25/04/2008

From the Feuilletons

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Dying live for art

German artist Gregor Schneider announced to The Art Newspaper that he was wanted to display as an art piece a person dying naturally or somebody who had just died, in order to show the beauty of death.

In an interview with Die Welt Gregor Schneider explains: "An artist can contribute something to this issue by constructing humane places for death, where people can die with dignity. The space creates dignity and protection. The dying person would stipulate everything in advance. He would be the centre of everything. Nothing would happen without the permission of his relatives. It would be a private atmosphere and public visits would be regulated. ... Death is a very private and intimate process which is often the opposite of 'nice'. I would love to die in a room of my choice, in a private section of a museum – surrounded by art."

The announcement met with almost universal disapproval in the German feuilletons:

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung Andrian Kreye questions the limits of provocative art of this kind: "At the beginning of the 21st century art no longer has to overcome such aesthetic and social boundaries. On the contrary, today's art exists in a media landscape that quickly monopolises any new form of avant-garde in order to reach the stimulatory and inhibition thresholds of a mass audience ... Ultimately, provocative art is all just show. These artists are not creating new spaces with actions like this; they're simply providing thrills. When the thrills come from topics that are already the subject of discussion, they don't generate debate."

Peter Richter in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is not amused: "To take away someone's dignity, even with their permission, is not art. It is shocking enough to have to watch Gregor Schneider wasting away."

In the Frankfurter Rundschau Sandra Danicke is not at all surprised by Schneider's intentions. "Little by little the level of his work has been sinking for a while now."

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (on 23.04.2008) Jesuit priest and head of Cologne's Kunststation St. Peter Pater Friedhelm Mennekes sees it differently, as Andreas Platthaus reports. "The way we deal with death is not healthy and Gregor Schneider is an artist who works seriously with realities of repression," Platthaus quotes Pater Friedhelm as saying. Schneider is not the first person to think about death in this way. 'If anyone died a public death, it was John Paul II, he says, pointing to a media event that took place on a global level and adds, 'or Fidel Castro, who came back again after all.'"

The week's other stories
Süddeutsche Zeitung 25.04.2008

The Federal Association of the German Music Industry today placed a full-page ad in three of the Germany's leading papers Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, die tageszeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung. In the form of an open letter signed by the creme de la creme of German culture - from Fatih Akin (more) to Tokio Hotel (more) and Wolfgang Rihm (more) – it appeals to the Frau Bundeskanzlerin to defend the protection of intellectual property on the internet. "France and England have taken an exemplary lead. In these countries internet providers as well as the film and music industry have been called upon, under state supervision, to work together with consumer and data protection agencies to develop procedures for a fair compromise for all involved. Dear Mrs Chancellor, we know that such a path contains many a political and legal hurdle. Which is why we ask you to embrace this issue and treat it as a priority."

Konrad Lischka has recently described in Der Spiegel just what this "fair compromise" entails, with reference to measures introduced in France. "If a French internet user down or uploads too much data he comes under special surveillance. Internet providers are required to inform a newly-formed agency about conspicuous customers. This agency then checks whether the surfer in question is exchanging pirate copies. If the copyright controls discover material of this description, the user is warned via email. And if the user is caught three times in a row, the provider shuts down his access to the internet." The British have similar plans in the pipeline.


Die Tageszeitung 25.04.2008

Tonight lawyer, novelist and filmmaker Alexander Kluge will be awarded for his "exceptional achievements in German cinema" by the film academy, much to the approval of Christina Nord. But Kluge won't be sitting on his laurels for long as he is planning to film Karl Marx's "Kapital". "Sergej Eisenstein, the Soviet film pioneer had a similar idea 80 years ago but his project failed. Now, together with director Tom Tykwer, poet Durs Grünbein, philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, Kluge is planning to take up where the Russian filmmaker left off and create a 420-minute film version of the three volume classic. Working title: 'News from ideological antiquity.' Antiquity, says Kluge, because Marx belonged to 'a distant age.' At the same time he is as immovable as a star and therefore serves as an orientation point for navigation in the modern world."


Die Welt 25.04.2008

Thomas Vitzthum takes up the cudgels for composer Walter Braunfels who was condemned to silence by the Nazis and dismissed after the War as a moderate modernist. Only now is his "Johanna von Orleans" being staged at the Deutsche Oper. "The consequences of the post-war dogma, that only New Music should be played, are still being felt today. It simply took too long for a re-appraisal of the majority of the music composed between 1910 and 1930. And when something from this time is played then it still carries the Nazi's 'degenerate art: forbidden' label. With great artist or writers, no one pays any attention any more to that fact that they were once ostracised. They were rehabilitated and absorbed as soon as the war was over. With the composers it was different."


Der Tagesspiegel
23.04.2008

Jan Schulz-Ojala and Christina Tilmann talk with directors Christian Petzold and Robert Thalheim about the sorry state of the cinema in Germany. Petzold says: "Even in Berlin, the city with the best selection of cinemas, festivals are often the only opportunity to see a lot of interesting films. When I was 18 in Paris, you could see a Straub film at 11 in the morning. But this doesn't exist any more. I also don't think that a Hugendubel cinema (the proposed idea of combining cinemas, cafes and book chains) is the answer. I personally like my cinemas a bit grimy, and I don't care if they are in a pedestrian zone. The main thing is that they show the right films. But if a film like Christian Mungiu's "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days" only had 30,000 viewers in Germany then the situation is dire."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 22.04.2008

The French are still very stand-offish about Lovis Corinth, whose work is on show in the Parisian Musee d'Orsay, writes Werner Spies. "It's not only his subject matter that upsets them. You can see in the faces of many of the visitors the difficulties they have with his fatty paint that looks like it comes straight out of the mincer, their repugnance at an artist who throws himself at his bodies like a knacker. They are frightened off by all the blood and guts, paintings like 'In the Slaughterhouse', the self-mutilating self-portraits which push the 'Ecce Homo' motif into the foreground. And yet it is this that sets his work apart. You feel in these images a brutal resistance to everything that's easy on the eye. His fissures and wrinkles put Corinth in a tradition that stretches from Rembrandt and Jordaens to Beckmann, Soutine and Baselitz."


Die Tageszeitung
22.04.2008

Patricia Hecht introduces the website nachtkritik.de which publishes theatre reviews on the morning after the performance before. "Even directors from the leading theatres consult nachkritik.de every morning, as the increasing click figures show: nachtkritik has become a sort of information and service gadget for theatre makers. 'The paradoxical thing about the site is that the speed at which it is created hardly encourages deep reflection,' says Christof Belka of the Berliner Schaubühne. 'But nachtkritik has rapidly established a firm foothold.' Not only does it show a democratic understanding of theatre with reviews that cover a greater spectrum of what's showing than the print papers, but it puts the authority of the critics up for discussion. On the one hand, like perlentaucher.de, it summarises and links to different opinions; on the other, readers can comment on reviews and productions – and this constitutes the most revolutionary step that nachtkritik has introduced to the theatrical arena."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.04.2008

The New York based Indian writer Amitav Ghosh talks in an interview about working on his new book, the situation in Burma and the different education systems in India and the USA: "In India the focus is different, lots of cramming and rote learning. In many respects I think this is a good thing. In Japan they are trying to replicate the Indian system to some extent. In US schools, pupils are at the same level as 12-year olds in India. And this continues on right through university. In fact it is harder to get a place at my old college in Delhi than to get into Yale or Harvard."


Die Welt
19.04.2008

The literature section documents a discussion between writers Katharina Hacker, Michael Krüger and Amos Oz on the 60th anniversary of Israel. Oz talks about why Germany is such an Israeli obsession and why, by comparison, Israel is so absent in German literature. And he also criticises that media image of Israel. "When I look at the German or other European media and see that image of Israel it creates, I learn that Israel supposedly consists of eighty percent religious fanatics, ten percent settlers in West Jordan, nine percent brutal soldiers and one percent intellectuals who criticise the government and who are wonderful writers. This is of course a distortion of reality."

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