as the construction or rennovation of roads, schools, hospitals, and the facilities of political party assocations, to name but a few examples. In principle, the whole country was furnished anew – for a totalitarian society.
Today these buildings have been relieved of their ideological meaning, but not their function. They are still post offices, railway stations, kindergartens, or ministries. Where do the old political connotations go in a post-Fascist society?
Are the signs still exactly the same, are only their referents the same, or do they meaning something entirely different, or have they become empty and (once again) arbitrary? Of course they have always been arbitrarily assigned anyway.
“Future History” is an investigation of their form as well as their use in politics.
An einer Aussenwand des Gebäudes der J.P. Morgan Company in Manhattan finden sich Spuren eines Ereignisses, das fast 100 Jahre zurückliegt.
Am 16.9. 1920 explodierte ein mit Dynamit und Eisenschrapnellen beladenes Pferdefuhrwerk an der Kreuzung von Broad und Wall Street. 38 Menschen wurden getötet und hunderte verletzt. Die Aussagen der Zeugen sind widersprüchlich, einziges Indiz ist ein Hufeisen. Von ihm will die Polizei auf das Pferd, vom Pferd auf den Besitzer schließen. Sämtliche Ermittlungen verlaufen ergebnislos. Ob es sich um einen Unfall oder Anschlag handelte, konnte nie geklärt werden.
Nach dem 11. September 2001 sind im New Yorker Financial District die Sicherheitsvorkehrungen massiv erhöht worden. Die Börse und umliegende Bankgebäude gelten als 'anschlagsrelevant'. Quergestellte Autos versperren die Zufahrten, der Eingang des Stock Exchange wird von gepanzerten Fahrzeugen geschützt.
The Years to Come untersucht den Ort, an dem sich Vergangenheit und Gegenwart auf seltsame Weise verschränken.
Fotograf Festifal: No one belongs here more than you, National Gallery, Prag
it takes time to build and a second to wreck it, Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst
Some Sculptures (mit Arthur Zalewski), Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen
uneven ground, Prague
Historiker*innen, Galerie K', Bremen
Historiker*innen, Haus 1, Berlin
11. Berlin Biennale, exp. 1: the Bones of the World / Das Gerippe der Welt
Future History, University at Buffalo Art Galleries, Buffalo, New York
Reading the Cities, Wilhelm Leuschner Platz, Leipzig
f/12.2, Art Foyer der DZ Bank, Frankfurt am Main
The Pool, Kunstverein Leipzig
The Pool, Galerie K', Bremen
The Pool, Haus 1, Berlin
More to Come, SCOPE Hannover
A Visit from Ghosts, Visual Cultural Research Center, Kiew
The Beast and the Sovereign, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart
Borrowed Shapes, Galerie K’, Bremen
The Beast and the Sovereign, MACBA Barcelona
Aufstocker (with Arthur Zalewski), Kunstverein Leipzig
Would You Ever Write A Tract, Autocenter, Berlin
Galerie Weingrüll, Karlsruhe
uncharted, 267 Quartiere für zeitgenössische Kunst und Fotografie, Braunschweig
Viaggio in Italia, Atelierfrankfurt, Frankfurt am Main
Oh my Complex, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart
Widerstand? Oblomowieren: Muße, Muss und Müßigang, Leipziger Kunstverein
Viaggio in Italia, Werkschauhalle, Leipzig
Urban Noise, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
Dump Time. Für eine Praxis des Horizontalen, Shedhalle, Zürich
Remember Then: An Exhibition on the Photography of Memory, Concourse Gallery, Harvard University, Cambridge (MA), USA
Future History, Christinger De Mayo, Zürich
Personne, Schleicher & Lange, Paris
Antirepresentationalism / Trouble with Realism, KOW, Berlin
Folie du jour, Klemm’s, Berlin / Projektraum Wiels, Brüssel
Museum Folkwang, Essen
DZ-Bank, Frankfurt am MainStudienzentrum für Künstlerpublikationen/Weserburg - Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen