Zwischen den Jahren 2010
Posted in: Current Speculations on February 10, 2010
In the United States and Britain the challenge of punk was to execute a critique of the corporate system from it’s own position as a product of that system. Use of Marxist or fascist imagery was a key component of this critique, which sought to highlight the hypocrisy of the culture industry. In the German Democratic Republic, these messages were understood as dangerous bourgeois cultural forms that represented a threat to state security and forced collectivity. In the U.S. the visibility of punk music benefited both the artists, who sought to spread their subversive message, and the culture industry, which recouped these messages in order to neutralize them. In the GDR the more antagonistic relationship between punk groups and structures of official power precluded the possibility of fame and limited the visibility of this cultural sector. Messages were neutralized by brute force and censorship.
Punks in the U.S., Britain and the GDR performed in small makeshift clubs or squatted buildings. In the Wes,t sites of performance were based on punk’s resistance to integration into the dominant musical economy, including systems that dictated tour scheduling and bookings (the logistics and geography of musical performance). Eventually this subversive geography was adopted by the corporate system and mainstream society for use as a marketing tool. Repression of certain cultural activities during the GDR meant that a number of seemingly incompatible groups were forced into close quarters with one another and made to share a limited amount of subversive space.
This installation commemorates a microscopic slice of cultural life in the German Democratic Republic that has been scarcely noted in popular history. Punk music in the GDR was able to take root and grow in the gaps that emerged in state control in the time leading up to the Wende. The challenge for artists in developing their music was always one of space: where to play? Where can we be public? Die Madmans, as on of the first punk bands in the GDR, was instrumental in establishing a new geography and a new terrain where this kind of cultural activity could take place. In Weimar this terrain overlapped significantly with the local religious community. Of all locations in Weimar the Jakobsaal, a small chapel in the house of a local pastor, was most important. In a place both sacred and public they found allies and audiences. This installation recognizes the lasting importance of specific places in the personal histories of individuals, while acknowledging that such histories are prone to retrospective revisions and interpretations. It also highlights the shifting functions of certain spaces over time and their evolution as places in a community.
The memorial consists of two record players positioned at either end of Jakobsaal. Each of the record players plays, continuously, a piece of music that has been re-composed using samples from the songs of Madmans. These songs are pressed into soft plastic dub plates made of acetate. As the records play and replay the sound quality of the recording begins to decay until there is nothing left but a harsh static. Like individual and collective memories of a certain place, this memorial is prone to degradation and decay. Eventually all traces of what once happened in this place will disappear.
Although dub plates use the same technological platform as the vinyl record, a technological reproducible medium meant for large scale distribution, their message is not literary, like a newspaper or novel, but closer to the oral legend: prone to degradation and modification and susceptible to disappearance. Though all media undergo a slow decay, the decay of the dub plate is a function that is built into the medium itself. One plays a dub plate under the expectation that the message will only be heard by a select few…that it may in fact be dangerous. In spy movies the hero’s instructions are always followed by the fateful words “this message will self destruct in five seconds.” In order to protect the subversiveness of its message the medium must be destroyed. Punk in the GDR shares shared in this operational logic. Its messages were passed in secret. Only a few were privy to performances, records, activities. Punk in the DDR was not trying to make a reflexive critique from within it’s own system. Rather its survival depended on it remaining safely buried.