Hadelich in Artern
“The picture doesn’t match the building,” the students in Artern complained. During their project week, they dealt with the mosaic on the former school building in the Straße der Jugend. Some Year 9 students still had lessons in the building that was built in GDR times. The Borlach School moved out in 2018. Initially, the building stood empty. Extensive renovation work began in 2020. In 2021, the work was completed to the extent that the District Office and the Fire Brigade Technical Centre could move into the building. Other municipal institutions followed in 2022. The building was given a thermal insulation facade during the conversion phase. The entrance portal was completely rebuilt: the staircase was shortened by a third and only one of two entrance doors remained. The second entrance door gave way to an elevator. Today, the building is hardly recognisable.
A photo from the ceremonial opening of the school building on August 25, 1972 (still under the name Polytechnische Oberschule “Wilhelm Pieck”) shows the symbolic handing over of the keys in the entrance area of the school building. Behind the officials of the city and the school, a detailed and elaborately designed mosaic is clearly visible. The artwork was created by the Dessau artists Irmela Hadelich-Nauck and Martin Hadelich. The artists were known for their large-scale and colorful ceramic murals in public spaces. They also created murals for other schools in East Germany.
The three-part mosaic in Artern consists of the motifs “Water”, “Earth” and “Air. In addition to a diver and a fisherman, the “Water” motif also features a mermaid. The “Air” motif shows a cosmonaut and a dove of peace as well as a prince on a flying carpet. Today, only the “Earth” part of “Wasser Erde Luft” (Water Earth Air) remains on the building. The “Earth” motif consists of several figures: a fruit picker, two school children, a soccer player and a milkmaid with a baby in her arms. It shows a rural community that appears diverse because of the different skin colors of the figures. From today’s perspective, the depiction is not unproblematic because it serves stereotypes. In the GDR, the motif was understood as a symbol of international friendship. This initial situation promised an exciting search for traces of “Hadelich in Artern”.
The entire 9th grade of the Borlach School participated in searching for traces. On the first day of the project, 44 students and three teachers visited the Andreasstrasse Memorial and Educational Centre in Erfurt. In the morning, the students were given a guided tour of the former remand prison of the Ministry for State Security (MfS). In the afternoon, they worked in small groups on the topic of “Art in the GDR” in the permanent exhibition. For example, the students acquired knowledge about “Socialist Realism” and dealt with various recurring motifs and symbols of this art movement.
On Tuesday, the students explored the artwork of the Hadelich family on site. Although many were familiar with the artwork, few had consciously noticed it. A highlight was the visit of Christine Rammelt-Hadelich. As a teenager, the daughter of Irmela Hadelich-Nauck and Martin Hadelich herself worked on the artwork. In a conversation with her and her husband Olaf Rammelt, the students learned interesting details about the artistic creation process, the art installation, but also very general knowledge about the social living conditions in East Germany.
On Wednesday, the creative phase of the project week finally began. The students could choose one of three workshops beforehand: Art, Podcast or Social Media. Under the guidance of artist Viktoria Scholz from Leipzig, one group created its own multi-part mosaic. It took the Hadelichs a year to make the individual ceramic components. The ceramic parts were fired several times in the process. In just three days, the students created a four-part mosaic out of modeling clay. Inspired by the original artwork “Wasser Erde Luft”, they developed representations of gods that are “at home” in the three elements. “Earth” is represented twice in the student’s artwork.
The podcast group interviewed numerous Artern citizens and teachers about the artwork. In their episode “Hadelich in Artern,” they concentrate on the reception of the artwork today. The social media group created various content for Instagram: reels, posts and stories for a young audience. The social media team was even able to clarify the whereabouts of the missing two mosaic panels.
Finally, on Friday, the results of the work were presented to the entire project group. The school administration also came to the presentation. The young people presented an excerpt from their podcast episode, their prepared posts for Instagram including an editorial plan, and their own artwork. The school administration was very enthusiastic about the results and would now like to present the artwork in the school before it will be part of the planned special exhibition in the Memorial and Education Centre for a few months.
Podcast | Ep. 4 – Hadelich in Artern (German only)
Note: In the Artern town chronicle by Johann Hermann from 1991, the subject of the painting is given as “All children of the world need peace”. This is probably the topic of the order. The Hadelich family never used the topic as a title. Christine Rammelt-Hadelich only knows the artwork under the title “Wasser Erde Luft” (Water Earth Air).