In her distinctive practice, Margreiter examines how art, architecture, design, film, electronic media, and performance correspond and relate to each other. Her work zentrum (“center”) examines the role of the moving image and design in modernity using a number of mediums, including a 16mm film installation, typography, and posters. The work is based on a broken neon sign reading brühlzentrum (the name of a modernist housing complex) that the artist found in Leipzig, in the former German Democratic Republic; the sign was set to be demolished along with the complex. The artist refrains from nostalgia and seeks instead to situate the aesthetics of socialist modernism in the twenty-first century. She has created a filmic reconstruction of the sign by lighting the scene and videotaping while her crew mounted reflecting foil on the broken neon tubes, thus bringing it alive once more.
Resembling non-narrative, abstract “city” films like Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphonie einer Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, 1927) or Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s Manhatta (1920), zentrum highlights the relationship between abstract film and design in video footage migrated to 16mm black-and-white film. The font used in the neon sign can be traced back, stylistically, to the stencil typography of the German-born American artist and designer Josef Albers. Margreiter created a font called “zentrum” based on the sign.
Gallery label from Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, September 12, 2012–March 8, 2013.