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kultur magazine of the goethe-institut in australia 2013 edition 24

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art matters, Culture Counts relentless ProDDing sasha Waltz: DiDo anD aeneas rimini ProtoKoll: situation rooms the humBolDt forum auDi festiVal of german films KalDor PuBliC art ProJets: 13 rooms ChiCKs on sPeeD: sCream KlangWelten in euroPe anD australia

WILLKOMMEN Looking at the work of our partners is always an inspiring experience. As we exchange ideas, we broaden our horizons and further develop our cultural understanding. Similarly, we benefit greatly from others as they view and assess our work: seemingly familiar phenomena tend to take on a new shape and appear in an unexpected light. Following this notion, we invited friends and partners to talk about joint projects from their point of view. In this issue of kultur you will find a journalistic view on our work through Swiss foreign correspondent Heidi Gmür, as well as personal accounts by Sydney Festival and Perth International Arts Festival artistic directors Lieven Bertels and Jonathan Holloway. Sasha Waltz’s dance piece Dido & Aeneas as well as the Rimini Protokoll theatre project Situation Rooms are performed in groundbreaking formats, supported by the Goethe-Institut Australia. Speaking of challenging traditions and concepts, the very idea behind museums is the subject of conceptual discussions around the creation of Berlin’s new Humboldt Forum, with Australian and German partners learning from each other in a stimulating and productive exchange.

cultural exchange 02 Art matters, Culture counts


International Arts FestivalS


Lieven Bertels


Rimini Protokoll: Situation Rooms

Jonathan Holloway



Australian Thoughts and Impressions


Martin Heller and Hermann Parzinger

Audi Festival of German Films 2013 12 The Heavy Stuff from Germany

Dr Arpad-Andreas Sölter Director, Goethe-Institut AustraliA

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Why Dido and Aeneas really matters to Australian audiences

Visual art and interactive performance are going hand-in-hand with 13 Rooms by Kaldor Public Arts Projects and Scream by Chicks on Speed, before we close with the world of music.

Dr. Arpad A. Sölter

Heidi Gmür


With all this in mind, we hope you will enjoy the current issue of kultur !

Arpad Sölter


The excitement that comes with the Audi Festival of German Films is described by Spiegel Online journalist Christian Buss, while director Georg Maas, recipient of our audience award, talks about his film Two Lives which was later selected for the Academy Awards. Following the movie’s theme, Andrew Beattie questions whether the GDR really is a ‘footnote in history’, before German Sons director Philippe Mora shares his individual take on JewishGerman reconciliation.

As the diversity of this magazine’s content shows, our role as the Goethe-Institut in Australia is to accurately reflect contemporary German arts and culture: the modern and the traditional, the challenging and the beautiful, the strange and the familiar.

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Christian Buss

Two lives : You can’t ask what the Message is


Interview with Georg Maas

Multiple Lives: Ways of Understanding East Germany



Andrew Beattie


The German Sons and Daughters of the Goethe-Institut

Philippe Mora

performance 19 Chunky move

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Kaldor public art projectS: 13 Rooms

Performance art project


Chicks on Speed: SCREAM

Interactive art exhibition


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Jochen Gutsch


An die Musik

Melissa Lesnie

Outlook 26 Upcoming Events


magazine of the Goethe-Institut in AustraliA 2013 edition 24

acknowledgments publisher • Goethe-Institut Australia SYDNEY 90 Ocean Street, Woollahra NSW 2011 Ph 02 8356 8333 Fax 02 8356 8314 Melbourne Level 1, 448 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004 Ph 03 9864 8999 Fax 03 9864 8988 editor Dr Arpad A Sölter, coordinators Dr Arpad A Sölter, Jochen Gutsch • Views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily endorsed by the Goethe-Institut. No responsibility is accepted by the publisher for the accuracy of information contained in the texts and advertisements. design and artwork Torkos Ploetz Design, Melbourne printing Doran Printing Pty Ltd, Melbourne images The Goethe-Institut has taken every possible care to secure clear copyright permission for all images published here. front cover Photo and copyright by Bernd Uhlig.


Art matters, Culture counts Arpad Sölter

Rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I am looking at the New Statesman ’s front page asking in its May edition “Why can’t we be more like Germany?” And a Monocle Special Report introduces twelve Modern Germans as thinkers the world needs to know, describing how “Europe’s star economy uses business brawn, good design and Gummi Bears to win hearts, minds and tummies”. Is Germany the centre of a new Europe? Many Germans are too humble to believe that. With a population of 81.7 million people it is the largest country in the EU. Still surprised by Germany’s success, 21st century Germans find it hard to believe that we could all benefit from ‘things being more German these days’ as Monocle suggests. Even The Economist — which called Germany ‘the sick man of Europe’ in 1999 — now urges that same nation to lead. As if historical German issues were irrelevant as long as Europe recovers. It seems that many would rather continue to imagine Germany as a “bigger version of Switzerland: economically prosperous, politically modest.” Germany’s export engine is grabbing the headlines these days. Economic columnist Rana Foroohar outlines her feature story for TIME magazine on Germany and the Euro crisis with the phrase ‘Why Germany Must Save the Euro to Save Itself’. Germans are asked to spend more at home or risk losing the common currency they need more than anyone else. Since the early stages of the euro crisis, the media has tagged Southern European countries as ‘profligate’ and asked them to ‘be more like thrifty Germany’ by trimming their budgets and reining in their spending. Germany’s own role in the debt crisis is less publicised and often summarised as ‘keeping its wages artificially low and boosting its export economy at the expense of its neighbours’. In The Australian Financial Review, Martin Wolf has taken this argument one step further by suggesting that “Germany is a weight on the world”.

The arts must not be hijacked primarily for political or economic purposes. Rather, they should initiate conversations, creative diversity, spiritual growth, productive self-reflection and critical thinking. This uncompromising stance might be why German creative productions are frequently viewed as avant-garde and cutting-edge. One of many examples is Rimini Protokoll’s latest work in Australia called Situation Rooms : as audiences learn the stories of twenty people involved in the weapons industry, they get increasingly involved and disoriented until they question their own perspective in the installation. It goes without saying that this kind of experience is more intense than watching a play sitting in a traditional theatre. Another example is the electronic music scene and its new ideas for engaging live performance concepts. Australia’s leading magazine for the genre, Cyclic Defrost, described the concert by Berlin-based group Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory at the Melbourne Recital Centre in simple words: “If only all electronic music could be performed like this.” Obviously, we are thrilled that these shows are sold-out events with artists receiving standing ovations. But our support goes further than what can be seen on stages around Australia.

Whatever the answer to these challenges may be, Germany’s new role is mirrored in its cultural landscape, with Berlin still clearly acting as a magnet for creative forces. Certainly German contemporary culture is home to fresh ideas and exciting developments.

The latest album by electronic music pioneer Oval (Markus Popp) was initiated and supported by the Goethe-Institut in South America, involving collaborations with local musicians of completely different genres during an artist residency. The result was released as a free download and the project was soon followed by another creative residency at Macquarie University in Sydney. Here, Markus Popp worked with local dancers and video artists in another cross-genre project. Cyclic Defrost describes this concept as “both novel and exciting” and demands to see “a similar initiative struck up through Australia’s private and public cultural institutions.”

Germany’s thriving arts scene is a treasure we love sharing with Australia and the world. A broad spectrum of artists engage in work that is not designed solely for commercial success — a fertile ground for pure artistic expression, creative impulses and an invitation to engage in an open dialogue. As countless German productions are internationally orientated, Germany itself becomes more and more colourful.

Cultural exchange generates fantastic feedback and adds stimuli to the international arts discourse. Sharing its experiences with an international creative community, the Goethe-Institut has the chance to convey Germany’s diverse cultural landscape in friendly and open ways. Asking essential questions and pursuing interesting topics allows us to improve our understanding of the world and the meaning of our relations to other countries.

Cultural Exchange

Discovering emerging artists and helping them develop in a globalised world, enabling creative procedures, shaping new artistic perspectives — all of these endeavours require a view in which a great range of ideas, approaches and practices are treated on equal terms. We are here to learn from each other, to understand how others succeed. Art matters, culture counts. The role of the Goethe-Institut as a mediator and facilitator was successful on a global scale in international online projects like My Personal Wagner, CityScapes, CityTales and Goethe.rmx. By developing and implementing high-quality projects such as these, and inviting artists to participate, the Goethe-Institut Australia remains firmly on the map of fostering cultural exchange and artistic practice. The economic relevance of the arts is generally underestimated, often underrepresented in public discourse. A study by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology produced surprising results: it shows the strong position of the creative economy and indicates its value in financial terms.


In 2011, the creative industry contributed approximately 62.7 billion euro to the gross value, contributing some 2.5 per cent to the national output. In fact, this contribution makes it stronger than the German chemicals or energy industry! This boom is reflected not only in the cultural work of the Goethe-Institut, but also in our successful language and educational programs. The Economist correctly notes that the Goethe-Institut is “expanding its offerings of German lessons” as we are catering for a growing demand and continued interest. Tayloring our offers to Australia’s geography and technological prowess, we recently launched a new portfolio of online courses as well as tuition via Skype. There really are no excuses left: you too can learn German now, wherever you work and live! Naturally we are particularly happy and deeply grateful when we find that so many of our Australian friends and partners share this view.

No need to be modest; consider the 244,000 businesses driving the cultural and creative economy in Germany. They generate revenues of more than 143 million euro, providing jobs for almost 740,000 employees. On top of these full-time and part-time jobs there are countless freelancers which drive up the number of people employed in the cultural and creative economy in Germany to roughly one million people.

Dr Arpad A Sölter is the director of the Goethe-Institut Australia, having taken up the position in September 2011. Before coming to Australia he was the head of the Strategy and Evaluation Division at the Headquarters of the Goethe-Institut in Munich. Between 2002 and 2008 Dr Sölter was the director of the Goethe-Institut in Toronto, Canada. Former postings include London, UK, and Santiago de Chile. Educated at Emmanuel College Cambridge, Mr Sölter holds a doctorate degree in Philosophy (Honours) from the University of Cologne (Köln). He has published widely on Critical Rationalism, the Frankfurt School, Jürgen Habermas and Critical Theory, intercultural communication and international cultural policy and diplomacy.

kultur 2013



An older gentleman notices the personalised license plate on the minivan. ‘Goethe’, he reads, “Oh, it’s the Goethe-Institut!” Arpad Sölter quickly hands him the Audi Festival of German Films booklet, but the man dismisses it: “Thanks, I’m a regular there anyway.” Arpad has led the Goethe-Institut Australia with its offices in Sydney and Melbourne since 2011. It is mid-April 2013, and a mere two weeks to the opening of the 12th Audi Festival of German Films. Trendy Oxford Street is lined with flags advertising the occasion, the most prominent German cultural event in Australia, and the largest German film festival outside of Germany. In the 2013 edition of the festival, forty-six different movies will be screened 241 times*. Seventy-five events are set to compliment the festival over two weeks across Australia — with locations being as far away from each other as Madrid and Moscow: 3,600km. It is not only a logistical challenge for the Goethe-Institut Australia. While visitor numbers sky-rocketed by a third from 2007 to 2011, they fell from 26,000 to 19,000 in 2012. More events, marketing and an expansion in the festival’s scope should win back viewers to see more movies, including blockbusters like Der Schlussmacher. Arpad, himself an intellectual at heart, jokingly calls these German box office hits “Kraut-Pleasers”. The Goethe-Institut in Sydney occupies a beautiful old villa in the elegant residential district of Woollahra. Built in 1864, the German government bought the building in 1976. Two years after opening a Goethe-Institut in Melbourne, the goal was to add a presence in Australia’s largest city, which has a population of more than 4.5 million today. The imminent event now governs all activities at the office. An event manager and six interns complement the festival team in Sydney. “We’re going supersonic these days”, says Arpad, who keeps a golden garden gnome in his office. “Our own OscarGnome”, he exclaims jokingly. And, paraphrasing a quote that is attributed to Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, he adds “when the sun of arts sets, even small men cast big shadows.” Arpad’s proclivity for understatement is not intended as a metaphor for the Goethe-Institut. Rather, his parody embodies the conviction that “attempts to influence the perception of Germany by employing persuasive or manipulative art and communication are doomed to fail.” In his view, cultural policies are but “a generous offer.” They must generate curiosity, incite

public discourse, and surprise by relentless, consummate prodding. “Only then can these efforts hope to be effective”. The Goethe-Institut offices abroad are culturally embedded into their host countries. While Sydney and Melbourne are far from London and New York, they have well established art scenes and professional institutions. This facilitates cooperation, but forces differentiation. “To occupy the right niche is our challenge,” says Arpad. The Goethe-Institut offices in the Asia-Pacific Region jointly coordinate some projects and develop some content collaboratively. For instance, there are online projects such as the blog CityTales, where comic book artists from Germany, Australia and other parts of Asia tell tales of their respective cities in twelve chapters. Another example is the art exhibition New Olds, which featured German and international design artists, who slightly altered well-known objects, like a Persian rug, deer antlers and china-ware to extract new meaning. New Olds is co-presented with the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) and was curated by Volker Albus and shown in Sydney, Melbourne, and in New Zealand. “The Goethe-Institut is our most important foreign partner,” says Nerida Olson, of the Sydney College of the Arts. Renowned Australian art collector John Kaldor has also been cooperating with the Goethe-Institut Australia for years. “Ideally, imported art is interwoven with Australian art”, says Arpad. One such example was the Kaldor Public Art Project 13 Rooms, an innovative group exhibition of ‘living sculptures’ within thirteen purpose-built rooms, jointly curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery, and Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 in New York City. Expanding the art space by a thirteenth room enabled the Australian performance duo Clark Beaumont to work alongside the likes of Marina Abramović and Damien Hirst. Another long-time friend of the Goethe-Institut in Sydney is former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr. He studied German at the Goethe-Institut for more than ten years, because he “liked the taste of the language”.

Cultural Exchange

German language and culture have seen strong responses in Australia, he believes. Initially, he had also chosen the GoetheInstitut because it was in a pretty building. However, the pretty building will have to be vacated soon, since it no longer meets the European standard for earthquake resistant buildings.


* This article was written during the 2013 festival, which attracted close to 21,000 viewers. It was first published in Politik & Kultur. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Kulturrates in May 2013.

For now, the only vibrations felt are those caused by a teenager, nervously tapping his feet in class. Together with a dozen others he is taking German classes at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney during school break, to prepare them for their final exams, called HSC here. They chose the language because they intend to study in Germany or because they have a German background — or simply, one student insists, “because it’s fun!” With some 2,000 Australians studying German at the GoetheInstitut every year, numbers are up, says Marina Shine, who heads the language department. While the Goethe-Institut competes with other language course providers in Australia, it has an unassailable competitive advantage when it comes to advanced courses, internationally recognised certificates, and certificates required by German universities.

© Robert Edwards

The Goethe-Institut also cooperates with Australian education providers, organises competitions, a school film festival, and offers continuous education programmes and stipends to students and educators, as well as teaching materials. There are student days for year 9–12 students and their teachers, which are quite popular. An excursion to the Goethe-Institut then turns into a trip to a “little German language island” in Australia, where you can immerse yourself in the language for a day, says Marina. “We benefit from the Goethe-Institut’s cultural activities as well. For example, we are hosting special screenings for 2,300 students at the Audi Festival of German Films”. “Art and education are two sides of the same coin”, adds Arpad, who is tasked not only with finding a new home for the institute in Sydney now, but also with evaluating the economic viability of the German language programme. Some weeks later, the clinking sound of champagne glasses and pleasant murmur fills the halls of the beautiful Chauvel Cinema on Oxford Street on opening night. The film Two Lives by Georg Maas, about a former East German secret agent has hit a nerve with the audience. The director is peppered with questions — and as many discuss the movie well into the evening, secret agent Katrine Evensen continued to play the star role in their heads.

Heidi Gmür is the foreign correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Sydney, and the former president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association Australia & South Pacific.

Translated from German by Alexander Kreisler

kultur 2013


Why Dido and Aeneas really matters to Australian audiences Sasha Waltz is one of the world’s leading choreographers, and I’m really pleased we can invite her to the Sydney Festival with her absolute masterpiece, a dance version of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas !

wit and a sense of community to the dramatic journey. And of course When I am laid in earth (also known as Dido’s Lament ) is a classic pearl that has topped the ‘emo charts’ for almost 350 years now.

I had the great fortune of working with Sasha before, both as the artistic director of the Bruges Concertgebouw (where she presented noBody in 2002) and as artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam (with Dido & Aeneas in 2006 and Jagden und Formen in 2011). It was during the Amsterdam rehearsals for Jagden und Formen, that the Sydney Festival announced my appointment as the Sydney Festival director, so Sasha was one of the first international artists I invited to my new hometown.

On top of the intrinsic qualities of this production, Sydney Festival had many good local reasons to invite Sasha Waltz’ Dido & Aeneas downunder. Sydney-siders don’t often get a chance to see and hear baroque opera on historical instruments, and Sasha Waltz had in fact never been to Sydney. It’s fair to say that we have a very curious and open-minded audience that not only loves a colourful spectacle, but also appreciates the connection with British music history, which makes Purcell an attractive offering. And of course, Sasha’s take on this work is refreshingly contemporary, which makes it a real festival piece. We can’t wait!

What I really admire in her is how she is one of the few choreographers of her generation with a real talent for large-scale work. Whilst she’s not afraid to zoom in on minute details, to freeze time or to paint delicate watercolours, she is equally at ease on the wide open stages of opera houses, and she knows how to captivate an audience with a dynamic and exciting choreography. Another great quality of Sasha’s work as a choreographer is her in-depth understanding of the music, whether it’s contemporary (such as Wolfgang Rihm’s Jagden und Formen ) or baroque (in this Dido ). As a musicologist, I appreciate the careful reconstruction of Purcell’s music that was carried out by Attilio Cremonesi — of course the music to the prologue was lost somewhere in the early 18th century, which gave Attilio the freedom to choose other Purcell dance music, which in turn allowed Sasha and the company to come up with their spectacular opening dance, a giant underwater spectacle ‘danced’ in a giant fish tank on stage. Whenever you show people pictures or film footage of this project without them having seen the show for real yet, you always have to tell them this scene will actually be happening live, in front of their eyes — it’s such an original image many people actually think it’s a film trick. It’s also an interesting production challenge to build a giant aquarium on stage with 7.5 tonnes of water in it! The fact that this project had not been staged in Australia or Asia was an error begging to be corrected. Part of the beauty of this project is that it appeals equally to the regular theatre- and opera-goer and to every first-timer. Dido and Aeneas is a show to discover (or re-discover) opera, and the live music is as sublime as the singing and dancing. This is a show you can take your friends to, or your business partners, or your teenage kids! As a piece, Purcell’s opera has the perfect combination of love, drama and surprise — Sasha Waltz’s interpretation adds punch,

Lieven Bertels is the director of the Sydney Festival. Originally from Belgium he read musicology at the University of Leuven and received a MA in Composition at the University of Durham (UK). He returned to Brussels to become a lecturer and head of Audio at the National Film Academy RITS and producer for Belgian national broadcaster VRT. From 2001 until 2004 he was the first artistic director of the new Concertgebouw arts centre in Bruges and from 2004 to 2011 the artistic coordinator of the famous Holland Festival in Amsterdam. He served as guest curator for the 2008 Gaida festival and ISCM World Music Days in Vilnius, Lithuania. Lieven is a board member of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) in New York and was made Knight in the Belgian Order of the Crown in April 2013.

© Prudence Upton / Bernd Uhlig

Lieven Bertels

Sydney Festival


kultur 2013


Situation Rooms Jonathan Holloway

As a festival director there are many ways you discover new work. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to see a green shoot which you can nurture, sometimes you stumble across it fully formed whilst you are looking for something else, and sometimes you hear a whisper. Around 2005 I started hearing a whisper, a rumour of theatre made with Eastern European truck drivers, the transformation of a market in Bonn into the backdrop for a show, a police training opera. And so it was in 2008 I found myself in a small room in Berlin talking to a call centre in India, thrown into someone else’s life in the hands of Rimini Protokoll. Since then I’ve seen a city distilled down into 100 people, experienced the compelling and strangely competitive world of muezzins, and shared a morning with Nigerian business people. Only one thing has united the many wonderful Rimini Protokoll experiences I’ve had: every one of them used real people as the protagonist — there was never an actor in sight. Everyday people turned into heroes, celebrated for their normality, carefully curated into the most theatrical of settings, yet always true to themselves. Fast forward to late August this year in the Ruhr and the world premiere of Situation Rooms. This was my first experience of a completely ‘remote theatre’ show by this company — by which I mean that there were no people involved live in the show at all, just 20 members of the public carrying iPad Minis and wearing headphones. For ninety minutes, guided by our screens and the voices in our ears we were moved through a labyrinth of rooms, constructed to recreate in huge detail locations around the world. The ten stories we heard were the real tales of people involved in the arms and weapons industry, from weapons engineer to protestor, from Middle Eastern soldier to South American drug dealer. We crisscrossed the space and our fellow travellers knowing that we had heard that story twenty minutes before or would have it ahead of us. At the end of the performance, the twenty of us put down our screens and started spontaneously applauding, partly as a response to the fully immersive and impressive experience we’d just been through, partly out of theatrical habit. It took us fully twenty seconds before we realised we were applauding no-one, that the protagonists and creators behind the performance had left long ago.

It should come as no surprise that such theatrical imagination and truth should come out of Berlin and the artists that surround the Hebbel. The city that is the chosen home for Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller and that has championed the visual and aural worlds of Heiner Goebbels and Pipilotti Rist is obviously fertile ground. What is extraordinary about Rimini Protokoll for me, though, is that they push new ground in all three key parts of theatre: the stories and characters who are at the centre of the work; the platform or lens through which we experience those stories and the role of the audience in the experience. They do this with clarity, love, sensitivity and truth, and the results change the way we see the world. Verbatim theatre has been around for millennia and the iPad for less than four years. It takes a certain kind of theatre-maker to bring them together in such an assured way. No-one knows what the next decade of technology will hold, but watching Rimini Protokoll use whatever may be created to delve ever deeper into the very centre of what it is to be human makes me want to come back to Berlin again and again.

Situation Rooms appears at the Perth International Arts Festival in February 2014

Jonathan Holloway’s first two years at the artistic helm of the Perth International Arts Festival delivered on a promise to be explosions of energy, filling venues from concert halls and theatres to disused buildings and parks. With more than 820 events featuring 750 artists from around the world joining hundreds more from WA over three weeks, half a million people engaged with the Festival in 2013 alone.

© Toni Wilkinson / Jörg Baumann

I am delighted that we were able to co-commission Situation Rooms for Perth.

Perth International Arts Festival


kultur 2013


Australian Thoughts and Impressions Martin Heller and Hermann Parzinger The Humboldt Forum is an ambitious project that is currently being created in the centre of Berlin. Designed as an international forum of art, culture and science, the building will stand in the grounds of the former Berlin City Palace. Often described as ‘the greatest cultural development of the early 21st century’, the Humboldt Forum has already initiated debates all over the world — long before its initial opening. In 2013, two central figures in the development of the concept, namely Hermann Parzinger and Martin Heller, travelled to the Asia-Pacific region to engage in a cultural exchange of ideas. kultur asked them to provide a short account of an inspiring journey. It was a memorable trip. Starting in Berlin, it led us to Australia, with stops in Sydney, Hobart and Brisbane, then on to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and New Zealand, and eventually back home again via Hawaii. In all too short a time, as usual — yet filled with unforgettable experiences and encounters. The reason for the trip was the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. This new cultural institution is currently undergoing construction in the heart of the German capital. Its home is the Berlin Palace, which dominated the cityscape for centuries, was intentionally destroyed after World War II and is now being rebuilt, bearing in mind its historical form and former Baroque façades. The new purpose of this former centre of Prussian power, which — thanks to its collection of curiosities and art — used to be an important cultural hub as well as a place of discourse, is surprising: its reconstruction will now be dedicated to a dialogue between the cultures of the world. Museums, libraries, the Humboldt University and a comprehensive range of temporary events are coming together to make the Humboldt Forum into a future-oriented cultural centre. An ambitious task, and a great opportunity to orient this prominent location towards curiosity and cosmopolitanism rather than shaping it self-referentially. With the Humboldt Forum, Germany is rising to the challenge of reacting appropriately to the demands of a globalised world.

Long-term preparations The planning and building stages of such an institution obviously take a long time. The Humboldt Forum is set to open in 2019, but work is already in full swing. Apart from concrete preparations, particularly for the permanent exhibitions of the Berlin Ethnological Museum and the Museum for Asian Art, which will move together from their current location in Dahlem to Berlin Mitte and occupy about 20,000m2 of exhibition space at the Humboldt Forum, this also includes establishing a worldwide network of connections and contacts. It was in this context that our trip to the Pacific took place. The tour group from Berlin was small: Prof Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe-Institut, Prof Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Prof Viola König, Director

of the Berlin Ethnological Museum; and Martin Heller, responsible for the development of a content strategy at the Humboldt Forum. They were accompanied by Franz-Xaver Augustin, the GoetheInstitut’s regional representative for South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand; in Australia — and it is this part of the journey we will talk about — Arpad A Sölter, Director of the Goethe-Institut Australia, offered planning and support.

Expectations and opportunities An initial event in Sydney developed into an intensive exchange of opinions with curators and ethnologists from Australia’s most important museums showing a keen interest in the complex planning processes that are keeping so many specialists busy in Berlin. At the same time, their high expectations for the Humboldt Forum were palpable. There’s a desire for such a place to show and convey Australian cultures — not from a historical perspective but as living, changing social forces. And, at a more fundamental level: should the opportunity to define and shape the presentation of other cultures in a new and contemporary way arise, then some ballast can and must be jettisoned as the Museum Island’s final move. The Ethnological Museum with its excellent collections from the South-Pacific region faces the task of constructively shaping this clarification process. What needs to change in the concepts and formats of museums in order to eliminate traditional power relations, and to replace them with true cultural exchange on equal terms? In the attempt to find an answer to that, we must not only pay attention to the practice of representation and its technical and scenographical means, but to the self-conception of the museum as an institution. After all, excellent collections are the foundation of any attempt to relay the cultures of the world, and the Humboldt Forum is no exception in this case. However, their presentation has to render tangible the very openness and self-reflexivity that bridges material culture and its relics on the one hand and historical and contemporary circumstances of life on the other. We discussed such questions not just in Sydney, but throughout the whole trip. In doing so, it became increasingly clear to us visitors from Berlin just how fundamentally the social presence of indigenous cultures, of their forms of expression, their demands and their struggles changes the situation of museums as well. In contrast, Australian culture at the Humboldt Forum will have to be addressed as part of what is essentially a faraway world, and it will require a high level of explanation and narrative to fulfil the justifiable demand to present it as a living culture. A prerequisite for this are the above-mentioned connections with all corners of the world. This is why the cooperation between the Humboldt Forum and the Goethe-Institut is essential, and why we were so encouraged by the hospitality, the keen interest and the understanding for specific ideas and our common goals that characterised the exchange in in Sydney’s Australian Museum.

Humboldt Forum

On the usefulness of the enfant terrible Our next stop was Tasmania. Visiting Port Arthur gave us the opportunity to think about a way of conveying Australian history that is as accessible as it is powerful — in an environment whose scenic beauty contrasts strangely with the harshness and cruelty of the prison system implemented there. Closer to the core interests of the Humboldt Forum was our subsequent encounter with MONA, the Tasmanian enfant terrible. This private museum — its name as much intelligent marketing as vigorous programme: Museum of Old and New Art — has made its impact felt around the world. Its exposed location, the eccentricity of its founder David Walsh, and the museum’s attitude towards collecting and presenting — playful in some ways, but also of rather high quality — contribute to this in equal measure. MONA presents itself as wanting to clear up the many prejudices against museums, yet it sticks to the museal tradition — albeit quite delightfully so! A relaxed personal conversation with David Walsh confirmed what became tangible while wandering through the building: it prominently displays the founder’s determination to savour the many aspects of his independence. Between local patriotism and cosmopolitanism, with a big heart for audiences and constantly searching for surprises, Walsh and his team have created a place that is unlikely to leave anybody indifferent. Against this background, MONA is not so much an alternative as a welcome complement to public museums, burdened as they are with many obligations and responsibilities that make them move more slowly. With the special exhibition Theatre of the World, curated by JeanHubert Martin, MONA immediately delivers proof of the possibilities such independence entails. In his grandiose 1989 overview Magiciens de la Terre in Paris, Martin had been one of the first to direct their gaze to a worldwide and universal art — universal precisely because of its awareness of cultural differences. At MONA, the collected treasures from all times and cultures have lost any connection to the outside world; they enter into relationships that celebrate seeing rather than knowing.

Art needs freedom

© Stiftung Preußischer Kultur

Our last Australian stop was Brisbane, venue of the 7 th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Contemporary art is of great importance to the Humboldt Forum. At least since the 1990s, contemporary art has been building a relevant system of relationships across all continents and demanding constant observation and participation. At the same time, ethnological museums are faced with the question of where and how to make inspiring connections between their collections and the contemporary art of their respective countries of origin. For colonial-historical reasons, Papua New Guinea, a focus of the Brisbane triennial, occupies a special place at the Berlin Ethnological Museum. Many artworks, ritual objects and items of everyday use from the region are already amongst the exhibition highlights in Berlin-Dahlem. The showcase in Brisbane, supervised by Martin Fowler, read like a request to expand historical presentation and to enrich it with examples of an art that still invokes traditional aesthetics and its ways of creating meaning today. At the same time, one could go one step further towards everyday life and pick up not just on its continuity but on its fractures, rendering new developments more credible and productive.


The realisation of this vision is currently in progress in Berlin. It follows a transdisciplinary approach that takes into consideration feasibility while increasing the joy of taming the impossible. The Humboldt Lab Dahlem plays an important role in this process. This experimental programme, funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, was established in Dahlem for the duration of four years in order to try out specific solutions at a 1:1 scale, beyond discussions using blueprints and models — an instrument that met with great interest due to its commitment to innovation when it was presented a number of times during our trip. Dealing with art requires a freedom that is usually not present in science and academia. A freedom that allows for errors, for political incorrectness or even just banal mistakes that we can learn from, a freedom that not only allows for a confrontation with other, ‘foreign’ ways of thinking, but rather goes looking for them hungrily. The first Humboldt trip has more than fulfilled this purpose, and we would like to thank our many current and future partners for that!

Translated from German by Elisabeth Meister

Hermann Parzinger is the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin. He studied prehistory and early history, roman provincial archaeology and medieval history, habilitated in Munich in 1991 and was appointed as Assistant Professor. Since 1992, he has directed numerous excavations and discovered a significant Scythian chieftain’s grave and the ice mummy of a Scythian warrior. From 2003 to 2008, Parzinger was director of the German Archeological Institute, before being elected as the President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. Martin Heller is an author, curator and cultural entrepreneur (Heller Enterprises, Zurich). Exhibitions, projects, publications, boards and teaching assignments in the fields of urbanism, design, photography, popular culture and museology. Director of the Museum of Design in Zurich (1986–1998). Artistic director of the Swiss national exhibition Expo.02 (1999–2003) and of Linz 2009 European Capital of Culture (2005–2010). Currently responsible for content planning at the upcoming Humboldt Forum in Berlin.

kultur 2013


Audi festival of germAn Films: The Heavy Stuff from Germany Christian Buss

East Germans on skateboards, Stasi women with heart, Nazi sons fall in love: during the Audi Festival of German Films in Australia, visitors enjoy the grimmest chapters of German history. Tough stuff from history as an audience hit, who would have thought? Industrial ruin or surfers’ paradise? Walking the streets of Newcastle as a foreigner, one doesn’t quite know what to think about this Australian coastal town. Giant container ships lie in the harbor, within their bellies enormous conveyor belts shovel coal from the local area. The steelworks, however, once responsible for local wealth, have long since closed down. Many inner city shops are empty but young people with tattoos hurry down to the beach with their surfboards and skateboards. This moribund city, two hours’ drive north of Sydney, may soon wake from its sleep again. Sydney’s huge boom makes renting unaffordable for young people but in Newcastle accommodation is cheap and there are even office and shop spaces that are available for studios and ateliers. The creative may quite possibly follow the tattooed. The Goethe-Institut is in the process of breaking into this new opportunity as, 2013, the annual Audi Festival of German Films will also be held in Newcastle. For the opening film, the festival organisers have aptly chosen the German skater-hit This ain’t California. Prior to the screening, the director Marten Persiel and the Goethe-Institut team visits all the skaters’ localities in town, with a carton of beer sponsored by a German brewery. In an appropriate store and a hangout at the beach, they attempt to befriend a few skaters to add colour to the opening night party. The cinema has a wonderfully seventies flair in brown and orange and does actually attract some skater boys on the night. Two of them are thrown out — despite several requests they continued to smoke and be boisterous. Questions during the Q&A later on are very precise: How many of the scenes of his film about East German skaters were re-enacted? Which parts are true and which are legends? What role did skating play in the repressive state of the GDR? Australians are quickly taken into the centre of this German production that easily blends documentation, density and poetry into a compelling love story about skating as an act of liberation. And it all happens in a sunshiny and light way that one almost forgets the topic of This Ain’t California, namely East German history. In doing so, the Aussie audience does not require additional motivation for so-called Ossi-topics from the former East. And they do not need to be sensitised either. The previous day in Brisbane, the opening night film was the Stasi drama Two Lives. Due to its popularity it was shown in two cinemas simultaneously. The film

is one of the best of its kind on the psychosocial effects of the surveillance state of the GDR. It allows a view into the heart of the repression, told from the perspective of a female offender — one the audience at times feels sympathetic towards. In conversation with director Georg Maas, it becomes clear that Australians can follow the plot despite the subtitles and its risky and complex dramatic composition that leaves little room for hope. Those curious Aussies can hardly get enough of this heavy German stuff.

Bumsfallera for public officers The Goethe-Institut’s Audi Festival of German Films in cooperation with German Films is in its twelfth year. With 20,000 visitors it is considered to be the largest outside of Germany and continues to grow each year. This year forty-five productions are on the program. The program is anything but pleasing: it offers downers such as the Stasi drama in the sparkling banking metropolis of Brisbane, where skyscrapers shoot out of the ground, whilst in the gloomy town of Newcastle the bright skater anthem is shown. And the backwater capital of Canberra (very fresh air but no entertainment!), with its sleepy political business, has been included in the festival for the first time with the Bumsfallera comedy Russendisko. Wake up Canberra! Overall the Goethe-Institut is requiring a lot from the Australian audiences. There is the self-deprecatingly titled section of ‘KrautPleaser’, showing such dubious hits as Break up Man. Apart from that, it mainly deals with gloomy material such as the selfdestructive scenario in The Weekend, dealing with the Nazi past in My German Friend, or the drama of escaping from the GDR such as in Shores of Hope. There is also the ego-documentary German Sons, not yet shown in Germany, in which legendary FrenchAustralian director Philippe Mora links his own biography as the son of a French resistance fighter with that of a German, the son of a former Nazi. And hardcore filmgoers — and there are quite a few in Australia — buy triple tickets to spend their sunny Sunday watching all parts of the TV series trilogy Dreileben set in an East German backwater. Artistic willpower and historical eagerness — Australians bring both qualities to the festival. To the German viewer, the compressed West German/East German self-exploration on the other side of the world offers some new insights at times. The mini-symposium on a Sunday afternoon for instance, at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney, was quite popular, dealing with GDR remnants within the German conscience: memory between ‘condemnation and apologia’.

Audi Festival of German Films 2013

The young Australian historian, Andrew Beattie, summarises the opposing ways of dealing with this matter, in a concise yet detailed way one has never come across in Germany. How could it be otherwise? Germans often have strong if not slightly paralysing rigid attitudes. From afar, however, German history and all the films that have risen from its reappraisal are being viewed with a new kind of curiosity.


Christian BuSS German film and media critic Christian Buss has been widely published in magazines and newspapers such as Rolling Stone and Berliner Zeitung. Since 2010 he has worked as editor at Spiegel Online, one of Germany’s most popular online publications. An avid observer of young German cinema, Buss was a guest at the Audi Festival of German Films in 2010 and 2013.

Amongst the surf beaches, industrial ruins and skyscrapers of Australia, the mystery of Germany seems more exciting than ever.

Š Elke Ploetz / Goethe-Institut

This article was initially published on Spiegel Online. The original text was translated from German by Hugh Sainty.

kultur 2013


TwO lives: You can’t ask what the Message is An Interview with Georg Maas by Andreas Ströhl

© Goethe-Institut

Georg Maas has had unexpected success with his third feature film and is even hoping for an Oscar. Two Lives is no light fare, though. In our interview, the director talks to Andreas Ströhl, global head of the cultural department at the Goethe-Institut, explaining — among other things — what Peter Gabriel and his German teacher have to do with the film.

Audi Festival of German Films 2013

Andreas Ströhl: Mr Maas, congratulations! Your film Two Lives just won the main prize, the Golden Gnome Audience Award, at the Audi Festival of German Films in Australia. Did you think that the film would be so popular here — especially considering its very German theme? Georg Maas: Well, but the film is also about lies and truth, about a family where someone didn’t tell the whole truth, where a lot is built upon lies. And those are themes that we all are familiar with somehow — regardless of the history of a specific country. And yet we were indeed very surprised by the success. I also never imagined that the film would constantly be sold out.

Two Lives is — like your two previous films NewFoundLand and PfadFinder — about an unresolved past that interferes in the present. It also has an intercultural element, in this case between Germans and Norwegians. Would your film also have worked if the story had not taken place in Norway? AS:

GM: Ad hoc, I’d say yes. What it’s actually about can be described using a sentence by my German teacher that I will always remember. He said, “What I’m going to tell you now, ladies and gentlemen, is not important for your final exams, but for your lives: reality is everything but the nonsense we think it is.” If we were more mindful of this, I think there would be far less violence and war. People could no longer say we are the enlightened Christians and they are the backward Muslims or vice versa. We are the rightful believers and they are not. None of that would work anymore. AS: It sounds as if you have a documentary approach; as if you were mainly interested in establishing the truth, which is a rather unusual approach for a feature film director. GM: I would not call it documentary at all. You need stories to express certain impressions you have of our surroundings or ‘reality.’ In that respect it is misleading to ask what the message of a film is, because then you might as well have just stated the message directly. It’s only possible via the story. In this respect it is something more poetic.

But telling stories can be retrospective and explanatory as well as forward-looking and lend meaning. Where do you see yourself? AS:

GM: Good question. I tend more to ‘lend meaning.’ Another crucial access for me for Two Lives has to do with Peter Gabriel. Parallel to its production, I made the film The Real World of Peter Gabriel with Dieter Zeppenfeld. In an interview, Gabriel told us that one of his chief themes is work on the ‘us and them,’ so the ‘good and evil.’ Two Lives is constructed so that the protagonist Katrine is both good and bad so that the viewers are always realigning themselves. There’s none of that simplistic, Hollywood identification with good or evil.

So the character of Katrine’s husband serves as a great projector. He remains pretty much in the background so that as a viewer you can readjust yourself quite easily based on his position.



GM: Exactly. In a Hollywood film he would have been the central character. Instead, we have her as the central character and he shines through. AS: Two Lives is your second film with Juliane Köhler. GM: Juliane Köhler only had a very minor role in New Found Land, but we got along so well that I sent her the screenplay for Two Lives immediately when I finished it a couple of years ago. AS: How did you get in touch with Liv Ullmann, who hasn’t made a film in years? GM: That was funny. To be honest, I had no idea that Liv Ullmann is Norwegian. Because of her Ingmar Bergman films I thought she was Swedish. Our Norwegian producer sent her the screenplay. She thought it was great and turned us down. The reason was that she, as a 68-year-old, did not want to play a gravely ill 80-year-old. So, we proposed that we set the film in 1990 instead of 2003 so that Liv Ullmann could play the role at her own age. We rewrote the entire screenplay and also changed the character completely. In doing so we realised that 1990 is much more exciting with regard to the Stasi part of the story. Since the Stasi is in the course of dissolution it is all the more thrilling, the pressure is much greater. AS: Two Lives will soon be in the German cinemas*. While accompanying the course of a finished film, usually directors are already thinking about their next project. What are your plans? GM: For me, it’s the opposite. With my previous three films, one always led to the other. I still shot documentaries on the side, but in the past 15 years there was never a phase when I did not know what my next project would be. And before I fall in love with the next one, I want a little time to look around. I am also lucky that renowned agents from Los Angeles saw Two Lives on the film market in Cannes and are now sending me screenplays. There is one that I’m very interested in. I would like to do something that’s already been developed before I develop my own next screenplay and commit another few years to one specific story. * This interview was conducted shortly before the German cinema release.

Georg Maas was born in Aachen in 1960. The trained carpenter studied at the German Academy of Film and Television (dffb) in Berlin and at the European Film Academy. His teachers included István Szabó, Tilda Swinton and Krzysztof Kieslowski. In addition to feature films and documentaries, the director also makes video clips, video installations and advertising films. Maas currently lives in Berlin. Two Lives by Georg Maas tells the story of Katrine, the daughter of a Norwegian mother and a German soldier who grew up in a Nazi children’s home and then in the GDR, finally fled and found happiness in marriage and family in Norway. When a young German attorney seeks parties who will sue for reparations in court, she is asked to testify. Attempting to cover up her Stasi past and protect her stolen identity with lies, she becomes entangled in a web of contradictions and finally is faced with the shattered remnants of her false existence. Two Lives will be in German cinemas from 19 September. The film will be Germany’s entry for best foreignlanguage film in next year’s Academy Awards.

kultur 2013


Multiple Lives: Ways of Understanding East Germany Andrew Beattie

After the first and last free elections in East Germany in March 1990, the author Stefan Heym observed that the German Democratic Republic (GDR) would soon no longer exist and that it would end up a mere ‘footnote in world history’. He was certainly right on the first point. The GDR disappeared when German unification took effect on 3 October 1990. Heym’s second point — the GDR’s relegation to historical footnote status — was more provocative at the time and has continued to be contested since. When one of Germany’s most prominent historians, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, endorsed Heym’s view in the fifth volume of his monumental Social History of Germany in 2008, a vigorous debate ensued among historians in Germany and abroad. Clearly, East Germany’s consignment to the ‘dustbin of history’ did not entail its disappearance from German consciousness, quite the contrary. After 1990, East Germans carried with them the experiences and influences of their lives in the GDR and were confronted daily in manifold ways with its legacy. Perhaps more interestingly, the GDR’s disappearance arguably placed it more firmly on the radar of many West Germans than it had been during its lifetime, or at least its later decades. By the 1980s, Germany’s division appeared so normal that many West Germans had little interest in East Germany. When the Wall fell and the prospect of unification suddenly appeared on the agenda, they were confronted with a history with which they were often only superficially familiar, with East Germans who seemed even more unfamiliar, and with an economic, social and environmental legacy they were expected to help repair. The (now expanded) Federal Republic of Germany thus became preoccupied with East Germany in a more sustained manner than it had been for some time. One reason for this was that an extensive reckoning with the East German past — particularly with the many injustices perpetrated by the communist regime — was both politically and popularly desired. That reckoning was initiated by East Germans before unification and should not be seen (only) as West Germans’ ‘victor’s justice’ over their Cold War opponents. The GDR leadership was investigated and prosecuted, East German border guards were tried for shootings at the Berlin Wall, the public service was purged, and the Stasi files were opened to the public. Over twenty years later, the Stasi Records Authority still employs 1,700 staff. In 2012 it received over 88,000 requests for information or access to files. Additionally, research centres and institutes of political education were established to investigate, discuss and inform

the public about East German history. Countless memorials and documentation centres were created at prison sites, at the innerGerman border and the Berlin Wall, and at Stasi headquarters. New museums were founded, like the Contemporary History Forum in Leipzig. The media also investigated and reported, often in sensationalist manner, on the toxic legacy left by the communist regime, especially the Stasi and its informants or ‘unofficial collaborators’. Another actor in this extensive effort to ‘work through’ the East German past was a quasi truth commission established by the Bundestag in 1992 to investigate the history and consequences of the East German regime. On its initiative, a Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship was created. It is responsible among other things for exhibitions like that on the uprising of 17 June 1953 which was shown in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to commemorate the uprising’s sixtieth anniversary. All of this led to a very bleak image of East Germany, one dominated by the inhumanity of the Wall, by the ruthlessness of the Stasi, and by the insidious betrayal by its informers of their colleagues, neighbours, friends and even spouses. This is the view of the GDR as ‘Stasiland’. It is by no means undeserved. The GDR holds the world record for highest proportion of secret police informants and employees per capita, with over 90,000 Stasi employees and an estimated 170,000 informants in 1989. Even if recent research has questioned these figures and suggested that the real number of informants may have been closer to 110,000, the record would hold. Yet some of the East German regime’s fiercest opponents have criticised the Stasi-centricity of public discourse, suggesting that it lets the East German communist party, the SED, off the hook. Whether one focuses on the Stasi or highlights that it was but the ‘sword and shield’ of the party, the image of East Germany that emerges is dominated by the dictatorial, repressive nature of the regime. Professor of history at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Martin Sabrow, has aptly termed this reading of East German history a ‘memory of dictatorship’ (Diktaturgedächtnis). It focuses on the regime. The East German population features mainly in its suffering, resistance and opposition to repression. This approach is critical, even condemnatory. It is supported by victims of the regime, former dissidents and the mainstream political parties. It is promoted by the array of institutions mentioned above. It is, in short, the Berlin Republic’s official version of East Germany history.

Audi Festival of German Films 2013


(clockwise from top) Two Lives; Shores of Hope: This Ain’t California

It is dominant, but not uncontested. Sabrow identifies two rival approaches. On the one hand, there is the ‘memory of progress’ (Fortschrittsgedächtnis) advocated by former apparatchiks and regime supporters. Their socialist apologia seeks to rescue what it can from East German history and even to de-demonise the Stasi. Former Stasi officers argue that every state has a spy service, and that the Stasi’s external branch, the Main Administration for Reconnaissance, was just like others such as MI6, only better. On the other hand, there is the ‘memory of accommodation’ (Arrangementgedächtnis) that is shared by the bulk of the population who were neither dissidents or victims of outright persecution, nor perpetrators or influential office-holders. Theirs is a memory of compromise, of getting by, making do, and of living their lives as best they could under the circumstances. It focuses on the personal, the private, and the social, on the quotidian and the material, on happy childhoods and the celebrations of life’s milestones that occur regardless of the regime. Critics dismiss such memory as nostalgia and argue that it removes everyday life from its dictatorial context. Films such as Goodbye Lenin have been criticised on similar grounds. Integrating such perspectives has been difficult. The Bundestag commission reduced its initial 1992 investigation of everyday life in East Germany to a search for everyday repression. A second attempt in 1997 also highlighted the difficulties. Citizens used an open-microphone session at a public hearing to insist that life in the GDR had not been as bad as often depicted. This stunned the commissioners, who expunged the stenographic record of the session from the official minutes of the hearing. In 2006, a government-appointed expert panel’s proposal to create a new museum to depict everyday life in the context of the dictatorship was criticised by more fervently anti-communist experts for being ‘wishy-washy’ and playing down the regime’s crimes. They prefer a more black-and-white approach, what Mary Fulbrook (University

College London) calls a story of heroes and villains. Similarly, attempts to deal with topics such as the Stasi in complex, subtle or ambiguous ways, as exemplified by films such The Lives of Others or Two Lives, have attracted criticism for ‘humanising’ the perpetrators. But does such an approach do justice to the diversity of the lives lived in the GDR, and to the ambivalence felt by so many of its citizens in retrospect? Questions still need to be asked about what other readings of its history are possible or necessary, about the relationship that does or should exist between the dominant official narrative and individual or collective (counter-)memories, between the political and the personal, and about the various roles of historians, cultural producers such as film-makers and others in addressing East Germany’s multiple lives.

Dr Andrew H Beattie is Convenor of European Studies at the School of Humanities and Languages, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales. Being an expert on German politics and history, Andrew participated in a panel discussion about East Germany as part of the Audi Festival of German Films. Other participants included Georg Maas (director, Two Lives ), Christian Buss (journalist, Der Spiegel ) and Jörn Hausner (director, DAAD Australia).

kultur 2013


The German Sons and Daughters of the Goethe-Institut Philippe Mora

In an ABC interview during the Audi Festival of German Films, filmmaker Philippe Mora discussed the importance and urgent need for reconciliation in many places around the world with Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of East Timor. During the interview, Mora felt something touching his hand and, as he looked down, realised the PM was holding his hand. As he continued talking, he felt the grip increasing. “That’s the most unusual review I’ve ever had,” said Mora, clearly touched in more than just the physical sense. kultur asked him to share his experiences during the festival with our readers. Goethe, often referred to as Germany’s Shakespeare was incandescently brilliant. It seems obvious but sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves of the cultural giants in any culture. In this respect Goethe himself reminds us of Shakespeare in some great essays about his work. I was very honoured to be part of the 2013 Goethe-Institut’s Audi Festival of German Films in Australia, for a number of personal and professional reasons. Internationally it represents the best of German culture like its namesake. My film, titled German Sons, a collaboration with musician and composer Harald Grosskopf, is about German history and culture itself. So finding a niche with the institute could not have been more apropos. Although it was also a very personal story, a microcosm about two families, we felt the personal could translate to a wider audience with the same basic heritage. The film is about what it means to be part of a new German generation today, with the complex and essential issue of digesting the past, and moving forward with confidence, but with a profound acknowledgement of the WWII tragedy. As the son of a German Jew meeting Harald, the son of a Nazi Party member and Wehrmacht officer, I was immediately struck by his profound suffering about history. I told him: “Harald, you have to let that go — simply put, you had nothing to do with it.” Our friendship began immediately and we had a deep bond in common: our fathers would not talk about what happened in the war, for different reasons. To this day we are in constant communication about all this history in a continuing effort to understand what happened. We are collaborating on many future international cultural projects. When the Goethe-Institut invited us to show the film at the festival we were thrilled: this was the perfect context for our film. Our pleasure was increased by the exuberance and enthusiasm of director Arpad Sölter and his entire team of German sons and daughters. We made new friends and I found an instant rapport with the Goethe-Institut staff. The cliché of Germans having no sense of humour was immediately smashed with many laughs. The reaction to the film from Germans of both sides, (Holocaust survivors and their families, and families who survived the Nazi brainwashing) was emotional and we were personally thanked

by them after every screening. It was especially moving when a Holocaust survivor, a woman, held my arm and said she had not realised before how the children of Nazis suffered. This GermanJewish woman, offered no mercy during Third Reich, was showing a spirit of reconciliation that we only dreamed of triggering by making our film. True to the spirit of Goethe we hoped that ultimately rationality will conquer, and the best of human achievement will survive, not the worst. The Nazis did their best to destroy German culture and the Goethe-Institut is pulsating evidence that they failed. The Goethe-Institut team, in my opinion, represents the best of the new generation of Germans and German culture, and successfully presents this vibrant, cutting edge, sophisticated, powerful culture to the world. Goethe must be exhausted from the turning in his grave the last hundred years, but now he can take a rest: his great baton has been successfully passed on to a new generation. This is a heartfelt thanks to Arpad Sölter and his colleagues, symbolic to me of this new generation. I look forward to their new projects with anticipation and excitement.

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Philippe Mora is an acclaimed German-French-Australian writer, director, screenwriter and movie producer, actor and artist. He has made over forty films in all genres — documentaries, dramas, science fiction and historical films. An expert on the Third Reich, his film Swastika is used in universities worldwide. Mora’s films break conventions, combine different styles and are often saturated with rebellious, surrealistic humour. His recent culture comedy Absolutely Modern premiered at the New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.



Chunky Move Gabriele Urban

One of Europe’s most important theatrical voices, German writer and director Falk Richter combines forces with Chunky Move Artistic Director Anouk Van Dijk, Melbourne Theatre Company and Melbourne Festival for this international co-production.

Complexity of Belonging is a production that will change your perceptions of contemporary theatre. Exploring identity in the age of social media, Complexity of Belonging asks: in a globalised world how do you form your identity? And when you can be anyone, who are you really? Nationality, gender, sexuality and history crash and fragment on stage in this extraordinary theatrical presentation.



13 Rooms Kaldor public art project #27 B

Curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist, at Pier 2/3 in Sydney, April 11–21, 2013 Initiated by Kaldor Public Art Projects and supported by the Goethe-Institut Australia, the groundbreaking 13 Rooms project brought together thirteen famous artists and more than seventy trained performers to present an innovative group exhibition of living sculptures within thirteen purpose-built rooms. Curated by renowned museum directors and curators Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery, and Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 in New York, this exceptional event drew massive crowds to a beautiful pier a few metres away from Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.



Apart from Berlin-based artist Tino Sehgal, the show featured works by Marina Abramović, Damien Hirst, John Baldessari, Joan Jonas, Allora and Calzadilla, Simon Fujiwara, Xavier Le Roy, Laura Lima, Roman Ondák, Santiago Sierra, and Xu Zhen.


A] Signage in Walsh Bay for Kaldor Public Art Project #27: 13 Rooms B] Co-curators Hans Ulrich Obrist (left) and Klaus Biesenbach (right) speak at the launch of 13 Rooms at Pier 2/3 in Sydney, 2013 C] The Alaska Orchestra perform at the late-night program Parlour D] Laura Lima, Man=flesh/Woman=flesh — FLAT, 1997 E] Audiences watch Allora and Calzadilla’s, Revolving Door, 2011 F] Audiences watch Joan Jonas’, Mirror Check, 1970 G] Xu Zhen’s In a Blink of An Eye, 2005


H] Roman Ondák, Swap, 2011 I]

Simon Fujiwar, Future/Perfect, 2012 H


© Jamie North/Kaldor Public Art Projects




Chicks on Speed: SCREAM

Š Tim Levy

The electronic music and art duo Chicks on Speed was formed by Australian Alex Murray-Leslie and American Melissa Logan who met at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1997. For their current interactive exhibition project SCREAM, the multidisciplinary art project applies its punk-inspired DIY ethic to performance art, collage graphics, and fashion. Conceived during residencies at the Zentrum fĂźr Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (ZKM) and Artspace in Sydney, the exhibition is touring Australia, appearing at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) in Brisbane, RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne and the Fremantle Arts Centre in Perth.

kultur 2013



Pole (Stefan Betke) at Sound-Light-Stone in Sydney

© Jochen Gutsch

Jochen Gutsch



The Goethe-Institut Australia has a long tradition of celebrating creative diversity across all art forms, and music is no exception. To illustrate this, let us take a quick look at the musical projects supported in recent months and have a quick peek into the immediate future. We pride ourselves in presenting artists from vastly different backgrounds who are employing rather dissimilar approaches. Be it established acts or promising newcomers — what unites all of them is their high level of skill and talent, combined with an eager dedication and total commitment to composing and performing. Presenting these tours and shows, the Goethe-Institut Australia continues to work closely with a broad spectrum of cultural partners in the Australian music and performing arts scene, without whom all these projects would not be possible. In the second half of 2012, the jazz quartet No Tango visited Australia to play at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. Led by musician and composer Christina Fuchs, the group collaborated with local ensemble the Andrea Keller Quartet for the festival, and toured to other Australian cities including Alice Springs, Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong, and Penrith. The duo Ensemble Windspiel took original compositions by Monash University students, combined them with video footage and performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music, and Sydney’s German International School. The year 2013 started off with Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop who visited Australia for the Sydney Festival, in which they performed alongside soloists and Vivienne Westwood fashion models in Semele Walk, Ludger Engels’ visionary production of Händel’s baroque opera. In addition, the ensemble played at City Recital Hall in Sydney, performing pieces by contemporary composers such as Ryoji Ikeda as well as more traditional composers like Henry Purcell. Jazz quartet the Andreas Böhlen Band came to Sydney to play at the Seymour Centre’s Sound Lounge. Organised in collaboration with the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA), the young quartet stunned the audience with their elaborate original compositions, which they also took to Brisbane, Bellingen, Armidale, Byron Bay and many other Australian cities. Electronic dub pioneer Stefan Betke, better known as Pole, played a special Unsound showcase at the Adelaide Festival, and added performances at the Insitute of Modern Art (IMA) in Brisbane and at one of Sydney’s oldest churches. The latter show is an example for our ambition to present events in the best possible surroundings, sometimes choosing not-so-obvious locations in order to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. Speaking of unusual venues, the music theatre piece Louis & Bebe was staged in an abandoned Hobart theatre that had not seen an actor for twenty years. Our programming partners at the Salamanca Arts Centre secured the Avalon Theatre as the perfect space for the avant-garde spectacle. Presented as part of the Dark Mofo Festival organised by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the piece was staged by Rufus Didwiszus and featured multi-talented performers Joanna Dudley and Dirk Dresselhaus. The latter added three solo performances under his Schneider TM moniker in Sydney, Melbourne and Katoomba.

For the exquisite chamber ensemble Hindemith Quintet, the perfect setting was the Uzton Room at the Sydney Opera House. Witnessing the virtuosity of these musicians against the backdrop of the beautiful Sydney Harbour can only be described as a divine experience. In addition, the quintet performed at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in Melbourne and Canberra’s James O Fairfax Theatre at the National Gallery of Australia. Richard Wagner has been the topic of many conversations and the subject of many events this year. Adding a unique voice to the chorus, we asked Australian classical music reviewer Melissa Lesnie to share her thoughts on the composer and his legacy in a quirky global Goethe-Institut blog project that is aptly entitled My Personal Wagner. Furthermore, we had German mezzosoprano Stefanie Irányi singing works by Wagner and Brahms at the Melbourne Festival in October 2013. At the same festival, James Hullick’s post-apocalyptic chamber opera Bruchlandung was performed with the help of acclaimed German baritone Guillermo Anzorena, of Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart fame. In November 2013, electronic musical inventor Markus Popp — better known as Oval — toured Australia. Invited by the GoetheInstitut Australia, Popp was sent on a journey involving a series of performances, talks, workshops and an artist residency. Markus Popp was not only booked into festivals such as Sydney’s Sound Summit, Melbourne Music Week and Face The Music — he also lectured at several Universities from Darwin to Adelaide. At Melbourne Music Week, Oval was paired with another highly acclaimed German act: Pantha du Prince. This electronicallyenhanced bell ensemble had the Melbourne Recital Hall as well as the Federation Bells shaking with a near-symphonic experience, causing standing ovations from a large and enthusiastic crowd. As if all of these projects weren’t enough, we are partnering with the Sydney Festival again in January 2014, jointly presenting the headline act: Dido & Aeneas. For this choreographic opera, Sasha Waltz & Guests teams up with Vocalconsort Berlin and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. The production will feature a tank holding several tonnes of water for the dancers to perform in — which is only one of the reasons why Dido & Aeneas is sure to be an incredible spectacle. Elsewhere, Ansgar Wallenhorst will shake the world of church organ aesthetics with some daring improvisations at the Mona Foma festival in Hobart, while German-Australian indie-cabaret act The Beez will have you smiling through their exquisite Don’t Mention the Wall show, and a jazz group led by New-Yorkbased German saxophone player Timo Vollbrecht will embark on a full Australian tour in the second half of 2014. These are only some of the things we have been working on. If this piques your interest we recommend you sign up for our newsletter, connect on Facebook and keep your ear to the ground for more fascinating sounds coming your way.

kultur 2013


An die Musik Melissa Lesnie

With Germany and Austria home to the world’s most revered orchestras and opera companies, more Australian classical musicians than ever are flocking to the region to train and perform alongside Europe’s brightest. Melissa Lesnie meets a violist in Leipzig and a singer in Salzburg to hear if they can hold their own in these hallowed institutions far from home Why is a viola called ‘Bratsche’ in German? Because that’s the sound it makes when you sit on it. Not only does Tahlia Petrosian have a great viola joke at the ready; she also has a great ‘Sturm und Drang’ story. As we sit back and chat in one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, the Australian describes her recent show-must-go-on experience in one of Europe’s oldest orchestras: the night the June floods hit Leipzig. “Everyone was running late. It was flooded all around the Gewandhaus. I arrived in a taxi with my hairdryer with me, wrapped in plastic,” she recalls. “And everyone in the orchestra lined up wanting to use the hairdryer!” That’s one way to fit in. Tahlia has been based in Leipzig as a member of the internationally renowned Gewandhausorchester since August 2012. During the flood, she explains, “the concert was meant to be sold out but it was only half full. And I thought, ‘This is just like playing a concert in Australia.” That might sound harsh, but it’s just a happy fact of life for musicians in Germany that the concert-going public is larger and fiercely engaged — nowhere more so than in Leipzig, home to Bach, Mendelssohn and Schumann. In fact there are three Australian players in the 185-strong band, named for its home venue’s original function as a cloth merchants’ trading hall. “The arts are all about state-based funding here; culture is a government responsibility. This orchestra is never going to disappear. You walk out on stage, and every concert is full.” She may be comfortable nattering away with our waitress now, but Tahlia didn’t speak German in 2005 when she left Sydney for Berlin to audition for violist Tabea Zimmermann’s class at the Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler Berlin. Having graduated in Law at UNSW, she threw herself into the deep end with a short course in German Law in an effort to learn the language, but found that the technical jargon was entirely different from the usage she faced for everyday tasks and orchestral auditions. A year playing with the Deutsche Oper Berlin eventually set her on the right path. She cites an early altercation at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners’ Registration Office) in which “the German woman in charge quite aggressively refused to grant my visa until I said I would occupy a chair until my visa was processed. A few hours later it was granted — sometimes it pays to stand your ground in Germany!”

‘Standing her ground’ is something she still has to do from time to time, she adds, with her Gewandhaus colleagues in order to be ‘taken seriously’. But it’s not all work, no play: “I turned 30 in June and threw a ‘Champagner et Petits Gâteaux’ party for the orchestra in the Gewandhaus. Eighteen bottles of champagne and 108 cakes later… Probably better to leave the details out!” she laughs. As a musician, however, she has had another linguistic learning curve to contend with. “An orchestra’s sound is like its own language,” she insists. “I find sound, or Klang, a difficult concept to describe, but it is this dark, heavy, substantial string sound that, for me, is the one special feature of German orchestras.” Having recently experienced the rush of the Autobahn for the first time, she compares the feeling with being in a touring German orchestra: fast-paced and exhilarating. “It’s like a music festival all year round; like we’re always on holiday.” From Bachstadt to the birthplace of Mozart: six weeks later in Austria for the Salzburg Festival, I miss Tahlia’s Gewandhaus performances there by just a few days. But with so many Australian musicians on the European circuit, it’s not long before I come across 25-year-old soprano Siobhán Stagg in the festival’s Young Singers Project. A break in her ‘very intense’ rehearsals allows us to sit down for an Eiskaffee and elderberry spritzer — it’s a heatwave here, meaning anything over 30 degrees or hot enough to melt Mozartkugeln — and laugh at the ubiquitous ‘No Kangaroos in Austria’ tourist paraphernalia. Like Tahlia, Siobhán has had the experience of working here as a professional musician with relatively little spoken German under her belt: in this case a Goethe-Institut short course taken in Melbourne, with the added bonus of pronunciation coaching for singers. “It’s been the most challenging and amazing thing that I’ve done,” she enthuses. “Italian’s my best language but there’s not as much going on there. But the language barrier has been a lot easier than I feared it would be — I thought I would just get here and it would be a disaster and they’d say, ‘You can’t do it!’ After a concert I’ll ask my German-speaking friends, ‘Did I sing that word right?’ ” “I’m a lot less nervous about it now that I’m here in Salzburg,” she continues. “Before I arrived in a German-speaking country I was so daunted. I’m not comfortable conversing but both the productions I’m involved with have dialogue in German.”



Those two productions are both Mozart, appropriately enough: Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Die Zauberflöte, in shortened versions for children and families, as well as a small but haunting role as one of the voices that speaks to Joan of Arc in Walter Braunfels’ unfairly neglected masterpiece Jeanne d’Arc: Szenen aus dem Leben der Heiligen Johanna. This, for me, was the unexpected highlight of this year’s festival, performed in the imposing 17th century Felsenreitschule theatre — originally an equestrian school with its long row of impressive arches carved straight out of the Mönchsberg cliff. It was a profound experience for the soprano, too, both on and off stage: the composer’s grandson Stephan, an architect based in Leipzig, attended performances and hosted a reception for the singers. Siobhán found a formal invitation in her dressing room — Cinderella off to the ball, where Braunfels’ descendant thanked her personally. One of only twenty-one musicians handpicked from 400 applicants (along with one other Australian, fellow soprano Kiandra Howarth), Siobhán is keen to improve her German. Rehearsals in particular, she says, can be difficult, though she is quick to point out that everyone has been supportive and helpful. “It’s complicated enough in your own language. At one of my first rehearsals here, the director spoke quietly in German, and I missed my first entry — I was already so nervous because I was working in Salzburg! I had to ask, ‘I’m sorry, where are we going from?’” German directors instructing the cast in English keep her on her toes as well. In Die Zauberflöte, she recalls, one charmingly asked her to watch Pamino attentively as she were ‘hanging on his lips!’ Her two-month stint at one of the world’s most prestigious opera festivals should hold her in good stead for an upcoming year-long residency with the Young Artists Program at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (Tahlia’s alma mater — small world), where she is contracted to sing her first Ring cycle as a Rhinemaiden with Simon Rattle guest conducting. With engagements of that calibre, no doubt her German will continue to improve. In the meantime, the Salzburg hills are alive with music, and Siobhán is already rubbing shoulders with the greats. “Everyone’s here. I can’t believe I’m here. I grew up in Mildura!” she muses. “Last night we had this after party up in the mountains and René Pape was just over there and Antonio Pappano was over there.” The future looks bright for Australian musicians venturing to this part of the world.

Melissa Lesnie is a Parisbased arts journalist and professional festivalgoer who has written for The Guardian, Limelight and French Living magazines and Oxford University Press. The only German she knows was learned singing more than a hundred cantatas with the Sydneian Bach Choir

Tahlia Petrosian (inset, previous page) Siobhán Stagg (background this page)

kultur 2013

26: Goethe-Institut Australia Upcoming Events

OUTLOOK 2014 So… what does Goethe-Institut Australia have in store over the coming months? …plenty! There’s language, literature, music, visual art, politics, and so much more on our schedule. In the coming months, we will be presenting the following highlights in cooperation with our friends and partners: AUDI FESTIVAL OF GERMAN FILMS A celebration of films, events, guests and discussions in March and April 2014

ANTENNA FESTIVAL Australia’s exciting film festival for documentary lovers





This year’s Sydney Festival centrepiece: an opera production choreographed by Sasha Waltz

This year’s Biennale of Sydney features artists Rosa Barba, Yael Bartana, Yingmei Duan, Ulla Von Brandenburg



RIMINI PROTOKOLL Perth International Arts Festival presents the newly conceived Situation Rooms theatre project


© Jörg Baumann



Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin


An evening of sublime Baroque virtuosity at Sydney Festival

The German writer and director joins Melbourne Theatre Company and Chunky Move for a premiere at the Melbourne Festival 2014



The Berlin-based group tours its program Don’t Mention the Wall

TIMO VOLLBRECHT QUARTET German jazz saxophonist brings his New York-based quartet to Australia

ULMER MODELLE Melbourne: An exhibition showing the legacy of the Ulm School of Design


Regular sessions by film societies such as Newcastle German Kino Society (NGKS)

Church organ virtuoso Ansgar Wallenhorst focuses on spontaneous composition at the Hobart festival

Education and enjoyment going hand in hand

© Yulka Popkova


The highly successful Chicks on Speed show comes to Design Hub Melbourne, Fremantle Arts Centre, Haus der Kunst Munich and ZKM Karlsruhe

Sydney: 18 photographers of the legendary Ostkreuz group compose one urban portrait based on shots from various cities

MARIO PFEIFFER AND JEAN-FRANCOIS GUITON Two German video artists show their works at Centre of Contemporary Photography in Melbourne DEBATE

THE SELF AND THE OTHER German Studies Association of Australia (GSAA) conference at the University of Sydney

GERMAN SCHOOL FILM FESTIVAL Students produce films to be screened and awarded prizes

SCHÜLERTAGE Students visit the Goethe-Institut to immerse themselves in the language and culture

AUDI FESTIVAL OF GERMAN FILMS: STUDENT SCREENINGS The festival includes special student and children’s screenings


© Sebastian Bolesch

TORRENS ISLAND Adelaide Migration Museum launches exhibition and publication about internment camps

© Beda Mulzer

SIAMANI SAMOA Michel Tuffery explores Germany’s post-colonial heritage in Samoa at Carriageworks

ENEMY AT HOME The successful exhibition goes digital For more information and program updates please visit Keep in touch: our newsletters: Information correct at time of printing.

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Kultur Magazine 24: 2013  

The latest issue of our annual KULTUR magazine has just been finished and can be found in our Sydney and Melbourne offices, as well as with...