“Namibia Today”, Notes on an Exhibition

Commentary on Laura Horellis project “Namibia Today”, Donnerstag 9 Februar 2017, 19 Uhr

U-Bahnhof Schillingstraße, U5, Eröffnung und Rundgang mit Andreas Guibeb, Botschafter der Republik Namibia, Uwe Jaenicke, SODI e.V. und Thomas Lendrich (Druckhaus Gera)

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At U-Bahnhof Schillingstraße, on what used to be Stalinallee back when it was built, yesterday’s opening of “Kunst im Untergrund 2016/17: Laura Horelli” took place in more or less the heartland of the old East German establishment, so that, apart from the bracing cold, the sight of the assembled audience of well dressed older gents and ladies  sent me into a misty discomfort that was not at all lessened when the former Director of the Druckerei Fortschritt (Printing House Progress), current day director of the private Druckhaus Gera GmbH, took the mike.

Once in charge of one of the rare and exceptionally privileged party-owned enterprises, he began to extoll the joys of working for such a great and no doubt exceptionally privileged company in the service of what – as he (somewhat under his breath) conceded – was a somewhat bureaucratised, state-sponsored take on “international socialist solidarity.”

As the Director rhapsodised in front of the the mildly interested faces of the assembled art crowd, and the eager-going-on-blissful faces of the East German pensioners, (not to mention the completely non-comprehending faces of the apparently non-German speaking Namibian embassy staff), a slightly dishevelled looking middle-aged man appeared among the crowd of regular commuters a few meters down the platform and, beer can raised, launched into a loud – and near perfect – impersonation of one of the more famous of General Secretary Erich Honecker’s nasal pronouncements (the one about how neither ox nor donkey, will ever throw socialism off its inevitable course to historic triumph). An intervention that struck me as so absolutely accurate in its perception of the tone and content of the Director’s speech and so perfect a response, that I was sad to see the man disappear, back first, through the doors of the arriving U-Bahn, still reciting party slogans and quite obviously undeterred by the Director’s efforts at shutting him down. The latter, by the way, delivered with the kind of authoritarian condescension that I assume must be the prerogative of those – across times and systems – whose lives and aspirations align pretty damn smoothly with each particular system’s (often not so different) notions of a successful, valuable life.

Got me thinking, too, about the work of translation, or of whatever, that is still needed until a word as innocuous as “solidarity” can be understood in its always specific and changing connotations, until, in other words, particular uneasinesses can be shared a little more evenly across a Berlin (art) crowd – rather then held by a few, and released by one, beer can in hand (on a good day).

18.02. 2017

because of… i guess “life” in general, and “berlin” in particular, it so happened that i got into a conversation with a blogger for the swapo-critical swapo youth league and a scholar of african history last night and learnt, that “solidarity” of the GDR towards the african liberation movements involved having the stasi help from and train up the ANCs and Swapo’s security services – including instructions on torture. puts “solidarity” kind of into perspective.