Aileen Kunert never tires of explaining the concept of restoration, which follows a supposedly random mix of historical details and a modern replacement. She says, “This place gives me a certain comfort I find hard to explain—in that you should follow the rules to a certain extent and then make your own turn to find your true self. This is exactly what is mirrored in Castle Kummerow.” Concerning her father, she says, “He sort of wanted to honor the layers of time, which have shaped the house. Especially the Zeitgeist of the German Democratic Republic, which had no appreciation for anything noble, was important to be kept, as this period in the history of Germany had a great impact on the life of my father.”
The house reflects his ambiguous life due to his past as a former Berlin GDR citizen. Torsten Kunert intended to highlight the various facets of the original and semi-original interior. The appeal of a Lenin-Slogan, for instance, can be highly disturbing for a visitor, especially if it reflects their own history in the GDR. “To my father, they are authentic,” says Aileen. “And as a result, they were most true to him, which is why he cherished them.”
The preservation of fragments can be interpreted as a reflection of his own history. For Torsten Kunert, it is more than just a nostalgic fondness to keep up with these traces of the past. The GDR times versus manor house tradition – Kunert dares a unique approach to illustrating the effects of politics in this rural region that is now poised for tourism growth.
“I like the contrast of baroque architecture, which is plastered with GDR-propaganda quotes and images. Some guests might dislike them, arguing that they are inappropriate for such an elegant house,” says Aileen. “And there’s the clue to it: the broken parts of the house become exhibition pieces themselves, so they perfectly complete the fusion of the historic interior and the modern photographs. My dad used to say: I want nothing fake in this house! Fake, for him, means to restore the original substance so you could not tell at first glance if it is old or new. But here, you can immediately see where the glory is gone forever and where it is preserved. In that, the house becomes a true storyteller of the past – with every phase of it!”
Marvelous photographs are perfectly suited to large rooms with an air of grandeur and aristocracy. What is typically found in capital museums, such as MOMA or Tate Modern, is being taken into the middle of nowhere—with works by famous artists like Andreas Gursky, Martin Schoeller, Helmut Newton, Marina Abramovic, or Will McBride, as well as some famous GDR artists. Thorsten Kunert liked to be edgy, combining beauty with awkwardness. A theme which he extends in his collection. Aileen pauses for a moment: “That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? It’s the cracks that shape us.”