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13/06/2005

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.

Monday 13 June, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13.06.2005


Amir Hassan Cheheltan reports from Iran, where a presidential race is taking place: "If a reformist candidate who wishes to modernise the country is asked by the news agency of the Islamic republic, 'Is the director of a state authority required to wear a beard?', he'll answer, 'I am not aware of any such directive.' Asked if he has ever worn a tie, he'll answer no. When asked, 'Do you agree with the burning of the American flag on the anniversary of the occupation of the embassy and the kidnapping of Americans?' he'll answer, 'In my opinion there are much better solutions than these.'"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13.06.2005


Stefan Weidner attended a conference of German and Arabic poetry in Rabat. Poems were read aloud in both languages, and translated from German into Arabic and vice versa. "A new need to communicate has been discovered that is far from being satisfied. This discovery promises exciting, maybe even disturbing revelations on both sides. Of the many models for dialogue and cross-cultural encounter that have been attempted since September 11, 2001, this proves to be – while perhaps the most elitist – also the most promising and productive. And at the same time, it demonstrates the great usefulness of poetry."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.06.2005

In the early 1940s, National Socialist functionaries tried in vain to expel German Jews to the Soviet Union, as historian Pavel Polian of the Russian Academy of Sciences and currently visiting lecturer in Freiburg has discovered. A letter dated February 9, 1940 from the Chairman of the Office for Settlement Commissar Yevgeny Chekmenyov has been unearthed in the Russian national archive, in which reference is made to two requests – one from Berlin, one from Vienna – to which the response was, "We can't take these Jews, we already have a tonne of our own." This initiative, previously unknown, took place after the failed deportation to Nisko in Poland and before the Madagaskar Plan. Polian suspects that Stalin rejected the idea because of the "spy mania of the regime, the distrust of masses of Jewish-capitalist settlers from capitalist countries and the enormous dimensions of the proposed re-settlement... The Soviet Union was pursuing its own interests and Stalin was hardly to be swayed by moral imperatives."


Die Tageszeitung, 13.06.2005

The pop journalist Greil Marcus, who wrote an entire book on Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (here a summary), talks to Max Dax about the "invisible republic" of the folk song. "The official history of America, as we read it in the school books, is the story of the building of cities, bridges and streets, of elections won and lost and of battles. In the American ballad tradition, the history of America is another one. Rather than singing about presidential elections, one sang about presidential assassinations. What counts were the breaks not the continuity in the history. People loved drama and their songs were like theatre pieces, but they remained vague and mysterious, never telling the entire history."



Saturday 11 June, 2005

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.06.2005

In an interview, Minister of State for Culture and the Media Christina Weiss looks back on her three years in office. She voices scepticism about a second attempt to fuse the Federal Cultural Foundation, which was founded in 2003 to fund the arts at the federal level, and the Kulturstiftung der Länder, which has existed since 1987 and coordinates arts funding at the level of the Bundesländer, or federal states. "I have fought long and hard for the fusion of the two organisations. I did so for as long as I believed that the Bundesländer were truly seeking an agreement. As discussions went on, however, I was increasingly under the impression that in fact they were following their own objectives. The Federal Cultural Foundation is a strong funding instrument for internationally oriented and innovative projects. That is urgently needed by a country like Germany. And it should not be forgotten that the projects funded by the German Cultural Foundation take place in the Bundesländer – there is no 'state-free' location. If funding for such projects decreased in the context of a fusion, and money apportioned to the Bundesländer were instead used for restorations or the purchase of historical cultural assets, I would certainly become distrustful."


The Venice Biennale...

The 51st Biennale international art exhibition opened to the public on Sunday. The jury gave out its awards on Friday, and the Golden Lion for an artist exhibited in the International Exhibitions went to Thomas Schütte of Germany. The Golden Lion for Best National Participation went to Annette Messager of France, while the Golden Lion to a young artist (under 35) was awarded to Regina José Galindo of Guatemala.

In its online newspaper, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Friday on Schütte's large than life-sized statues called "Große Geister" or big spirits: "Schütte works consciously with shapelessness. In the place of an antique ideal, his sculptures show broad-legged louts, stretching their arms in the air and hanging around grimacing and sticking out their tongues... A sclerotic, metallic world, like in a solidified disco. Very evidently, an anti-antique, a gigantic nothingness, polished and resplendent."

On Saturday in the FAZ, Thomas Wagner comments on all that is being said goodbye to this year in Venice. "The goodbyes are surprising and oppressive, buoyant and liberating: goodbye to the dominance of the country pavilions, to the chaotic glut of past years, to fears that contemporary art is losing itself in events and spectacles, to the illusion that engagement and goodwill are all you need in art." Wagner was little taken by Tino Sehgal's much talked about but undocumentable performances in the German pavilion: "Tino Sehgal has given his audiences better stories in the past. What could have been unforgettable became mere show effect. That is unchanged by the discussions he engenders about economy in art."
(See our feature article "Ceci n'est pas le vide", for more on Tino Sehger.)

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Elke Buhr recommends taking a wide berth around the traditionally popular national pavilions: "Beyond the walls of the narrow Biennale gardens, there are many palazzi that contain the majority of the national pavilions, and also the most interesting. These countries have different stories to tell from the same old one about images, museums and critics. In the joint show featuring many Latin American countries, the video 'Bocas de Ceniza' by Juan Manuel Echavarria shows people singing songs about the Columbian civil war into the camera. The fear in their faces is not something visitors will easily forget."

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