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GoetheInstitute

25/10/2005

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 Tageszeitung, 25.10.2005

On November 9, 1969 (a loaded date in German history), a group of militant leftists attempted to blow up the Jewish Community Centre in Berlin. The bomb didn't go off. It had been provided by Peter Urbach, an agent from the Berlin Intelligence Service. In his book "Die Bombe im jüdischen Gemeindehaus" (the bomb in the Jewish community centre), Wolfgang Kraushaar uncovers the story (we discussed its publication here). Since then, there has been much discussion over the extent to which the German 68ers were anti-Semitic. Tilman Fichter, the brother of one of the plotters, and at the time the chairman of the SDS (German socialist student group), explains in a long interview that it was taboo to talk about "whether there was something like anti-Semitism in the Left. The Left, because it too was a victim, because its members had suffered together with the Jews in the concentration camps, could not imagine that this problem existed in its ranks as well. I was soundly criticised at the time, even by comrades who are still dear to me today. They said: 'Tilman, don't put yourself in the spotlight like that. We have to solve that amongst ourselves.' The fact that I went public, to the public of the Left meant that I was considered a risk, a threat to the internal solidarity, that I was opening up a powder keg that we actually wanted to deal with ourselves. But we never dealt with it. That was the problem."


Die Welt, 25.10.2005

Sociologist Wolf Lepenies reports on the festivities in China surrounding the 200th anniversary of Schiller's death. "100 young students from the Renmin University in Beijing appear shyly on stage. Most are wearing jeans and T-shirts from their university in revolutionary red. To honour the German poet Friedrich Schiller, the student choir sings Beethoven's rendering of 'Ode to Joy'. With the first notes, they lose their shyness. The young Chinese sing with great gusto, and the Germans listen, moved and full of admiration. Particular attention is paid to Zhang Yushu, the doyen of the Chinese Germanists, who talks about the reception of Friedrich Schiller's plays in the People's Republic of China. Zhang understands how to talk between the lines about the political development in his country up to the present. For the Schiller festivities, a Department Director from the Ministry of Education steps up to the podium, no notes in his hands. And he delivers a speech that amounts to a little cultural political essay, in perfect, accent-free German. He's so precise, so clever and funny, that the German listeners don't even want to try to recall when they last heard something half as intelligent from the lips of a bureaucrat back home."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 25.10.2005

In an interview with Peter Michalzik, stage director Thomas Ostermeier explains why he finds Ibsen much more pertinent than Chekov when it comes to reflecting on contemporary culture. "Someone like Hedda Gabler's husband, a young academic who does not particularly deserve his position as professor but who needs it to put his life on solid footing is a character we can relate to today. And so is Hedda. She finds security, then wonders how on earth she ended up where she is. A secure old-age pension, a nice house, with nothing to do but have kids for the hubby. That has a lot to do with us, with my life situation. What do you do when you realise you're secure, but metaphysically empty? What does it mean when happiness means security? You find out you've become stuck in a sort of mediocrity. Our country is like a desert, without private or political visions. Like in Ibsen." Ostermeier's staging of "Hedda Gabler" premieres tomorrow in the Schaubühne theatre in Berlin.

Michael Kohler reports from the KunstFilmBiennale (artfilm biennial) in Cologne, where boundaries drop like flies: "For festival director Heinz Peter Schwerfel, the dissolution of boundaries between film and art, art and life, this classic fluxus is a sort of hidden programme. That is what binds the filmed documentaries of artists Martin Kippenberger and Jonathan Meese. The two agents-provocateurs of the German art scene perhaps share only one habit: staging themselves before the camera. From today's point of view, Martin Kippenberger, who died of alcoholism in 1997, seems the perfect role model for today's action-oriented MTV generation. Kippenberger, the petty-bourgeois dandy from Dortmund, bought into a Berlin disco in the early 80s and made it his private stage for carousing, audience abuse and higher nonsense of all kinds. Never at a loss for an absurd comment or a soft-shoe step, Kippenberger had a constant eye for his public and was well ahead of his time. The images in Jörg Kobel's portrait 'Kippenberger – Der Film' leave viewers astounded at so much prophetic effrontery. But in the end, the melancholic determination with which Kippenberg uses his life as raw material for his series of artistic jokes is ultimately rather terrifying."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 25.10.2005

Holger Liebs reports euphorically from the Frieze Art Fair for contemporary art in London, which attracts art lovers you may not otherwise expect to see. "The 160 or so galleries at the Frieze – selected from 450 that applied – show works by over 2,000 artists. And yet the demand outstrips the number of artworks by a long shot. On the first day of the fair a moneyed art collector who lives in Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro wanted to think for a few minutes before buying a work by light artist Olafur Eliasson. Three works were on sale, and only one had been reserved. When he came back half an hour later, all three had been sold for five- or six-digit sums. Art fairs today are what Deauville or St. Tropez used to be. Her bodyguards nowhere in sight, top model Claudia Schiffer waits on the street for a shuttle. For what seems like ages."

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