|Linda Lombardi / Joan Chen /
The 'Atelierhaus fuer Kunst und
Kommunikation' in Essen
We have always loved this center of the arts, of media & communication. It has been a site of exciting film projections, poetry readings, debates on art and its significance in today's society and, last not least, some unforgettable exhibitions.
Who would not remember, for instance, Raine Vowe's(1) talk on "the movie histories of Godard", accompanied by screenings of Godard's films?(2) Or Harun Farocki who presented what were at the time his most recent films, "Ich glaubte Gefangene zu sehen" (I believed to see prisoners) as well "Auge/Maschine" (Eye/Machine) and who then engaged the viewers in the most lively of debates?
Such presentations of films as works of art, and the debates that they occasioned were no isolated events. They always were situated within a wider aesthetic and theoretical context. Thus, Farocki's introduction to his work, the screening of two of his films, and his participation in the debate were introduced by Doris Schoettler-Boll(3), the artist and initiator of so many lively and brilliant projects, as part of her project entitled "Das Reale/Die Diskurse/Die Kunst: Über Normalismus und Dissidenz" (The Real / Discourses / Art: On Normalism and Dissidence). Godard's films and Vowe's presentation of these works constituted a segment of a project engaging the audience to re-view and reflect movies by four 'key figures' of modern cinema: GODARD - DURAS - DEBORD - DEREN.
Wolfgang Beilenhoff's knowledgable introduction (4) of surrealist cinema from pre-WWII Czechoslovakia was placed in yet another context, that of Surrealism (linked in turn to Situationism, in the program of the 'Atelierhaus'). And so was Katharina Sykora's sharply analytic and yet enthusiastic lecture(5), "On the Surrealist Principles in the Films of Germaine Dulac," accompanied by a film screening and followed, as is usual, in the 'Atelier' house, by a prolonged and interesting debate that continued till well after midnight when the last participants left for home.
We take Werner Ruzicka's presence at this center for media and communication in Essen as a strong indication that the director of the renowned German festival of documentary cinema, the 'Duisburger Filmwoche,' cherishs the lovely atmosphere and critical debates at the center. It was here that he gave a talk entitled "Duisburger Dramaturgien – Duisburger Diskurse" (Duisburg dramaturgies, Duisburg discourses): an analysis of dramaturgical strategies and filmic discourses recognizable today in works shown at the festival which tries to focus especially not so much on 'documentations' done for television but on documentary cinema as a form of art,
This is not the place to recapitulate debates and reconstitute theoretical and aesthetic contexts. In the splintering. additive way of a casual look back, we just want to recall some highlights to give the reader an impression what the 'Atelierhaus' was and is all about.
The poet Nicolas Born, for instance, was at the center of attention when two people very familiar with his work, Martina Meister(6) and Dirk Hallenberger(7), concentrated on different aspects of his work. A film, done by Volker Schloendorf and based on a novel by Nicolas Born, was shown and discussed as well. We also remember Urs Jaeggi, the well-known artist and novelist, arriving from Berlin especially for a poetry reading, and D.E. Sattler (the poet and editor of a challenging and tremendously important, new, critical edition of the collected works of Hoelderlin) who came to talk about his experience and concerns as an editor.
Let's briefly mention Inge Morgenroth's, Friederike Beck's and Rike Felka's contributions centered on the life and work of the artist Unica Zuern (a woman who would have been the central figure, played by Hanna Schygulla, in Fassbinder's unrealized film project, "Der Mann im Jasmin" - had the filmmaker not died prematurely in 1982). Or Birgit Kaeufer's discussion of art works by Hans Bellmer, Pierre Molinier und Cindy Sherman.
Among those who, often on several occasions, came to the 'Atelierhaus' to share and debate their reflections on the visual arts and their significance, we must also mention Gerhard Plumpe(8), Niels Werber(9), Juergen Link(10) and Juergen Frese(11).
It may appear as fascinating to the reader as it does
to us that the 'Atelierhaus fuer Kunst, Medien und Kommunikation,' located
in a former elementary school building at Aebtissinsteig 6, in Essen, the
next 'Cultural Capital of Europe'(12), is
frequented by an audience that comprises both people from the Essen-Steele
neighborhood and others who arrive from a considerable number of cities
in the Ruhr district. It is a questioning, curious audience, many taking
a considerable interest in active participation in the debate following
lectures and/or art presentations. There are housewifes, workers, pensioners,
the old and the young, those from the world of 'academia' and those who
engage in art, in poetry, in film-making. We love this mixture, this chance
of meeting interesting people, this wonderful opportunity to encounter
artists, poets, film-makers and their (often, most recent) works.
(1) Dr. Rainer Vowe teaches film studies at the
Institute of Media Science of Bochum University. See also: nach
dem film, No.2