Lena Henke produces sculptures and installations that intimately recast histories of modernism, design, and urban planning throughout her practice.
Henke’s new set of sculptures excavates the local histories and household artifacts of the Hansaviertel, a Berlin neighbourhood comprised of postwar modernist social housing where the artist’s studio is currently located. The new urban district was redesigned in 1957 by top architects (Walter Gropius, Oscar Niemeyer, Alvar Aalto, Werner Düttmann, Le Corbusier, among others), attempting to reshape postwar life through architecture, technology, and the city’s nature. While looking at archival photographs of Hansaviertel apartments, Henke no ticed Braun appliances in numerous interiors, which evoked distant memories of growing up around Braun products in West Germany. Under the direction of the renowned designer Dieter Rams, Braun manufactured fashionable household products whose innovative designs revamped postwar domestic life. For Henke, these concealable kitchens illustrated the power relations of male architects dictating women’s domestic labour through design, rendering their housework and care work invisible.
Lena Henke examines how long histories of design continue to affect gendered experiences of labour and urban space from the perspective of kitchen appliances appropriated and reproduced into a sculptural scenography. Henke digitally reworked four iconic Braun appliances of the postwar era: the KM 3 “Küchenmaschine” stand mixer (1957), the MX 3 mixer (1958), the MPZ 2 “Citromatic” citrus press (1972), and the KF 20 “Aromaster” coffee machine (1972). The sculptures’ colors are derived from vintage Braun advertisements, while their skin-like rubber surfaces emphasize the appliances’ biomorphic shapes. Henke has retained the physical glitches from the 3D printing process, which materialize on the sculptures as drips, leaks, and overflows. Upon closer inspection, the appliances appear as bodies on the verge of spilling over, their tumescent forms threatening the integrity of their modernist design.