Domestic Choices: Site Specific Installation at The Wende Museum
Curtains serve to darken rooms, to provide privacy for those inside, and to both stop drafts coming from the outside and hold warmth generated from the inside. They serve these practical purposes while also offering beauty; they add color and perhaps pattern, and they soften windows’ right angles and the hardness of their material. Typically, the decorative element of any curtain faces inward, contributing to the overall design and mood of the interior space of a room. Conceived specifically for Wende Museum’s original East German Guardhouse, Bari Ziperstein’s Domestic Choices (2022) is a set of hand painted and embroidered curtains encircling the interior of the guardhouse, which is lit from within to generate a warm glow. Rather than face inward, the curtains in Domestic Choices face outward, confusing not only the orientation of inside and outside but also the very purpose of both curtains in general and the guardhouse itself, a tiny piece of architecture intended for privacy’s opposite: surveillance.
The curtains in Domestic Choices are inspired by the hundreds of textile patterns Ziperstein has encountered through her extensive research in the Wende Museum archives. Though her textile research has informed her work in ceramics for many years, this is the first time she has worked in textiles herself. Made in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist and fabricator Jill Spector of In Favor Of, the curtains were first block printed with celery hearts and sponges to suggest a petaled flower pattern. The floral pattern was next layered with abstract forms painted with stencils and then further layered with leaf and dot patterns painted in free hand. The final layer of embroidery depicts Soviet war planes. The pattern synthesizes themes she noticed over and over in her research: florals, repetition, abstract patterns, and symbols of military might.