James Huckenpahler (American, born 1969)

James Huckenpahler creates work at the intersection of urban spaces, archival traces, and fodder from dream journals that register his subconscious connections. One of his primary subjects is his native Washington D.C., where he works and teaches, and has spent many years in pursuit of an epic civic work about his hometown. In 2011, as a creative research resident of Provisions Library, he traveled to Berlin to consider D.C.’s parallels with the German capital, with special attention to the ways that formerly fallow industrial spaces might be transformed into vital cultural sites. Exploring Berlin on foot, he encountered, among the many sites of interest, a former amusement park with roots connected to Ger-many’s division. Located in the former East Berlin, Kulturpark Plänterwald was a socialist fairground regarded as a place of collectivity, leisure, and indulgence.

James Huckenpahler Destroy What Destroys You (for S.H.), 2014 Hemphill Fine Arts
James Huckenpahler
Destroy What Destroys You (for S.H.), 2014
Hemphill Fine Arts

After reunification, private owners augmented and renamed the area Spreepark, adding new rides and dinosaur sculptures to create a “Western World.” Many of the ruins of both eras of the park remain in situ to this day. Recalling his own memories of Uncle Beazley, a fiberglass triceratops situated on Washington’s National Mall during his childhood, Huckenpahler views such relics in Berlin as uncanny reminders of an outmoded historical wonder and as metaphors of political distortion. “Already for my students, the bureaucratic behemoths of the Cold War are as colossal and distant as the post-apocalyptic Pompeii,” Huckenpahler states. In the aftermath of his residency, Huckenpahler produced large prints built from digital 3D models, as well as the book Metamonument, as part of a multi-disciplinary virtual tour of both cities.

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