Back in the old DDR: how that stark Stasi style has come in from the cold
[...] Now that global plagues, terrorism and meteorological calamity have replaced the Red Army as threats, the Cold War period suddenly seems almost benign. Much rather a T-54 tank on our lawn than al-Qaeda on the flightdeck. Germans call it 'Ostalgie', an irrational love of the workers' cacotopia that was Honecker's East Germany. East Berlin stank of Russian petrol and had cardboard Czech shoes in flyblown shop windows. People ate coal. As if to confirm the irrationality of consumers, just as soon as the East Germans achieved the liberation they craved, some started to yearn for the symbols of repression.
As always in design exhibitions organised by art historians, there's more concern with foot-noting and point-scoring than engaging with the material. What does it mean? Why should we care? Exactly why is East German Tupperware in the V&A? Why be afraid to say? Why structure it as a book? On the evidence here, the quality of the American and European achievement is far superior. And I don't just mean in modular kitchen storage. It's an ambition of the organisers to establish Cold War Modern as a new style-label, bravely to adjust our perceptions of schisms that might or might not have happened in architecture and design after 1945. They don't want to fetishise designers as personalities, but fetishise a historical moment instead.
The different cultures do, however, have one thing in common: in The End of Ideology, published in 1960 and conceived at the chilly depths of the Cold War, Daniel Bell said: 'Capitalism... is a system wherein man exploits man... and Communism is vice versa.' Capitalism simply seems to do it better.
Oh, and by the way. The greatest legacy of the Cold War? Not, I think a Trabi, drenched in ironic cuteness. Rather, it's the internet, a system designed to secure free movement of the US command structure's data in the event of a Soviet missile attack. They thought it was really going to happen. It still might.