Lecture 009.011

PRESERVATION OF THE GDR-CULTURE OF EVERYDAY-LIFE MADE OF PLASTICS
BY FRIEDERIKE WAENTIG, STEPHANIE GROSSMAN, CHRISTOPH WENZEL

Lack of natural resources forced the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from its early days on to rely heavily on the production of plastics. Based on the local coal industry, plastics like melamin resins, polyester or PVC substituted scarce materials – especially metals – in the production of consumer goods. In the 1960s the production of plastics soared but unlike in the capitalistic West, attempts to school the consumer in the handling and care of these new materials were coordinated by the state and not by privately run companies. The goal was not to boost sale numbers but to shed their aura of ersatz. Plastics were promoted as the proof of socialism’s technological progress and moral superiority. Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, previously omnipresent household items started to vanish from every day life. Factories were dismantled and plastic objects reached the end of their natural life span – if they were not discarded earlier as unwanted relicts of the past. This paper will summarize the project and present some interesting aspects.

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