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Christian von Steffelin
October 25 - December 13, 2008

Friday, October 24, 7-10pm


Christian von Steffelin has lived in Berlin since 1993 and has since documented the tremendous changes that have taken place especially in the former eastern part of the city. He is particularly interested in the temporary states of these developments, which he documents in long-term studies of individual places and urban spaces. In his search for the nature of transience he captures the special atmosphere of these places at a particular point of their existence.

In 1994 Christian von Steffelin began to photograph the Palast der Republik (the house of representatives of former East Germany). The discrepancy between past and present is especially palpable here. Abandoned places still carry a power, images seem to pontentiate. They exude melancholy or a sense of discomfort. Christian von Steffelin documents the changes taking place in this former center of power.

Unique in its conception, the Palast was both a house of representatives as well as a cultural center. Next to the plenary hall, the building featured restaurants open to the public, a milk- and a moccabar, a gallery for contemporary art, a large hall for cultural events, as well as a bowling alley. In the mid 70ies the young GDR projected a cosmopolitan attitude. Today, in the era of terrorist attacks, such a building would hardly be conceivable.

After the wall came down, East-German officials decided in the last political session taking place there to close the Palast due to asbestos contamination, according to official statement. That was in 1990. Since then the Palast has been dying a long death. While there were renovation measures still being discussed initially, other voices increasingly called for the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss (City Castle), which had been destroyed in 1950. Walter Ulbricht, the then chancellor of East Germany, had given the detonation order, despite worldwide protests. For 5 centuries the Stadtschloss had been a center of power for the Prussian and later Wilhelminian Era, but had been severely damaged in both World Wars.

Meanwhile, the Palast has almost completely been taken down. As a temporary measure there will be a lawn area covering the area starting in 2009.

On the occasion of the Month of Photography, berg19 is presenting a selection of images of the Palast, that were taken primarily before the asbetos renovation started in 1996.

A postcard edition with 4 images will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.