Kunstkraftwerk Leipzig – From Coal to Creativity
Driving along the inconspicuous Saalfelder Straße in the West of Leipzig there is definitely one thing you wouldn’t expect between factories and industrial buildings: A centre of arts and culture. Nevertheless, shortly after entering the terrain of the Kunstkraftwerk, we instinctively feel that there is something special hidden behind the walls of the old power plant…however it has not always been like that:
Nearly until to the end of the 20th century a lot of parts in Saxony, as well as the west of Leipzig, were shaped by its industry. After the reunification of East Germany and West Germany a lot of power plants were radically shut down and today only the fallow ruins remind us of former times. The same happened with the former heat and power station until its architectonical value was noticed by two courageous citizens of Leipzig. They decided to rebuilt the former power station.
Today the coal, ash and fire is replaced by creativity, inspiration and new ideas and the erstwhile energy is displaced by innovation. Art, in form of exhibitions, has found a new home inside the former power station… and so we are directly on our way to the exhibition “ILLUSION-Nothing is as it seems.” of the Science Gallery in Dublin. The exhibition is celebrating its premiere in Germany and fascinates numerous visitors. We took a deeper look into the exhibition and talked with marketing director Nicole Rundo about the history of the Kunstkraftwerk, its actual exhibitions and about further plans for the future.
Nicole Rundo, since when can interested people visit the Kunstkraftwerk and what was it used for in former times?
Nicole Rundo: On the 18th of June 2016 the Kunstkraftwerk was inaugurated with the opening of the exhibition “Illusion”. However, from 1964 to 1992 you couldn`t find art here at all. Back then, three huge boilers were responsible for the heating of several industrial companies. Previously, the power station supplied energy for the tramways of Leipzig and the building was partly used as a gas plant. For a long time, the building lay fallow and now we are even happier to welcome artists and visitors from all over the world.
What was the reason for its reutilization?
Nicole Rundo: Markus Löffler , professor for medical informatics from Leipzig and architect and designer Ulrich Maldinger discovered the plant by chance, fell in love with its charm and decided to create a place for art and culture.
What does the exhibition “Illusion” offer its visitors?
Nicole Rundo: The whole exhibition tries to answer the questions: “Do we believe what we see?”and “Do we trust our senses?” There are over 20 exhibits of scientists and artists on an area of 400 qm. The exhibits connects illusion with science and witchcraft with psychology. The branches of physics, computer science or psychology gain an extraordinary connection and delude the senses of the visitors in an interactive and playful way. “Illusion” promises astonished faces and a lot of emotions.
Which of the exhibits are the most popular among the visitors?
Nicole Rundo: The exhibit “Alter Ego” is definitely one of the most popular works. Two people have to stand towards each other in a small and dark room. In sequences of less than one second the visitors do interchangeably see their reflection in the mirror and the reflection of their counterpart in front of them. This suddenly creates the feeling as if one melts together with the other person. It generates various emotions – from fear to the loss of control or simply fun. Not only “Alter Ego” is fascinating. The other exhibits do also bring the own perception into question by the use of light installations or geometrical designs. The senses of hearing and vision have to be used permanently and fascinate adults as well as children long after their visit of the exhibition.
What is the main intention behind the exhibits?
Nicole Rundo: Most of the artists want to cheat the visitors’ senses and challenge the own perception. A lot of the exhibits have a high aesthetical value, others are simply satirical and funny. Some do even have a political background. However, of course this is a question of one’s own interpretation.
Who is part of the team of the Kunstkraftwerk?
Nicole Rundo: We are a kind of “melting pot”. International colleagues from Italy, Brazil, France, England and Germany work together. We perfectly complement each other. Our team exactly mirrors what the Kunstkraftwerk wants to represent. An appearance not on a local or regional but national and international basis. Leipzig is constantly changing and profits from internationality. Ten years ago I was in Leipzig as an Erasmus-Student and now I am surprised how much has changed within these years. The Kunstkraftwerk represents exactly what Leipzig still needs. Internationality.
What is so special about the Kunstkraftwerk?
Nicole Rundo: I would say it is mainly its atmosphere. The walls are unplastered and many objects are still in its original condition. You still have the feeling of standing in an old power plant. In combination with art it still spreads the same energy which was produced by machines – now in form of art and creativity. That’s simply impressing.
What is the Kunstkraftwerk for, next to its exhibitions?
Nicole Rundo: It functions as a cultural centre. That means that we offer it as location for events. Moreover, theatre plays as well concerts can be arranged here. We believe that research, art and design belong together and have to be combined inside the Kunstkraftwerk.
What is going to surprise the visitors the next months?
Nicole Rundo: The exhibition “Illusion” is open until the 27th of November. After that it will actually be continued with new exhibits from different artists and scientist. Furthermore, we are planning the exhibition “Hundertwasser Experience”. It will open on the 21th of September 2016. A team of Italian artist animated the original art of the painter and architect of Wien called “Hundertwasser”. In form of computer- and video animations the industrial flair of the Kunstkraftwerk will be combined with his art. We are looking forward and are excited if our visitors will like the exhibition.
We are also excited and say thank-you for the interview!
All Photos ©Kai Bergmann