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  • How artist Franz Wanner investigates the dark past of German industry


How artist Franz Wanner investigates the dark past of German industry

With near-analytical precision, Franz Wanner's 'Mind the Memory Gap' uncovers the forced labour that built Germany's modern plexiglas industry under Nazi rule.

Photo: Jens Ziehe

Research-based art exhibitions that focus on the problematic continuities between the Nazi era and modern consumer brands like BMW and Porsche are a familiar trope in Germany. What this ambitious and considered (if somewhat confusing) exhibition makes clear is how pervasively these companies relied on the use of forced labour.

The contemporary artist Franz Wanner began investigating the subject after the discovery of a pair of plexiglas safety glasses in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 2006. Try as he might, he could not find any information about the labourer, eventually concluding that the person had been obscured within the Nazi camp system.

Plexiglas was first used by a German company (that would later become a part of Airbus) on World War II fighter planes and the artist has made a number of sculptures to accompany his videos, images and texts; on one wall hangs a series of ominous plexiglas riot shields.

Being both rigid and transparent, plexiglas is a great material metaphor for the dark legacy of a company that has gone on to achieve incredible international success. But despite the penetrative research, the artist has included a lot of additional work around the topic, and you can’t help but feel the exhibition would have had more impact with a narrower, more concentrated focus. ★★★

  • KINDL Centre for Contemporary Art, Am Sudhaus 3, Neukölln, through Jul 14, details.