What’s art got to do with it?

A Summer School on Art and Collective Memory

August 22–28, 2022 in Bathorn, Germany

Starting out from the sculpture “Ein Weg durch das Moor” (A Path through the Bog, 1999) by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the former Nazi prison camp Bathorn, participants of the Summer School are invited to engage with current debates concerning practices of remembrance and the ways in which art might contribute to them. Workshops, performances, readings, and discussions with artists, curators, and people active in the region as well as practical work on the conservation of the sculpture by Fischli & Weiss will all revolve around the question “What’s art got to do with it?” To put it in more specific terms: What does art have to do with the negotiation of history and what role can, should, or must it play in the discourse of collective memory? The summer school offers an opportunity for participants to explore together the relationship between the sociopolitical and historical dimensions of practices of remembrance and the critical potentials of artistic practice.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, “Ein Weg durch das Moor” (A Path through the Bog, 1999)

The work of Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) revolves around the banalities of everyday life. With equal parts humor and philosophical insight, the Swiss duo’s multi-part installations, miniatures, and short films illuminate the seemingly incidental mechanisms of our coexistence. The range of materials used to make them is vast—from sausages and other food scraps to polyurethane rubber, clay, and wood. Through the deployment of materials and techniques that are relatively rudimentary, in artistic terms, they direct the viewer’s gaze to what is already familiar, only to push it into the absurd. Since Weiss passed away, Fischli has continued the work of the duo on his own. In response to an invitation from guest curators Harald Szeeman and Zdenek Felix, in 1999 Fischli and Weiss constructed a narrow boardwalk out of oak planks as part of the “Kunstwegen” project. The circular trail is three quarters of a mile long and takes visitors through the forested area behind the former Nazi forced-labor camp Bathorn, albeit without leading to a concrete destination. It is characterized by numerous bends and large differences in altitude; parts of it are missing. The design makes demands that necessitate a conscious and focused negotiation of the trail itself. At the half-way point there is a small clearing in the forest from which one can see a since rewilded peat bog. Alongside the important role played by nature, which is emphasized throughout in the deliberate avoidance of hard-wearing metal supports or anti-slip decking, the focus is above all the history of the area and reflections on it. As a silent site of encounter, the path offers visitors an opportunity to commemorate the history of the local Emsland camps and those who were imprisoned in them. At the same time it can be read as a reference to non-linear and notoriously incomplete processes of collective remembrance.

The open-air museum “Kunstwegen” was launched in the year 2000 as a cross-border project spanning the Netherlands and Germany. More than eighty sculptures by international artists are currently to be found along a route that is more than 110 miles long. The border regions are linked together through the sculptures and installations on view alongside the Vechte, a river that flows from the Westphalian Basin in Germany to the Ijsselmeer in the central Netherlands. The artworks enter into an intimate dialogue with their respective local contexts by picking up on natural phenomena, regional specificities and historical events.

The Site and Its History

Between 1933  and 1945 a total of fifteen so-called Emslandlager (Emsland Camps) were established and operated by the Nazis in today’s Emsland and the district of Bentheim. They were part of a large-scale project of “internal colonization” intended to refashion what was considered a backward region into a showcase of economic success as well as to make room for settlers from the eastern territories of the Reich. During the first years of their operation, the concentration camps, prisoner camps, and POW camps housed above all political prisoners, who were forced to work at the local peat extraction site. They came primarily from the socialist or communist milieus of Germany’s industrial Ruhr region and became a symbol of the international antifascist resistance through the song composed by some of the inmates themselves: “Die Moorsoldaten” (Peat Bog Soldiers). Camp XIV Bathorn was constructed in 1938 and was originally designed for a thousand prisoners. After the beginning of the war in 1939, most of them were POWs from the Soviet Union as well as France and its colonies. But Bathorn soon became exceptionally overcrowded, with more than four thousand inmates. Hard labor, insufficient food, and poor sanitary conditions in the barracks meant countless people died. The camp was liberated by Canadian troops in 1945 and would be repurposed into a reception camp for refugees and displaced persons.

Programm

  • James Gregory Atkinson (Workshop)
  • James Gregory Atkinson is a visual artist and graduate of Frankfurt’s Städelschule. Drawing on his bicultural German/African American background, his practice responds to the radical incompleteness of official archives of Black narratives and culture by creating alternative ways of encountering the past. His work across mediums draws on, edits, and modifies Queer and Black histories as a way of placing them in dialogue with the present. Together with the participants of his workshop he aims to develop critical strategies for dealing with established historiographies and archives, in order to actively expand the spectrum of memory culture with the help of transnational and intersectional narratives.
  • Credit: Killa Schuetze
  • Juliane Bischoff (Workshop)
  • Juliane Bischoff is a curator at the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, where among other projects she co-organized the exhibition “Tell me about yesterday tomorrow” (2019–20). She previously worked at the Kunsthalle Wien, where she curated solo and group exhibitions including “Kate Newby: I can’t nail the days down” (2018) and “How To Live Together” (2017) and organized discursive programs including “Political Futures” (2018). She regularly writes for art publications and exhibition catalogues. Bischoff’s workshop revolves around how art can make accessible knowledge of history and its significance for the present. Exploring this question involves discussing the aesthetics of remembrance culture as well as artistic processes that intervene in existing historical narratives or encourage people to confront the past collectively.
  • Credit: Orla Connolly
  • Talya Feldman (Workshop)
  • Talya Feldman is a time-based media artist. Her collaborative projects with activist and research-based networks have gained global recognition for combating racist and antisemitic narratives. Feldman was awarded the 2021 DAGESH-Kunstpreis for her sound installation “The Violence We Have Witnessed Carries a Weight on Our Hearts” at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which will be on view at the Frenswegen Monastery as part of the Summer School. In conversations of right-wing terror, media coverage and social debates focus almost exclusively on the perpetrators. The perspectives of those affected and their relatives are almost completely missing. In her workshop Talya Feldman teaches participants to critically examine current media and political structures by challenging what they see – and what they hear. How do survivors and people affected by racist and antisemitic attacks speak and activate resistance? In what ways are they fighting for a dignified remembrance in both public and private space?
  • Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung (Film program)
  • Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung is a writer, critic, and founding editor of the institutional critique platform Decolonial Hacker. In 2021, he was awarded the International Award for Art Criticism (IAAC), and is currently the curatorial assistant of the Julia Stoschek Collection. As part of the Summer School’s film program, he will curate moving image works by artists dealing with the emergence and continuation of fascist structures in a global context.
  • Credit: Agustin Farias
  • Friedemann Heckel (Installation)
  • Friedemann Heckel is an artist who studied at the University of the Arts Berlin. His seating furniture will be installed in the cloister gardens for the duration of the summer school; each unit offers room for several people at once. The seating design is intended to release the individual from their solitary existence and create the opportunity for dialogue, intimate conversations, or small group discussions. It thus harbors the potential to be an aid to ideas, revelations, or questions that would not come up if one were on one’s own or with (too) many other people.
  • Anna Langhoff (Reading)
  • Anna Langhoff is an author, director and dramaturge. Her plays, writing, and audio pieces have been presented internationally and her work has been translated into multiple languages. She is the granddaughter of the actor and director Wolfang Langhoff, who was a survivor of one of the so-called Emsland camps — the Börgermoor concentration camp — and later wrote the renowned eyewitness account “Die Moorsoldaten” (The Bog Soldiers). At the summer school Anna Langhoff will read excerpts from his book and talk about its connections to current sociopolitical and cultural debates.
  • Kurt Buck & Roland Nachtigäller (Talk)
  • Kurt Buck is a teacher and historian. From 1985 to 2019, he directed the Emslandlager Documentation and Information Center (DIZ), which contributed significantly to the founding of today’s Esterwegen Memorial and plays an important role in processing and archiving the history of the local concentration, prisoner, and POW camps.
  • Roland Nachtigäller is an historian and curator. From 1999 to 2000 he was, with Martin Köttering, artistic co-director of the sculpture route “kunstwegen”. Among the works produced as part this project was Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s “Ein Weg durch das Moor” (A Path through the Bog, 1999). Since 2022 Nachtigäller has been managing director of the Stiftung Insel Hombroich.
  • Credit: Marta Herford, Photography: theothercara
  • Together they will talk about the genesis of the memorial as well as the work of Fischli and Weiss, and put it in context with the lengthy processes of historical reappraisal in the region and beyond.

Registration

To register for the summer school, please send an email with your name, address, phone number, accommodation type, and whether you qualify for any concessions (see below) to: info@whatsartgottodowithit.de
The cut-off date for registration is June 20, 2022.

  • — Participation in all events including accommodation in a single room and full board in the Stiftung Kloster Frenswegen €300/250*
  • — Participation in all events including accommodation in a twin room and full board in the Stiftung Kloster Frenswegen €230/180*
  • — Participation in all events including lunch and dinner (without accommodation) €150/100*
  • *The concession discount is available to those enrolled in a degree program or doing a vocational course or professional traineeship, as well as doctoral candidates and interns.
Credit: a|w|sobott

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What’s art got to do with it?

A Summer School on Art and Collective Memory

August 22–28, 2022 in Bathorn, Germany

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