contested modernities

In 2021, Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism will continue with Contested Modernities. The substantial knowledge gained from the collaborative work, the mutual curiosity, and the many ties between Berlin and Southeast Asia concerning content and curatorial approaches have strengthened the idea to develop a joint exhibition with an accompanying publication and symposium in Berlin.
Contested Modernities will reflect on the concept of modernity in Southeast Asia in the European context and to critically decipher historical and contemporary narratives on the politics of space.


Contested Modernities is part of the long-term project and international platform, Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism. Research supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and events held in the context of the Bauhaus centenary in 2019 in Berlin, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Yangon, and Singapore enabled an intensive investigation of the history, current state, and future of postcolonial architecture in these cities. Contested Modernities will now bring the findings from the four Southeast Asian cities to Berlin in order to continue the discussion and deepen the international exchange on modernism. Furthermore, Contested Modernities will investigate the architectural transfer between Southeast Asia and former East and West Germany.



From 18 March to 25 April 2021, the exhibition Contested Modernities will present contributions from Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Singapore, and Yangon in Berlin, consider the export of ideas and initiatives by East and West German experts to Southeast Asia, and explore the topic as it relates to the conservation of modernist buildings in Germany today. The accompanying symposium and publication will link contemporary international research on architectural modernism with critical discourses on postcolonialism and the urban challenges of the future.

The exhibition and symposium will be held at Haus der Statistik (House of Statistics) at Alexanderplatz. As an example of late East German modernism, the building and its current reconfiguration establishes a direct link to the thematic focus of Encounters and Contested Modernities. The venue stands for a new approach in dealing with the building stock of modernism. At this symbolic location, the dialogue between Germany and Southeast Asia aims to produce new insights into the history, significance, and future of modernism.

Contested Modernities is funded by the German Hauptstadtkulturfonds (Capital Cultural Fund) and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community. Additional support comes from stadtkultur international e.V., the Berlin Senate Chancellery, and the Goethe Institutes in Singapore and Yangon.

Further information on the programme can be found here.