Harun Farocki’s “Hard Selling” reframed

Our booklet HaFI 014: Harun Farocki: Hard Selling: Reframed by Elske Rosenfeld (Deutsch/ English) is out now. It contains the script and stills from Harun Farocki’s film project “Hard Selling” which I respond to in my text-image commentary “Das Fenster / The Window.” The film was supposed to be shown on East German TV – one month before its dissolution at the end of 1991. It was, however, never completed. In the footage Farocki looks at a West German adidas salesman as he looks at the East through car and shop windows. In my commentary, I look back at both from a post-East perspective.
The booklet is available at Motto.

Gabriele Stötzer: The Collective as Liberation

This text for Fotograf # 37 is based on my research into the work of East German feminist performance artist Gabriele Stötzer for my (upcoming) book project “A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures”: Gabriele Stötzer’s collaborative performances stand out from the practices of the late GDR’s artistic underground. They string together elaborations of the collective or the political, the (female*) body, and of art, in ways that challenged configurations of art and the political in the 1980s GDR. Today they challenge understandings of “East German non-conforming art” that stress the individualism and autonomy of such works.

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Stötzer began taking photos of her body, and later those of others, after her release from the infamous Hoheneck Women’s Prison. She had spent seven months there in 1977 after signing and distributing the infamous open letter in support of Wolf Biermann, the dissident singer-songwriter. Upon her release, she found that she could not talk about her experience, but that it returned to her in mental images. Unlike other former political prisoners who turned their main focus of activity to politics, Stötzer found herself pushed toward poetry and towards art. Her work on her trauma and away from it, began in this field between embodied experience (“sensing”) and communicability. Exposing herself “again and again to the horror and the joy of the existential other”[1], she knits the act of aesthetic expression together with a re-constitution of the self in its relation to others and the world.

This desire to organize these confrontations with an other or others into collective form became increasingly pressing and central for Stötzer. She found that the reworking of her self-hood – and of her being in the world – after its violent interruption during her imprisonment had to be collective, that it could not be achieved alone. She developed her remarkable collaborative practice from here. She began to recruit women in the streets of her hometown Erfurt for her work.

“I began looking for women who might want to work with me […] I began an exchange with these women […]I wanted their bodies but could not pay them, but in taking their bodies I could give them their bodies back as a experience, as feeling, as sensing, as the crossing of a threshold of their own unanswered questions about their female sex.”

In 1984 Stötzer made a photo series of a young person, ostensibly a man*, posing for the camera in drag. The model seems to have opened up to her completely in front of the camera, exploring their gender in a way that is playful, vulnerable, and tender. Stötzer identified with her model’s departure from socialist norms and standards – of gender in this case. “Mein Janusgesicht” [my Janus-face] she wrote on the back of one of the prints. This comment later proved prescient in other ways: the model had been informing on her for the Stasi (very likely pressured because of their supposedly “deviant” sexuality). The series exemplifies Stötzer’s ability to empathize with her photographic counterpart and demonstrates her distinctive practice of inviting her models as creative collaborators.

For many of her generation, to escape from the violence and the ideological encroachment of the state had meant to withdraw into the hermetic, homogeneous circles of the “underground” and into a mythical or “existential” art. The individual artist body, conceived of as male, was not only the source of (individual) artistic authorship, but also a place of safety and purity – vis à vis the ideological encroachment of the state. For Stötzer, by contrast, to emancipate herself from an experience of state violence, meant not to seek shelter from the concreteness of the world in a supposedly liberated, heroic individual body, but to become collective, to open herself more intensely to the lives and experiences of others.

In Veitstanz/ Veixtanz, a film made by Stötzer in 1988, a number of scenes are filmed in the immediacy of the recognizable landscapes of the late East German everyday, setting off their lines of flight from there: a cast of characters one would find in any East German city of the late 1980s – a young punk, a middle class person (maybe an office clerk or a school teacher), a footballer with a mullet, two teenagers with perms, earrings, and stonewashed jeans, a professional dancer, a peacenik are dancing themselves into states of ecstasy on a roof, in a backyard, in an abandoned building, on the street, in front of a garage, in the hills, in the sports ground, by the river, in a garden, on a playground, in a cave, in the park, on the pavement, in the light, and in the dark. The here and now is indexed in the clothes, hairstyles, mannerisms of this cast of characters, that are both random, and exemplary for the late GDR. A simple instruction – to dance oneself into ecstasy – first intensifies this present in these bodies’ particular ways of moving, then lets it spin away.

Stötzer’s practice is powerfully liberating in works like this – where it departs not only from the configurations of gender, or collectivity of the socialist state, but from the close confines of the individualism and escapism of some of her underground peers. Where it jumps into an immersive questioning of the world outside, through which her collective experimentations unfolded their very own forms of being in and towards the world. Stötzer’s careful nurturing of the sociabilities that fostered and were enabled by her work, contributes to the unique and enduring, political and aesthetic power of her work.

[1] Karin Fritzsche and Claus Löser, Gegenbilder. Filmische Subversion in der DDR 1976 – 1989. Texte, Bilder, Daten (Berlin: Wolf, Gerhard, 1996), 78.


Gabriele Stötzer (*1953 in Emleben/Thuringia) is a visual artist and writer, working in film and performance. Largely self-taught, she developed her unique collaborative and feminist films and (filmed) performances in the aftermath and response to her imprisonment in the late 1970s. Her work has recently begun getting long overdue attention in Germany and beyond.

wildes wiederholen. material von unten.

Unser Buch wildes widerholen. material von unten. Dissidente Geschichten aus DDR und pOstdeutschland ist da und kann bei District Berlin bestellt werden. Aufgrund von Covid 19 kann sich die Lieferung etwas verzögern. Ihr könnt das Buch jetzt über press@district-berlin.com vorbestellen und erhaltet das pdf vorab. Die gedruckte Fassung liefern wir sobald wie möglich nach.

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Die Erfahrungen des gemeinsamen widerständigen Lebens in der von jeder utopischen Zukunft gelösten Gegenwärtigkeit der späten DDR harren noch immer einer differenzierten Bearbeitung. Ihre Spuren sind in der Erinnerung der damals Involvierten und in zahlreichen Dokumenten und Materialien in Archiven und Sammlungen aufgehoben. Dieses Buch ist das Ergebnis eines vielstimmigen und transdisziplinären Arbeitsprozesses von Künstler*innen, Autor*innen, Forscher*innen, Kurator*innen, Archivar*innen, Aktivist*innen und weiteren Gesprächspartner*innen im Archiv der DDR-Opposition. Die dort gesammelten Materialien zeichnen ein komplexes Bild individueller und kollektiver Lebenswelten und dokumentieren (Gegen)Entwürfe ökologischer, feministischer und radikal demokratischer Bewegungen von Unten, die sich entlang des Versprechens wie des Scheiterns des Staatssozialismus ausformten.
wildes wiederholen. material von unten geht der Aktualität dieser wenig gehörten Geschichten nach, um sie mit Begriffen und Praktiken des Politischen heute in Dialog zu setzen. Das Buch versammelt künstlerische und politische Zugänge zu Archiv und Erinnerung aus kritisch-postsozialistischen, queer*feministischen, linken, Schwarzen, postmigrantischen und intersektionalen Perspektiven. Die Positionen, aus denen heraus Geschichte erlebt, begehrt und erzählt wird – ihre Situiertheit in Körpern, Sprachen und Ökologien – sind Teil jeder Erzählung.


Beiträge: Alex Gerbaulet + Mareike Bernien, Anna Zett, Elsa Westreicher, Elske Rosenfeld, Ernest Ah + Sabrina Saase + Lee Stevens vom Kollektiv der Raumerweiterungshalle, Ina Röder Sissoko + Suza Husse, Irena Kukutz, Nadia Tsulukidze, Peggy Piesche, Samirah Kenawi, Technosekte + Henrike Naumann und Katalin Cseh-Varga, Maria Josephina Bengan Making, Rebecca Hernandez García, Redi Koobak, Sebastian Pflugbeil, Tim Eisenlohr

Herausgeber*innen: Elske Rosenfeld und Suza Husse

Gestaltung: Elsa Westreicher

Verlag: Archive Books

Eine Archive Books und District*Schule ohne Zentrum Publikation in Kooperation mit der Robert Havemann Gesellschaft e.V. / Archiv der DDR-Opposition. Gesprächspartner*innen im Archiv der DDR-Opposition: Christoph Ochs, Jana Papke, Frank Ebert, Olaf Weißbach, Rebecca Hernandez García, Tina Krone. Dieses Buch ist die erste Manifestation der Reihe Dissidente Geschichten zwischen DDR und pOstdeutschland, gefördert vom Beauftragten zur
Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur im Land Berlin.Sprachen: In deutscher und englischer Fassung erhältlich.Preis: 20 €
Versandpauschale: 4 €


S 11 Vorwort

S 16 Nadia Tsulukidze: Big Bang Backwards/Urknall Rückwärts
Dokument: Skizze Bühnenbild zur Inszenierung „Die Nebelschlucht“ von John M. Synge
S 40 Ernest Ah, Sabrina Saase und Lee Stevens vom Kollektiv der Raumerweiterungshalle:
gemeinsam unerträglich. ein dokumentarisches mosaik
Dokument: Die private Selbstverteidigungsgruppe stellt ihre Arbeit vor. K., nach S. mit dem Fuß tretend
S 68 Anna Zett: Deponie
Dokument: Urkunde – 40 Jahre DDR
S 86 Elske Rosenfeld: A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures. Versuche, Framed
Dokument: Bärbel Bohley, Niemandsland
S 110 Was vergangen ist, kann einem nicht mehr weggenommen werden
Irena Kukutz im Gespräch, 2009
S 122 Bindungen, die über eine gewöhnliche Freundschaft hinausgingen
Samirah Kenawi im Gespräch, 1999
S 138 Peggy Piesche: Leerstelle (im) Archiv
Dokument: Bericht über die Sicherheit für das Leben ausländischer BürgerInnen in Berlin (Ost) in den letzten Monaten
S 152 Elsa Westreicher: Transparenz, Intimität, Dringlichkeit. Vor ein paar Morgen lagen Meilen zwischen Gestern und Morgen
Dokument: Zerschlagung der Stasi-Struktur Gegen neue Geheimdienste Kein Polizeistaat.
S 176 wildes wiederholen. material von unten. Bilder der AusstellungS 212 Dissidente Geschichten zwischen DDR und pOstdeutschland. Resonanzen und Reflektionen
Elske Rosenfeld und Suza Husse im Gespräch mit Katalin Cseh-Varga, Rebecca Hernandez García und Redi Koobak
S 234 Alex Gerbaulet + Mareike Bernien: Entlang der Silberstraße
Dokument: Pyramiden von Ronneburg (Uranabraumhalden der Wismut AG)S 256 Umwelt im Erweiterten Sinne
Gespräch mit Alex Gerbaulet, Anna Zett, Elske Rosenfeld, Mareike Bernien, Sebastian Pflugbeil, Suza Husse, Tim Eisenlohr und Gästen
S 278 Ich will dass niemand keinen Rest findet der Zeugnis wäre unserer Existenz
Gespräch mit Ernest Ah, Lee Stevens und Sabrina Saase vom Kollektiv der Raumerweiterungshalle, Elske Rosenfeld, Maria Josephina Bengan Making, Peggy Piesche, Rebecca Hernandez García, Samirah Kenawi, Suza Husse und Gästen
S 306 Ina Röder Sissoko + Suza Husse: Longing is my favorite material for engaging holes
Dokument: Lesben in der Provinz
S 330 Technosekte + Henrike Naumann: BRONXX
Dokument: DDR von Unten
S 356 Zu den Autor*innen
Team – Redaktion: Elske Rosenfeld und Suza Husse; Verlegerin: Chiara Figone/Archive Books; Gestaltung: Elsa Westreicher; Lektorat: Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson; Übersetzung: Cordula Unewisse, Wilhelm von Werthern; Transkription: Jil Zepp, Julia Reinl; Korrektorat: Archive Books / Lena Heubusch; Fotografie: Emma Wolf Haugh, Jil Zepp, Suza Husse; Bildbearbeitung: Hannes Wiedemann
© Die Autor*innen, die Herausgeber*innen, Archive Books, District*Schule ohne Zentrum 2019.

Statement for the Future: Documentation

Through a very lucky twist of fate I got to spend the days between the 102nd anniversary of the start of the Russian revolution and the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the East German revolution – 7th to 9th of November – in Bucharest in the company of a bunch of artists and activists, young and old from Bucharest, Budapest, Cluj, Timisoara, Prague, Warsaw, Bratislava, St. Petersburg, Kyiv…

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I was invited to give a “statement for the future” as part of “Upon us all equally” , organised by the tranzit network, in the amazing Sala Omnia/ Former Communist Party assembly hall. You can watch documentation of my 15 min statement, assembled from manifestos, lists of demands, public statements of groups and individuals, dissidents, work collectives, women’s and lesbian and gay organisations from the autumn and winter of 1989/90 here:

Leseempfehlung: Zur Kunst Ost

Die Texte zur Kunst haben die Berliner Künstlerin Suse Weber, im Nachgang ihres Heftes zu Diskriminierungen im Kulturbetrieb, um ein Statement aus der Perspektive ostdeutscher Künstler*innen gebeten. In der redaktionellen Einleitung heißt es:

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“In unserer aktuellen Ausgabe 113 versammelten wir viele Stimmen zu den Themen Diskriminierung und Rassismus. Untersuchten wir dabei strukturelle Diskriminierungen in vor allem Kultur- und Kunstinstitutionen, so beachteten wir wenig die deutsch-deutsche Problematik an sich und übersprangen dabei ein wichtiges Kapitel einer immer noch tiefliegenden innerdeutschen Diskriminierung. Liefern wir damit rein westliche Perspektiven? Und wie diskriminatorisch gehen wir selbst vor, wenn wir nun einen „Ex-Ossi-Text als eine Art Perspektiv-Text“ (so die Künstlerin selbst) anfragten?”

Danke für die richtigen Fragen, TzK. Und danke, Suse Weber, für diesen Text. In der Aufarbeitung des Verschwindens der Ostkunst (von vor und nach 1989) aus dem Ausstellungsbetrieb, in den Depots, in den Dichotomien von “offiziell” vs. “nichtkonform”, in der Unintelligibilität ihrer spezifischen Sprache im westlich geprägten Kunstverständnis – gibt es noch reichlich zu tun und zu besprechen und ein guter Anfang ist doch, wenn die Akteurinnen der politischen und kritischen Kunstszenen ins Gespräch dazu kommen, welche blinden Flecken es hier aufzuarbeiten gäbe, und wie diese überhaupt erst, in unseren sonst so auf blinde Flecken sensibilisierten Kreisen, entstehen konnten.


Double hommage to Ana M.

Today the Ana Mendieta show was attended by few, mostly women,
alone and in pairs, walking and watching,

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In the third room, in the dark between three projections,
a visitor lies stretched out on her back on the museum bench. Sandals with red straps and rhinestones, black top, black shorts. She fills out the length and width of the bench almost exactly, perfectly.

I stand with her for a while and type into my phone:

I am interested in
the universe
in this time and
in this place.


“Standing Still”

My text “A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures: Standing Still” has been published in Feminist Media Studies. Volume 17, 2017 – Issue 4: Affective Encounters: Tools of Interruption for Activist Media Practices. Contact me, if you would like a copy. 

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On a screening of Thomas Heise’s “Stau”, Trump, Eribon, and a Nazi demo

Facebook and Real Life curated an interesting week for me, this past week. Kind of sad week, but maybe that is also the fault of the grey and the cold that sits unrelenting on this city and does not lift. So I have been working on a rewrite of the first chapter of my thesis/upcoming book, and it starts with a kind of quick run through of the rise and failure of the revolution of 89 and then an even more cursory run through of the rise and failure of state socialism in the SU and the GDR and a tentative connecting up of the two.

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And then Tuesday was the screening of Heise’s Stau at HAU, as part of the Heiner Müller programme there (http://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/programm/spielplan/zeitschleifen-filmabend-mit-thomas-heise/2312/). Watching “Stau” is always a strange experience for me (and I have watched it many times), the tenderness Heise feels and makes one feel for his subjects is something so heavy, so thorny, and so precarious, and I wish I shared Heise’s confidence in standing by it, publicly. Luckily (maybe), it is something that dissipates in Heise’s later films about the same protagonists, and as they settle into more solidly ideologically fortified versions of themselves our sympathy dwindles to nothing and things return to how they should rightfully be and feel. Heise screens “The Battle of Algiers” after, and then tries to figure out what that juxtaposition might mean with a panel including himself, Boris Buden and post-colonial curator Marie-Hélène Gutberlet, who in the process communicate nothing, except for a continuing failure of the two experiences of being leftwing (East, West, with Yugoslavia stuck somewhere in between) to communicate – seemingly mutually undisturbed by each other (except in confrontations, such as the one performed, for the one hundredth time, during this panel at the HAU) in 26 years.

Later this week, a German friend posts (thanks Christiane K.) a Guardian article that rereads Trump’s popularity as not so much an expression of irrational xenophobia, but as a rational (?) working-class response to the precarisation of the american blue collar worker through trade policies supported by republican and democrat elites alike (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/07/donald-trump-why-americans-support) and on a similar note: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/13/bernie-sanders-supporters-consider-donald-trump-no-hillary-clinton, and if we agree, I wonder if we would extend such a generous interpretation to the Pegida supporters in Saxony (a survey I saw somewhere a while ago seemed to suggest that motivations here are far reaching, too, and economic fears often as frequent as or more frequent than xenophobic ones).

Today then photos of a neo-fascist march (http://m.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article153229244/3000-Rechte-marschieren-durchs-Regierungsviertel.html) that passed practically unhindered through the center for Berlin, and apart from the German and Reichskriegs-flags there are the Flags of East German cities (Halle) and provinces (Saxony, Brandenburg), and I am disturbed further by one banner that reads “Wir lassen und nicht BRD-igen”. This appears like a direct quote from the demonstrations of 1989/90, only turned on its head. In the winter of 1990 this slogan was used by the anti-nationalist left, that is, the parts of the groupings that first took to the streets for a reformed GDR, in the early demonstrations, when the “We are the people” that was devoid – by which I mean, utterly devoid – of nationalist connotations, staked a radical claim to political sovereignty by the people-as-demos as a non-identitarian and all inclusive collectivity (Ranciere later used this historical example to illustrate his definition of the political as disruption vs the policing of settled identities).

I wonder, with some discomfort, if what I see in those pictures from yesterday, and what we see in those pictures from Clausnitz and Bautzen etc. is really the failure of the revolution of 1989 finally catching up with the rest of us (or should I say, them?), 26 years after it failed for those of us who carried (from the moment we carried) the “Wir lassen uns nicht BRDigen” banners against and increasingly at the margins of a growing mass of (yes, generally more working class) protesters, who no longer felt represented by the citizens movements and their agenda of a renewed socialist state and, accordingly, pinned their hopes on the nationalist pro-reunification path.

Then there was this article, that someone posted today, (https://krautreporter.de/1376–warum-ich-aus-sachsen-weggezogen-bin) and it is sobering, too, and hints in a maybe similar direction in the last paragraphs, but there are no answers here, and neither do I feel that any will be forthcoming any time soon.

(originally posted on facebook, 12.03.2016)