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About Public Space and Other Utopias:

Works by Bert Theis from 1993 till 2016.

July 01,2022 - August 28,2022
Bert Theis, We will build our Utopias on the ruins of Utopias past, 2014, courtesy of the Bert Theis Archive

July 1, 2022 August 28, 2022

Curator’s statement for LAZNIA CCA, Gdansk, 2022 

Bert Theis (1952-2016) was born in Luxembourg. His oeuvre can be seen as a continued attempt to create situations that allow the viewer to feel and reflect on their presence and place in the world that surrounds them. His creations, which he readily described as “philosophical”, always relate to the context in which they appear and are faithful to his political, social and artistic engagement. Aesthetically refined, they encourage both dialogue and introspection. For Theis, art was an emancipatory tool, humour a weapon of thinking, and the artist a responsible and critical social being.

Opposed to the “iconographic pollution” of the so-called “society of the spectacle” – a notion forged in the 1960s as a critique of consumerist society and mass media –, he abandoned pictorial practice very early on and, from the mid-1990s, created “platforms” and “pavilions” which, in both a real and a figurative sense, showcase and elevate the individuals who use them. At the 1995 Venice Biennale, for example, he exhibited Potemkin Lock, an entirely white pavilion that encouraged visitors to take time out to relax and contemplate. In 1997, for Skulptur Projekte in Münster, he created Philosophical Platform, a place for discussion and sharing that met with unprecedented popular success. As time went on, he continued to refine the principles and explore the potential of these two works.

His interest in historical, social and urban issues led to a number of commissions for the public realm, notably Warburg Spirale. Un monument aux vivants in Strasbourg, unveiled in 2002, and the installation 2551913, created in 2013 for the Parc de la Butte-du-Chapeau-Rouge in Paris. In 2001, in the working-class district of Isola in Milan, where he had lived since 1993, he also launched the Isola Art Center, a collective platform of artists, architects, philosophers and citizens and the springboard from which he endeavored, by means of art, to establish a “concrete utopia”. Over the course of fifteen years, numerous exhibitions, pieces of performance art, presentations, and a range of other events became a collective fight to preserve social ties and combat property speculation in the district. Since his death in October 2016, citizens, workers, intellectuals and a young generation of artists have continued to uphold his ideals at the Isola Pepe Verde community garden and the self-managed RiMaflow factory.

In 2019 Bert Theis Archive was founded. Since then, it has kept his spiritual legacy alive through exhibitions, lectures and other projects. 

The Bert Theis exhibition at LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk will focus on the works the artist realized in the public space and their relation to the outdoor context and the surrounding architecture. Furthermore, the political and social aspects of his oeuvre will be thematized through his videos, collages, models and public actions, especially those related to Isola Art Center and Isola Utopia.

List of works to be presented at Laznia CCA, Gdansk, 2022

  • Potemkin Lock, model, photos, chairs, video (Mudam collection)
  • Isola project, Aggloville – Milano, digital print  (Bert Theis archive)
  • Warburg Spirale, model, photos, text (Bert Theis archive)
  • Fischbehn, bench-sctulpture (Bert Theis archive)
  • Some Hypotheses, 19 photographies, chairs (Bert Theis archive)
  • Blind /Slepi, project for 2 balustrades in Gdansk (Collection Outdoor Gallery, Laznia)
  • Non spetta a noi fornire realtà, drawing (Bert Theis archive) 
  • From fight specific to Isola Utopia, digital print (Bert Theis archive)
  • Shadow fixing, vitrine with photos (Bert Theis archive)
  • Non partecipare, vitrine with 5 newspapers (Bert Theis archive)
  • Isola Utopia – Isola Pepe Verde, wall installation, book, video, digital print (Bert Theis archive)

Enrico Lunghi was born in Luxembourg in 1962. He studied history of art and history at the University of Human Sciences in Strasbourg. He was scientific assistant at the National Museum of History and Art of Luxembourg from 1991 to 1995, then artistic director of Casino Luxembourg – Forum of Contemporary Art, which he founded with Jo Kox, from 1996 to 2008. He was General Director of the Mudam (Museum of Modern Art of Luxembourg) from 2009 to 2016. He was the curator for Luxembourg at the Venice Biennale in 1995 (Bert Theis, Potemkin Lock), in 1999 (Simone Decker, Chewing and Folding projects) and in 2007 (Jill Mercedes, Endless Lust). In 2009, he was the curator in Venice for the French Community of Wallonia-Brussels with Jacques Charlier’s 100 Sexes d’artistes project. From 2005 to 2011, he was president of the IKT (International association of curators of contemporary art). Curator of multiple exhibitions, he has also published numerous texts on art and contemporary artists. Since 2017, he is in charge of studies for the Ministry of Education (SCRIPT) and at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (IRMA). In 2019, he curated, a.o., the retrospective of Bert Theis Building Philosophy – Curating Utopia at Mudam Luxembourg, Un monde, un seul, pour demeure – Oeuvres des collections des Frac Nouvelle-Aquitaine at the Château de Biron (Dordogne) and Celebration Factory of Filip Markiewicz at Kunsthalle Osnabrück. 

Exhibition organized in cooperation with Mudam Luxembourg and Bert Theis Archive


ul. Strajku Dokerów 5
Gdańsk, 80-544
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