Exposing the Year 1990: An Image-Text-Essay Conceived for Wilhelm Leuschner Square
With photographs by Andreas Rost, text collages by Elske Rosenfeld, notes by Christian Borchert (Source: Deutsche Fotothek Dresden) on the year 1990, and texts by Jan Wenzel. Layout: Wolfgang Schwärzler. Architecture: Diana Felber.
The year 1990, which unfolded as a series of broken or interrupted developments, continues to live on. In winter the central offices of the Stasi were stormed and the Round Table began working on a new democratic constitution. In early March a trustee corporation was created to integrate public property of the former East German state – an abstract concept of collective ownership – into the legal structure of West Germany. On 18 March parliamentary elections were held in the former East Germany. In summer the two German currencies were merged. Preparations were made for reunification, the date for which was set earlier and earlier until 3 October was finally chosen. Two months later the first parliamentary elections for all of newly reunified Germany were held. It would be wrong to believe that any of these events has ever been concluded. The news assigns relevance to a certain number of days. This is also wrong. William Faulkner once claimed, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” What we call history is ultimately nothing but the radiological discharges of society. The events of the year 1990 continue to shape the present and will do so for quite some time.
f/stop In Situ looks back at the year 1990. In comparing the years 1989 and 1990 it is remarkable that they have been recorded so differently in the collective memory. Virtually everyone in Germany can recall the events of the fall of 1989, while the year 1990—the lines of development of which were continually being disrupted—often remains unintelligible and incommunicable. Like children who can remember nothing before their third birthday, for many East Germans 1990 seems to be buried. Yet just as the first years of life shape a person’s emotional character, the experiences of 1990—all the hopes, fears, promises of happiness and disappointments – have left their mark on people’s deepest feelings and attitudes.
Anyone who wants to come to terms with the current success of populist movements in eastern Germany must first expose the year 1990. Photography can help us return to the past, as it shows “how reality was. […] It [photography] relentlessly engraves traces of that which was into what we are now and perhaps no longer would like to be. That which we want to free ourselves of comes back to us against our will.” (Didier Eribon)
The work of Christian Borchert (1942 – 2000) is now the subject of a research project of the Dresden State Art Collections. Curator Bertram Kaschek comments: With his clinically analytical images Borchert developed a reserved visual language that wasn’t intended to deliver an obvious statement. His personality reflects almost the entire history of photography in East Germany. His life and work reveal many insights on photography as a professional and personal practice in East Germany.
Elske Rosenfeld, born 1974 in Halle/S. (GDR), is an artist and author based in Berlin. Her works investigate the body and revolution, and the history of state socialism and its dissidences. They have been featured in international exhibitions, among others at Gorki Herbstsalon III (2017), mumok kino, Vienna (2016), steirischer herbst festival, Graz (2015), Devi Art Foundation, Delhi (2013) and Former West, Utrecht (2010). She is currently working on the history of the year 1990, among others for the F/Stop-Festival, Leipzig, and curating the project “Artistic Research at the Archive of the GDR opposition” together with Suza Husse/ District Berlin. She recently began blogging on www.dissidencies.net. In the framework of the exhibition “Unterbrechungen. Skripte, Proben, Gesten”, an f/stop Satellite at KV, she will show a new piece from the body of work “A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures”.
Born 1966 in Weimar, Andreas Rost is an internationally-reputed German photographer and curator. He is a photographer whose work lies on the border between documentary and art photography. Biography: 1988 – 1993 studied photography at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts; Degree in photography under Evelyn Richter and Arno Fischer; 1991 Assistant to Thomas Höpker (Magnum); since 1994 freelance photographer and curator; since 2006 ifa-Representative for Photography / Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen; lives and works in Berlin.