In her work, Karolina Freino often uses meaningful gestures, shifts and interventions, dedicating them to specific places and spaces, exploring their stories, combining senses and meanings in an unobvious and eloquent way. STRIKE! is a response to the experience of the POCHEN Symposium last October and an invitation to try and address a theme related to the reunion of Germany and the pursuits of Treuhandanstalt and POCHEN Biennale: Preis of the Future.
Freino’s intervention was originally designed to temporarily cover a monumental relief featuring a celebrated excerpt from the Communist Manifesto: “Proletarians of all countries unite!”, part of the Karl Marx Monument by Leo Kerbel.
The relief was to be covered with a reproduction of a historical strike manifesto board from 1993 (the original board is kept at Industriemuseum Chemnitz). The event was supposed to mark the 30th anniversary of the reunification and revive the still resonant story waiting to be told in full. Or rather, the incalculable individual stories behind the numbers printed on the board, as well as behind most of the statistical data we encounter every day.
The act of covering up the workers’ unity rally cry, embodying their faith in the impending new order, with their real cry – the incorporation of their gesture of protest against capitalist cannibalization into the Marx monument – would have lent itself to multiple interpretations. Is it an accusation? Does it probe into “unification”? Does it interrogate the value of labor, commodity, exploitation? Is it a comment on the utopian nature of revolution?
Today, given the historical value of the building, its technical capacity, and legal possibilities, this original idea remains an innovative concept and a point of reference.
We kämpfen weiter!
During the POCHEN Biennale, the extremely committed efforts of the organizers make it possible for the work to morph into an action and become a very contemporary manifesto. It is a reminder of what should never be forgotten – the urgency of social, global solidarity in the face of new threats, systemic experiences, and economic challenges. At the same time, it undermines the belief in this utopia.
In the symbolic dimension, the work no longer conceals, but looks back on itself in a familiar slogan, which continues to be a wake-up call. It engages in a conversation with this slogan in another, now-relevant way, while the giant head of the great philosopher faces the strike poster, eyeing it relentlessly. This tension is veritably electrical. It interrogates the limits of capitalism, which has not collapsed. It inquires into the contemporary category of “workers” and into the accountability of their bosses. It looks into the seamless safety of corporations which are “too big to fall” and their employees. It asks about the “social responsibility” of a business that cares only for itself. About the sense of unification and the future of new unions. About social solidarity in the face of current challenges. About the primacy of figures and targets.
About boundaries and divisions with which successive generations have had to live since the industrial and then digital revolution, and which have resulted in the commodification of the entire planet, in the camouflaging and rationalization of exploitation, and in illusory control, while the advent of the Anthropocene heralds an imminent new era.
Karolina Freino, born in 1978 in Poland. Studied at the Academy of Arts and Design in Wrocław (sculpture), the Edinburgh College of Art (School of Sculpture), and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (MFA Public Art & New Artistic Strategies); in 2014-2017 completed a Ph.D. project at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw/Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Assistant Professor at the Academy of Arts and Design in Wrocław. Recipient of grants from, among others, the Alfred Töpfer Stiftung (2005/6) and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland (2012). Works at the intersection of various media, predominantly in the public sphere.
As an international forum for art and society, the POCHEN Biennale is an experimental and discourse space for multimedia art in Chemnitz. The exhibition focuses on international and regional artists who work at the interface of art and technology. POCHEN brings together the artists’ voices with relevant minds from science and society. The focus this year: the Treuhandanstalt. Biennale’s title” Preis of the Future.