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Dortmunder U: exhibitions 2019-present

In 2017, Soda was invited to advice on how the Dortmunder U (DU) - which houses several institutions - could be strengthened as a whole. Following this, Soda renovated the DU's joint exhibition space - the so-called 'Oberlichtsaal' (1,200 m2) - and the Museum Ostwall which is also located in the DU (see Museums). Soda subsequently designed (and is currently designing) several exhibitions for both the DU and the Museum Ostwall.  

'Flowers', Dortmunder U, 2022

With the exhibition 'Flowers!', over 120 works with the flower in the leading role are presented in the 'Oberlichtsaal'. The exhibition sheds light on how modern and contemporary artists - such as Renate Bertlmann, Fischli/Weiss, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Meret Oppenheim, Marc Quin, Dong Quynh, Odilon Redon, Gerhard Richter, Pipilotto Rist, Martha Rosler, Hito Steyerl, Anaïs Tondeur en Andy Warhol - use the flower in their work to address issues such as personal loss, feminism and the environment. 

Soda developed the design for this exhibition. Together with curators Regina Selter and Stefanie Sweisshorn-Ponert, Soda (with Caro Delsing) worked closely to create a visually strong exhibition with a clear scenography.

The essence of the design is the application of a number of large gradients on the walls. The starting point for this was the colour gradient we so often find in flower petals. Due to their scale and impact, the gradients engage in an equal dialogue with the architecture of the Dortmunder U: they connect the massive building with the - often small - works. The gradients naturally stimulate visitors to movement, which leads to clear routing. In terms of content, the gradients create cohesion in an exhibition consisting of diverse works: they accentuate the various themes and have a supportive effect on the individual works. Because the gradients are slowly changing, there is only one colour in the background when the visitor stands in front of a work. This allows plenty of room to focus on the works themselves.



The exhibition
The exhibition starts with several expressionist works. In this section a terra coloured wall reinforces the theme - the representation of the flower as a personal, inner expression - and unites the paintings. Subsequently, the eye is drawn to a long wall on which the first gradient is applied: the visitor naturally follows this wall, which initiates the routing in a natural way. Following this wall, the visitor enters the second space and notices that the gradient connects to the ceramic work of Quynh Dong, 'Tears of a Swan'.


Further on, the colour palette switches to pink for works related to the theme of feminism and society. In this second part of the exhibition, the visitor encounters a striking gradient. This gradient, ranging from deep red to black, This gradient, surrounds a large installation by Annette Bertlmann. This work consists of dozens of glass red roses standing in line on long metal knives. With Bertlmann's approval, the gradient here engages in a direct symbiosis with the work.

The same happens further on in the exhibition with a metres-long series of photo prints by Anaïs Tondeur, 'The Chernobyl Herbarium'. This series is set against a cool, metallic gradient. Here too, the gradient enhances the work, which consists of rayograms taken every year after the nuclear disaster: direct prints on sensitive glass plates of plants that grow in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Once again, gradient and work coincide.


The third and final theme of the exhibition presents works related to the theme Environment. Here, the dark blue walls counterbalance powerful, but also darker works by Marc Quin, David Hockney and Andreas Gursky, among others. The exhibition concludes with a large installation by Hito Steyerl, situated in a high enclosed darkened space. Finally, the visitor leaves the exhibition via the bright entrance area where, on the long wall behind the counter, a colourful plot of a work by Fischli/Weiss - also part of the exhibition - is displayed. 


'Ein Gefühl von Sommer', Dortmunder U, in collaboration with Museum Singer, 2019

The exhibition 'Ein Gefühl von Sommer', situated in the 'Oberlichtsaal', showed a representative overview of Dutch painting from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with approximately 120 works selected from the Singer Collection in Laren: with painters from the Barbizon School, The Hague School, Amsterdam Impressionism and at the time current movements such as Pointillism and Cubism. Works on display included those by George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israëls, Jacob Maris, Bart van der Leck and Jan Sluijters. Attention was also devoted to the American collector's couple Anna Singer-Brugh and William Henry Singer. This exhibition of Museum Ostwall at the Dortmunder U was part of a large-scale cooperation and exchange of collections. A selection of the Museum Ostwall's expressionist collection was presented in Laren.
Curators: Regina Selter and Anne van Lienden.




Given the relative unfamiliarity in Germany with the Singer Museum and the former artists' village of Laren, Soda proposed to set the - often small - works in a visual context by means of enlarged postcards and photographs from the era in question. By doing so, Soda created an evocative image of Laren and its hinterland. At the time, Laren, surrounded by beautiful moorland, attracted many artists, particularly from Amsterdam. They portrayed the village, its nature and the local residents and through their presence brought atmosphere and momentum. With their arrival, a tram connection was constructed and villa's were built. All these subjects are reflected in the artworks from that period. Deriving from some of these works, Soda selected the colour palette for the walls, which consisted mainly of blues and greens.