Without Us! (In English)

– Arts and alternative culture in Dresden before and after ’89 –

The project “WITHOUT US !” with its exhibitions and accompanying events will – for the first time – deal extensively with the opposing “other culture” in the GDR by means of the developments in Dresden. Our focus will be on the relevance of Dresden’s alternative scene as a possible breeding ground for the emergence of a political opposition in the GDR, its contribution to the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989 and the importance of its themes for the present situation.

In Dresden, autonomous forms of retreat and action evolved to form an alternative culture inside – and undermining – the sphere of control of the socialist state. That’s why the city emerged as a centre of state distant arts and alternative culture in the GDR.

The project will mainly focus on protagonists and phenomenons of the visual arts, but it will take a look at interactions with artists working in other genres, too. The exhibitions will present historical objects and artefacts, complemented and contextualized by contemporary artworks. In addition to important artists whose careers started in those alternative scenes, we’ll also invite younger artists, whose works revolve around contemporary forms of remembering and representation of these phenomenons. New works may also deal with continuities, breaks and new approaches regarding the role of the artist in his/her relationship to society and its institutions.

Exhibition venues

The exhibition itself will take place at several venues simultaneously. Each will have a slighty different focus and function within the whole project.

Motorenhalle – opening on Sept 24th, 21:00

The Motorenhalle exhibition focuses on works of a generation of artists born between 1951 and 1956. The figurative paintings and sculptures reflect the era of the final years of the GDR, shaped by the artists’ experiences of either leaving the country or retreating into inner emigration.

Memorial center at Bautzner Straße (former prison of the secret police) – opening on Sept 23rd, 20:00

In a setting fundamentally associated with state repression, the former Stasi district detention centre, artists will be reflecting on the topic of “Art and Power”. This section will open with a performance by the women’s group led by Gabriele Stötzer, who stormed the Stasi headquarters in Erfurt on 4 December 1989.

Office building “Prager Spitze” (near central station) – opening on Sept 24th, 19:30

At this site, nonconformist artists will be presenting works created between the early 1950s and the end of the 1980s. Some essential works and groups of works are to be shown in Dresden for the first time, including the twelve-part group of sculptures “Society apokalyptisch” by Hartmut Bonk. The selected pieces come from every genre and are placed in context by contemporary artworks.

Lichthof (atrium) at the City Hall – opening on Oct 8th, 17:00

The fourth part of the exhibition will open in the atrium: an installation will be presented providing information about the conditions under which Dresden’s artistic subculture existed. This part of the exhibition rounds off the art collection with photographs, archive material and as yet unseen documents from private collections in Dresden.

Kulturpalast (Palace of culture)

(See Map)

Accompanying events

Conference “8060/7050/9040 – Nonconformist Art and alternative culture in Saxony before and after 1989” – Deutsches Hygienemuseum – January 14-16th
(to be expanded)

Cooperation partners

City of Dresden
Technical University Dresden
Saxon State and University Library “SLUB”
BStU (Office of the Federal Commissioner preserving the records of the Ministry for State Security of the GDR)
Church to the Three Holy Kings
Art Gallery Gebrüder Lehmann

Thematic clusters

Secession (oppositional communities, self organisation, tension systems)
Constructions of memory (retrospective reflection, dynamics of self-stories, historicizing models, memory politics, Discursive Power)
”Virtue terror” (state and social standard, utopia and “real existence”, control and punishment, stimulus threshold / margins / limits, paradigm reference)
Antiheroes (artists’ roles and images of myths, positioning in the art system, radical autonomy)
Rhizomes (scenes, milieus, places, spaces, quarters, infrastructural network, institutionalizing effects)
Protest! (activist positions, areas of tension: art and “the public”, encoding of the public space, effects of cultural resistance)
Interferences (transgressions of limits, intermedial projects, music, dance, campaign, film, performance, literature)

Around the time of the exhibition opening we will publish an accompanying catalogue containing documentation and several essays.