Krauß in Weimar
The building at Herderplatz 14 was constructed between 1712 and 1716 as a school building of the Wilhelm-Ernst-Gymnasium (high school). Today, the building houses the interim town hall and the registry office of the city of Weimar. None of the participants of the workshop “Krauß in Weimar” could believe that there was a work of art from East Germany inside the entrance hall of the building.
In GDR times, a Polytechnic Centre was located in the building on Herderplatz from 1969 onwards. The centre commissioned the Weimar artist Johanna Krauß to design a mural for the entrance area, which she completed by the time of the opening. On ceramic-painted split tiles, she artistically transposed a sentence by Walter Ulbricht, then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED: “Whoever wants to understand socialism / must read Goethe’s Faust and Marx’s Communist Manifesto.” Ulbricht’s sentence can be read on the well-preserved artwork.
In the first part of the workshop, the participants dealt with the artwork directly on site and dealt intensively with the content of the picture and the symbols of “Socialist Realism”. The work shows the scholar Dr Faust in the foreground, standing next to workers, young scientists, a mother and a pioneer. All figures are grouped around a tree, symbolic of the construction of socialism. One of the workers waves a large red flag. In front of it hover three oversized doves of peace. In keeping with Walter Ulbricht’s sentence, Johanna Krauß brings the story of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe into harmony with the ideals of the socialist society.
Then the participants reconstructed the history of the artwork on the basis of files and newspaper articles: Johanna Krauß commission was to create a mural on the theme “Goethe’s Faust – German Labour Movement – scientific-technical revolution. But the participants did not only find something in the written sources. They also found traces of its history in the artwork itself: parts of the stucco were sawn out of the ceiling (presumably when the mural was installed) in order to fit the artwork into the wall. The participants also discovered traces of the Peaceful Revolution: A slogan was written on the tiles with a waterproof marker that can still be read today. It calls on the people in East Germany to live freely.
In the second part of the workshop, the participants created their own ceramic tiles under the guidance of the artist Frank Steenbeck. Based on the doves of peace in the mural by Johanna Krauß, they artistically explored the theme of “peace” themselves. In doing so, they also made references to current (political) situations and events and finally developed their own peace symbols, which they applied as motifs to their tiles on the basis of their preliminary drawings.
The workshop took place in cooperation with the “Weimarer Rendezvous mit der Geschichte” and the Weimarer Mal- und Zeichenschule.
Podcast | Ep. 3 – Krauß in Weimar (German only)