ENGLISH EDITION NOVEMBER 2022
AI ANARCHIES JOURNAL
PROVENANCE RESEARCH THE FUTURE OF CRITIQUE
P. 3 EDITORIAL Werner Heegewaldt P. 4 PROVENANCE RESEARCH SCHEMATIC OUTLINES Anna Schultz P. 6 PROVENANCE RESEARCH. THE (HI)STORIES BEHIND THE ARTWORKS Werner Heegewaldt P. 10 THE FUTURE OF CRITIQUE CARTE BLANCHE Jochen Gerz P. 14 “ WHO CRITICISES WHOM FROM WHERE? ” Angela Lammert and Kolja Reichert in conversation P. 18 AI ANARCHIES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE DREAM OF NON-CONFORMIST ALTERNATIVES Clara Herrmann P. 23 STATEMENTS Maya Indira Ganesh, Nishant Shah, Jennifer Walshe, Siegfried Zielinski P. 26 “ PUBLIC BROADCASTING IS AN INSTRUMENT OF DEMOCRACY ” Kathrin Röggla in conversation with Andres Veiel and Oliver Sturm P. 35 EUROPEAN ALLIANCE OF ACADEMIES HOW DOES POLITICAL RADICALISATION THREATEN ARTISTIC FREEDOM IN EUROPE? Aleš Šteger P. 38 GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY María José Crespo P. 42 THE OTHER SIDE – NAN GOLDIN Anke Hervol P. 46 CHANGE OF ERA VERSUS CLIMATE CHANGE Helmut C. Schulitz P . 48 NEWS FROM THE ARCHIVES FINDS THE HEINRICH SCHULZ AFFAIR Anke Matelowski P. 50 “… TO MEET MYSELF.” NATASCHA WODIN Sabine Wolf P 53 HANS SCHAROUN ARCHITECTURE ON PAPER Sibylle Hoiman P. 56 FREUNDESKREIS LEARNING TO SEE AND TO UNDERSTAND –THE AKADEMIE DER KÜNSTE, A PLACE OF ART, CULTURE, AND SUSTAINABILITY! Uli Mayer-Johanssen
War and crisis are shaping our present and prompting the rise of existential fears. The articles in the current issue of Journal der Künste offer reflections on this development from a variety of dif ferent perspectives. Our member Aleš Šteger considers how Europe’s political compass is shifting, and explores the funda mental consequences of political radicalisation on artistic free dom. Considering Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in particular, his concern that people’s fear of losing wealth and privilege is being instrumentalised to destabilise our society and weaken the idea of a common Europe gives us pause for thought.
Empty rooms and display cases, the outlines of paintings removed from walls, and the orphaned labels from absent artworks. The photographs by Yurii Stefanyak of the Khanenko Museum in Kyiv illustrate with disturbing effect the acute threat to art and cultural assets in Ukraine. More than seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War, the museum was again forced to relocate its entire art collection in order to save it from destruc tion. Russia's war of aggression has given the task of protecting cultural heritage an alarmingly topical relevance. The impact of this threat can be felt as far as Western Europe and is forcing those in charge of collections care to develop contingency plans.
The loss of cultural assets is one of the topics highlighted in the exhibition Provenance Research, which opened on 28 October at Pariser Platz. With a focus on the collections of the Akademie der Künste, the exhibition examines three very different subject areas: the identification of Nazi-looted art in the Academy’s own holdings; the search for artworks lost during the Second World War; and, finally, the efforts of the East German authorities to take possession of valuable and identity-building art objects and collections. The starting point for the exhibition is surprising new research into the ownership histories of artworks, books, objects, and documents. These investigations’ findings show how prove nance research entails more than just clarifying ownership and offering new or alternative perspectives on well-known artworks. A specific challenge lies in researching and creating an aware ness about the hidden and sometimes repressed histories of the artworks and their owners. The fact that these objects often hold great immaterial significance and that their loss was associated
with war and repression make a critical examination more impor tant than ever for all parties involved.
The crisis of the German public broadcasting system rbb was given new impetus by the most recent allegations of favouritism and nepotism within the organisation. Some critics are calling for the dismantling of the broadcaster itself. An interview conducted by Kathrin Röggla with Broadcasting Council member Andres Veiel and radio drama author Oliver Sturm analyses the back ground to this structural crisis that is currently affecting the Ger man system of public broadcasting. Whether the rbb can conti nue to play an important role as a key instrument of democracy depends in large part on a redefinition of its programme mandate.
The far-reaching changes in our media landscape are also a central factor in the crisis facing art criticism. The consensus is that professional art criticism has lost its influence and is being displaced by the prevailing trend toward laudatory reviews in the art world. At the same time, social media has brought about a shift in the roles of professional critics and ordinary people. The conference “The Future of Critique” – taking place in Berlin and Bonn in November– aims to redefine this important instrument. Angela Lammert and Kolja Reichert, the conference initiators and planners, explore the different forms that criticism can take against the backdrop of the evolving media world.
The biography of writer Natascha Wodin (b. 1945) is shaped by the Second World War. She was born in Franconia as the child of Soviet forced labourers; after the end of the war, the family remained in Germany out of fear of Stalinist persecution, and lived in emergency shelters and camps for years. When Wodin was 10 years old, her mother took her own life; later, to escape her father’s violence, she fled into homelessness. She dealt with these trauma tic experiences in her auto-fictional novel She Came from Mariu pol, which won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2017. In presenting Natascha Wodin’s archive, Sabine Wolf shows the alarming rele vance of her research into the mechanisms of totalitarian systems.
Werner Heegewaldt Director of the Archives of the Akademie der Künste
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THE KHANENKO-MUSEUM IN KYIV
The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kyiv is home to an outstanding collection of European, Asian, and Islamic artworks, that was put together by the collectors Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko. It is held in their city villa and was donated to the city and its citizens upon their deaths.
With the outbreak of the Russia's war of aggression, the larger part of the collection was conserved, as it had been previously during the Second World War. As part of the exhibition Provenance Research , the Academy is presenting fourteen photographs by Yurii Stefanyak.
The photographs show the museum rooms void of human life, with shadows of paintings on walls with silk wall-coverings, empty display cases, and pedestals without objects – the body of a hibernating museum, which, stripped of its treasures, functions as an empty shell.
However, the Khanenko Museum remains open to the public as a meeting point, a space for exchange, hope, and contemplation. Despite many museum workers having fled the country and the museum facing public funding cuts just like other Ukrainian public institutions, the exhibition halls are being used for interventions by contemporary artists and concerts.
Museums and other cultural institutions in Ukraine are under acute threat by Russia’s war of aggression. As places in which the country’s identity is engrained, muse ums and other such institutions are – despite alleged protection by the Hague Conventions – prime targets, as was demonstrated on 10 October when several mis siles exploded in the immediate vicinity of the Khanenko Museum. The staff and collections were unharmed, but the historic building was severely damaged. Russian attacks on cultural institutions – on the same day in Kyiv, the Philharmonic Hall, the nearby Shevchenko Museum, and the University were attacked – exemplify the very real threat to cultural institutions.
The destruction and looting of museums, libraries, archives, and churches by Russian troops are a daily occurrence. Furthermore, a lack of resources and a shortage of the materials needed for the security, evacuation, and safekeeping of cultural assets is proving increasingly problematic.
Ukraine Art Aid (https://www.dug-ww.com/ Kulturgutschutz_Ukraine) is raising funds for direct and uncomplicated support of cultural institutions in Ukraine.
Talk as part of the programme of the exhibition Provenance Research
Wednesday 16 November 2022, 7 p.m.
Cultural Property Losses Today A Look at Ukraine (DE/EN)
With Olena Balun (Netzwerk Kulturgutschutz Ukraine) Yuliya Vaganova (Khanenko Museum, Kyiv) Olaf Hamann (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)
Moderation: Barbara Welzel (TU Dortmund)
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ANNA SCHULTZ is Research Associate of the Art Collection of the Akademie der Künste.
YURII STEFANYAK , born in 1990 in the city of Dnipro, is a freelance photographer based in Kyiv. His work focuses on documenting cultural and social life in Ukraine.
THE (HI)STORIES BEHIND THE ARTWORKS
6 PROVENANCE RESEARCH.
AN EXHIBITION BY THE ARCHIVES OF THE AKADEMIE DER
“Degenerate Art”: Max Kaus, Havelziehbrücke , 1931, oil on canvas.
The question of ownership with regard to the colonial heritage on display in European museums is currently the subject of heated debate. These discussions once again underline how impor tant it is for cultural institutions to investigate the origins of their collections and to make the results of those investigations pub lic. As the examples of the West African Benin Bronzes or the Luf-boat from the South Pacific compellingly demonstrate, the scope of the issue extends beyond questions of legality or owner ship. This is about the intangible value of art as well as the reso lution and recognition – and redress, in the best-case scenarios –of historical injustices. Works of art and cultural assets have a role to play in shaping identity, which is why their ownership car ries such emotional significance. This applies equally to the cul tures of their origin, the people they belonged to and their descendants, and, of course, to the museums and collections which are tasked with their preservation and display. One of the challenges of provenance research is to investigate and draw attention back to the buried, sometimes suppressed stories of the origins of artworks and their owners. The fact that the loss of such artworks was often linked to war and repression makes such investigations all the more crucial for all involved, whether concerning the vastly different situations of items taken in the colonial past, those looted by the Nazis, or objects confiscated by the East German regime. Only precise knowledge about a spe cific case enables an assessment and a weighing up of legal, historical, and political arguments.
Since the Washington Principles of 1998, provenance research has become a fundamental task for all collecting institutions. Despite its legally non-binding status, the agree ment is an effective instrument that establishes the obligation to identify works of art confiscated during the Nazi period and to seek fair and just solutions between former and current owners of those artworks. At the same time, such research efforts also instigate a critical examination of the history of the cultural institutions themselves. Not only are these institutions forced to question their own self-conception, they must also examine the historical and political context in which the decisions to acquire objects were made and determine whether these decisions still hold validity today.
Whilst compelling reports regarding art looted by the Nazis or items of colonial heritage attract significant media attention and thus build awareness of the topic of provenance research, the com plexities of this task and of the problems and questions it brings to the fore are generally only familiar to experts. The exhibition Provenance Research aims to make this topic accessible to a wider audience and propagate an understanding of the complexity of making fair and credible statements about ownership and propri etorship, exploring also what political and moral leeway is needed in order to reach mutually amicable solutions. Only in this way can we achieve an understanding around differing assessments and a greater social acceptance for decisions regarding restitution.
New insights into the provenance of paintings, books, archi val materials, and objects from the collections of the Akademie der
Künste are the starting points for the exhibition. Visitors are offered new perspectives on familiar works of art and are given opportunities to learn how provenance research promises new insight that extends beyond settling questions of ownership. The focus is on three very different areas of art provenance and ownership history: first, the identification of Nazi-looted art that is now part of the Academy’s own holdings and the role of the Akademie der Künste during the Nazi period; secondly, the search for the collections of the Prussian Akademie der Künste that were lost during the Second World War; and finally, the critical reappraisal of efforts by the East German (GDR) state appara tus to take possession of valuable art objects. Based on selec ted examples, the exhibition sheds light on the investigative methods used, various ways of securing evidence, and the sto ries behind the artworks themselves. These stories are often the result of painstaking but fascinating research in which very dif ferent kinds of leads are followed and pieces of the puzzle are put together to recreate an artwork’s – not always complete –biography. The objects include a rediscovered book from the lost library of the philosopher Walter Benjamin, remnants of the collection of the art critic Alfred Kerr that were confiscated by the Gestapo, a sketchbook from Max Liebermann’s estate, oil sketches by Carl Blechen that were thought to have been lost, and the private art collection of painter and Academy President Otto Nagel that, after his death, was the target of East German cultural authorities. The sculpture Urania is an example of how provenance history can present a different approach to understanding art. The monu
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The art collection of Otto Nagel: Oskar Fischer, Porträt von Otto Nagel , around 1921, oil on cardboard.
mental 18th-century sculpture greets visitors to the exhibition. Embodying the turbulent history of a community of artists whose work was either lost or destroyed during the war, Urania now returns to the Academy for the first time. Originally adorning the old Academy building on Unter den Linden as part of a larger sculptural ensemble, today she stands in Heinrich-von-KleistPark in Berlin’s Schöneberg district, covered with wounds inflic ted by shrapnel and vandalism. Her provenance and original pur pose, however, remain concealed from history.
“In the Grenzburg… 1 Kaus (for me)”, wrote the artist and edu cator, Friedrich Schult succinctly in his journal entry of 28 May 1945. “Kaus” referred to the 1931 painting Havelziehbrücke (“Havel drawbridge”) by Max Kaus. In the context of the “degenerate art” campaign, Nazi authorities had removed the painting from Munich’s Pinakothek and handed it over to the art dealer Bernhard A. Böhmer “for utilisation”. Böhmer, one of the leading art dealers in the Third Reich, was involved in numerous sales of artworks owned by Jewish people. However, he kept this particular painting, along with many other works considered degenerate, in storage at the Grenzburg location that served as his depot in Güstrow. After Böhmer’s suicide on 3 May 1945, Schult held it there “for protection” against seisure by the Red Army.
Both men had lived in Güstrow and knew each other in the con text of administering the estate of the sculptor Ernst Barlach. Finally, thanks to Schult’s widow, the painting found its way to the Akademie der Künste in 1981. The Munich collection was long unaware of the painting’s present-day location; it is still lis ted as lost in its 1990 catalogue of works. This case demonst rates, on the one hand, how convoluted and opaque changes in ownership often are. On the other hand, it shows how different a legal assessment can be from a moral one. Morally, the pain ting was removed from the museum under government pressure, making a return the obvious solution. The legal assessment, how ever, comes to a different conclusion. A 1938 law, which is still valid to this day, retrospectively legitimised the seising of “degenerate art” without compensation and prevented museums from being able to reclaim confiscated works after the end of the war.
LOST, MISSING, RETURNED
Carl Blechen’s Mühlental bei Amalfi (“Mill valley near Amalfi”) had long been considered lost in the war. In 2019, the Akademie der Künste succeeded in reacquiring the oil sketch from private ownership. It is now on public display in the exhibition for the first time. The story of the painting, which had been stolen from a holding site in 1945, sheds light on the losses inflicted by the war on the Academy’s collection – another central topic of provenance research. Until 1945, the Prussian Academy possessed an outstanding collection of fine art. This collection was com posed of Old Master drawings and graphics, including works by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Wenceslaus Hollar, as well as entire estates of works, for example those of the sculp tor Johann Gottfried Schadow, the engraver Daniel Nicklaus Chodowiecki, and the landscape painter Carl Blechen. During the Second World War, much of the art collection was moved to safe locations for protection against bombing raids. Chosen loca tions included the flak bunker at Berlin Zoo, the Neue Münze in Berlin, an inoperative potash mine in the Rhön region, and vari ous castles in Silesia. As a result of war and the looting and con fiscation by trophy brigades of the Red Army in its aftermath, over three-quarters of the collection are now thought to be des troyed or, at the very least, missing. The precise number of lost works is unknown, since the inventories and card catalogues were also removed, and exact information about the prints is mis sing completely. However, offers from private parties and auc tion houses, as well as information about artworks in Polish muse ums and in the former Soviet Union, are evidence that at least some of the collection has survived. Determining the where abouts of these artworks is a central task of provenance research. For art historians, even information about which works have sur vived and where they are located is a significant piece of new knowledge. One example is the estate of the painter and former Academy Director Eduard Daege. Close cooperation with the Khanenko Museum in Kyiv led to the discovery of a number of Daege's drawings that had been kept in storage there. Working
Provenance unknown, Urania , 18th-century sculpture, sandstone.
together with Ukrainian colleagues, the Academy is now plan ning a digitisation and research project that would bring the works scattered across three collections together on one virtual plat form. Due to the war in Ukraine and the resulting need to evacuate the collection, however, the project has been temporarily put on hold.
ART OWNERSHIP IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF GDR CULTURAL POLICY
Provenance researchers are also increasingly focusing on the efforts of the state apparatus of the GDR to acquire private art possessions and use them for its own purposes. One such example is the artistic estate of Otto Nagel. The painter and former President of the Akademie der Künste (East) had an extensive art collection, which included works by artist friends like Hans Baluschek, Käthe Kollwitz, and Heinrich Zille in addition to his own works. Although Nagel, as a cultural functionary, was criticised for his attitudes in the formalism debate and in the literary movement “Bitterfelder Weg” (“Bitterfeld way”), his realistic and socially critical work as an artist was indisputedly seen as part of East Germany’s cultural heritage. Following his death in 1973, at the initiative of his widow Walli Nagel, the Otto-Nagel-Haus was opened in East Berlin, where his artwork was exhibited until the mid-1990s. The withdrawal of his daughter, art historian Sibylle Schallenberg-Nagel, and her husband Götz, from the museum’s management team in 1978 was an early indication of the sim mering disagreements between the family and the GDR’s cultu ral authorities. At the core of the conflict was the question of control over the private art collection, which aroused the greed
of the state. After Nagel’s widow died and the family’s political influence diminished, the heirs were confronted with an exorbi tant tax bill. For the purposes of avoiding the payment of inheritance and property tax totalling 2.5 million East German marks, the heiress Sibylle Schallenberg-Nagel was forced to accept the offer of donating the artworks to the East German Akademie der Künste instead. Over 300 paintings and drawings were incorpo rated into the art collection of the Academy. In return, the heiress was permitted to keep the parental home as well as certain selected works of art. As a legal matter, the case was thus resolved. After 1990, requests for repatriation were rejected in two instances. Nevertheless, the approach taken by the GDR authorities raises several questions.
The exhibition shows the breadth of research into histori cal provenance and the complexities of its associated problems and resultant assessments. For the collecting institutions, this “provenance research” amounts to a commitment to take responsibility and constitutes crucial efforts against the tide of forgetting. Each story told about the historical background of an artwork helps to uphold the memory of the people who created, owned, or were forced to give up that work of art.
“PRO VENANCE RESEARCH ”
An Exhibition at the Akademie der Künste Par iser Platz, 29 October 2022–22 January 2023
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WERNER HEEGEWALDT is Director of the Archives of the Akademie der Künste.
Remains of a library: Volumes from the possession of the art critic Alfred Kerr, restituted to the heirs by the Berlin State Library.
Verso of Carl Blechen, Mühlental bei Amalfi, 1829, oil on paper on cardboard, with numerous notes on provenance. The repurchase was funded by the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder) and the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.
THE CONTEXT OF ART, CRITICISM IS A MANIFESTATION THAT QUESTIONS NOT ONLY THE ART THAT CONFRONTS IT AS ART, BUT ALSO THE EXISTENCE OF ART AS WORLD.
ASKS: DOES ART NEED TO BE ART?
MANIFESTATION OF ART
CRITICISM IS A
THAT OWES ITSELF AS MUCH TO THE EXISTENCE AS TO THE NON-EXISTENCE OF ART.
CAN SAY THAT THE INTENTION OF CRITICISM IS ART AS MUCH AS WHAT REMAINS OF THE WORLD WITHOUT IT, OF THE EVIDENCE OF THE WORLD WITHOUT, BEFORE OR AFTER ART.
THE FUTURE OF CRITIQUE
“WHO CRITICISES WHOM FROM WHERE?”
Everyone is a critic today. But where is critique? We are all experts evaluating each other. But where are the experts for the greater whole? Every theatre, every museum, every scientific body is expected to explain and publicise its work itself – while independent communication, classification, and evaluation are vanishing with the general media. But without criticism, there is no public sphere. Without the public sphere, no arts. Without the arts, no democracy. The international congress “The Future of Critique” is an initiative of the Fine Arts Section of the Akademie der Künste and is taking place at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn and the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. It is intended as the first step in the long-term redefinition of the role of criticism and the safe guarding of its infrastructure. The programme, arising from conversa tions across all sections of the Academy, kicks off with “Criticism in hypercirculation” and “The Fall and Rise of the Critical Public”, followed by “WHO GETS TO CRITICISE WHOM FROM WHAT POSITION?” and “How has the role of criticism changed?”. In the run-up to the congress, Angela Lammert, Head of interdisciplinary special projects at the Aca demy, and Kolja Reichert, Curator of discourse at the Bundeskunsthalle, talk about the state of criticism.
KOLJA REICHERT We have been working on this congress for almost two years now. Let’s start with the title: Why “The Future of Critique” rather than “The crisis of criticism”?
ANGELA LAMMERT Rather than adding to the lamentation about the crisis of criticism, we’d rather look at the transformation of soci ety through the lens of criticism. The critique of criticism can be traced not just in the rise of identity-critical narratives at the expense of dwindling aesthetic arguments. It is also evident in the degradation of the cultural sphere due to its economic exploitation for rapid consumability. Established places for criticism are falling away at an increasing rate – be that in the declining numbers of pages in media features sections or due to the changed program ming priorities in the public broadcasting sector. It’s an ambivalent process, because the old authorities and interpretive hierarchies
are also being called into question. There is a lack of financial sup port for independent criticism: no critics’ fund, hardly any awards for critics; there was no practical aid for critics or criticism during the pandemic. With advancing digitisation, new forms of writing are being tested – be they in self-organised viral networks or in the artistic anticipation of collective practices such as memes. But, if everyone is writing, where are the expert judges, and where is the language game? We also want to discuss the influence of marketoriented models on how art and culture are communicated. Who can participate in the media platforms? Who can’t, and why not? We hope that the congress will become a forum where the diffe rent arts as well as different generations will come together and, starting from a diagnosis of the changing role of criticism, inves tigate the scope for opening new spaces.
KR There was a moment in the preparation of the congress when the flight altitude suddenly changed; it was when the Visual Arts Section invited the Literature, Performing Arts, Film, Architecture, and Music Sections to join in. Suddenly, we were no longer talking about the malaise of art criticism or literary criticism or music criticism, but we saw a subject taking on concrete shape: critique itself, independent of its subject matter. And it became clear that we were gathering here at a moment of crisis in which something has disappeared. And that it cannot be a question of forcing the genie back into the bottle, but that, in the context of a profound transformation of the media – comparable to the establishment of the daily newspaper in the 19th century and radio in the middle of the 20th century – the whole of society is reconstituting itself. New media practices are coming into play, roles become wobbly and new ones take the stage, while there is still a lack of a sense of direction that would allow navigation of this new forum that now lacks a clear demarcation between stage and public. It is as if all the stages have unfolded into a multipolar universe in which different intensities position them selves and each other, vying for cultural hegemony. Institutions are ultimately personas among others with a profile and an Instagram account. But the peo ple out there who used to be their audience, or still are, also have an Instagram account and an opinion. And why should they con sider valuable what the institutions consider valuable? Some are even establishing their own institutions, like Caroline Busta and Lil Internet of the podcast New Models, who, together with Joshua Citarella, Mat Dryhurst, and Holly Herndon, are building up the media platform channel.xyz to make themselves independent of the platform corporations.
AL For me, the biggest change in the role of criticism in the last ten years is what we have called “the omnipresent logic of amplification”: the form of the laudatory review – so not criticism in the literal and technical sense. Criticism, after all, comes from “criticise”. The now reviled “authoritative critic”, on the other hand, is tied to the idea of a radical subjectivity that constitutes the value of criticism. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was also linked to the fact that each newspaper spoke with its single voice.
KR Such as Eduard Beaucamp for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)
AL There are historical examples that come more to my mind:
Karl Scheffler for Kunst und Künstler , Paul Westheim for Das Kunstblatt , and Max Osborn for the Vossische Zeitung .
KR But don’t they still exist today? Hans-Joachim Müller for Die Welt, Hanno Rauterberg for Die Zeit
AL There may be exceptions, but most of them happen to be men …
KR Not exclusively – Swantje Karich for Die Welt, Elke Buhr for Monopol, Catrin Lorch for the Süddeutsche Zeitung
AL In my opinion, there are nevertheless fewer of them, because most of them write for several newspapers and magazines and find it difficult to keep their heads above water financially. And that also has implications for the economic independence of these writers. Digital publications in blogs, podcasts, and the networks of the indepen dent community complete the picture.
KR Of course. When Laszlo Glozer championed Beuys early on, he was a correspondent in Freiburg for the FAZ, part of a large network of regular freelance correspondents who kept an eye on everything happening in the visual arts in their region. When I was the arts editor of the FAZ (later the FAS ), museums located away from the major urban centres used to ask: When will you come to visit us? In view of the absence of critical support, some, like the MARTa Herford art museum, organised themselves and built up a strong social media department early on, because they realised that they had to be both – a museum and an institution that reports on the museum – in one.
AL This has led to institutions – especially in the big cities –starting to publish journals themselves and commissioning paid reviews. So these are more like affirmative art reviews.
KR Yes, the number of positions in art education and communica tion is increasing, while the positions for independent communi cation in the media are decreasing. Academics are also being com pelled to evaluate and market their work themselves. And I think this has to do with the fact that the persuasive power of brands that communicate themselves has almost become stronger than the brands of independent media. Being part of a club, having a fixed opinion and a superior lifestyle, seems more attractive today than participation in open-ended public debates. What criticism contributes seems to me increasingly difficult to communicate: for example, that it is criticism that imagines common horizons and common ground in the first place – and thus also provides the assurance that it is dispute which, more than anything else, strengthens what is shared – the commons … the common ground
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.... The dispute over the value of individual works is what ensures the long-term value of works in the first place. But who sorts and classifies the countless projects and explains their purpose? Criticism, apparently, is no longer considered at all, even in cultural policy. Its image is obviously negative: it always comes too late, it takes up time that you don’t have, and usually finds fault with something. At worst, it is annoying. Brands like Hauser & Wirth, on the other hand, have the same expertise and offer positive identi fication as well. They form a complete, self-commenting world with their own magazine, their own holiday destinations on Menorca and in the Engadine, and they also have their own publishing house. Its new Director Alex Scrimgeour will speak at the congress. For a long time, he was the reviews editor at the art magazine Artforum, later at Spike Art Quarterly , also Art Magazine, then he was freelance for a while, and now he heads the publishing pro gramme for Hauser & Wirth. Holger Liebs, former arts edi tor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, then editor-in-chief of Monopol, then programme director at Hatje Cantz, now press spokes man for the Staatliche Kunst sammlungen in Dresden, will also be participating. As will Julia Voss, who turned down the art editorship of the FAZ in favour of academic and cura torial work at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Thus, the congress brings together many people who have firsthand experience of current trends.
AL You, too, were a critic and are now a curator. Is that honestly due to the persuasive power of brands as opposed to communication through the media?
KR I was also a freelance critic for a long time, then editor for Spike Art Quarterly, then the FAZ, later the FAS, and am now curator for discourse – a quite recent job description – at the Bundeskunst halle in Bonn. In fifteen years as a critic, I have been fortunate to be able to learn and organise a great deal without having to make compromises. Essentially the role of the critic seems the most attractive to me, because independence keeps one constantly open to developing new questions and criteria. One takes part in caring for public discourse by offering critical questioning of one’s own subjectivity. After every art criticism seminar, my impression is that half of those attending would opt for a job as a critic if it was still
economically feasible for them to do so. It’s awful that this is no longer the case. This also puts the meaning of artists’ work at stake, and thus the contours of the arts themselves. The less critical dis course develops concepts in art, the more works and institutions become mere targets for populist critiques of power. If the lan guage for the work is lost, then the work and the people surrounding it are subjected to solely ideological abstractions. And then there are no more criteria to agree on, no common goals worth fighting for, and only the struggle of all against all.
AL If you go back to the root or origin of the word “criticism”, it also has something to do with discernment, which in turn has to do with comparison. Comparing would be the basis for judging. This has to do with the criteria, with the frame of reference of whatever kind, which can only evolve out of the works and the object of criticism. The shift in the relation ship between aesthetic and political-moralising arguments seems to make it more difficult to per ceive distinct critical positions –regardless of whether they are published in the digital, written, or public media. At least that’s the message that comes across to me as someone who hasn’t worked as a critic myself. Perhaps it also has to do with an oblivi ousness to history and art’s total reference to the present. After all, this dialogical principle already existed in Denis Diderot’s salon conversations, which basi cally also manifested the begin nings of pluralism. Hence it is not really a new phenomenon, as is so often discussed today in con nection with memes or other forms of collective writing. KR Here, we see two opposing models of the public sphere that reveal a shift: on the one hand, the public sphere administered by central institutions such as newspapers, radio, museums, theatres, and opera houses – and these maintain discourses about the arts so that what an artist or institution contributes acquires meaning by being placed in con text with something else. That is only possible with criticism. On the other hand, through so-called social media, we have a multi polar universe in which everyone is a critic, a work in themselves, and an artist at the same time, positioning themselves and ascribing and questioning value.
AL One future of criticism could be to build bridges between opposing poles. Whether it is the question of a productive relation
ship between narratives of aesthetics and identity politics or, as Nikita Dhawan attempts, between Western European Enlighten ment thought and postcolonial theories.
KR Of course, that is the other great transformation that’s under way. On the one hand, we see the crumbling of a system that ensures distance and common ground, based on which mutual criti cism is possible, with an increasing number of worlds emerging that are identical with themselves and comment on themselves.
On the other hand, this is taking place in a radically open space where everyone hears everyone else. And when everyone hears everyone else, of course, it is more difficult to poke fun at others than it used to be – because those on the receiving end will react. They might complain or make their own jokes. And that is actually a wonderful situation. People often complain about it, along the lines of you’re not allowed to say anything anymore, you’re not allowed to do anything anymore, and so on. But I think that if you look at the whole space, this is not a bad starting point. It is a new status quo in human history where potentially everyone is always listening in. Of course, this makes certain questions more acute: who has had the interpretative sovereignty up until now? Who has been free to define this network of values? And who has been a pri ori excluded from this network through economic or cultural exclu sion, through racial prejudice, all of which are often entangled.
AL I’m hoping that, with a few examples, we will manage to show where certain problematic issues – even if they seem quite different to us today – are structurally similar to historical discussions. You mentioned the advent of the newspaper. Digitisation has put us in a similar situation. What has remained – to take up an idea from the art theorist Robert Kudielka – is that criticism is always a linguistic effort, even in memes as witty image/text combinations.
For me, the question is: In what ways do subjects today give rise to criteria and ways of writing? This means not applying the dis course to the topic but starting from it. Criticism is to be written from the participatory and performative situation, to be developed from materialised artistic expression. It is a matter of judging, criticising, and writing from the perspective of a field of reference determined by the common ground.
KR And, from these works and their description, to allow the view of the common ground or the common ground itself to shift perhaps by 0.3 degrees. This encounter you describe is potentially capable of rethinking circulation and slowing down ideological abstractions, or perhaps of gaining distance and rethinking them. These are the stakes that the arts – and what remains of the field of criticism, and the institutions as well – are wrestling for: that the penetra tion of common material by the individual can always shift something. This is only possible if the encounter with it is possible. And that, in turn, is only possible if the encounter with it has value for soci ety and if this value is understood. This is ensured by criticism. It extrapolates common horizons from individual works, and puts the individual works in relation to these horizons. Criticism creates the common ground which makes sure that criticism isn’t flattened into agonistic battles over mutual annihilation, but aims for mutual improvement.
AL I’d rather tend to say that art itself can also be criticism, just as criticism can also be art – one only need think of Charles Baudelaire. Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that it is not only a question of changing criticism in art, but also of transversal sec tions, as called for by Siegfried Zielinski: diagonally, to knowledge and aesthetics. The critique of criticism is a battlefield. Who criti cises whom and from where? How can we oppose the diminishing relevance of criticism? And how are we to comprehend new con ceptualisations and practices of criticism and art?
Artist Cem A. entertains the art world with his critical memes on the @freeze_magazine account. He will accompany the communication of the congress with a series of spe cially developed memes.
The programme has been developed in participation with the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), the research training group “Cultures of Criticism” at Leuphana University Lüneburg, and the Institute for Art and Image History at the HumboldtUniversität zu Berlin. The congress opens on 18 and 19 November in Bonn and takes place in Berlin from 24 to 26 November. An exhibition organised by stu dents will examine critics’ bequests in the Academy Archives. The programme can be found at adk .de/ kritik and bundeskunsthalle.de/en/kritik
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The ethical challenges of “intelligent” machines were predicted and discussed by artists long before the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Amidst today’s technological boom, the questions of “good” or “bad” AI have become more acute – but also more complex – than ever. Under the title of “AI Anarchies”, the JUNGE AKADEMIE of the Akademie der Künste is supporting six artists in their development of new works on the subject of AI and ethics in connection with a six-month residency programme at the Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik (ZK/U) in Berlin. But what, in fact, is at stake? Clara Herrmann, Director of the JUNGE AKADEMIE, outlines AI scenarios and pre sents artists’ (counter-)strategies.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE DREAM OF NON-CONFORMIST ALTERNATIVES
FONGWILKE, Memorial Matter Archival Footage, 2022.
In 2020, Google sacked its co-head of ethics in the AI department, Timnit Gebru, who was concerned with the ethical issues of large-scale self-learning language models. The company had refused to publish research showing how, among other things, such models facili tate disinformation about elections and appropriate racist and sexist language from the data that feeds them. This was not the first case in which the industry’s efforts to develop “ethical AI” – trustworthy, unprejudiced, and responsible – were exhausted in vague, if not empty promises and, more importantly, continued to sideline the rights, viewpoints, and visibility of minorities. 1
The dangers of AI in terms of discrimination, data misuse, surveillance, the asymmetries of power, manipulation of public opinion, climate justice, and so on are being broadly discussed in science, business, politics, art, and culture. A familiar example is facial recognition software. In 2018, the Massachusetts Institute of Tech nology (MIT) scientist Joy Buolamwini revealed that the programs used for diagnoses in the healthcare industry and for sentiment (emotion) analysis in marketing delivered distorted or faulty results: her own face as a Black woman was not recognised. The developers had not taught the algorithms to recognise a wide range of skin tones and facial features. Commissioned by Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the programs identified white men without difficulty but yielded flawed results when it came to recognising the faces of women and minori ties. 2 Further, let us not forget the incident in 2015 when Google’s image recognition software classified people with dark skin as gorillas. The expansion of mass surveillance,
the weaponisation of AI – think the state’s use of iden tification software following the recent student protests in Hong Kong 3 – and discrimination in the law enforce ment sector – where Black people are more readily criminalised – all find a basis in facial recognition technology. 4
The use of AI has long been established in the European Union too: in 2021, the application of AI-con trolled lie detectors and interview bots at the Greek–Turkish border was reported as part of a large battery of new digital barriers that the EU is using to prevent illegal immigration. 5 This reveals how unchecked “techno-solutionism” – the belief that the solution to social, economic, and political problems lies in technology – is used to circumvent moral concerns in the complex field of migration. The fact that such AI-based approa ches criminalise and dehumanise migrants and use them as subjects in experimentation is simply ignored. 6
“Algorithmic violence” already exists within the threshold of war in the form of drone warfare, with peo ple being killed on the basis of metadata and algorith mic calculation designed to overcome human “weak nesses”. There is no longer any place here for empathy. As the artist Mimi Onuoha puts it, this form of violence combines “all of the things that we have experienced (particularly in the last five to ten years) as we’ve seen the availability of huge datasets, advances in compu tational power, leaps in fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the subsequent incorpora tion and leveraging of all these things into a hierarchi cal and unequal society”. 7 This includes aggressive
referral marketing, AI-recommended credit scores, and the rejection of job seekers on the basis of systems that check their applications for the right key words.
To boost profits, to wage cyber warfare, and to sus tain and expand autocratic systems: like any technology, AI can be misused. When human abilities and responsibilities are replaced and when self-determination is restricted, the dignity of the individual is up for grabs. Questions of liability arise when damage is caused by a self-driving car or a machine in a factory: questions of transparency derive from concerns about how the tech nology really works, whose interests are behind it, and whether it can be controlled at all; questions of security and privacy; and finally, the question of human–machine interaction via sensors and interfaces. Many companies have now adopted ethical principles and guidelines and entered into voluntary agreements. However, big tech industries and start-ups remain profit-oriented in their motivations, feeding the hype surrounding the afore mentioned techno-solutionism and AI in general. Used to augment, improve, predict, and measure just about anything, a handful of tech companies even use AI on a global scale. And yet, at the same time as being undermi ned, the debate about “ethical AI” is being appropriated.
It is only through the work of researchers addressing discrimination against marginalised groups that ethical awareness of AI has been more widely established at all. For some years now, artists and activists have also been developing counteroffensives against such trends, for example by utilising patterns in clothing, make-up, and hair that confuse the algorithms. In their artistic
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FONGWILKE, Memorial Matter Archival Footage, 2022.
Rahal, Black Origin , 2022.
research, they also examine the structures and effects of AI, for example in the German migration author-ities’ use of so-called dialect recognition software to ascer tain the origin of undocumented asylum seekers since 2017. Researcher and sound artist Pedro Oliveira (an “AI Anarchies” fellow) asks what is at stake when sta tes use mathematical listening models to regiment the movement of migrants and asylum seekers.
The visions underlying these technologies are shaped by the ideas and perspectives of a very small, homoge neous, and mainly white, male group located in the few global cities in which capital is also concentrated. Their systems are hailed as being comparable to, or even superior to, human intelligence. They intervene in the world in ways that primarily benefit the nation-states, the institutions, and the companies for which they are built. 8 At the same time, they do the most harm to those who are least able to protect themselves, whose voices, stories, and perspectives of AI ethics are heard seldom or not at all. In this context, artist and “AI Anarchies” fellow Sarah Ciston has created an intersectional AI toolkit to enable greater inclusivity. It draws on the work and methodologies of marginalised scholars and practitioners, such as Black feminists and queer and disability theorists, who have been identifying the ethical issues for some time so that the development and use of AI can be reframed.
As Kate Crawford writes in Atlas of AI , one of the big gest myths in the field is that intelligence is something that exists independently of social, cultural, historical, or political forces, despite the fact that the concept of superior intelligence has been doing immense damage for centuries. 9 AI is neither “artificial” nor “intelligent”, she writes, but “both embodied and material, made from natural resources, fuel, human labour, infrastructures, logistics, histories, and classifications”. 10 In this sense, AI is not to be regarded as a purely technical domain. Nor is it about opening the one black box. Rather, it is about making visible a multitude of nested systems of colonial power with which AI is interwoven. “Artificial Intelligence, then, is an idea, an infrastructure, an indus try, a form of exercising power, a way of seeing; it’s also a manifestation of highly organized capital backed by vast systems of extraction and logistics, with supply chains that wrap around the entire planet.” 11 For this reason, no simple answers can be found to the question of AI ethics.
How ethical can an AI based on the radical exploita tion of natural and human resources be? Crawford com pellingly describes the “landscapes of computation” abandoned by the resource consumption of digital tech nology, which requires lithium, oil, and water in vast quantities and irreversibly damages the environment and vulnerable communities around the world. These complex interdependencies of the economic, cultural, and political network in which AI operates are the starting point for the art of “AI Anarchies” fellow Aarti Sunder. She examines the infrastructure of submarine cables that carry the world’s data and the life forms that surround them as historical channels of power. In doing so, she addresses questions of resource distribution, forms of precarious labour, and levels of the invisibility of AI.
It takes an anarchic force to articulate the unease within the debate on AI, dominated as it is by analytical philo sophy and universalism and taking place in a space directly and indirectly occupied by corporations. What
and whose ethics and morals are we talking about? What can or should artists contribute? What do they want to contribute? What values do they bring with them? What languages and aesthetics are still left? Such discus sions should be less concerned with the relationship between humans and AI – a relationship heavily influ enced by Hollywood metaphors – and instead consist of artistic research into an AI that is fair, moral, and transparent. Contrary to a purely solution-oriented approach, the focus must be on speculative and/or tech nical artistic practices as well as interventions that arti culate and question the handling of power and ethics in the context of the emergence of AI. Artists’ resistance requires subjective and political action as well as crea tive acts. What wild, alternative, and anarchic AIs can we imagine together?
1 Dylan Baker and Alex Hanna, “AI Ethics Are in Danger. Funding
Independent Research Could Help”, Stanford Social In novation Review (published online 7 June 2022), https:// ssir.org/articles/entry/ai_ethics_are_in_danger_funding_ independent_research_could_help#; Timnit Gebru has meanwhile founded a new institute, the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR). Alex Hanna, who left Google together with Gebru, works there as a researcher. Hanna spoke with artist and Academy member Hito Steyerl at the opening evening of the “AI Anarchies” Autumn School.
2 See Shalini Kantayya (dir.), Coded Bias (USA/UK/CN: 7th Empire Media, Ford Foundation – Just Films, and Chi cken And Egg Pictures, 2020), 85 min
3 Pa u l Mozur, “In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons”, the New York Times (published online 26 July 201 9), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/techno logy/hong-kong-protests-facial-recognition-surveil lance.html
4 See Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, and Lauren Kirchner, “Machine Bias: There ’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it ’s biased against blacks”, ProPublica (published online 23 May 2016), https://www.propublica.org/article/machinebias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing.
5 Ped ro J. S. Vieira de Oliveira, “To Become Undone”, Ding Magazine , 4: Correspondences from the Edges (2022), htt ps://dingdingding.org/issue-4/to-become-undone/
6 See Ella Jakubowska, quoted from Derek Gatopoulos and Costas Kantouris, “AI-powered lie detectors, interview bots: migrants to face digital fortress at Europe s bor der”, The Sydney Morning Herald (published online 1 June 2021), https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/aipowered-lie-detectors-interview-bots-migrants-toface-digital-fortress-at-europe-s-border20210601-p57www.html
7 Mim i Onuoha, “Notes on Algorithmic Violence”, GitHub (published online 2 August 2018), https://github.com/ MimiOnuoha/On-Algorithmic-Violence
8 Kat e Crawford, Atlas of AI (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2021), p. 211.
9 Ibi d., p. 5.
10 Ibi d., p. 8.
11 Ibi d., pp. 18–19.
“AI Anarchies” consists of a fellowship programme for six artists, a transdisciplinary Autumn School, and a final exhibition that will open on 1 June 2023. In au tumn/winter 2021, an international artistic and aca demic advisory board explored the fundamental is sues of art, AI, and ethics. Six artists and collectives who explore AI in the broadest sense and in the most diverse ways were selected by a jury of experts: D’Andrade and Walla Capelobo, Sarah Ciston, Pedro Oliveira, Sara Culmann, SONDER (Peter Behrbohm and Anton Steenbock), and Aarti Sunder. The scholarship holders exhibit their works together with the artists of the Junge Akademie’s Human-Machine Fellowship. These are: Petja Ivanova, Sahej Rahal, Natasha Tontey, and the artist duo FONGWILKE.
For the Autumn School this October, author and curator Nora N. Khan and scholar Maya Indira Ganesh have been invited to formulate and design a new space for the discussion of AI and ethics, bringing to gether global communities of artists, scholars, and cultural producers along with cultural hackers, tech nologists, and activists. The focus of their approach is on new forms of collaborative thinking and the development of alternative knowledge networks in dealing with AI and ethics using methods of “non-conformist learning”. Further details can be found at: https:// junge-akademie.adk.de/en/articles/die-ai-anarchiesherbstakademie/
The programme is accompanied by an international board of trustees consisting of academics and ar tists who provide insights into the debate by issuing various statements on the following pages.
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Aarti Sunder, Nodal Narratives of the Deep Sea , Work in Progress, 2022–23.
Aarti Sunder, Nodal Narratives of the Deep Sea , Work in Progress, 2022–23.
Aarti Sunder, Nodal Narratives of the Deep Sea , Work in Progress, 2022–23.
When I was 7 years old, I got my first toy kaleidoscope. A black tube that one could look through at one end, and which, when rotated at the other, generated mesmerising, geometric patterns. The pat terns were made by the light reflecting off pieces of coloured glass encircled by mirrors placed at angles to each other. There was the sound of glass tinkling, as if breaking, every time the tube was rotated for a new pattern to emerge. I was enchanted by the mystery of the patterns. And, unlike the cosmos that was also beautiful and awe-inspiring but distant, here was something mysterious and beautiful that I held in my hands.
Vladan Joler and Matteo Pasquinelli think of AI as a “nooscope”, a device of knowledge-making. For me, the kaleidoscope cap tures AI as multivalent, as simultaneously media technology, data infrastructure, and sociotechnical imaginaries: both know-able and un-knowable. Like the kaleidoscope, AI is also “in our hands”. Its applications generate digital delights and are often the means for artists and cultural practitioners. But industrial AI seeks to repli cate human skills like playing chess, curating music, and driving cars. One ethical dimension here relates to the direction of the AI industry having gone so terribly wrong in following a narrow con ception of “human” to replicate usually in the image of a Northern, able-bodied, cis-man. Which humans, what skills, have we shun ned in this process?
The internet has always generated complicated questions about our bodies, spaces, and relationships to information; AI is no different. And this is where the kaleidoscope metaphor reaches its limit. Contemporary, industrial AI is still a fixed, tubular container generating patterns. Art may be how we work through the compli cations that AI generates, and it is perhaps where we will encoun ter new complications too. I think of it as a space for making new metaphors, orienting towards alternate desires, and resituating the delights and patterns of human life.
In my current research preoccupations I have been struck by how, when it comes to Art, AI, and Ethics, the contemporary discourse is exploding the myth of universality that has often been asso ciated with all of them. Be it the idea of site-specific and com munity-engaged artistic practice, localised and legible “small AI” deployments, or the ethical considerations that change based on sovereignty and regulation of technology usage, we seem to have entered the realm where we need to let go of the frame work of the universal in dealing with any of these fields individu ally, but particularly at their intersections.
The turn away from the universal is not new, but what we turn towards is till up for grabs, and torturously being debated. Images and Imaginaries of technologies around weaponised digi tal practices of harm, neurotic technologies, fascist networks, autonomous decision-making machines, and rogue algorithms that overturn human will and agency, are all examples of this quest for the common grounds. There is a slow and growing recog nition that the eschewing of the universal, unless followed up by a new intersectional commons, will devolve quickly into the posttruth moral relativism that is gaining popularity.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that we have in turning away from the universal is that of imagination and speculation. The intersections of Art, AI, and Ethics have been so entrenched in the tyranny of realism, that the space for fantasy, fiction, and divination has been eroded. The idea of evidence is defined solely by the empiricist interventions shaped by the very technologies and processes of exploitative value generation that we often seek to resist and fight against. The myth of universality was cham pioned by the erasure of the affective, the embodied, and the imaginative dimensions of human-scale engagements, replacing intensity with scale.
When I think of the new calibrations of Art, AI, and Ethics, I hope for engineering intensities, making space for fictions, and creating possibility horizons that have the creative velocity to escape the gravitational pull of Realism and propel us into thinking about restructuring new worlds rather than just repairing and healing the current confluences that continue to fail locally, in their quest for succeeding universally.
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MAYA INDIRA GANESH is Co-leader of the Master programme “AI, Ethics and Society” at the Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge.
NISHANT SHAH is Director of Research & Outreach and Professor of Aesthetics and Culture of Technologies at ArtEZ University of the Arts, the Netherlands.
AT THE MUSEUM OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGY
• It was observed that the distinguished Japanese professor of robotics interviewed on the video display did, in fact, himself look like a robot.
• It was something to do with the hair.
• The hair looked like expensive velvet. The hair looked like it grew in black, and then was dyed black. Just to be sure.
• It was noted that the first robot created by the distinguished professor of robotics featured an approximation of the human secondary sex characteristics associated with the female gender.
• This robot was referred to as “she”.
• This robot wore a skirt and sleeveless jacket combo which brought to mind the fashion choices of women in religious cults in America.
• It was decided unanimously to refer to this robot as “Karen”.
• I don’t know. She just LOOKED like a Karen.
• It was observed that Karen’s function is to sit, nodding and murmuring affirmatively at whatever her conversational partner is saying. It was observed that to be Karen is to be trapped, for eter nity, on the worst Internet date in the history of the universe.
• It was related that multiple experiments have demonstrated that men and women typically overestimate how much women talk in conversation. Scientists have demonstrated how in conversa tions where a woman talks exactly as much as a man, the woman will be regarded as talked over 50 per cent of the time.
• The team concurred that this is fuuuuucked.
• It was observed that Karen’s voice came out of a speaker on the wall and that this was a) disorienting but more importantly, b) unintentionally hilarious.
• The team paused in their deliberations as a group of teen agers approached Karen. Several male members of the team Face book Lived Karen’s responses as they asked her “do you want it in the azzzz” and demanded that Karen “show us your robo-tits”.
• It was noted that a lot of people are saying sex stuff to Siri, Alexa, and other virtual assistants. A LOT. Over 300 times a day.
• It was observed that someone in the world is masturbating right now to the voice of Siri, Google Now, Cortana, etcetera.
• The prevalence of virtual assistants with female voices was noted. Whether they are considered to speak too much was not considered.
In his short text “The Golem of Prague and the Golem of Rehovot”, Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) uses a story to make what he sees as the central epistemic point regarding an intelligence generated by the little man with the big brain. “Man can assem ble the forces of nature […] and combine them into a semblance of the human pattern. But there is one thing he cannot give to his product: speech, which to the Biblical mind is identical with reason and intuition.” Then Scholem tells a little story from the Talmud: “Rabha created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zera. The Rabbi spoke to him but he did not answer. Whereupon the Rabbi said: You must have been made by my colleagues from the aca demy; return to your dust.”
There can be no understanding between opposing world views without intensive dialogue! No dialogue without a common language! These principles hold true especially when it comes to belief systems that follow the word and scripture – as do the major monotheistic religions of the West and the Middle East. The Catalan philosopher and theologian Ramon Llull (1232–1315/16) grasped this with radical clarity towards the end of Europe’s Middle Ages. At a time of bitter fighting in the region between the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, he created his Ars magna , a brilliant method to facilitate communication between different religions and cultures. He incidentally also invented small speech machines made of paper that could be used for communication. These were media in the original sense of the word. They can also be called archaic cognitive machines, or computers.
The gesture that should carry our current technical extelli gence is as clear, simple, and compelling as the Ars magna was over 700 years ago. Unconditional dialogue is the only effective alternative to destruction and persecution. Poetry, art, and sci ence are excellent fields in which to practice this alternative. We have no reason to fall behind the ideas of the Middle Ages.
JENNIFER WALSHE , composer and musician, is a member of the Music Section of the Akademie der Künste.
SIEGFRIED ZIELINSKI , media theorist, curator, and author, has been a member of the Akademie der Künste since 2000.
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Natasha Tontey, Wa’anak Witu Watu / Beranak Dalam Batu , 2021.
Natasha Tontey, Wa’anak Witu Watu / Beranak Dalam Batu , 2021.
PUBLIC BROADCASTING IS AN INSTRUMENT OF DEMOCRACY
Everyone’s talking about public broadcasting. And so are we. While the heated debates in the media often revolve purely around management issues, the acceptance of favours, nepotism, and compliance violations, not infrequently with the ulterior mo tive of abolishing broadcasting altogether, we want to hold a more nuanced conver sation, from the perspective of art, that is, in the interests of a democratic society. At the end of August, the Academie’s Vice-President Kathrin Röggla spoke with our mem bers Oliver Sturm and Andres Veiel about digitisation, the changing public sphere, al gorithm-based thinking, and the issue of who decides what over broadcasting; in other words, about the challenges and pitfalls of the current state of public broadcasting. Both have many years’ experience of the subject. The film and theatre director and author Andres Veiel actively represents the Academy on the Broadcasting Council, and the radio play director, dramaturge, and author Oliver Sturm has for years been promoting radio plays in many ways, also as a member of the society Hans-FleschGesellschaft.
Kathrin Röggla in conversation with Andres Veiel and Oliver Sturm
SWR Funkhaus Stuttgart (SWR broadcasting centre Stuttgart), Architect: Rolf Gutbrod.
KATHRIN RÖGGLA We are having this conversation during a time of deep crisis. The change that has led up to this current situation, however, is a process that has been under way for years. Andres, you represent the Akademie der Künste on the Broadcasting Council – how would you describe regional public broadcaster rbb’s situ ation right now? What’s going on there?
ANDRES VEIEL The crisis is unfolding there on at least four different levels. At the first level, there is the clear failure of the directorship and the regulatory body, the board of directors. The crisis was triggered by reports of the lax handling of conflicts of interest when consulting contracts were awarded by the ex-director and chair of the board of directors. The Broadcasting Council met in late June, a week after publication of the report about a Springer online news platform. I had no knowledge of the allegations, the report was not quoted in the media review that was sent out to members, and the head of the Broad casting Council had not put the topic on the agenda. To me, this revealed the second level of the crisis – that of the regulatory bodies. Why hadn’t we received such essential information? This also pertained to the flow of information from the board of directors. While the Broad casting Council regularly received a report from the chair of the board of directors, it was always very brief and for mulated in relatively vague terms. What could we have known, had we wanted to know?
From the outside, the impression was that we were nothing but a rubber-stamp organisation. And, unfor tunately, until recently there was some truth to that. The conference rooms were sometimes warm and stuffy, and
a lot of people were just happy to get to the end of the meetings. And the head of the board insisted that we as members intervene as little as possible. When I asked a question, I would sometimes get a sideway glance as if to say: is that entirely necessary? There was also a kind of sleepwalking routine among some of the members who were not sufficiently prepared to face the thorough pre sentations of the directors. There was a lack of expertise perhaps courage also so that the glossy brochures being presented were not questioned. Without a properly functioning regulatory body, the crisis very quickly spread to the rest of the rbb.
KR How so?
AV Because there was no control over the directorship and the management! And none of the protests and grievances brought forward by employees reached the Broadcasting Council. The council couldn’t rely on trust among the employees in any measure. Their objections simply went unheard.
All this has suddenly changed in the past weeks, with each passing day bringing another allegation against the directorship. The employees were leaking stories straight to the press, by-passing the Broadcasting Council. For example, the allegations revealed how wastefully broad casting licence fees were managed during renovations of the directors’ offices while at the same time cuts to budgets were happening in the cultural department! Like many others on the Broadcasting Council, I was stunned. That’s when I started asking questions: were these deci sions indeed made in a coordinated one-to-one between the chair of the board of directors and the director with-
out the participation of the rest of the board? Who kept quiet about the situation, only to then give a very wordy admission of something that was already well-known? This reveals a third fundamental level of the crisis that has affected the entire rbb right down to middle manage ment: a crisis of trust between virtually the entire staff and the leadership level comprising some fifty people. This crisis has been amplified by the disclosure of a sys tem of bonus payments. Did managers receive bonus pay ments if they pushed to get the desired budget cuts passed? All this must now be investigated.
Then, last but no means least, is the fourth level of the crisis: the allegations are not limited to rbb; by now they affect the joint organisation of Germany’s regional pub lic-service broadcasters, the ARD, as a whole. Even if the other broadcasters did not have a bonus system, the directors still need to ask themselves how it can be that they earn twice as much as the Minister President of the federal states. These allegations, as justified as they may well be, are of course being exploited by Springer and others to finally take down an undesired competitor. The BILD newspaper has published polls claiming that “86% of those surveyed reject the compulsory system of broad cast fees”. This is basically about whipping up emotions with the aim to abolish a unique broadcasting system that is not state-run. No doubt many of the structures are out dated; of course we need a critical rethinking of both the decision-making mechanisms and the programme man date itself. But it’s too simple to now call for the aboli tion of the system of public broadcasting in its entirety. Towards answering to these allegations, there must be
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MDR Landesfunkhaus Sachsen-Anhalt (MDR state broadcasting centre Saxony-Anhalt), Magdeburg, Gerber Architekten.
complete transparency in investigating each of them. Only then can we start to rethink the public broadcasting system.
KR So what should be done?
AV I studied psychology, and here there is this rule of three: diagnosis – indication – healing process. In the case of rbb, the diagnosis is already more than challenging, because on the Broadcasting Council we still hear about many of the allegations via the press first. The existing management only admits to things in a piece meal way. We’re still trying to catch up with the revela tions, and we’re working hard as a regulatory body to proactively take the initiative: for example, by setting up
an interim directorship – albeit a controversial one. That’s the first step. In terms of indication, right now, the oppor tunity is there to improve the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty in order to rule out a similar structural failure on the part of the management and the regulatory bodies in the future. The new State Media Treaty gives the Broad casting Council real leeway: we can actively help to shape the programming mandate – in other words, we can play a role in decision-making and make sure that decisions are properly implemented. This presents an actual oppor tunity to lay the groundwork for creating a cultural pro gramme that would bring culture back from its marginalised fringe position, and once again make it the focus of
the programme. I would put that into the third part, the healing process. That’s why the next six to twelve months are so incredibly important – crucial, even. If we get it right this time around, we can do a lot of good. Crisis and Kairos are and will always be Siamese twins.
KR Oliver you – as a member, also as a co-founder of the Hans-Flesch-Gesellschaft, artistic director of festivals such as “Radio Zukunft” [“Radio future”], but also as a radio drama creator – in all these different functions, in editorial departments, but also from the outside, you’ve had a long involvement at all levels of radio and TV broad casting. As we just heard, this crisis isn’t just a matter of personnel, but it is structural in nature. It has been developing over years, if not decades. In the past ten years, real problems have been brewing behind such buzzwords as “digital first”, “expanding our reach”, or even “austerity measures”. Is this now the historical moment that should be seized to bring about change?
OLIVER STURM I agree with Andres, this is the kairos moment – the moment that matters. We’re seeing the culmination of a misguided development that has been under way for some time now. Put into context, the pub lic broadcasting institution, as an organ of a liberal civil society, in a way stands between the audience and the state. This means that it’s a medium of self-reflection for that civil society. And it’s also an instrument of demo cracy. At the same time, however, it is an institution that exists in the context of the media industry, and must there fore be seen against the background of a larger social development, namely the ongoing crisis of democracy. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for the institu tion to adequately respond to this crisis. Our democracy is becoming ever more caught up in the wake of econo misation. The political scientist Colin Crouch speaks of a post-democ-racy, in which parties behave like corpo rations and treat citizens like customers; conversely, citizens see “those at the top” as service providers. Since the introduction of the dual system [of public and private broadcasters], public broadcasting has found itself in direct competition with private media, which in turn have entered into a close alliance with the sound recording industry. But public broadcasting, having always been financed through fees, has never been a market economy player. And that was also its freedom, its inner freedom. But in this crisis of democracy, many segments of society now perceive public broadcasting, in its current form, to be a representative of power. What you can hear at demonstrations, in part, is this criticism of “those at the top”: a rejection of the institution of public broadcas ting, of “state broadcasting”, of the “lying press”. And it is in the context of this radical social upheaval we’re currently witnessing, that public broadcasting is increa singly facing problems of legitimacy. On the one hand it was brought about by the change in the broadcasting licence fees, on the other hand by the representation of certain liberal opinions, and ultimately also because of its concrete power. Internally, however, public broadcas ting has not managed to revolutionise or democratise itself accordingly, with the effect that it has consolida ted its structures and responded with a paradoxical internal feudalisation. In the thirty years that I have been involved in public broadcasting, that is, since the mid1980s, the internal hierarchies have become increasin gly vertical. To put it poignantly, one might say that the inner apparatus of public broadcasting has become a quasi-feudal apparatus within a surrounding democracy.
Haus des Rundfunks (Broadcasting centre), Berlin-Charlottenburg, Architect: Hans Poelzig.
And that’s why you see quite clearly this helpless reac tion to certain developments. In terms of the Internet, public broadcasting has only made a pretence of adopt ing the new forms of public communication via Twitter, Instagram, etcetera. In fact, the internal structure is still very hierarchical. In the case of rbb, this is blindingly obvi ous. Once the leadership begins to erode, there are reper cussions all the way down to the lowest departments. From various departments of the broadcaster, I’m hea ring how discussions are taking place now about all kinds of misguided developments. This shows the degree to which a larger exchange of opinion within the institution of public broadcasting has been impeded over all these years. Now you can say: the mice are at play. Of course, it’s also a sign of weakness that the editorial staff had previously been prevented from talking, from defending themselves against these problems that they themsel ves had already perceived and even identified. Sure, they are constrained by orders, but the degree to which one feels bound by orders is also related to the level of fear that prevails within the apparatus. The other develop ment that has engulfed public broadcasting is the idea coming from management that we have to adapt to the new online digital world according to the rules and prin ciples of the media industry. For some years now, public broadcasting has been heavily influenced by managers from the private media industry and by broadcasting consul tancy firms that have taken control of both distribution management and production management. The guiding principle is economisation – in other words, they are thin king in terms of viewership or target-group analysis. These days, every radio drama department is bound to carry out a target-group analysis for everything they pro
duce and must then specify what the target group is for each radio drama that is produced. It’s an almost antiartistic notion. The click-number analysis creates the tendency to produce what the market reflects as click numbers – which ultimately leads to a societal dissoci ation: if all you’re doing is catering precisely to target groups, the integrative idea of public broadcasting is lost. The other thing that is lost is the guiding function of pub lic broadcasting. You can see this in the lack of self-con fidence evident at the management level of public broad casting, that seem unable to set cultural parameters. They defer to media management, saying: what the audience reflects in terms of click numbers is what the audience wants.
KR Wasn’t it the journalist Tom Buhrow who said: “Everyone is their own director”?
OS And [the journalist and former head of ARD] Patricia Schlesinger too. Sure, we all want public broadcasting to be heard by a lot of people, but market compatibility shouldn’t be the only criterion. That runs completely counter to the idea of public broadcasting as an instru ment of democracy. Public broadcasting is a precious resource, and while our focus in this conversation – based on the given situation – is on the misguided develop ments, it’s important to emphasise our high esteem for this institution. Not only the archives, but also the wide range of formats that public broadcasting has helped to create, and the larger aspect of cultural memory, all of which makes it an asset worth protecting, something befitting of world cultural heritage status. Unfortunately, those in charge have had less and less success in con veying this to the licence fee-paying public.
AV The crisis of legitimacy that you’re addressing basi
cally started twenty or thirty years ago, and it’s still evi dent today, in the deep-seated insecurity of the pro gramme directors. Acceptance gradually waned, and in the 1990s many younger viewers turned their backs on public broadcasting in favour of private stations. Public broadcasting reacted by assimilating and taking on tabloid qualities, which led to a continuing loss of acceptance. Right now, I believe that the average viewing age for the entire ARD is 59. A few years ago, we were at 55. If things continue like this, in ten years we’ll be at an average viewing age of 72. And in twenty years it will be 85. Younger audiences have completely turned away from linear TV, at most they are still using the Mediathek online library, or are on streaming platforms like Netflix and other services. My son would never voluntarily watch a film of mine on a public broadcasting channel. Twenty years ago, the 30 to 50-year-olds were saying, “All I watch is ARTE and 3SAT, if at all, and only after 10 p.m.” But now even this group has more or less taken their leave. I realise this when films of mine are shown on public television. Where do I get any feedback at all? Who’s reacting? It’s the 60-plus generation.
KR As a filmmaker, you’ve already experienced several waves of restructuring, initially more in the audiovisual medium, on TV.
AV The ratings were all that counted. As a kind of preemptive compliance, anything that was too complex or challenging was banished into the night, where it was “broadcast into oblivion”. In the early 1990s, my first film was shown on ZDF at 10.15 p.m., my next film at 11 p.m.; then, for my next film, I crossed the dateline, with my film slotted for 12.15 a.m. It’s changing now with the online media libraries, which are not particularly appealing, how
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Funkhaus Nalepastraße (Broadcasting centre Nalepastraße), Oberschöneweide, Berlin, Architect: Franz Ehrlich.
ever. Cinematic features are available on the ARD pub lic broadcasting Mediathek for a full seven days, docu mentaries for four weeks, while films are available for one or two years on Netflix.
This all adds to the crisis of legitimacy. Wherever there is uncertainty, people aren’t really thinking creatively, which occasionally requires risks to be taken. Instead, the editorial staff looks at things like: what’s successful elsewhere, at the BBC or Netflix for instance? Then there’s a reaction to that in a close examination of the format, German producers are contacted – all of which takes a long, long time. After two or three years, they try to implant the new format. By then, however, things have long since evolved, and everyone is surprised when the intended success doesn’t materialise. Another thing is that the budgets are much smaller than at Netflix and the like. Many of the programme managers in public broadcasting are driven by fear. I know numerous editorial staff mem bers who are really given a dressing down the day after a show is aired: “All that money, for ratings like this!” The vertical power structures often destroy any and every wil lingness to take risks. Many editorial staff, who may have started out with a certain amount of backbone, eventu ally experience a déformation professionnelle . If I get slapped on the neck five times, I either quit, leave the institution, or I try to identify with the institutional instructions enough to be able to carry them out. There are always exceptions, however: there are always those great people who resist giving in to these assimilation strate gies. It’s them we definitely should support. They are like the yeast for a new rising!
OS A critic once told me that ARD stands for “Angst Regiert Dich” [“Fear rules you”].
OS You mention how at some point the editorial staff is resigned to the situation. After many years observing the apparatus, I see it like this: an editor experiences the first programme reform, followed by a second one a few years later, and a third a few years after that. Their experience with all these reforms is that they are not even being con sulted on how the reform should take place. Funnily enough, during the last programme reform at rbbKultur Radio, which was simply intended to save a million euros in the programming budget, there were so-called openspace meetings held over the course of an entire year. It’s called open space because the employees of a depart ment meet weekly or twice a month to consider how to reform their own department, where they can achieve savings, but also where there is room for improvement. Right, so for a year they hold these open-space meetings, only to find out in the end that all the reform measures had already been decided beforehand.
KR The question is the answer.
OS Yes, what they punched out was just “occupational therapy” or pseudo-democracy, if you will. And after all those meetings that were being held the whole time. I experienced this myself with the merger of SWF BadenBaden and SDR Stuttgart: the meetings have a strong disciplinary function. They appear to be democratic, but by sitting together in these many meetings participants are disciplining each other.
KR That’s interesting.
AV Yes, and to make things worse – Oliver, you mentioned the key word “economisation” – there is the cor porate consultancy firm Kienbaum introducing bonuses at rbb, which are known by the management as “variable
salary components”. And these were not only being paid to executives, the main department heads were getting them too. This is a point that most definitely needs to become less opaque. Not only the fact that this system exists, but above all: what were the criteria that enabled someone to receive a supplemental payment?
KR Meaning, what had to be achieved?
AV Yes, the prescribed targets! To what degree was this about content, and to what degree about budget? In addi tion to the crisis of legitimacy just mentioned, this also amplifies a crisis of credibility. If a head of department receives a bonus of 20,000 euros because he pushed through some budget cuts, I can understand if the employees who suffer under these cuts feel frustration, mistrust, and anger. But the core question is: how do we find our way out of this situation? We are seeing a start: like how rbb is trying from the inside to translate the grievances into a wave of substantive fact-finding. I was quite impressed by that. More shocking was how the manage ment reacted to it, basically by trying to intimidate the research teams. The colleagues from the editorial com mittee were supposed to seek permission from the press department before doing any research. That shows the immediate pushback: the new leeway for clearing things up comes up against the old entrenched forces, that, while claiming outwardly they “are going to relentlessly uncover what’s going on”, then threaten that there will be legal consequences when it actually happens. In this way, they are essentially defending the status quo. So, even more important it is then that the regulatory bodies systematically disclose their own role in this mess as well.
OS You can’t switch from this hierarchical personnel structure, with the huge number of employees, to grass
NDR Landesfunkhaus (NDR state broadcasting centre), Hanover, Architects: Friedrich Wilhelm Kraemer, Gerd Lichtenhahn, Dieter Oesterlen.
roots democracy with one click.
KR In the new State Media Treaty, the supervisory bodies are to be strengthened. Would you say that this is a good step?
AV Absolutely. Culture is included in a prominent posi tion in the order: “The public service offerings must serve culture, education, information, and advice.” Not only budgeting, but also the value of culture in programming can be derived from this upgrading in the future. Is a story going to be broadcast from the niche of a cultural radio station or in the main programme, where it has a much greater reach? The Broadcasting Council could then decide, for example, that certain cuts should be made in the areas of entertainment or sports coverage, or else where. Of course, someone sitting on the council, who works for the Deutscher Sportbund [German Sports Fede ration] would say that football is culture too. It’s going to be a very exciting discussion, because this is where things could start to come to blows. What’s also at stake is the constellation of the broadcasting family as a whole: will one programme be cancelled in order to strengthen another? Which programmes will continue to be accessible through linear broadcast? What role will the media libraries play?
KR Thinking specifically about the rbb Broadcasting Council, I recall that the field of art only had one vote, which was us. The thirty people on the other side came from the church, sports, from other areas, like people who work as volunteers. Will they even be interested in imple menting this?
AV As a matter of principal, the cultural mandate has now been clearly established. If it is not implemented, legal action is a possible avenue of recourse. With that implicit threat, I would then work on persuasion. We can no longer have a “business as usual” rubber-stamp organi sation. In the medium term, of course, work must be put into shaping the structures of the Broadcasting Council. The way the council is set up now will make it hard to ful fil its expanded mandate due to the collective lack of expertise. That’s not because of the individuals on the board, but more the fact that membership is on a volun tary basis. Few members have a fixed salary, but many of them, like myself, are self-employed. This means there are limits as to how much time they can put in. Nobody can get by on 400 euros a month. That’s why we need readily available access to consultation on legal, pro gramme planning, and budgetary matters. Qualified experts should be available to us, to explain a business plan in a transparent and understandable way, for example. Any decision requires corresponding knowledge. Such accompanying support could help us to meet the increased scope of implementing the changes at hand.
OS That would mean an in-depth reform of the Broad casting Council, because for decades now all concepts and action have centred around directorship and pro gramme management, in coordination with the adminis tration. But in this case, the Broadcasting Council would gain much greater power as a vanguard and conceptual leader. And for that, like you say, a certain expertise and cultural agenda is necessary.
KR Perhaps a change in the membership as well? I thought it was crazy that the Akademie der Künste was the only party representing the arts.
OS Almost three years ago, when we expressed our con cerns about how culture was being understood in the con text of the programme reform at rbbKultur, a represen
tative of the journalists’ association – at least as far as I can remember – accused us of representing an art-cen tred, ivory-tower mentality. That was very disconcerting. AV It will certainly be a challenge, because it’s more than possible that those who don’t share our affinity to cul ture will form an alliance with the more conservative cir cles. This is not just an attack on culture – the aim is more fundamentalist than that – it’s about the dismantling of public broadcasting. You hear the argument, even from within the CDU, that we don’t need it at all anymore, and that if it must be kept, then at the very most it should remain as a main programme in which the ARD and ZDF are merged. The line of thinking behind this animosity is that a small elite wants to retain their left-wing privilege of “educational broadcasting”, ignoring the wishes and needs of the “real” people in the rural hinterland. To counter that argument, I would be open to incorporating an advisory council of viewers or users into the Broad casting Council, in which listeners, users, and viewers can take part through a lottery process. You could reach out to 1,000 people across all social classes, age groups, etcetera. If there is interest, a curatorial introduction could be provided. Something like President Macron’s climate change initiative in France, which was also done by random selection where 1,000 people were contacted through a lottery, and in the end had 200 participants.
KR That sounds like the lay-judge model.
AV Yes. You take 200 people willing to give up their time. They are briefed accordingly about programme variety, and what a cultural mandate means. The ideal outcome would be to get very specific proposals on how to solve this crisis of acceptance. I see this crisis of democracy as a boomerang that is coming back to hit public broad casting. That seems obvious when over 50 per cent of people are saying things like: “I don’t tune in to public broadcasting anymore, so I don’t want to pay for it either.” As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s these people we must appeal to. We need to be open, listen to their suggestions, and take them seriously. As creative artists who were able to realise our work through the public broadcasting system, we are part of this system. And this is precisely why we must be careful not to cater to the accusation that we only want to preserve the structures to defend our ivory tower. In this respect, we must pre emptively go on the offensive by saying that we are of course ready to be open. We can’t possibly speak of a cri sis of democracy if we don’t at the same time provide a democratic body that incorporates the participation of users, listeners, and viewers. OS I agree wholeheartedly. I think that what Andres has described with his proposal for a listeners’ or viewers’ advisory board is an approach that should be applied to all broadcasting programming authorities. In the 1970s and ’80s when television and radio broadcasting were still working well, the hierarchies were not as steeply ver tical. A department – whether radio drama or feature –was awarded its annual budget and, so long as the con tent was not something overly sensitive or controversial, it was almost autonomous; there was an inherent trust in their collective departmental expertise and specialist qualifications. Then, due to the federal concept and a much higher staffing level, there was a much greater dynamic in terms of topics, of fringe and not-so-fringe content, and with that there was an incredible diversity of directions, opinions, etcetera. This scope has now nar rowed considerably. Today, each project must be approved
by the programme director and the marketing depart ment: click-count management. A department’s autonomy was a great strength, because it sometimes allowed peo ple who may have been slightly peculiar to pull off interesting things. If there was a one-sidedness in certain areas, that was balanced out by another institution focusing on creating different things. The system of content transfer and repetitions resulted in a quite interesting mixed bag. This diversity has suffered enormously since then. These days, in the attempt to reconnect with audiences, we aim to mobilise the collective intelligence of listeners and viewers. That is today’s mode of communi cation. But it’s only possible with a strong leadership that knows how to implement what it wants. Certain formats just work – take the youth format FUNK for example. Peo ple are listening to those podcasts.
KR Younger people too, I’ve found. And it’s a mistake to say that now radio only works online, and only as space for content. People still want to be up to date, which is why the immediacy of the medium plays such a big role. The danger lies in the disconnect between the daily con tent on the one hand and art and culture on the other, which only takes place in the content box, detached from everyday life. In the theatre it’s precisely the opposite, you’re always in the flow.
OS Take Berlin and rbb, for example: for several years now, the programme management has propagated the line that only Berlin and Brandenburg-related topics are allowable in the culture section. And no content is brought in from other broadcasters either – they just isolate them selves in their Brandenburg-Berlin bubble. It will only work the other way around: it shouldn’t be about limiting the topics to Berlin-Brandenburg; it should be about involving the people and institutions of Berlin-Branden burg more closely in shaping broadcasting. We’re in Berlin, the cultural heart of Germany, and the city is awash with artists of all kinds, with institutions that work with arts and culture in the broadest sense – Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Radialsystem, Sophiensaele, all the theatres. These cultural forces theoretically could be activated for radio and television broadcasting, as sources of inspira tion and as input beyond show culture. If there were less self-isolation and more of a fluid dialogue taking place with the institutions and creators of culture that this city and the state of Brandenburg have to offer, then we could harness an incredible dynamic for our system of radio and television broadcasting.
AV Yes, it’s not just about reporting on this or that pre miere, book launch, or concert performance, in the sense of providing a “service”. Instead, we should be looking deeper, not shying away from controversy, grappling with everything going on here day-to-day. Then translating the whole thing into its own form and language. This amounts to an artistic shaping of culture in the truest sense.
KR In other words, art as...
AV ...a space for dispute, in the formal sense as well. Taking more risks is a must. What’s happening with rbb Kultur right now is alarming. Take rbbKultur Radio, for instance: looking at the listener numbers over the past year, the number of people in the capital who tune in to Kulturradio has declined by 50 per cent – fifty per cent!
OS Despite, or precisely because of the programme reform.
AV That is a disaster. The damage is partly being contained for now, because things are working better in the
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countryside, in Brandenburg, that is. This reveals a core problem of this dual-state institution. In Prenzlau, nobody is interested in the fiasco that’s going on at Berlin’s Volks bühne. Which is why it’s even more important to create an overarching space for discourse and dispute. But in any case, if we think in regional terms, there are real pos sibilities to make something of this.
AV Doing good cultural radio means contextualisation, which in turn means picking up on ideas about this or that premiere, and delving deeper, or expanding on those ideas over the course of a one-hour talk show. Or linking it with other aspects in a programme, creating an opener and saying: in keeping with the topic we’ve established, we have this piece, or inviting a certain discussion panel, while online we’ll provide this and that.
KR But something like that only happens if there is inter nal discussion.
AV Exactly. I’m experiencing this myself, because I’m doing the “Question of the Day” column every fourteen days on rbbKultur. It’s a fixed format of three and a half minutes, so I can present topics in a poignant and hyper bolic way. It all has its own rationale – a wake-up call at 08:08 a.m. But it would be nice to be able to explore the deeper connections – in very different formats. The slo gan of rbb is “nothing boring” – but just because something is longer doesn’t make it boring. Going in-depth, but without the opinionated hysterics of the talk show – that’s the point. One of the most exciting things for me is always this search for positions, the grappling with the truth, with the essence of an argument. It’s always a process. Even I don’t yet know where it’s going. Of course, such open spaces always mean taking risks, because it’s not simply about exchanging blows – one person yelling louder than the other, being the first to interrupt. The follow-up work is always important: what are the needs behind an opinion or an argument? It shouldn’t just be about a battle of opinions, rather, it should be about the underlying needs behind that opinion. Why do I arrive at this conclusion, and what are the real-life experiences that flow into it? But that also means questioning the argument, making it visible in whatever form it has taken on, which takes time.
OS In its larger development, radio and television broad casting is going in the complete opposite direction. It sees itself purely as a content machine, producing individual units of content that are dumped on the Internet without context. There are findability departments to deal with generating online attention. But the pieces themselves are like alienated individual content islands that get poured into the ocean that is the Internet. Everything that constitutes communication and social friction is lost.
KR That’s exactly what I wanted to address with digiti sation: what is public space in the digital realm? What can public broadcasting achieve in that space, in terms of contextualisation?
OS I think the live format is something that shouldn’t be lost. The medium of TV and radio broadcasting has always held a central function: to keep people company. For someone at home, the device, whether it’s a digital note book or an old valve radio, keeps them company. And it’s a form of social communication. This form of communi cation needs to be preserved. That is the central task of radio and television broadcasting.
AV And it is this that is most lacking, namely creating connections like this. It requires the knowledge and
recognition that it isn’t just a space for opinions or argu ments, but a space where I can connect what I hear or see with my own experiences: “Oh, I’ve never looked at it from that perspective, or in that context before.” It’s about giving visibility to an ever-growing complexity. To exacerbate things even more, we are living in a time when there is extreme pressure to act.
KR So there’s both pressure resulting from the complexity, and there is the pressure to act.
AV Yes, both of those things. That’s why public broad casting is so essential, because it is tasked with attempting to deal with this problem: on the one hand, we find ourselves in a pressure chamber in the face of a dramatically worsening climate catastrophe, and know we are running out of time. On the other hand, we need to grasp climate change as a social issue, not just in Germany, but all over the world. First and foremost, it’s a question of distributive justice: who is paying how much for the urgently needed environmental protection? Why is so little happening at policy level, even though in scientific terms we know precisely how dramatic the challenges are? In a situation like this, public broadcasting can and must also be partisan. Being balanced cannot mean giving air time to climate-change deniers from the AFD. We need to always think about how to get away from the excite ment of the daily headlines and get back to the root. By the way, that’s also why I have issues with the current rbb debate, when people point to Mrs. Schlesinger, saying that she failed, or that a certain person was also involved, and he or she was paid bonuses, or that confidant X was shut up with 700,000 euros in hush money. While I under stand how important such matters are, if you consider the real issues behind it... KR ...the structural questions.
AV That’s what we need to delve into! The big problem is that when these emotional topics are quickly whipped up in a media cooker – where there’s a lot of steam but little fire – then we’re preoccupied with dealing with all these allegations. One problem down, and our attention is already turned to the next scandal. There’s hardly any public attention left over for what needs to be tackled –the structures themselves – because that doesn’t generate the headlines.
OS You’re addressing something that I think is very impor tant: this incredible pressure to act that society is sub ject to. The context in which television and radio broad casting operates is a market-driven capitalist system that extends into every tiny fibre of society. It’s a system geared towards exploitation of resources, optimisation, and increased efficiency. You can see how everyone ticks when it comes to natural resources, but also in terms of our inner resources. What the media industry is doing is ultimately a kind of industrialisation of consciousness. In a negative sense this means that you have an exploita tion of consciousness going on, but in a positive sense it means also an expansion of consciousness. This precariously exhausted system is the context in which broad casting takes place. And, as part of the media industry, broadcasting is itself approaching a state of exhaustion.
The real trick is to assert one’s position in a corrective way. It is to be hoped that the discussions currently taking place in the rbb departments, which the employees per ceive as very productive, will continue and not come to a standstill again with the election of a new director.
AV There is a real necessity in allowing for a space in which public broadcasting protects ambivalence and
ambiguities. The media-fed agitation factor increases in this collective competition for the currency of “attention”. The more agitation, the more clicks and the higher the ratings. The only way I get invited to a talk show is if I take an extreme position.
KR But not too extreme.
AV If I say I’m still grappling with myself, I’m in the pro cess of figuring out my position, I’ll be disinvited rather quickly. That’s too unpredictable, or it’s simply uninteresting. Nowadays you can hardly find a space that allows for a protected process of soul searching and introspec tion, one where it’s not about the proclamation of glaring, exaggerated opinions that can be readily recited. If I’m aware of the environment and the experiences that have produced an opposing argument, I find it extremely interesting when someone contradicts me. From the context of someone’s biographical experience, I may understand how they have arrived at their position. Then no longer are we just arguing at the surface of a phenomena, but touching upon a deeper level of longings, needs, and fears. We talked earlier about the fear factor that drives the broadcaster, which is also reflected in society gene rally. If we succeed in transforming a culture of fear into a culture of reflection and listening, where ambivalence and ambiguities have a place, and if we find the approp riate formats for that, we will win back a lot of people –I’m careful not to say “pick up a lot of people” – who have closed themselves off as a result of this fear. If I under stand what has led a person to argue one way and not another, then I can say: I can’t stand your opinions, but at least I understand where they’re coming from; to me your opinions are poisonous weeds, but I understand the soil that they’re emerging from. The fear is growing, and, I believe, so is the polarisation. That’s why public broad casting has an increasingly important role to play. Who else is supposed to take on this task? Somehow, we must get this gigantic, mushrooming fear potential under con trol and moderate it. And in doing so, we need to translate it into an artistic form, in other words into spaces that philosopher Oskar Negt once called “rest areas of reflection”.
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Funkhaus Nalepastraße (Broadcasting centre Nalepastraße), Oberschöneweide, Berlin, Architect: Franz Ehrlich.
Funkhaus Nalepastraße (Broadcasting centre Nalepastraße), Oberschöneweide, Berlin, Architect: Franz Ehrlich.
EUROPEAN ALLIANCE OF ACADEMIES
Since 2020, the current sixty-eight institutions of the European Alliance of Academies have been campaigning for the freedom of the arts in Europe. The Alliance – initiated by Akademie der Künste President Jeanine Meerapfel in 2020 – is united by its desire to take a collective stand against nationalist appro priations in art and culture and to initiate transnational cooperation between the institutions.
Several members of the Akademie der Künste, including Robert Menasse, Nele Hertling, Aleš Šteger, A. L. Kennedy, Cécile Wajsbrot, Arnold Dreyblatt, and Siegfried Zielinski – as well as the Akademie President herself – are con tributing their expertise and vision to the initiative. All those participating are convinced that cooperation among artists can go a long way towards overcoming Europe’s socio-political challenges. In his text “How Does Political Radicalisation Threaten Artistic Freedom in Europe?”, Aleš Šteger explains the complex political, economic, and social conditions that are needed to safegu ard freedom of the arts.
In 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Alliance of Academies issued its first appeal for the submission of projects on the subject of “Ignorance is Strength? Artistic Expression and Biopower in the Post-pan demic Age”. Digital residences provided artists of the allied institutions the space to think about their own practice in the context of current social and political changes in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the works are being published on the platform LOOM Interweaving the Arts in Europe, a digital space in which artists’ positions are juxtaposed with current political challenges; a digital territory that extends beyond artists’ local range and which “interweaves” art practices in Europe beyond borders.
María José Crespo’s video work Govern Yourself Accordingly is one of the ten selected positions. She reveals the interplay of the administrative, geographical, and psychological effects of the border wall between the USA and Mexico.
Further details on LOOM Interweaving the Arts in Europe www.loom.allianceofacademies.eu
Further details on the European Alliance of Academies www.allianceofacademies.eu
HOW DOES POLITICAL RADICALISATION THREATEN ARTISTIC FREEDOM IN EUROPE?
Writer and Academy member Aleš Šteger poses the question of po litical radicalisation and the influence it has on artistic freedom in Europe. The text was originally a contribution to the annual conference of the Alliance of Academies in December 2021. A year later, the text has not lost its topicality, its theme exacerbated by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This renewed relevance is addressed by Aleš Šteger himself in a postscript.
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Left: María José Crespo, Govern Yourself Accordingly , 2022.
The question is not easy and requires a couple of initial clarifications. The classic strategy of crime novels in looking for the perpetrator is to start from the end, that is, from the crime scene, and to slowly work back toward the beginning.
So, let’s start at the end with this question and ask: what is meant by the term “Europe”? I know we can easily find ourselves on very shaky ground here. All useful attempts at definitions have so far failed. Let me just point out that fifty years ago, many people in Western Europe did not perceive parts of the former Soviet Bloc – the Baltic States, Ukraine, and so on – as parts of Europe, not economically, and much less culturally. But today, these countries are, of course, an integral part of our territorial and cultural conception of Europe, which means that our understanding of the concept of Europe is changing dramatically according to the current geo political mood. Today, we keep asking ourselves quietly whether Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, and, last but by no means least, Israel should be included somewhere, when we talk generally about “Europe”. We also cannot stop asking questions that have become somewhat unfashionable to ask today, but that were very topical after 1989, namely: are Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Istanbul, and increasingly London also part of what we mean when we talk about Europe? For our question, this has enormous conse quences, which I will not go into in this brief introduction to our debate, but it is crucial, in my view, to think about these questions when we ask about artistic freedom in Europe. In our alliance of academies in any case, we do not think, and cannot in any way allow ourselves to think, only of the Schengen area or the European Union when we talk about Europe.
The coinage of “artistic freedom” in itself implies that there are different forms of freedoms and liberties for different groups of people, depending on who they are and what they do. Fundamental human rights, the free doms of children, migrants, minority groups, LGBTQ+, and so on are something other than “artistic freedom”. Artistic freedom itself evades general definitions; most applicable is perhaps its definition by UNESCO (2005) in the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. There, artistic free dom is understood as: “The freedom to imagine, create and distribute diverse cultural expressions free of governmental censorship, political interference or the pressures of non-state actors.”
The question of artistic freedom is also necessarily a philosophical-ethical question. Do we artists have the right to express just about anything, regardless of the consequences and potential conflicts that our actions and creations may provoke? Can Europe and its socie ties allow themselves a laboratory of freedoms in which actions, articulations, and interrogations into the most difficult matters can take place, all of which are considered potentially questionable in other contexts, even inappropriate, sometimes morally objectionable, or offensive to sections of society? The case of Charlie Hebdo has perhaps become the most pointed and highly tragic example of the conflict between different experi ences of spaces of freedom, the sacred and permissible among members of different ideological, religious, and political beliefs. Can we, in the changing Europe of the 21st century, afford art an autonomous territory of practi ces that can be potentially offensive or controversial to
those who do not accept our division into art and everything else, who do not recognise the special status of art and thus the invisible shield which defends the practi ces of artists? Can we afford every type of art, and with them, the most extreme artistic positions; can we afford even potentially harmful art and bad art that sometimes, let’s face it, misuses the label of “artistic creation” as a cover for practices whose primary goal is not artistic creation but propaganda and the strengthening of cer tain ideologies?
These issues are by no means merely only theoreti cal. We who work within the field of art know that the question of whether art necessarily needs unquestioning freedom cannot be answered to other than in the affir mative. Even if we demand the irrevocable autonomy of art, we all know very well that, in reality, the bounds of our freedoms are most often very narrow, low set, and strongly culturally conditioned. Social taboos, the limits of good taste, questioning the neuralgic points of soci ety, shedding light on cases of self-censorship are, in a way, a front on which our struggle is more or less sub tle, constituting a radical process of self-examination that aims to slowly integrate its achievements into a broader society which is tolerant, open, and worth living in, a society that is, to put it bluntly, more immune to hatred, lies, intolerance, and other such nonsense. We who work within the field of art know that any systemic restric tion of our already often-endangered and violently restricted freedoms would open a Pandora’s box in which each society and each government could set boundaries in its own way, thus establishing a free path to systemic censorship and the political persecution of artists.
The answer of many other global political, economic, religious, technological, and capital actors to our ques tion of whether Europe can afford a free territory for art is, of course, the opposite of ours. This evident contra diction between the notions of artistic freedom has inten sified sharply in the last ten, perhaps fifteen years. In some fields, the practices of implementing a general restriction of artistic activities and overt exploitation of the art sector have long been established. Years ago, I co-signed an open call by artists from all over the world to strengthen the privacy and rights of individuals on the net. Just as we have achieved nothing with our call to restrict technology giants in exploiting our use of the Internet, so the call for freedom of art online seems a distant utopian idea – for which it is, without a doubt, necessary to fight. It starts with economic subordination and a set of rules around what is allowed and what is not, with the often very problematic categories of political correctness and self-restraint in the online environment when it comes to art. While Facebook is censoring the posting of art photographs of Greek statues because they show an excessive degree of nudity, the darknet, a parallel world where just about anything is allowed, is flourishing. Our Western democratic governments tech nologically enable and even co-finance the schizophre nia of our everyday online reality.
When we think of threats to artistic freedom in Europe, they are usually imagined at quite a distance from the reality of rich Western societies, instead focusing on a couple of examples of mostly Eastern European coun tries, where democratically elected quasi-dictators syste matically remould democratic principles and adapt them to strengthen their own power and the power of ruling elites. It is a very dangerous phenomenon, where there
is a well-founded fear that the anomaly will become a normality, a kind of principle of the quasi-democratic rule of the future. In this, certainly justified criticism, we forget too quickly the intertwining of the world on a global level, the schizophrenia of the policies of countries that do not want to follow the model of Russia, Poland, or Hungary. In short, we forget all too often the pragmatic ignorance, brutal selfishness, and blindness of developed Western democracies when their interests are at a stake. Understood by many in a cynical way, the rights of artistic autonomy in societies where natural rights are endangered, where we face the disintegration of demo cracy and pluralism, in this sense become collateral damage.
Economic greed, colonial superiority, a low level of indepth knowledge of the intercultural diversity of European cultures, and a very frequent unwillingness to deepen integration and disarm local political rulers all make Europe a self-destructive monster, which too often allows the very practices it fears to become the future norm. Some time ago, I spoke to an experienced European poli tician. He waved his finger. He remarked that Europe can do nothing more next time a European leader blatantly violates the rule of European law, its agreements, and the rights of people, including artists. I often remember that moment; the gentleman was from a pro-European, liberal province and, as has been said, had decades of diplomatic experience, but the realisation was rather bit ter. Whether we agree with him or not, I think it is unde niable that the greatest threat to Europe is Europe itself, it sowed the seeds responsible for the current situation as well as its possible solutions.
Finally, let us return to the initial question of political radicalisation in many European countries. The radicalisation itself is, of course, not a cause for, but rather a consequence of, a long process. For radicalisation to occur at all, there must be the ground, fertile with dis content and rebellion, unresolved past traumas, and an inability to see one’s own potential future within positive European values. Unlike other classical totalitarian regimes, political coups, and violent state takeovers, here we see a radicalisation of the understanding of demo cratically elected systems of power, one that goes hand in hand with the broadest possible legal interpretations of the frameworks agreed upon by the founders of Europe. The new generations of Eastern European leaders – who learned of the threat of war, its horrors and devastations only from school textbooks – too often make public and media appearances without their historically inaccurate statements being subject to corrections. On the con trary, they use the reinterpretation of historical facts and alleged historic injustices as the central momentum for mass activation. In the agendas of these politicians, his toric traumas exist in order to be used and abused. These are populist structures that have learned from demo cracy that, with a powerful legal apparatus and a democra tically elected parliamentary majority, it is possible to democratically change everything, including the principles of democracy itself – and the principles of freedom. These are perfidious, amoral practices that are officially sanctioned in laws and legislative measures. For any curtailment of rights or deprivation of certain social groups, there is a cor responding decree, ordinance, or law, as well as the legal right of appeal, although this is doomed to failure.
The coexistence of opposing views and the systemic support of often diametrically opposed ideological and
artistic views, present as a rule in the vast majority of European countries from the 1990s until the economic crisis of 2007, has been subject to strong internal pres sure and political division, with an increasing lack of tole rance and understanding between opposing sides. The brutality of the simple law is: you are an enemy if you are not on our side, that is, the middle path. The path of free choice has become less and less negotiable, and the sys temic coercion into corruption and the removal of freethinking and creative people, given the bureaucratic perfidy and silencing of the media by the opposition, is difficult to prove. Various forms of intimidation, the redistribu tion of state funds only to its own supporters, the limits placed on public speech, the marginalisation of oppo nents in public space, occasional witch-hunts, and the abolition of free associations under various pretexts, false speech, and the constant creation of states of exception, emergency measures, and radical propa ganda, we have already seen all of this, and in the face of its repetition before our eyes, we are powerless once again.
UNESCO’s fundamental postulates of artistic free dom include the right to create without censorship or intimidation; the right to have artistic work supported, distributed, and remunerated; the right to freedom of movement; the right to freedom of association; the right to the protection of social and economic rights; the right to participate in cultural life. All this is more and more becoming just smoke in the eyes of those who still believe in fairy tales.
Even if we do not believe in fairy tales, if we believe in crime novels instead, and with them believe in the fact that there is no perfect crime, and even the most skilful perpetrator can overlook the traces that will eventually reveal them, it is indisputable that we must establish alternative forms of support for the most vulnerable. When a country fails – and every country can fail, coming from Slovenia I know this as well as you from Germany or from Spain or from other countries – we need a Europe that works. There is no freedom other than the one that has been fought for and preserved, and I understand our socialising here and our joint efforts in this light.
The editors of Journal der Künste have asked me if I would like to update the text above in light of the geopolitical changes from 24 February 2022. Without any doubt, Russian aggression against Ukraine will define our thinking about Europe, democracy, and freedom of creation and speech for decades to come, about the geopolitical division of the world and about the construction of a European identity in the future. The war in Ukraine has ended the dream of a single, highly interdependent and interconnected world and returned our planet to the political, economic, and cultural multipolar divisions of the Cold War. At the same time, it has defined the horizon of our thinking, with all the ethical issues and the modern modes of geostrategic warfare, in which the media, cul ture, and arts play a key role. When we think about ques tions of European identity and artistic freedoms, we secretly feel that we cannot do so without, at the same time, waging war ourselves in our minds, let alone in our art. In the light of current events, it seems practically impossible to speak of “artistic freedom”, since every work of art is necessarily contextualised by the shadow
of a war of aggression, the fate of thousands of dead and millions displaced and on the run. At the same time, only six months after the outbreak of the war, we feel the exhaustion and fatigue of the war narrative in European societies where the war in Ukraine, above all, raises concerns about preserving our own prosperity and neo-colonial privileges, how it may become key in the strategies of those who want to radicalise others and weaken the idea of a more cohesive and autonomous Europe. Within the new cleavages, we artists are not only fighting to preserve our fragile, often quite illusory, or even utopian autonomies, but are forced to embark on a struggle for the conditions for free artistic creation in general in the future.
ALEŠ ŠTEGER lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, novels, and essays that have been published in more than twenty languages. Most recently published in English are the poetry collections Above the Sky beneath the Earth (White Pine Press, 2019) and Burning Tongues: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2022) and his novel Absolution (Istros Books, 2017). His latest books in German translation are the novel Neverend (Wallstein, 2022) and the collection of essays Gebrauchsanweisung Slowenien (Piper, 2022). Aleš Šteger has also collaborated on various projects with musicians (Vito Žuraj and Jure Tori), visual artists (Stojan Kerbler), and filmmakers (Peter Zach for Beyond Boundaries/Brezmejno ).
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GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY
I am inside a car, driving across a road divided by a fence that now forms two sides of the same road. I can see that this road bends in different zones of the hill. Meanwhile, the fence traverses the same space in a quasi-straight line. I don’t know whose car is this and why this person is driving me across the fenced land. I’m feeling suspicious and accomplice at the same time. I see a red building painted with a circular logo showing black letters on green, white, and red colours on the other side. The colours have faded on the outside wall of the building. The ugly green has been replaced by different gradients of what looks like burnt-out objects. This wall is very close to the metallic one, and in between both, there is a busy transit zone called La Internacional. Serious businesses are happening there right now. Unconscious people are crossing between the narrow, fenced roads, which also have another fence. Where are they going? There is no more land where to go, but there is an ongoing becoming at the borders, and a shared sense of disorientation between us. We know it is dangerous and somehow beautiful. We have come to appreciate watching our things burnt to ashes. It is a hazy feeling.
María José Crespo
Three-channel digital video, 7:23 min., 2022
Departing from her hometown Tijuana, Maria José Crespo’s threechannel-video work investigates zones that are unclear as spaces of possibilities. The work is a collage of experiences and stories, images from the Internet, surveillance footage from a Tijuana–San Diego border website, a police chat, daily updates on the best cur rency against the dollar, and much more. The following pages dis play excerpts from this work
Materialities, like everyday traces of people’s passages at the borderlands, are important because they compose an ex tension of entangled bodies: objects, memories, and feelings clash with the institutional ways that administer them through structures and laws.
First, it started with a non-non-existent line –imaginary, dis puted, negotiated, drawn, and unfindable. Then, bloody, peaceful, useful, administered, industrialized, fun, sexua lized, smuggled, and violent.
JOURNAL DER KÜNSTE 19 39
The viewfinder we are looking through flickers at all times with new currencies, making it impossible to grasp how these events may unfold and set.
Unforgiving environments. The multiple layers of the city are hidden and in plain sight.
A border is a place of limitation and a crossing space. It is also a fiction. Its administration methods trace distances when everything is tight and close, making everyone a witness, a co-pilot, driving in the border patrol car. Ma king everyone a collaborator performing night and day at its gates.
When close, the border wall disappears, like when something is too close to your face and gets blurred. Through these images, I trespass the city. I know what to expect, where not to step, who not to say hello to, or when to feel worried. I become within the skin of the places I inhabit.
MARÍA JOSÉ CRESPO completed her BA in Fine Art at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) in Tijuana, Mexico, and her MA in Fine Art at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. By questioning how she inhabits certain boundaries as a woman, she is interested in studying remains, glimpses, and traces that administrative powers leave behind in undefined territories.
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THE OTHER SIDE
For this image, the digital rights of use are not only available.
David at Grove Street , Boston, 1972.
NAN GOLDIN’S TRIBUTE
TO THE BEAUTY OF OTHERS
For this image, the digital rights of use are not only available.
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Nan Goldin, Berlin, 1992
“ This is a book about beauty. And about my love for my friends .”
Colette modeling in the Beauty Parade , Boston, 1973.
For this image, the digital rights of use are not only available.
The Other Side is the title of a book published by the Ame rican photographer Nan Goldin in 1992 during her resi dency at the Artists-in-Berlin Programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in tribute to her gla morous drag queen friends. 1 One of the main gay bars in Boston, The Other Side was where the homosexual scene, drag queens, transsexuals, pimps, and street kids met from 1965 to 1976, a place of freedom for society’s out siders. 2 Having met the photographer David Armstrong in Boston in the late 1960s, Goldin and Armstrong began photographing each other and their friends as teenagers, later living together in the Boston community. 3 In 1972 at the age of 18, Goldin met her first group of drag queens – Ivy, Naomi, Colette – and was so enthralled by their beauty that she followed them with her Super 8 film camera. Armstrong, her boyfriend at the time, was also dressing in women’s clothes, and this topic, almost an obsession, has captivated her ever since.
The Other Side became the regular meeting place of this new circle of friends, with her first night at the bar
constituting a new beginning for Goldin. She fell in love with Ivy, moved in with her and a female friend for two years, and shared what it was like to be a queen with them. In her pictures, Goldin expresses a fascination for the beauty of her friends, the glamour of the shows and parades, and the courageous lifestyle, rejected even by most male homosexuals at the time. What is special about these pictures is how the young photographer presented the beauty and humanity of the people regard less of their gender. She respectfully captured a life style that was potentially dangerous, penetrating it deeply with her camera, and presenting the creative fan tasies of her friends to the outside world. Gender assign ment was irrelevant – representing “a third gender”, 4 they were just others, with different thoughts and feelings, gender identities and ways of life that precipitated new family-like structures. Many of them never pursued the goal of becoming a woman. Nor were all those who chose the transsexual path and gender reassignment happy to have gone that way. In The Other Side , Goldin explicitly addresses the question of sexual freedom for people whose yearnings defy classification. In her pho tographs, she gives outsiders, the unemployed, prosti
tutes, and offenders a voice in society – and, in parti cular, in public space. 5
As for Goldin, these early experiences of sexual free dom also developed into family structures that she her self calls a “family of friends”. 6 The need for a protected space, for security, but also for intimate cohabitation without classic roles becoming fixed are integral aspects of this type of family model.
Enthusiasm for drag art returned in New York in the early 1990s and accompanied Goldin to her residency in Berlin in 1992, also taking her to Manila and Bangkok that same year, where she joined Jürgen Brüning in explorative filmmaking. Together with her friend, the photographer David Armstrong, and the Swiss journalist Walter Keller (who both died in 2014), she published The Other Side in Berlin in 1993. Thanks to David Armstrong and Bruce Balboni, she resumed her photo graphic exploration of drag queens in New York in the early 1990s but from a new angle: Goldin was older, more experienced in life and work, and drag queens enjoyed greater acceptance within the LGBT community. Together with confident queens, the photographer took her pictures into a world of temporary theatrical costuming
Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi , 1991.
and lifestyles that moved between the sexes and in gen der-free zones. The idea behind the pictures in The Other Side was to deliberately present people who adopted new lifestyles and transcended boundaries. Goldin ends her introduction by saying, “The people in these pictu res are truly revolutionary: they are the real winners of the battle of the sexes because they have simply step ped out of the ring.” 7 This insight has undoubtedly lost none of its topicality.
For this image, the digital rights of use are not only available.
1 Nan Goldin, The Other Side (Zurich: Scalo, 1993), p. 5. The book was published alongside the exhibition Nan Goldin 1971–1992 at the daadgalerie in Berlin from 8 September to 4 October 1992.
2 B ost on’s gay bar scene has a history dating back to the 1920s. Historically, they were places where LGBTQ people could meet, have fun, swap news, discuss polit ical and social events, and socialise without putting themselves in danger. They were places where a wide range of social, political, and activist needs were met.
3 In 1994, the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York dedicated the exhibition Nan Goldin and David Armstrong: A Dou ble Life to this friendship. To mark the occasion, Scalo Verlag published the book: Walter Keller and Hans Werner Holzwarth (eds), Nan Goldin and David Armstrong: A Double Life (Zurich: Scalo, 1994).
4 Gol din, The Other Side , p. 5.
5 Sol iciting prostitutes was a criminal offence according to the laws applicable in many US states until the beginning of the 21st century. It was not until Barak Obama’s presi
dency that effective steps were taken against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The acceptance and active enforcement of LGBT anti-discrimination laws in labour and civil law are still contentious in many US states to day. While the Equality Act was passed in 2021 by a slim majority in the 117th Congress, a decision by the Senate is still pending.
6 The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986), Gol din’s visual –and as such, public – diary that exists as a videotape and as a multimedia presentation with some 700 slides and a soundtrack.
7 Gol din, The Other Side, p. 8.
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ANKE HERVOL is Secretary of the Visual Arts Section of the Akademie der Künste.
Nan Goldin is the recipient of the 2022 Käthe Kollwitz Prize and will exhibit a selection of her works from five decades at Hanseatenweg from 20 January 2023.
Jimmy Paulette on David's Bike , NYC, 1991.
CHANGE OF ERA
A comment by Helmut C. Schulitz
Faced with the unilateral militaristic expansion strate gies of belligerent autocrats, it makes no sense in a world of global dependencies to arm oneself militarily for the sake of one’s own security without keeping an eye on the consequences for the climate and hence for life and survival worldwide. Wars and rearmament are accelerating climate change, which is already almost past the point of no return, is already unleashing forces of nature that will make parts of this planet uninhabitable and has greater destructive potential than wars. The Ahr valley, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Australia are merely a precursor of such natural wars, which claim more lives every year due to droughts, wildfires, and flooding. Any additional waste of energy and resources, such as the destruction of cities and the production of weapons, accelerates this process.
What matters now is developing strategies to end the war in Ukraine as quickly as possible. Investing 100 bil lion euros in arms to safeguard oneself from attack in the long term, against the eventuality that the war could spread to the West, does nothing to end the war in Ukraine, and only helps German industry and job crea tion here at home. After the long period of peaceful coexistence between all the world’s industrialised nations, such rearmament may be called a “change of era” but it is less the beginning of a new era than a return to the mindset of defending oneself by using force against force. It puts one on a par with the aggressor. But it is not so much a “change of era” that is the central problem of humanity today, it is climate change. Politicians have long since recognised the problem, but seem to have shied away from seeing the inherent con flict of interest between the goals of rearmament on the one hand and protecting the climate on the other. They see the problem of climate change primarily in the con struction industry and in road transport, but not in the arms industry. For example, the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development has published a study on the environmental foot print of buildings in Germany, which focuses on the effects of building construction and building use on cli mate and the environment. 1 However, it would be at least as pertinent in terms of saving the planet from the effects of climate change if the Ministry of Defence were also to commission a study on the “environmental footprint of tanks” and the effects their manufacture and use has on the climate and the environment. At the same time, the European Union has decided that from 2035 onwards, no new combustion engine vehicles may be manufactured or registered, but tanks, which consume between 300 and 500 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, will presumably remain unaffected by this provision.
In the construction industry, efforts are being made to switch to renewable building materials, and wood is even being used instead of steel and concrete on highrise buildings. In the production of weapons, it will never be a matter of resorting to renewable raw materials. Howard Hughes demonstrated this with his wooden air craft, the Spruce Goose, once metals became scarce during the Second World War. The Spruce Goose did not make it past its maiden flight. Efforts to build tanks from renewable raw materials such as wood would be even more unrealistic. It would also be utterly preposterous in terms of environmental friendliness to attempt to elec trify tanks weighing between 40 and 60 tons with highly combustible and difficult-to-install batteries. Similarly, any drive towards improving the efficiency of weaponry would only increase their destructive power and thus present an even greater obstacle to climate protection. The fact that all the weapons systems produced today with huge inputs of materials and energy will be in line for scrapping in just a few years thanks to the pace of technological progress also conflicts with climate change targets.
When considering the issue of stocking up on arms, we should bear in mind that meeting climate change tar gets is difficult enough without adding to the problem with wars and rearmament, because climate change requires people to be willing to relinquish many of the comforts of everyday living. But in today’s affluent soci ety, precedence still seems to lean towards self-interest and maintaining living standards. Rather than taking time to investigate in detail alternative strategies for Germany’s future security in wartime, the government immediately freed up resources for weapons to the tune of 100 billion euros.
Such an investment must be viewed critically, if only because it is not only a question of halting climate change, but also of making life more secure and more bearable in times of climate change. For this as well, resources and energy must be mobilised. We have long been aware that rainwater, which devastates towns, cities, and the countryside in the form of torrential rain, must no longer be allowed to simply drain off via rivers into the oceans. It is a necessary commodity that, as groundwater, makes life and agriculture possible and counteracts droughts. Precautionary measures such as the renaturation of river courses, infrastructure to accommodate flooding, catchment structures, reten tion basins, and underground seepage systems are con struction measures that are a lot more forward-looking than investments in military armaments.
Attitudes towards war have changed fundamentally since the First and Second World Wars. At that time, they were still seen as necessary, and there were no
reservations about the impact on the climate. The English architectural historian Martin Pawley could still get hot under the collar about the fact, as far as architects and planners were concerned, that “Bombers are the planners’ best friend” and that one of his com patriots claimed: “This time is now better. We have thanks to German bombers, a much greater opportunity for physical reconstruction.” 2 But even back then, some architects also took a stand against war. Frank Lloyd Wright even fell out with his admirer the historian Lewis Mumford, who had argued for the United States’ entry into the Second World War. For Wright, war was nothing but the negation of all possibilities and, from a histori cal point of view, a disease that brought down one cul ture after another because it countered violence with violence. 3 Today, no architect will enthusiastically wel come devastation as an opportunity for modern plan ning and reconstruction; on the contrary, the Associa tion of German Architects (BDA) is not alone in promoting environmentally compatible building with its programme “Haus der Erde” (“House of the Earth”). 4
Regards the climate, the only thing to do today is basically to end wars and put an end to rearmament once and for all, too. But the number of failed attempts is high. Even after the Second World War, it was felt that national conflicts should no more be solved with weapons than with a policy of appeasement, as Britain and France had long tried to do with Hitler. Even then, the alleged territorial claim to a corridor to Danzig, in an attempt to reverse the separation of Germany from its eastern territories (Treaty of Versailles), could not be prevented from triggering another world war.
These experiences culminated in the strategy to pre vent future world wars by having negotiations conduc ted solely through the United Nations and thus having conflicts resolved worldwide by the UN Security Council. This would have meant a real turning point: not rearmament, but disarmament. But the good intentions were thwarted by the UN’s flawed right of veto. Since the Security Council came into existence, resolutions have been blocked more than 200 times by this veto. But never has this absurdity been so obvious as in the Ukraine war. That one of the five veto powers would itself be the aggressor, throwing the entire world into tur moil with its war of aggression, had once seemed unthinkable. Never has a change in the right of veto been more urgent, because it must not be possible for the egocen tricity of a single person to override the interests of the world community of billions of people. It was only through the UN’s powerlessness to act that Vladimir Putin was given free rein to implement his imperialist goals, with the UN being condemned to stand by and watch.
Wars are fought when one side believes it can achieve
VERSUS CLIMATE CHANGE?
its goals through military superiority. They can be ended prematurely as soon as the military resources of the two sides are balanced and they are thus forced to the nego tiation table, or when a superior force threatens to inter vene. Without Russia’s veto, the UN would have had the right to stop this war. The alliance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also realised too late that US President Joe Biden could have prevented this war had he not given his assurance not to intervene. The invasion of Ukraine began only days later. However, the promise and international agreements were kept, not least because after Putin’s threats it was feared that the war could escalate into a Third World War. But due to global interdependencies, this has already happened and has long since crossed NATO’s borders. It is a global economic war, because people in poorer regions will not die from bombs and missiles, but from hunger. Countries will no longer be destroyed, but they are being economically and socially destabilised by shortages of raw materials and energy around the world.
We are mistaken if we believe we have only been transported back to the times of the Cold War. In fact, we are already in a new, complex, and hot terrorist war. To end it, we need totally new strategies that have nothing to do anymore with the conflicts of the past. The strategy of ending this war not through weapons but through sanctions was correct. But the global interde pendencies make this strategy look less and less promising due to all the various countries’ different economic interests. Such an irrational economic world war can only be ended if all the nation-states concerned reach a consensus. But this can only be negotiated at inter national level with concessions on all sides and under pressure from the UN. For this to happen, however, the right of veto would first have to be abolished. As long as not even key points for negotiations of all the coun tries concerned can be defined, an environmentally acceptable end to the war is barely achievable. Only when the Western countries realise that there is much more at stake than saving Ukraine, when they are prepared not to respond to demands for long-term rearmament but to mobilise all their existing weaponry to enable Ukraine to wage war with Russia’s superior power on equal terms instead, will it be possible to keep the con sequences for the climate within the limits agreed. But even that will be difficult, for it is no longer a mat ter of conventional warfare. Putin has long recognised that Russia can make gains from “autonomous” electronically guided missiles that can erase infrastructure and entire cities with pinpoint accuracy from its own ter ritory at a range of 200 to 500 kilometres. This war has thus developed into state-sanctioned terrorism.
Conventional means such as tanks and ground troops are only deployed by Russia to occupy the des troyed cities and gained territory. Only if Ukraine is also given the means to destroy Russian infrastructure and launch pads on Russian soil as well as warships off its ports with pinpoint accuracy over long distances without deploying troops, will it be able to act on an equal footing with Putin and ultimately also be able to nego tiate an end to this war.
The symbolic gesture of the European Union poten tially admitting Ukraine as a member state should be the first step towards putting the country on an equal footing with Russia. But the EU’s support of around two billion euros so far is only a fraction of what Germany invests in its own NATO security. It only confirms to Putin that his strategy of spreading fear through threats has been successful. This might even prompt him not only to wipe out Ukraine but also to subjugate the neighbouring non-NATO countries. He could thus move Russia to the borders of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. It is therefore now a matter of stopping this expansio nist mania through the cooperation of all Western coun tries, before it is too late. Politicians of all countries on this planet that are affected by this global economic war urgently need to take a joint stand to bring those res ponsible for the war before an international criminal court immediately to contribute to ending the war. How ever, this must be done independently of any right of veto and avoid lengthy legal procedures, because it is not very effective for institutions such as the UN to docu ment genocides and terrorist acts of aggression only once the crimes have been accomplished in the hope of putting a terrorist president on trial later. It is too late for the millions of war-damaged and in some cases mur dered Ukrainian citizens if a political mass murderer is only sentenced years after his crimes. This has already been demonstrated by the trial of the first-ever indic ted former head of state, Slobodan Milošević, which ended after four years due to the death of the accused. The world community must act before it is too late, because otherwise the worldwide economic and cultu ral cooperation of all countries will end in a division –two warring, global hemispheres – and all efforts to stem climate change will then be futile. Right now, it seems it is Kyiv alone seeking to bring Putin to justice.
It is imperative that all countries realise the point lessness of the Ukraine war and that even China, in rela tion to Taiwan, understands that wars make no sense even with military superiority. This could also bring other warmongers to their senses and help to make this non sensical war the last one on our planet. It would cer tainly also make the need for Germany’s own policy on national security, conjured up by the military, politi-
cians, and the arms industry, seem obsolete. The invest ment of 100 billion euros in rearmament should then be put back on the negotiating table. The sum of 100 bil lion euros to avert the climate catastrophe would be a better future investment.
Only by a worldwide limitation to the production of all weapons can we save our planet’s climate from catastrophe. We may ridicule the American firearms industry lobby, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) sugges tion that to prevent killings it wants to give all citizens (including schoolchildren) guns, but we do not want to acknowledge that the rearmament of all the planet’s countries does not reduce war crimes either, rather it increases them.
1 BBS R, ed., Umweltfussabdruck von Gebäuden in Deutsch land: Kurzstudie zu sektorübergreifenden Wirkungen des Handlungsfelds “Errichtung und Nutzung von Hochbau ten” auf Klima und Umwelt. Federal Institute for Re search on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Develop ment (BBSR) online publication, no. 17/2020, carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior for Construction and Home Affairs (BMI).
2 Mar tin Pawley, Architecture versus Housing ( New York: Praeger, 1971), p. 45.
3 Fra nk Lloyd Wright and Lewis Mumford, correspondence between the architect and critic, in Bauwelt 28/2002, p. 26.
4 Bun d Deutscher Architekten (Federation of German Architects – BDA), ed., Das Haus der Erde, Positionen für eine klimagerechte Architektur in Stadt und Land (Berlin: BDA, 2019).
HELMUT C. SCHULITZ Architect, is a member of the Architecture Section of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects. Between 1969 and 1982 he was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and from 1982 to 2002 a professor at the Technische Universität Braunschweig.
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NEWS FROM THE ARCHIVES
THE HEINRICH SCHULZ AFFAIR
AN UNKNOWN DRAWING BY MAGNUS ZELLER
Why are artists – among them Klaus Richter and Hans Purrmann – towing a Roman carriage emblazoned with an imperial eagle? Why is the carriage being driven by a Herr Schulz, who is also hol ding a money-bag and is in the company of Maja Kahn standing behind him? And why is a man clearly identifiable as the painter Otto Nagel lobbing a bomb into party? The picture seems puzzling. But Magnus Zeller (1888–1972), in this hitherto unknown and unda ted pencil drawing, took up an affair of the German Art Associa tion in the closing years of the Weimar Republic. He dedicated the sheet – recently acquired by the Archives of the Akademie der Künste – to one of the protagonists, “s[einem] l[ieben] Otto Nagel” or “his dear Otto Nagel”.
The Deutsche Kunstgemeinschaft (German Art Association) was founded in the spring of 1926 on the initiative of Heinrich Schulz, a member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. In addi tion to Schulz and others, the working committee included Hans Baluschek, Charlotte Berend-Corinth, and the art writer Max Osborn, and the honorary committee included many people, among them Käthe Kollwitz and Max Liebermann. Financially supported by the Reich, the Deutsche Kunstgemeinschaft held regular exhi bitions in the Berliner Schloss (Berlin Palace) from May 1926, and later at other locations in the capital and in other German art cen tres. The aim was to support contemporary artists by encouraging purchases of art. At the same time, the intention was to bring original works to the attention of broad sections of the population. On display were all styles of oil paintings, watercolours, pastels, graphic art, and sculpture. In the event of a purchase, a fund esta blished by the Kunstgemeinschaft enabled the artist to receive the entire sum immediately. The buyer could pay off the amount in ins tallments. Art hire and subscriptions from the Kunstgemeinschaft’s collection were also available. In addition to private prospective buyers, the purchasers of the works included municipalities, pub lic authorities, and museums. The works were not only by young, unknown artists, but there were also successful ones among them. In October 1930, for example, the press re-ported the City of Danzig’s purchase of Otto Dix’s Portrait of Heinrich Sahm for 4,000 marks.
But several artists complained of being severely disadvantaged by the Kunstgemeinschaft’s low purchase prices. Magnus Zeller and Otto Nagel whose archives are managed at the Akademie der Künste, were among the critics, al-though, as the Kunstgemeinschaft’s annual reports show, these artists themsel ves exhibited and sold works through the association. However, the
sales lists reveal large price differences between certain artists and works. For example, Nagel’s four paintings, sold up until the end of 1928, fetched 200 to 360 marks each, while Klaus Richter, Magnus Zeller’s childhood friend, received 2,000 marks from the Ministry of Culture for his painting Der sterbende Torero (“The dying torero”). Richter, a student of Corinth, later became Chair of the Verein Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists). He is best known for his two enigmatic portraits of Adolf Hitler, which are in the Stadt-museum Berlin (Berlin City Museum) and the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum). Henri Matisse’s student Hans Purrmann also exhibited at the Deutsche Kunstge meinschaft, including in the autumn exhibition Neue Deutsche Kunst 1930 (New German Art 1930) , alongside Richter and Zeller; no evidence of sales via the organisation has so far been found.
But what is the bomb all about? In the left-wing socialist Berlin newspaper Die Welt am Abend, Nagel published articles on 20 and 21 March 1931, accusing Heinrich Schulz of nepotism and wasting public money. Even in 1927, Nagel had claimed in the Sozialistische Monatshefte that the organisation’s administrative costs were out of all proportion to its turnover. And now he accused Schulz and his private secretary and partner Maja Kahn of high travel expenses, questionable buying and selling practices, the purchase of a new car, and the refurnishing of palace offices. In addition, he claimed Schulz gave pref-erential treatment to artists who were not in need and who already had a steady market. This is probably one of the reasons why Zeller “harnessed” Purrmann alongside Richter in his drawing.
Nagel’s accusations sparked a major scandal. At the annual meeting of the Kunstgemeinschaft and in an open letter, Schulz had to explain his position on the use of the funds. Although the Kunstgemeinschaft gave him a vote of confidence, another, pro bably also politically motivated, move was made against him after wards by an official of the Ministry of the Interior. Schulz repudia ted all the allegations. Nevertheless, as of August 1931, the Ministry’s regular grants were discontinued. In September, the longtime treasurer, the banker Hugo Simon, resigned. Schulz refused to resign from the management of the Kunstgemeinschaft, but died unexpectedly in September 1932. The Deutsche Kunstgemein schaft was dissolved in August 1936.
ANKE MATELOWSKI is a Research Associate in the Fine Art Archives of the Akademie der Künste.
“… TO MEET MYSELF.” NATASCHA WODIN
On the left, Sergei Ivashchenko, brother of Natasha Wodin’s mother Yevgenia, accompanied by cousins on her mother’s side (de Martino), mid-1920s.
Natascha Wodin’s first German passport, under her then-married name Natalie Spitz, issued by the municipality of Forchheim in Upper Franconia on 11 June 1965.
Rarely does autobiographical writing span events of world history lasting more than a hundred years. In her life story and family his tory, Natascha Wodin guides us into the deepest abysses of cru elty and suffering as they unfold, again and again, in a seemingly endless downward spiral. The author’s exploration of their origins penetrates the mechanisms of totalitarian systems and thus describes their far-reaching consequences for generations of people up to the present day.
The title of the work – for which Wodin was awarded the Alfred Döblin Prize in 2015 and the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2017 – took on new significance with the onset of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The author conceived her book She Came from Mariupol as the story of an investigation. Breathlessly, readers fol low her piecing together of the mosaic of her own origins. The infor mation gathered fragment by fragment transforms the entire frame of reference of the first-person narrator. Her certain truths turn out to be false, and a new world emerges from the darkness. In this way, the reader is also drawn into a whirlpool of historical events that are of a new, startling relevance today.
Natascha Wodin was born to former Ukrainian forced labourers in Fürth in 1945 and grew up in the most challenging of circumstances, left to her own devices from an early age. She began her working career as a Russian interpreter and translator. At the age of almost 40, she emerged as a writer. Her thirteen prose books to date are all autobiographical. Wodin lets us share in the themes of her life and makes us aware of our own “German” interwoven ness with events that we thought were far away in time and geography. In a highly exciting and emotionally upsetting narrative, she tells of personal fortunes that became caught in the “shredder of two dictatorships”.1 The first-person narrator thus penetrates the primordial depths of her own history and – after decades of a per ceived lack of belonging – feels the ground beneath her feet for the first time. She had always been at pains to “escape her Russian-Ukrainian skin, to be something other than what I was”.2 But now she learns that her family, who settled on the Black Sea coast, were once wealthy and even of noble descent; a grandmother from Italy had married into the family, and an uncle had been a famous opera singer. Their prosperity ended with the revo lution-ary upheavals following 1917, which were accompanied by disenfranchisement, humiliation, poverty, hunger, and perpetual danger. Born in 1920, the narrator’s mother never knew anything else and had a profound sense of inferiority, passing this on to her daughter. In her text “An meine Mutter” (“To my mother”, c.1978), Wodin seeks to “clarify something and maybe get things straight with you”. She settles accounts with her mother, who had with drawn from her unhappy life early on by committing suicide and abandoning the family. The author wishes to oppose the inherited silence and fear and embrace life and humanity. In writing, she effortlessly succeeds in overcoming the division, establishing con tact with her addressee, and (re)integrating her fate into her own life – interpreting it “as a piece of me”. The mother’s life culmina ted in a variety of the hardships that could befall a person in the 20th century. Included among the outcasts and destitute in the
Portrait of Natascha Wodin, Berlin, April 1997.
Natascha Wodin, first page of a typescript “An meine Mutter”, c.1978. The text was incorporated into the story “Niemandsmensch” (“Nobody’s human”) for the Suhrkamp volume In irrer Gesellschaft (“In crazy company”), published in 1980. This was Natascha Wodin’s first ever literary publication.
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Soviet Empire, she was transported to the German Reich as a forced labourer in 1943. After 1945, she could not return to Stalinist soci ety; her attempts to emigrate to America failed. In the post-war years, the family lived as stateless people, once again margina lised, without a sense of belonging, and viewed with suspicion by their German neighbours. Growing up, Natascha blamed her own parents first and foremost for the literally oppressive circumstan ces of their lives. Neither father nor mother protected their child from the violence of fellow pupils, from rejection and taunts. She had therefore to flee from this environment in order to find accep tance in German society. Wodin only received a German passport upon marrying for the first time in 1965.
After working in an office and attending a language school, she began interpreting in the 1970s for German companies and cultural institutions that were establishing relations with the Soviet Union. Wodin entered literary society as a Russian translator. For the most part, her work made Russian-language titles accessible to a German audience for the first time. The books of Venedikt Yerofeyev ( Moscow-Petushki, 1976) and Andrei Bitov (Pushkin House, 1983), which she translated or co-translated, also circu lated in the Soviet Union at the time as samizdat copies, as did the moving memoirs of Yevgenia Ginzburg, who spent decades in camps and in exile. Together with Sylvia List, Wodin translated Ginzburg’s “report” into German under a pseudonym in 1980.
Wodin made her fiction debut in 1983 with her story Die glä serne Stadt (“The glass city”), in which the author sets her very own tone of autobiographical writing. The themes she addresses in later books – homeland, otherness, and identity – are already present in her first work. In the romance between a West German interpreter and a famous Russian writer, she poses life’s existen tial questions. How can people understand each other if they come not only from different generations, worlds of experience, and cul tures, but also from opposing societal systems? Their value sys tems are completely different, communication channels impenetrable, and their codes impossible to decipher. “I would love these people, but would never be able to understand them. I would never be able to understand this whole country. It was, as it were, the reverse side of the world I had grown up in and lived in, the reverse side even extending to the door locks that locked not to the right here, but to the left.”3 The couple and their circle of friends find what fundamentally unites them and a shared language in litera ture, in art.
More than two and a half decades later, Wodin once again imagines a relationship with a writer in her much-acclaimed and discussed book Nachtgeschwister (“Night siblings”, 2009). Barely veiled, the central character, Jakob Stumm, bears the features of Wolfgang Hilbig, to whom Wodin was married from 1994 to 2002. Intimacy and distance define their life together: “I was no longer alone. For the first time there was someone with whom I shared the lack of belonging to the others, I had met a second person in my desert, a German brother I had never dreamed of.”4 At the same time, she finds herself with him in a crumbling world; the merging
of West and East Germany rocks all existing structures, and nothing stays as it was: “I never know what I am seeing here, where I actu ally am, in what time, in what place. Is this still the East or already the West; is it the past or already the future? I only know that I am in a world of the vanishing, every glance is a first and a last at the same time; tomorrow, within the coming hour, what I am seeing can be gone forever. I look and want to stop time, I feel like the last wit ness of a perishing reality, its only chronicler; I am in a constant race against time, from which I must seize what is constantly coming to an end.”5
The quote in the title is taken from: Natascha Wodin, Nachtgeschwister (Munich: A. Kunstmann, 2009), p. 20.
1 Nat ascha Wodin, Sie kam aus Mariupol (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2018, p. 10 ; S he Came from Mariupol , trans. Alfred Kueppers (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2022).
2 Ibi d., p. 15.
3 Nat ascha Wodin, Die gläserne Stadt (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1983), p. 161.
4 Natascha Wodin, Nachtgeschwister (Munich: A. Kunst mann, 2009), p. 21.
5 Ibi d., p. 8.
SABINE WOLF is Vice-Director of the Archives of the Akademie der Künste.
With the establishment of the Natascha Wodin Archive, the papers of a great narrator will enter the Archives of the Akademie der Künste. Available for future research, Natascha Wodin’s biography and work are documented in manuscripts and early versions of all her works of fiction as well as unpublished drafts, diaries, and correspon dence – with, among others, Efim Etkind, Ludwig Fels, Lew Ginsburg, Wolfgang Hilbig, Edgar Hilsenrath, Peter Jokostra, Peter Kurzeck, Christoph Meckel, Raisa Orlova-Kopeleva, Leonie Ossowski, Gábor Révai, Mario Wirz, and Christa Wolf – and in the touching testimonies from her family history.
HANS SCHAROUN ARCHITECTURE ON PAPER
first time, juxtaposed it with newly indexed sources from the Architecture Archive and other archives. The various phases and historical and personal circumstances of the execution and development of this unique collection of drawings, most of which have been preserved in excellent condition, are presented and contex tualised in meticulous detail.
From his student days through to the 1940s, drawing was for Hans Scharoun (1893–1972) the most appropriate means of selfexpression and of giving free rein to his highly imaginative mind. Thus, in addition to the competition designs and plans for real building projects, he subsequently produced numerous visions of unrealised and even utopian architectures that were not even intended for realisation. The designs, executed in the shadow of the First World War and its aftermath, epitomise the great longing for soci ety to start afresh and for which architecture was to lead the way. Here, with his visionary designs and ideas, Scharoun was close to a group of architects who came together in such groupings as the Gläserne Kette (Glass Chain) and the Ring.
Even during the Second World War, the drawing of utopian building designs helped the architect to process and transcend contemporary events. A precise look at the surviving drawings is therefore not only an aesthetic delight in itself; it is also worthwhile because it facilitates a retrospective glance over the shoulder of the person and designer Hans Scharoun: almost all the well-known buildings that have been completed – the Philharmonie and Staats bibliothek in the Berlin Kulturforum, the playhouse in Wolfsburg, the private Schminke house, the houses of Dr. Baensch and the Matterns, and the housing estates and high-rises in Berlin and Stuttgart are just a few examples – can be seen in the context of these visions on paper. Ample material for this interpretation of Scharoun’s work, which has lost none of its relevance and fasci nation to this day, is provided in the volume Hans Scharoun. Architektur auf Papier: Visionen aus vier Jahrzehnten (“Architec ture on Paper: Visions from Four Decades”).
Die zu- und die abgekehrten Prinzipien der Baukunst (“The inward and out ward principles of architecture”), 1920.
Among the estates preserved in the Architecture Archive, the Hans Scharoun Archive occupies a special position. The sheer volume of material transferred to the archive upon the death of the architect and one-time President of the Akademie der Künste in West Berlin is more than impressive: 75 linear metres of written mate rial and photographs as well as around 25,000 plans and drawings are available to the researching and interested public.
Of special interest are his more than 1,000 school-age and student drawings and utopian architectural sketches from 1909 and 1945. The works executed during the Weimar Republic stand out for their colourful brilliance, expressive style, and the confi dent stroke of the highly gifted draughtsman. It is therefore even more gratifying that Eva-Maria Barkhofen, former Director of the Architecture Archive and an outstanding connoisseur of Scharoun’s oeuvre, has now thoroughly researched this collection and, for the
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SIBYLLE HOIMAN is Head of the Architectural Archives of the Akademie der Künste.
Competition design for the station forecourt in Duisburg, 1926.
Competition design for the redesign of the Münsterplatz in Ulm on the Danube, 1924.
Untitled, undated (between 1939 and 1945).
Book presentation showcase presentation Welcome words: Werner Heegewaldt Lecture: Eva-Maria Barkhofen 25 November 2022, 6 p.m., Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg
Hans Scharoun. Architektur auf Papier: Visionen aus vier Jahrzehnten (1909–1945) , ed. Eva-Maria Barkhofen in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2022).
JOURNAL DER KÜNSTE 19 55
undated (between 1939 and 1945).
LEARNING TO SEE AND TO UNDERSTAND –THE AKADEMIE DER KÜNSTE, A PLACE FOR
ART, CULTURE, AND SUSTAINABILITY!
The world around us is changing. Temperature, drought, and flood disasters are no longer perils in faraway places. Climate change is beginning to change our lives and is steadily becoming part of everyday life. The silent mass extinction of insects and species is the writing on the wall for our own lives. Pandemics on a scale we have only known from history are forcing us to take measures that put our concept of personal freedom severely to the test. The war in Europe is spreading fear and terror and yet it is only one of many worldwide. Politics and diplomacy are no longer a guarantee of a peaceful, democratic social order. Yesterday we believed ourselves to be in a world in which our intelligence, technical innova tions, and capital would enable us to realise all of humanity’s dreams, but today we seem to be increasingly thrown back on our selves, on our being. And the achievements of civilisation are suddenly no longer assured.
Capitalism and global trade have left deep marks on our lives and on the biogeosphere. If we fail to recognise that “natural capi tal cannot be replaced by financial capital”, we are in for a rude awakening. What we have called growth for decades is not growth at all, but simply an increase in our consumption. “Economic pro ductivity has been bought with ecological overexploitation and the destruction of the wherewithal for our survival.”1
The only things that seem to count are what is of immediate use to us and satisfies our personal needs. Faced with the sheer overabundance of crises, we evidently seek to shield ourselves from the omnipresent overload of disasters and data. Yet, at the same time, we seem to have lost touch with the world, a world that is out of kilter.
If we are not prepared to recognise and accept that we are putting the entire world at risk with our consumerist lifestyles and our faith in limitless growth on a finite planet, then we will not have the courage and the will to face reality and develop life-serving
solutions. Ludwig Wittgenstein is credited with saying that the fac tual is in the line, the essential is between the lines. He acknowledged that it is not enough to rationally penetrate the facts; only when heart, mind, and intelligence come together and the issues touch us emotionally does a path open up making change and trans formation possible.
Do art and culture – as Pablo Picasso put it – still wash the dust of everyday life from the soul? Art offers spaces of being, other perspectives, a different perception, and emotional access to the world. Art has always been part of a developing society. As early as 65,000 years ago, Neanderthals decorated steles and people have always felt the need to decorate messages, objects, and buildings – monuments to their existence and how they saw their imme diate environment. Culture is part of nature and we are part of that nature. We seem to have lost sight of this realisation.
GIVING SUSTAINABILITY A VOICE WITH ART AND CULTURE
As John O’Donohue writes in his book Divine Beauty, has “our con fidence in the future lost its innocence”? Have destruction, cor ruption, greed, and egoism caused the future to coagulate into an apocalyptic threat in large part and prompted us to turn away from events in resignation? Isn’t it precisely then that art and culture are called upon to engage with the issues of our future?
With its 325-year-old tradition and the diversity of its Sec tions – ranging from the fine arts and architecture to music, literature, the performing arts, and film and media art – the Akademie der Künste spans an arc that can give us a new perspective on our existence if we transcend the boundaries of genres and at the same time open them out to the humanities and natural sciences.
A guest article by
MODERNISM’S HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
The result of globalisation, digitisation, and neoliberalism cannot be seen as all good, to put it mildly. Open borders and open mar kets have ended up destroying our resilience. While providing world wide access to knowledge and the dream of freedom and social justice, the Internet and social media have globalised manipula tion and hatred. The dream of unchecked growth on a limited planet has been followed by over-exploitation, wastage, and the destruction of entire cultural areas. And, again and again the ques tion remains: Why do we not act, despite having accumulated so much knowledge and expertise? Our cognitive dissonance coupled with a sinister tolerance of ambiguity may be justified in evo lutionary terms, but is now putting us in a perilous position because the price is becoming ever higher. We shut out things that bother us, ignore the warnings, and thus justify our own preferences and needs. In addition, we are being incessantly urged to “keep going” by an army of lobbyists and other profiteers of this system.
In our restlessness, in a blind frenzy of activity, we are under mining our own living conditions, which, once destroyed, will soon only be left to be marvelled at in museums or archives. Hordes of scientists have set out to understand contexts and propose solu tions to emerging problems, but they always fear that their hypotheses will leave them subject to criticism as alarmists. This is another reason why utterances made in private often diverge from public ones. But how are we to raise public awareness of the urgency of all these issues if we close our eyes and ears to the impending disasters? How do we muster the courage to face the daunting risks of our present?
“When we share experiences, we create new spaces for thought. We need a sensitivity to the vulnerability of the world.”2 In the spirit of this insight, the aim must be to awaken comprehen
sion and curiosity, to open up new vistas and possibilities. Of course, government must create the framework and set the course. But the Akademie der Künste, represented by its members, is equally called upon to articulate the urgent need to act if it wants to con tinue to live up to its self-conception as society’s avant-garde. Art and culture must forge the link from society to the political sphere: as a place of change, the Academy and its members as ambassa dors and innovators, offer an urgently needed overview of the world. In The Arsonists , the gasometers explode. Biedermann doesn’t want to know about it and pretends that nothing has happened. It takes art, culture, and science along with some rethinking about a life-serving and life-enhancing time ahead to kindle a desire for the future and rekindle hope in a time of gloom. As a place of insight, the Akademie der Künste – communicative, creative, and collabo rative – can itself contribute to this.
1 Dan iel Dahm, “Co-Evolution im kulturellen Paradigmen wechsel”, key note address to the symposium Culture is/ for/as Change?! (22 June 2022), https://www.youtube. com/ wat ch?v=KBzj1FpU9a8
2 Har tmut Rosa, sociologist, in a podcast interview, 2020.
In over thirty years, ULI MAYER-JOHANSSEN has been responsible for hundreds of brand processes, whether for cultural institutions, international corporations, or regions. After twenty-five years as the boss at MetaDesign – one of Germany’s most renowned brand agencies – the company’s range of topics has expanded to include systemic sustainability issues. Uli MayerJohanssen was appointed as a member of the German Society Club of Rome in 2018 and elected to the Executive Committee in 2019.
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JOCHEN GERZ has been working with new media since the late 1960s. After first realising collaborations in public space, he has since been creating photo/text, installations, performances, videos, and projects on the Internet. With Joseph Beuys and Rainer Ruthenbeck he represented Germany at the 37th Venice Biennale. Documenta participations (1977, 1987) and retrospectives in European and North American museums followed.
From 1980 on, iconic memory works and counter-monuments emerge as social processes that develop over several years. The focus is again on civil society, its contribution and authorship. Jochen Gerz is a member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
pp. 4–5 photos Yurii Stefanyak | p. 6 Akademie der Künste, Berlin, photo Oliver Ziebe, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022; p. 7 Akademie der Künste, Berlin, inv.-no. KS-Gemälde MA 44; p. 8 photo Anna Schultz, 2022; p. 9 Akademie der Künste, Berlin, photos Oliver Ziebe | pp. 10–13 © Jochen Gerz / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 | pp. 15–16 ill. Cem A. | pp. 18–19 ill. FONGWILKE; p. 20 ill. Sahej Rahal; pp. 21–22 ill. Aarti Sunder; p. 25 Natasha Tontey | p. 26 (left) photo SWR / Jürgen Pollak; p. 27 photo MDR / Jehnichen; p. 28 photo Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo; p. 29 photo image BROKER / Alamy Stock Photo; p. 30 photo Architektur-Bildarchiv / Thomas Robbin; p. 33 (top) photo Schoening / Alamy Stock Photo; (bottom) photo imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo | pp. 34, 38–41 stills María José Crespo | pp. 42–45 photos Nan Goldin, Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, © Nan Goldin, p. 42 silver gela tin print, 51 x 41 cm; p. 43 silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 40.6 cm; p. 44 archival pig ment print, 43.2 x 61 cm; dye destruc tion print, 40 x 59.4 cm | p. 49 Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Magnus Zeller Archive, no. 61, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 | p. 50 (top) Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Natascha Wodin Archive, without signature; (bottom) photo private archive Natascha Wodin; p. 51 (top) Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Foto-AdKW, no. 7551, photo Marianne Fleitmann © Akademie der Künste, Berlin; (bottom) Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Natascha Wodin Archive, folder 18 | pp. 53–55 ill. Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Hans Scharoun Archive, p. 53 no. 2377; p. 54 (top) no 1243 Bl. 53/12; (middle) no. 1233 Bl. 43/1; (bottom) no. 2441; p. 55 (top) no. 2471; (bottom) no. 2669 | pp. 56–57 ill. Uli Mayer-Johanssen | p. 58 photo Yurii Stefanyak
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The repurchase of the painting Mühlental bei Amalfi by Carl Blechen (see p. 9) was funded by the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder) and the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.
59 JOURNAL DER KÜNSTE 19
CARTE BLANCHE BY JOCHEN GERZ
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Journal der Künste , edition 19, English issue Berlin, November 2022 Print run: 1,000 Journal der Künste is published three times a year and is available at all Academy locations. Members of the Academy, the
Photo of the cleared out Khanenko Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine, by Yurii Stefanyak.