Week IV



* 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

Mainstream Visual Art in the GDR
The first of two workshops looking at mainstream and alternative art scenes in the 1980s, as the GDR and the Cold War neared their end. This day will focus on mainstream artists and commissioned art in relations to Friday afternoon’s films and the readings. By the 1980s, the visual arts in East Germany had achieved the “breadth and variety” promised by Erich Honecker years earlier. Neoexpressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, and abstraction were common styles among painters, and by the mid-1980s performance and installation art became increasingly possible in official venues.


Marilyn Rueschemeyer, “East German Art Before and After the Fall of Communism,” in Art and the State, ed. Marilyn Rueschemeyer (Palgrave, 2005): 126-153.

*14:00 – 16:30: Optional Screening: Introduced by April Eisman

Selected Artists’ Super-8 Short Films:

  • Action Situation. Helge Leiberg, 1983, color & b/w, 9 min.
  • Draped in White. Unter weißen Tüchern. Cornelia Schleime, 1987, color, 9 min.
  • Report–A Comment on a Comment. Via Lewandowsky, 1987, b/w, 7 min.

Metamorphoses I
Metamorphosen I. GDR, 1978-79, dir. Lutz Dammbeck, color, 7 min., anim.

The Subversive Camera
Die subversive Kamera. Germany, 1997, dir. Cornelia Klauß, color, 42 min., doc., ST
The history of the GDR Super-8 scene—an underground art movement that produced films outside official channels in the 1980s—produced by Cornelia Klauss, herself a Super-8 artist. The Stasi monitored this scene closely. Women artists Ramona Köppel-Welsch, Cornelia Schleime and Christine Schlegel, among others, talk about their art and films, their experiences as artists in the GDR, and how their work changed after the Wall came down.

Herbstsalon I
GDR, 1984-2016, dir. Lutz Dammbeck, b/w, 22 min., doc., ST
In 1984, six GDR artists, including Lutz Dammbeck, secretly organized the sensational First Leipzig Herbstsalon (Fall Salon), in protest of the failed reform of the East German art market.

*19:00 – 21:00: Film Screening: Introduced by April Eisman

GDR, 1981 Heinz Nagel, ______, anim.
An animated interpretation of Suite No. 4 by the Bayon musical ensemble. Founded in East Germany in 1971, Bayon’s works blends Khmer pentatonic music with classical, jazz and rock elements. Bayon also contributed a song to the film The Lives of Others (2006).

Claiming Space: Private Galleries in the GDR
Behauptung des Raums: Wege unabhängiger Ausstellungskultur in der DDR. Germany, 2009, dir. Claus Loeser, 100 min., doc.
By 1976 at the latest, an alternative arts scene was developing in the GDR, which consciously sought to create its own structures and avoid the official apparatus of artistic production. The new artistic subculture grew in the domains of painting and photography, literature, music, and film and established galleries—including Leipzig’s EIGEN+ART—that could house the artistic emancipation movement, which ultimately contributed to and flowed into the GDR’s peaceful revolution of 1989.



9:00 – 12:00: Workshop

Alternative Art Scenes
With increased economic success, limited but significant access to Western media (especially television), and the success of its own popular culture, the GDR developed a thriving alternative arts culture. Including performance art, installation art, and super-8 film, as well as punk and hip hop, these alternatives stood out against the more mainstream models and participated in remarkable ways in international trends across a spectrum of art forms. This workshop will look at the often multi-media explorations that took place in both private and official spaces during the final years of the Cold War.


Tatjana Böhme-Mehner, “Interviews with Georg Katzer and Lothar Voigtländer,” in “Creating Sound Behind the Wall: Electroacoustic Music in the GDR,” special issue, Contemporary Music Review.30, no. 1 (2011): 101-109 and 111-17.

Leonard Schmieding, “Boom Boxes and Backward Caps: Hip-Hop Culture in the GDR,” East German Material Culture (German Historical Institute, 2011) 67-86


*14:00 – 16:30: Film Screening: Introduced by Johanna Yunker

The Puhdys—Disco Film
Discofilm 16. GDR, 1976, dir. Jürgen Steinheisser, color, 9 min.
This short “Disco Film” presents four songs by the hit GDR rock band The Puhdys.

Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory
Germany, 1999, Dir. Peter Sempel, color, 100 min.
Nina Hagen—daughter of actress Eva-Marie Hagen, and whose stepfather was Wolf Biermann—was born in East Berlin in 1955, migrated to West Germany in the mid-1970s. She became a New Wave Punk rock star, singing in a screechy growl that shaded into an operatic coloratura. Although she was a huge star in Europe in the 1980s, the movie explores why she never found a commercial foothold in the United States. The connections between opera and rock that seem natural to European audiences had no resonance in the United States.

*19:00 – 21:30: Optional Screening: Introduced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs

Quick Animation
GDR, 1989, ___________, anim.
Big city scenes evolved into ironically alienated settings using graffiti painting and rap music.

whisper & SHOUT
flüstern & SCHREIEN. GDR, 1988, dir. Dieter Schumann, color, 115 min., doc., ST
This film documents important parts of the East German rock music scene of the late 1980s, from well-established bands like Silly, to underground rock bands like Feeling B. It includes clips from concerts and interviews with fans and members of André + Die Firma, Chicorée, Die Zöllner, Feeling B, Sandow, Silly, and This Pop Generation. The film played to over one million viewers in sold-out theaters in the GDR; audiences were not only drawn to see their favorite bands on the screen, they were also surprised that this film made it past the censors.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop

Curriculum and Research Projects
Individual and/or small group work.

*14:00 – 16:30: Optional Screening: Introduced by Seán Allan

Latest from the Da-Da-R
Letztes aus der DaDaeR. GDR, 1990, dir. Jörg Foth, color, 86 min., ST
In a loose set of cabaret pieces based on their stage show, Steffen Mensching and Hans-Eckardt Wenzel—highly acclaimed East German poets, songwriters and clowns—satirize East German life in its final days and the arrival of new times after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Da-Da-R” is a word play on the irreverent Dada art movement of the 1920s and the German acronym for East Germany—the DDR. This was the first film made by the DaDaeR artistic production group, which had fought for independence within the state-owned DEFA Film Studio for years.                 

*19:00 – 21:00: Optional Screening: Introduced by Barton Byg

A Place in Berlin
Konzert im Freien. Germany, 2001, dir. Jürgen Böttcher, color, 86 min., doc., ST
In 1973, a team of artists was commissioned by GDR leaders to create the Marx-Engels Forum—a sculpture park commemorating the international workers’ movement. Böttcher documented the project from 1981 until its unveiling in 1986, but the film he’d planned was cancelled. Ten years after the fall of the Wall, Böttcher revisited his own film material. With Günter “Baby” Sommer (perc) and Dietmar Diesner (sax) interpreting the space and images with improvisational jazz, Böttcher creates a filmic collage from 1980s footage and new video material of the anachronistic monument, looking at how the meanings of monuments change. The form of the film—in some ways both a musical/rhythmic and multi-media tour de force—brings together many of the themes of the Institute: the dilemma of artists working with State commissions, while practicing resistance of various forms.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop

Straddling the End of the GDR
In the late 1980s, towards the end of the existence of the East German state, the range of the possible expanded. Rock music, for example—almost synonymous with ideas of rebellion, youth, and counterculture—had become quite mainstream. When the Wall fell, it was nevertheless a shock to all involved. While many artists fell by the wayside in the years following German unification, an interesting array of artists was able to make the transition and establish successful post-Wall careers.


Susanne Binas, “East-West Breakthroughs: The Significance of the GDR Pop Underground Today,” in A Sound Legacy? Music and Politics in East Germany, ed. Edward Larkey (Washington DC: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 2000), 26-41.

Barbara Wolbert, “De-arranged Places: East German Art in the Museums of Unified Germany,” The Anthropology of East Europe Review 19/1 (Spring 2001): 57-62


*19:00 – 21:00: Public Panel discussion

Post-Unification Debates on GDR Art
In the wake of German unification, many of East Germany’s most successful visual artists came under attack in the press in what have become known as the Bilderstreit, or image battles, which stretched across the long and contentious 1990s; in essence, these debates were about what role East German artists would be allowed to play in the new Germany. This panel discussion will feature recollections of and thoughts about trends and the evolution of attitudes towards GDR art in the years after German unification in fall 1990. Participants will include Barton Byg, April Eisman, Hiltrud Schulz and Sean Allan.


9:00 – 12:00: Workshop

Curriculum and Research Projects: Exchange & Discussion
This workshop will provide a forum for participants to discuss the curriculum and research projects they have been working on and brainstorm on various curriculum-related problems that touch on themes discussed during the Summer Institute.

14:00 – 16:30: Workshop

Wrapping Up: Future Collaborations
The bulk of the workshop will bring closure to the Institute. As a group, we will focus on drawing together the salient themes and issues emerging from the films, lectures, and readings we have shared over the three-week period. We will then discuss ideas for future research and brainstorm possible future collaborations, including conference presentations and publications.



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