19/05/2005

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.

Die Zeit, 19.05.2005

In three days, on May 22, Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, will have local elections. For many, the vote in the state with one fifth of the German population is seen as a test for the ruling Federal "red green" coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens. Until 20 years ago, NRW was the centre of the German coal and steel industry. The SPD has been in power in the state for 39 years, and is now threatened with defeat. Petra Reski reports from her home turf on the way things always were in NRW. "Elections in the Ruhr District – when I was a kid that was something like the dishes we ate at family get togethers. There were mixed meat platters and mixed vegetable platters with cauliflower in the middle, and ever since I could think, I was ruled by the SPD. It won in every election, in the state elections, in the communal elections, and every time everyone pretended it was the biggest surprise in the world. Because of the 'secrecy of the ballot'. For me that sounded like: 'secrecy of the faith'. Pompous, and somehow sanctimonious. Why bother making a secret of what you voted if everyone voted the same thing? For me there was basically no difference between the Ruhr District and the German Democratic Republic, where the communist party also won every election, with a 99.8 percent majority. No one was going to tell me that Aunt Ruth didn't know how Uncle Heinz voted."

Art critic Wolfgang Ullrich visited the exhibition "Ideal Worlds" in Frankfurt's Schirn Kunsthalle gallery, and is unimpressed by the show of international artists grouped under the heading "the new romantics": "Just what ideals are portrayed in the works of most of the 13 artists is an open question. Certainly, they show mountains, wafts of mist, figures from the back. But is that enough to call them the successors to Caspar David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge?" For Ullrich, the use of the term "romantic" for the works on display is opportunistic and misleading. "Today's ideal worlds hardly even have a precise form. At best, they summon up fragments of past utopias, and exhaust themselves in general and often rather fanciless fantasies. The same is true of some works in the Frankfurt show: Uwe Henneken paints a painter painting a luminescent, colourful sky. Laura Owens' work shows birds fly in the moonlit night, and Karen Kilimnik's installation repeats the story of Swan Lake. Such a recycling of romantic artefacts does not bear witness to a true affliction with the world. Instead, somewhat boring varieties of postmodern lifestyles are proffered as new scenarios of desire."
The show runs at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt August 28. For Holger Liebs' take, see In Today's Feuilletons of April 29.

Thomas Groß reports from Ukraine, where the final of the Eurovision Song Contest will take place on May 21. "Ukraine is lit up, to say nothing of the what's going on behind the scenes. Exactly 101,236 meters of cable will be laid – more than at any previous competition. The 50th Eurovision jubilee will be a sea of superlatives. 120 tonnes of equipment, 82 tonnes of which will be hung! 350 moving spots! Marko Markovic recites the technical data like a prayer wheel. After all, communication is his job. Again and again he repeats the telling sentence: 'We're right on schedule!' He, the press officer, does not need to be told that Ukraine has bit off a mouthful with the European Song Contest 2005. After the triumph last year when a Spice Girl from the Carpathians called Ruslana upstaged all the other competitors, after the orange revolution was broadcast live worldwide and TV audiences around the world turned their eyes to Kiew, now on the coming weekend it is time for a show of absolute modernity: Ukrainian television proudly presents!"


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 19.05.2005

The French will vote on the EU constitution on May 29. "This conflict is not of a social nature," writes French sociologist Alain Touraine. "For it is neither a class conflict, nor a conflict of interests. What is under suspicion is the liberal orientation of Europe. Those who feel threatened by it can only articulate their resistance by defending an interventionist and regulatory state, but one which above all safeguards social security and jobs. This call is much louder in France than other European countries. Because here, liberal and social democratic tendencies that place economic and social questions in the foreground could never compete with the enduring influence of the communist party and the Gaullist movement. Both of these assign a predominant role to the state."


Live from the Vienna Festwochen

Luk Perceval has staged Marius von Mayenburg's "Turista" at the Vienna Festwochen theatre and music festival in Vienna. In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Peter Michalzik writes ebulliently on the camp site drama in which little Oli must die seven times. Either he is "tied too long to a stake by his brother", or "sexually abused. Or he is killed by quail-hunting yokels, a crazed father or the witch out of Hansel and Gretel. And each time, the spectators must reconstruct the cause of death from the events. It is adept, multi-layered theatre, rich in allusions and innuendo. A mediocre director would be at a loss. But Belgian meister Luk Perceval has created a magnificent, over-dimensional, grandiose evening."

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Barbara Villiger Heilig is less enthusiastic: "It's a puking, masturbating, fucking (sorry, but it's true) club. Beer, sex and incest are omnipresent. Ah, how bad is the world. And above all, how bad is this theatre!"

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