how does the world breathe now?



Session N°38 | Lying Truths with Ulf Aminde

October 18, 2017 | 7 PM

SAVVY Contemporary | Plantagenstraße 31 | 13347 Berlin

Free entrance - donations welcome

'The Truth lies in Rostock - Die Wahrheit liegt (lügt) in Rostock by Mark Saunders and S. Cleary, 1993, Germany/ Great Britain, 78 min, German with English subtitles.

For our 38th screening, Ulf Aminde brings us The Truth Lies in Rostock (1993) as a means to understand the history of violence towards immigrants in Germany and to offer an example of how filmmakers can use their medium to cause audiences to question dominant histories.

In August 1992, now twenty-five years ago, a days-long assault against asylum-seekers, Sinti and Roma people, and descendants of Vietnamese contract workers occurred. The residents of the ‘Sunflower House’ in Mecklenburger Allee 18/19, also the central location for arriving refugees, were attacked throughout these days by a group of up to 1000 people. A raucous crowd of up to 3000 observers stood by and applauded the scene. Once the police unjustifiably withdrew, the house was set on fire. Luckily no lives were lost.

This week of violence was racially motivated and tolerated by politicians and police. The attack was partially announced by leaflets that were then propagated further by the Press. Furthermore, the activities were backed by active Nazi structures and right extremist groups from other German states. The events led to changes shortly thereafter in the rights to asylum and to the eventual adoption of the so-called asylum compromise. What we today call the ‘Dublin Regulation’ is a direct result of this pogrom.

The film The Truth Lies in Rostock, from Mark Saunders and S. Clearly, is predominantly composed of material that the besieged residents, themselves, captured. Neighbours, Nazis, politicians and police men and women in charge; as well as those who tried to help the residents, are all given a chance to speak. The film shows, with quiet clarity, how such a racially-motivated and socially-tolerated outbreak of violence could occur. Thus the film reveals, in all of its complexity, the condition of Rostock shortly after reunification. Taken from different perspectives, the film shows the perpetrators and people who reveled in the power that violence gave them, as well as those who were forced into victimhood against their will. By centering the perspectives of those who were made victims, the film also sheds light on the lies told by those responsible.

The film is particularly successful in anticipating our contemporary reality and showing how a certain racist and reactionary minority can gain in power. We knew already that right-wing extremists existed among us, and now we know what these tendencies lead to: a deeply anchored racism that is tolerated and finds its place in politics will send a signal to other extremists encouraging them to continue this madness. The question even arises, whether the whole NSU (National Socialist Underground) Complex, and the totally inadequate trial in Munich, is also a product of the development of this fascist and racist milieu and society’s tolerance of their violence.

I have chosen this film precisely because it neither relies on fiction nor on the imposition of a political hyperreality, but rather relies on the images that are somewhat familiar to us. This film reminds artists and filmmakers of our skill and potential to develop, through the material, a realism that does not only communicate content, but also asks, through its very construction, how it could possibly be that such images exist. This film is a manifesto of filmmaking, editing, and the performative potential of the camera. Because it is the camera that shows and makes showing concrete.

Ulf Aminde: On this evening I would also like to remember the victims of the NSU Complex, and for us to remind ourselves of the inadequate investigation, currently awaiting verdict in Munich, into the intertwined structures of racist perpetrators and state actors.

Ulf Aminde is an artist, filmmaker, and teaching activist. He teaches at the Weissensee Academy of Art in Berlin. There he initiated, in particular, the *foundationClass for Newcomers, intended for immigrants who would like to begin their studies of art in Germany. In Cologne he is developing a film and participation-based monument to the memory of those affected by the racist hate crimes perpetrated by the terrorist NSU network in Probsteigasse and on Keupstrasse. In his filmmaking practice, he concerns himself with the potential of self-empowerment through filming, alienation effects in documentary film, and strategies of subjectivization. He navigates categories of normalization and questions societal concepts such as discrimination and the exclusion of minorities. His filmwork is mostly characterized by collaboration and experimental practices of working together.

Exhibitions and actions include Berlin Biennial 4, KW Berlin, Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, Berlinische Galerie, NGBK Berlin, ZKM Karlsruhe, MARTa Herford, Steirischer Herbst, Schirn Frankfurt, Kästner Gesellschaft Hannover, MoCA Taipei, Kunstverein Heidelberg, Kunstverein Wolfsburg and Gallery Tanja Wagner.

Session N°39 | Moscow’s cine-internationalism in Berlin | 
Iris Gusner presented by Doreen Mende 

October 25, 2017 | 7 PM

SAVVY Contemporary | Plantagenstraße 31 | 13347 Berlin

Free entrance - donations welcome

Still: Die Taube auf dem Dach (1973/90)

For our 39th screening, Doreen Mende brings us Iris Gusner’s Die Taube auf dem Dach and “disco films.” Screening followed by a conversation with Iris Gusner, filmmaker and writer.

Disco film 16: Karat, Albatross (Jürgen Steinheisser, 1979, GDR, 7.55 min)

Disco film 28: City, Träume (Jürgen Steinheisser, 1979, GDR, 6.08 min)

Die Taube auf dem Dach (Iris Gusner, 1973/1990, GDR, 82 min)

German with English subtitles

In 1973 Iris Gusner realized her debut film, Die Taube auf dem Dach (The Dove on the Roof), after finishing her studies at the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow (VGIK), which she had entered as one of the few East-German students of her generation. During the 1960s in particular, the VGIK provided an environment for a cine-internationalism due to a moment of ideological “thaw” that voiced itself through upheavals, re-evaluation, reforms, and experimentation under the Krushchev regime with its possibility of de-Stalinization.

Die Taube auf dem Dach portrays Linda Hinrichs, a young architect, who engineers the construction of a new prefabricated housing block in East Germany. Iris Gusner shows the reality of a world of labor in socialist Germany through the eyes of people who are not as standardized as the buildings they erect. Instead of a socialist worker-heroism, the film therefore conveys a fragment of the cultural history of everyday struggle, which is narrated through social relations on the construction site and a complicated love triangle between Linda and two men. The film furthermore includes a commentary on state pretensions to solidarity when the worker Karim speaks about his Beirut home while mounting Palestinian posters on the walls of the room he shares with the student Daniel. Here Gusner proposes a narration of friendship among workers instead of solidarity (which she once described as a “bureaucratic act” of the GDR). Die Taube auf dem Dach remained un-premiered, prohibited, and seemingly lost in the GDR. The film’s working copy was found in 1990, although everything else had been destroyed. A black-and-white version was drawn from this color copy (35 mm), then everything disappeared again. In 2009, the 1990 version was found by chance and digitized for DVD release.

This evening will also include the screening of two so-called “disco films”, a genre crossing documentary, feature, and music-video, that perhaps only existed in the GDR. Disco films were produced by the DEFA, the centralized and state-owned film studios of the GDR, and projected—as the name suggests—in discos, for example, at the Kosmos 73 Film-Beat-Treff vor Mitternacht on Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin.

Iris Gusner studied film-directing at the VGIK in Moscow during the 1960s. After returning to Berlin, she worked as an assistant director to Konrad Wolf for his film drama Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment (1971) before joining the DEFA as a director. Aside from various feature films, Gusner directed the famous fairytale film Das Blaue Licht (1976), a crime movie, dramas, and romances. In the summer of 1989 she emigrated to West Germany, and returned from Cologne to Berlin in 2003. Together with the filmmaker Helke Sander she co-authored the book Fantasie und Arbeit. Biografische Zwiegespräche (2009), about the similarities and differences between being a filmmaker, a mother, and a woman in East and West Germany. Gusner’s book Start in Moskau will be published In 2018. It tells of her studies and teachers at the VGIK, as well as her co-students’ subsequent developments up to the present, based on ongoing conversations with international filmmaker friends who studied together at the Institute.

Doreen Mende is a curator, theorist, researcher and writer, and currently directs the CCC Research Master and PhD-Forum of the Visual Arts Department at HEAD in Geneva. She has been a founding member of the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin since 2015. Her research interests include spatial politics in image regimes, as well as exhibition-making, curatorial politics, archival metabolisms, navigational aesthetics, display processes, and concept work. She holds a PhD in Curatorial/Knowledge from Goldsmiths, University of London. Recent publications include KP Brehmer: Real Capital Production, for Raven Row, London, and the ongoing publications series HaFI (with Tom Holert and Volker Pantenburg). For an introduction to Die Taube auf dem Dach see her “Letter to Iris Gusner,” manifesta journal, December 2013.

Thanks to the DEFA-Stiftung Berlin and the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst/U.S.


01 NOVEMBER | Natascha Sadr-Haghighian