Week III



* PUBLIC EVENT. (Please note: this syllabus still subject to adjustment.)
Syllabus includes Core Readings and Films. Please also see: Institute Resources.
Workshop discussions often focus on lectures/films that take place the DAY BEFORE.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop, Skinner 201, UMass

Artistic Antecedents and Modernism in GDR Music
Week Three starts with a discussion of the readings and Friday afternoon’s talk and films. The relationship of music and politics has been at the center of studies of Cold War music—because of the connections between, on one hand, modernism and capitalism and, on the other, socialist realism and communism. Only recently has scholarship complicated this binary through studies of modernist music, which have shown that GDR composers were more engaged with modernist compositional techniques than previously thought. This workshop will give participants a chance to speak in depth with Johanna Yunker about her talk, as well as to discuss and analyze the uses of classical music and modern musical styles heard in film scores throughout the previous weeks.


Laura Silverberg, “Between Dissonance and Dissidence: Socialist Modernism in the German Democratic Republic,” Journal of Musicology 26, no. 1 (2009): 44-84.

Matthias Tischer, “Exile-Remigration-Socialist Realism: The Role of Classical Music in the Works of Paul Dessau,” in Classical Music in the German Democratic Republic: Production and Reception, ed. Kyle Frackman and Larson Powell (Rochester: Camden House, 2015), 183-194.

12:10 – 13:50: Lunch, Franklin Dining Hall, UMass

*14:00 – 16:30: Lecture & Short Film, SC E470
Joy H. Calico, Vanderbilt University

Opera on Film, DEFA Style
This lecture considers what happens to “opera” in the translation from live performance to fixed media in the context of East German DEFA films. Two opera films represent different approaches to putting opera on screen: Joachim Herz’s film adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman translates a famous and much-beloved canonical opera from stage to cinema, while Fetzers Escape, with libretto by Günter Kunert and music by Kurt Schwaen, was a newly composed work designed specifically for television. East German contributions to film opera are important because opera staging in the GDR was an art form unto itself, representing the beginnings of Regieoper—a style of directing that was perhaps one of the GDR’s most important and impactful musical legacies in the field of film opera.

Fetzer’s Escape
Fetzers Flucht. GDR, 1962, dir. Günter Kunert, b/w, 58 min., TV
Among the most rigorous taboos in East German culture was the depiction of Republikflucht—leaving the GDR for the West. In the period of relative liberalization during the early 1960s, a series of special programs were planned for the tenth anniversary of GDR television, including this made-for-television opera based on the 1955 radio opera written by Günter Kunert and Günter Stahnke, with music by Kurt Schwaen. The plot revolves around Fetzer, who flees to the West but then, in response to negative experiences there, returns to “his state.” Despite toeing this ideological party line, however, the production was banned—for being inappropriate for television, for straying too far from Socialist Realism, and because of its “alienated” style.

*19:00 – 21:00: Optional Screening, SOM 137, UMass
Introduced by Joy H. Calico

The Flying Dutchman
Der fliegende Holländer. GDR, 1964, dir. Joachim Herz, b/w, 101 min., ST
Joachim Herz’s successful staging of The Flying Dutchman—at the Berlin Komische Oper in 1962, at the invitation of Walter Felsenstein, and subsequent productions at the Opernhaus Leipzig and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater—prompted an invitation to make a cinematic adaptation. The script clearly separated the real from the imaginary, introducing a leftist approach to Wagner reception by emphasizing the perspective of the young heroine, Senta; in the original 35mm format, this was reflected visually by changing the image size, from Academy ratio for reality, to wide-screen for fantasy. This was the first complete Wagner opera ever made on film and the only GDR film to include elements of the horror and vampire genres.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop, Skinner 201, UMass

Opera / Film / Opera
Opera on film may have begun, in many cases, as a document of the theatrical event, but the genre quickly evolved into an artistic genre of its own. This workshop will give participants the opportunity to speak in depth with Joy Calico about the filmic techniques that are needed to convert a work for the stage into a work for film, as well as the importance of opera in the GDR and in German cultural heritage.


Marcia J. Citron, Opera on Screen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), “Introduction,” 1-20.

Nico Schüler, “Socialist Realism and Socialist Anti-Realism in a Single Composition? The Rise and Fall of the Opera Fetzers Flucht (1959/1963) by Kurt Schwaen,” Socialist Realism and Music, Colloquia musicological brunesensia 36 (Prague: KLP, 2004): 224-227. 

12:10 – 13:50: Lunch, Franklin Dining Hall, UMass

*14:00 – 14:45: Lecture & Short Film, SC E470
Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews

Artists on Film: Art for Art’s Sake?
This talk will offer an overview of East German Künstlerfilme—films about artists both real and imaginary—and explore unique insights they offer into the changing socio-political agendas of cultural policy, in the GDR and the East Bloc generally. In the 1960s, for example, these films were exploited as a discursive space, in which questions of modernist aesthetics and the role of the creative artist—broadly understood to include literary figures, visual artists, and composers—in contemporary socialist society could be debated. In contrast, in the 1970s and early ‘80s they played a key role in internationalizing East German cinema, by positioning it in dialogue with a series of films that had begun to emerge from art-house cinemas in both Eastern and Western Europe in the late 1960s.

The Lost Angel
Der verlorene Engel. GDR, 1966/70, dir. Ralf Kirsten, b/w, 58 min., ST
August 24, 1937: expressionist sculptor and author Ernst Barlach learns that the Nazis have dragged his famous 1927 sculpture, The Hovering Angel, out of the Güstrow Cathedral. Barlach reflects on his life of “inner emigration” and on his work, which has been either confiscated or denounced as “degenerate art.” The film was banned by East German officials in 1966, and only released in a shortened version in 1970. According to The New York Times, the film is “a masterful re-creation of the hostile environment that the artist had to endure in the last years of his life.”

*19:00 – 22:00: Screening, Amherst Cinema
Introduced by Seán Allan

The Naked Man on the Sports Field
Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz. GDR, 1973, dir. Konrad Wolf, color, 99 min.
As the sculptor Kemmel approaches forty, others seem not to appreciate his work; when he is commissioned to sculpt a soccer player for their playing field, he sculpts a naked runner, provoking protests from the embarrassed townspeople. Konrad Wolf and scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase used the story of GDR sculptor Werner Stötzer to explore the role of art and the artist in socialist society through this delicately nuanced narrative, interweaving personal memories, historical dilemmas, and political defeats. The most under-researched film of the GDR’s important director Konrad Wolf, this film incorporates themes tied to USSR culture, the Holocaust, photography, sculpture, and memory.


*9:30 – 12:00: Screening, ILC S240, UMass
Introduced by Joy H. Calico

GDR, 1979, dir. Heinz Nagel
The animator uses expressionistic drawings for a filmic adaptation of Robert Schumann’s delightful piece Träumerei (Dreaming) from Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood). Part of the Musikalische Arabesken series.

Beethoven – Days of a Life
Beethoven – Tage aus einem Leben. GDR, 1976, dir. Horst Seemann, color, 104 min., ST
Vienna, 1813-1819: Beethoven (played by the great Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis) is at the peak of his fame. Orchestras all over the world play his music, but he lives modestly and is dependent upon private patrons. Nagged by his patronizing brothers, spied upon by officials for his republican beliefs and faced by his progressive hearing loss, the composer becomes more and more isolated, Seeman’s poetic film explores the joys, heartbreak and artistic spirit of the great composer as he works on his Ninth Symphony. Here again, the controversial suggestion that such a cultural icon was connected to both the French Revolution and to mechanical reproduction (musical devices) gives the film, which ends in contemporary Berlin, a contemporary edge regarding art and the state in the GDR.

Optional: Individual talks with Joy Calico or Sean Allan

17:00 – 19:00: FOURTH OF JULY HOLIDAY PICNIC , South Lawn, UMass (If rain: Old Chapel)
Welcoming Five College faculty in related fields


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop, Skinner 201, UMass

Artists in Focus: Mythologies and Intermediality
This workshop will give participants the chance to talk in-depth with Seàn Allan about the Künstlerfilm (artist film) and the ways in which post-war filmmakers in the East sought to both de-mythologize “bourgeois” concepts of artistic genius and re-mythologize the figure of the artist in accordance with cultural policy. We will investigate the changing ways in which the relationship between art and ideology is represented across a selection of films screened at the Institute. Two key questions underpin the discussion: the status of art as an autonomous sphere within the socialist imaginary; and the extent to which the traditional opposition between autonomous and socially-engaged concepts of art can be mapped onto left- and rightwing political traditions.


Seán Allan, “Representations of Art and the Artist in East German Cinema,” in DEFA at the Crossroads of East German and International Film Culture. A Companion, ed. Marc Silberman and Henning Wrage (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014), 87-107.

Larson Powell, “Breaking the Frame of Painting: Konrad Wolf’s Goya,” Studies in European Cinema 5, no. 2 (2009): 131-141.

12:10 – 13:50: Lunch, Franklin Dining Hall, UMass

*14:00 – 16:30: Lecture & Short Films, SC E470
April Eisman, Iowa State University

Painting Women: Women Artists in the GDR
In the 1980s, the Guerilla Girls famously pointed out that it was easier for a woman to get into the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum as a nude than as a painter: 76% of the nudes in the Modern Art section were female, whereas only 4% of the artists were women. In East Germany during this period, by comparison, women were 25-33% of practicing artists—a result of the government’s long-term emphasis on gender equality. This talk will look at a handful of East Germany’s most successful women painters, examining how they engaged with a medium traditionally defined by male interests and the female nude, as well as at the challenges they faced working in a country that claimed a gender equality it had not achieved.

This lecture will be followed by a selection of short film portraits of women artists (see Recommended Viewing for details):

Painter Heidrun Hegewald
A retrospective interview with painter Heidrun Hegewald.

Nuría Quevedo: A Berliner from Barcelona
A portrait of the Spanish painter Nuría Quevedo, whose family moved to East Germany in 1952. In her paintings she depicts the themes of exile and rootlessness.

*19:00 – 21:00: Screening, SOM 137, UMass
Introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs

Käthe Kollwitz: Images of a Life
Käthe Kollwitz – Bilder eines Lebens. GDR, 1986, dir. Ralf Kirsten, color, 95 min., ST
Käthe Kollwitz was 47 years old and a successful artist in Germany and abroad when Peter, her youngest son, volunteered to join the German army in WWI and was killed two weeks later. Always politically active, she now became a radical pacifist and reflected on her son and the meaning of war in her art. After signing a petition against the Nazis, she was excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts and her art was labeled “degenerate.” Ralf Kirsten—director of The Lost Angel—fitted together episodes from Kollwitz’s unpublished letters and diaries in a mosaic-like portrait. Given the pacifist themes of the film, it is interesting to note that peace was very much on GDR minds in the period after the Pershing II missiles had become an issue.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop, Skinner 201, UMass

Recognizing Women Artists
This workshop will give participants the chance to speak in-depth with April Eisman about the position of women as visual artists in the GDR. We will discuss the impact of East Germany’s gender policies on art and the lives and work of a number of important women artists, also looking at how German unification impacted their lives and work. A key component will be to make comparisons between the roles of women artists in East and West Germany by working closely with the Rueschemeyer reading and with reproductions of paintings by Angela Hampel (b. 1956, East Germany) and Elivra Bach (b. 1951, West Germany).


Hiltrud Ebert, “Where are the Women Artists? An Attempt to Explain the Disappearance of a Generation of East German Women Artists (2003)” in Gender Check: A Reader, ed. Bojana Pejic (Köln: Walter König, 2009), 185-191.

Marilyn Rueschemeyer, “Women in East Germany: From State Socialism to Capitalist Welfare State,” in Democratic Reform and the Position of Women in Transitional Economics, ed. Valentine M. Moghdam (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 75-91.

12:10 – 13:50: Lunch, Franklin Dining Hall, UMass

*14:00 – 16:30: Film Screening, ILC S240, UMass
Introduced by April Eisman

A selection of short films on mainstream visual artists in the GDR (see Recommended Viewing for details):

Three GDR Women Painters
(Malen in der DDR, Germany, 1986, dir. Silvia Brüning, 12 min., color, doc.)
In this West German TV report – coinciding with the first GDR art exhibition in the FRG after the 1986 bilateral cultural exchange agreement—Angela Hampel, Gudrun Trendafilov and Ursula Rzodeczko speak about creating art within existing restrictions.

Battle on Canvas
(Schlacht am Bild, GDR, 1988, Ted tetzke, 21 min., color, doc., EN ST)
After over 10 years, Werner Tübke completed The Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany, a monumental oil-on-canvas painting for the Panorama Museum, painted in the Renaissance styles of Albrecht Dürer and Albrecht Altdorfer.

9th GDR Art Exhibition: Dresden, 1982-83
(IX. Kunstausstellung der DDR – Dresden 1982/1983, GDR, 1983, dir. Peter Petersen, 24 min., color, doc.)
The GDR Ministry of Culture hosted a national art exhibition in Dresden every 4 years, which presented an official selection of artworks. Over 1500 artists—including Werner Tübke, Harald Metzkes, Albrecht Gehse and Willi Sitte—participated in the 1982-83 show, which was seen by over one million visitors.

Hermann Glöckner: A Short Visit
(Kurzer Besuch bei Hermann Glöckner, GDR, 1984, dir. Jürgen Böttcher, color & b/w, 32 min. doc.)
This short film documents the meeting of two painters. The older artist in front of the camera demonstrates his work to the younger artist, Jürgen Böttcher, behind the camera. Glöckner speaks of his experiences under the Nazis and his difficulties with Socialist Realism in the 1950s and ‘60s. The only filmic portrait of this artist.

Strawalde and Penck Paint a Picture
(Strawalde und Penck malen ein Bild, Germany, 1991, Heiner Sylvester, 29 min., color, EN VO)
On September 18, 1991, two significant (East) German painters—Strawalde (Jürgen Böttcher) and A.R. Penck (Ralf Winkler)—got together for a unique painting action in Berlin.


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