Stephanie Syjuco, a University of California, Berkeley art professor, creates experimental sculptures and site-specific installations reflecting the contradictions and upheavals of global capitalism. Her 2008 exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Berlin Wall, highlighted a culture of collection and valuable historical debris associated with the end of the Cold War. Syjuco populated the museum with found, quotidian concrete chunks, raised and illuminated in a formal display. She included engraved brass plaques to note the exact location and year she found the material, but intentionally named each as “Berlin Wall.” Her remnants closely resemble so-called “pieces of history”—Wall fragments regularly sold in souvenir shops and online. Through disjuncture and the temptation of cognitive dissonance, Syjuco contends that her “fictional collection… attempts to manifest the hopes and promises that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall temporarily ushered in.”
Syjuco engages the specious triumphalism that followed the end of the Cold War and bestows her fabricated historical remains with the auratic value also placed on many displaced Wall pieces. In 2014, Syjuco was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has begun updating this project to explore disruptive forces of urban redevelopment in an age of economic upheaval. In cooperation with the Kronika Center for Contemporary Art, Bytom, she has created a new set of staged Wall pieces forged from demolished Soviet-era buildings in Poland, hand-painted and packaged to resemble actual Berlin Wall collectibles. In fall 2014, together with Haverford College, Syjuco piloted a long-term collection of historical remnants measuring the effects of contemporary gentrification in a project titled American Rubble: Micromonuments.