March 31, 2003 | Press Release

Artwork at the Institute

Art will play no small part in the opening ceremony of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) on March 31, 2003, in Rostock's Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1. The works of four artists, the winners of a competition, will be presented to the public for the first time.

The various stages in the life of a human being formed the thematic focus of the competition: birth, leaving the parental home, marriage, migration, retirement and/or age-related illness/handicap and finally death. These artworks thus reflect the topics being researched by scientists at Rostock's Max Planck Institute.

Gerd Frick I: Free painting

The Institute's new building is spacious and provides for optimal natural light. It consists of two four-story components that stand parallel to one another and are connected by a middle section. The free painting by Gerd Frick, which won first prize in the competition, is on display in the bright inner courtyard, which is located at the intersection between the middle section and the main building parts. The painting, which consists of three separate parts, begins in the second floor and ends in the fourth floor under the glass-roof. The color graphics (aquatinta) measure 1.8 by 2.5 meters each. They have been inserted between two piacrylic sheets, framed with aluminum.

The specific graphic technique gave rise to six prints combining a high level of abstraction with realistic details, which are in harmony with the architecture. The logical sequence of the pictures, which result from the functional conditions of the Institute's work and the thematically determined base colors, result in particularly appealing ethereal constellations. Thus, the darkest panel (death) contrasts with the lightest panel (birth) in the fourth floor. In the third floor we have the most active picture (leaving the parental home) contrasting with the calmest one (retirement age). The theme is completed by the confrontation of the motifs "marriage" and "migration".

Gerd Frick II

  • 1948              born in Schwerin
  • 1954 - 1964   school attendance
  • 1964 - 1966   apprenticeship as a painter
  • 1964 - 1969   studies at the technical college for applied art in Heiligendamm
  • 1969 - 1976   work as head of decór and costumes and color design
  • 1976 - 1981   art studies (painting) with Hans Vent, Dieter Goltzsche, and
                         Heinrich Tessmer at the Art College in Berlin-Weissenseesince
  • 1981              freelance painter and graphic artist in Neubrandenburg
  • 1993              work grant in Glasgow, Scotland
  • 1995              art scholarship from the city of Neubrandenburg
  • 1996              participation in the project "Euromiljö 96" in Gladsaxe, Denmark
  • 1998              stipend from the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Master builder

Dr. Werner Stockfisch on the painter and graphic artist Gerd Frick (1998):
"... By giving his fantasy a concrete form and producing his own figurative order, Frick creates a model of human behavior vis-à-vis reality. He transforms this reality. He recreates it. The artist is neither constrained by this reality nor removed from it. Frick receives strong impulses from the nature and culture which surrounds him and which he seeks, but he does not record them. The picture is created in his studio. This is his workshop, where the mediation between his intentions and their form takes place … With his creative work, Frick finds himself in a modern tradition that is already now referred to as classical. This classical aspect, which is thus sets norms and extends them, consists to a large part in the relationship of tension between manifestation and abstraction ..."

Olafur Eliasson I: Hexagonal Kaleidoscope

On the terrace of the Max Planck Institute facing the river Warnow, a six-meter-long kaleidoscope by Olafur Eliasson has been installed. It is known as "The Wilhelm Lexis Demographic Observatory" 1, and - one could say - it symbolizes the observation of phenomena from various different perspectives as one of the tasks of a researcher.

The hexagonal kaleidoscope is composed of four high-grade steel segments, each of which consists of 1.5 mm-thick Raymax plates which are highly reflective on their inner surface. Six individual metal sheets standing on edge serve to increase the longitudinal stability. Additional strips of light enter the construction via 30 mm wide slits between the segments. A stainless-steel ring with which the kaleidoscope can be rotated around both its vertical and its horizontal axis is affixed to both ends. This rotation is made possible by a cushioned suspension somewhat above the center of gravity. The kaleidoscope is suspended in such as way that it will automatically return to a horizontal position after being swung.

Olafur Eliasson II

  • born 1967 in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • raised in Iceland and Denmark
  • studies at the Royal Art Academy in Copenhagen
  • lives and works in Berlin

Visionary events

Jonathan Crary on Olafur Eliasson (1997)
"Eliasson's work is a typical reflection of a general philosophy that places value on extending and delving into a person's faculty of perception - and that pursues this probing independently of all modern-day technological imperatives. It's a question of the actual meaning of the concepts of vision and creativity. The point of this work is that these elements are only part of an all-encompassing technical construction. In other words, his works cannot be understood from the perspective of differentiating between a biosphere on the one hand and a mechanical sphere on the other. Rather, every duality of nature and culture is neutralized within a unified field in which apparatus and organism cannot be separated from each other."

Sonia Brandes: Paper cutting

The Danish artist Sonia Brandes takes up the theme of aging in her work "Ydun and the Apples", in which she illustrates an episode out of Nordic mythology: Ydun is the goddess who calls the apples her own. Whoever eats of these apples will be granted eternal life and youth.
The artist utilizes for her works an old type of folk art: the paper cutting.

Sonia Brandes was born in Ærø, Denmark in 1946. The self-taught artist works as a book illustrator. Her works also include posters and free artwork that has been displayed in international exhibits.

Helle Baslund: Tapestries

Helle Baslund is a further Danish artist who has contributed works to the new ambience of the MPIDR, in the form of two tapestries with ornamental patterns (without a title). Helle Baslund was born in 1955 and studied from 1980 to 1986 at the Jutland Art Academy in Århus. She has received several scholarships and prizes, among them the Danish Craftwork Prize in Silver.


1Concerning Wilhelm Lexis (1837 to 1914): The development of statistics in Germany in the second half of the 19th century was to a large extent shaped by the Göttingen economist Wilhelm Lexis. He studied the stability and homogeneity of series of observations of mass phenomena. His name lives on in the term Lexis' dispersion coefficient.


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.