Želimir Žilnik (*1942, Yugoslavia) is an artist-filmmaker from Novi Sad, Serbia. In his highly prolific career, Žilnik has made over 50 feature and short films that have been exhibited internationally at film festivals such as Berlin, Toronto, Rotterdam, Moscow and Oberhausen. His socially committed films in the former Yugoslavia earned him recognition from the late 1960s onwards, but also censorship in the 1970s and 1990s for his unsparing criticism of the government apparatus. His power of observation runs like a thread through his work, with which he conjures up captivating narratives from the lives of ordinary people.
In 1975, the film Inventur – Metzstraße 11 was made in the stairwell of a residential building in Munich. Like many of the residents portrayed, filmmaker Želimir Žilnik came to post-war Germany as a so-called guest worker to work for the economic recovery. Stepping in front of the camera, they introduce themselves, talk about their origins as well as their financial and social situation in Germany. Želimir Žilnik transforms the stairwell, which is often quickly abandoned after a brief greeting, into a place of encounter.
Berlin-based artist and lecturer Pınar Öğrenci (*1973, Van, Turkey) has an architectural background that informs her poetic and experiential video-based works and installations that collect traces of “material culture” related to forced displacement in different geographies. Her works are decolonial and feminist readings from the intersections of social, political and anthropological research, everyday practices and human stories that follow the agents of migration such as war, state violence, collective movements and industrial and urban development projects.
Her work Inventur 2021 for the exhibition Offener Prozess is a remake of a film originally shot in Munich in 1975 by Yugoslavian Black Wave director Želimir Žilnik. The remake by Pınar Öğrenci is set in the East German city of Chemnitz and is based on the daily struggle against racism of the people living there. In contrast to the original, in which guest workers from the European south descend the stairs of their house, in Öğrenci’s remake people, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, walk up the stairs and Germany is presented not as a temporary but as a permanent “home” for migrants.
Nguyễn Phương Thanh was born in Werdau (Saxony) in 1992 as the child of Vietnamese contract workers. In 2013, she moved to Berlin to study communication design. She worked at Superior Magazine, Vice and most recently Coup Mobility. In 2017, she founded the association W.I.R. Werdauer Initiative gegen Rassismus (Werdau Initiative against Racism) together with friends, with whom they organise annual projects in Werdau. In 2018, her short film Sorge 87 celebrated its world premiere at DOK Leipzig and was shown at over 20 film festivals and panels nationally and internationally.
Sorge 87 is a multi-part project by Nguyễn Phương Thanh. In the film, which can be seen in the exhibition, she traces the migration history of her parents, who came to the GDR in 1987. Like many of the Vietnamese contract workers, they worked in the textile industry. In her film, the filmmaker interweaves the memories and anecdotes of her parents and their friends. She uses drawings and prints on fabric to illustrate everyday life and work. In addition to the film, there is an extensive online web documentation with further material from the research process.
Mareike Bernien and Alex Gerbaulet live and work as artists and filmmakers in Berlin. In their practice, they both often take objects or places as their starting point and are interested in the socio-political configurations and conflicts within them. Since 2015, they have been working together on various projects, such as the short film Depth of Field (Tiefenschärfe, 2017) or the film and online project Spots (2017). They have also been part of the production platform pong film in Berlin for several years. Since 2020, they have been part of the Berlin Artistic Research Support Programme.
The film Tiefenschärfe by Mareike Bernien and Alex Gerbaulet examines the Nuremberg crime scenes and their environments. Here, Enver Şimşek was murdered at his flower stall (2000), Abdurrahim Özüdoğru in his tailor’s shop (2001) and İsmail Yaşar in his snack bar (2005). The camera shows and circles the often inconspicuous-looking crime scenes. There are streets, crossroads, subways, schoolyards – places of public life. The film explores the question of how the crimes affect their surroundings and how the surroundings react to the crimes.
İmran Ayata is an author, musician and activist. He has written two novels (My Name is Revolution, Glory and Ruin), short stories and articles for various German newspapers and magazines. He works as a DJ and released the CD Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1 (Songs of guest Workers Vol. 1) with Bülent Kullukcu on Trikont in October 2013. He is a political scientist and works at the agency Ballhaus West. He is a co-founder and activist with Kanak Attak and was involved in the FreeDeniz initiative, which campaigned for the release of Deniz Yücel and other political prisoners from Turkish jail.
Bülent Kullukcu is a director, visual artist, composer, gallery owner and curator. He works in the field of intercultural art and has realised numerous music, theatre and performance projects. Kullukcu has created film music and radio plays (e.g. for BR, WDR), numerous sound installations for museums and many vinyl and CD releases on various labels worldwide. Together with the author İmran Ayata, he released the CD Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1 on Trikont in October 2013.
Songs of Gastarbeiter was compiled by AYKU (İmran Ayata and Bülent Kullukcu). The compilation includes songs by different artists from several generations of so-called guest workers. The project was released in 2013 on the music label Trikont. The songs tell of life in Germany, working conditions and interpersonal experiences. Many of the songs were no longer available on recordings before the compilation was released so they were collected from different archives.
Vincent Bababoutilabo is a musician, author and activist living in Berlin and Leipzig. His artistic projects find themselves at the intersection between art and politics. In recent years, his work has focused in particular on migration, flight, decolonisation, exploitation and resistance, as well as the artistic search for positive visions for a just society in which we can all be different without fear.
The Songs of Vertragsarbeit (Songs of Contract Work) is music by various artists who came to the GDR as contract workers. Their pieces – like their artistic approaches and their biographies – are very different. What they have in common, however, is that they make audible the stories of people who had unique perspectives on the social situation at that time. The musical chroniclers of a turbulent time create a musical collage that makes their lives, dreams and hopes audible and tangible.
Harun Farocki (1944-2014), born in what was then Czechoslovakia, was a filmmaker, artist and author. He taught as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and worked together with Antje Ehmann on the film Aufstellung, among others.
Antje Ehmann is a curator and video artist. She studied literature and media studies as well as philosophy. Together with Harun Farocki she has realised many exhibitions and films.
The silent film Aufstellung by Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann from 2005 consists of excerpts and fragments. They come from pictures, graphics, pictograms and statistical representations. We encounter the images in their matter-of-factness in textbooks, newspapers and communications from authorities on the subject of migration and immigration. By assembling this initially neutral-looking information in the images shown, a subtext emerges. This shows the one-dimensional and visual violence of these images with their racialising, stereotypical representation.
belit sağ is a video maker and visual artist living in Amsterdam. She studied mathematics in Turkey and visual arts in the Netherlands. Her background in moving image is rooted in her work within video activist groups in Turkey, where she co-initiated groups such as VideA, karahaber and bak.ma. Her ongoing artistic and moving image practice focuses on the role of (visual) representations of violence in the experience and perception of political conflict in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands. Her video works are distributed by LIMA.
What can the photo of a victim from the police file tell us? This is the question addressed in the film cut-out by belit sağ. The film takes a close look at the photos of the murdered husbands, sons, brothers, which were given to the investigators by the grieving relatives. belit sağ comments on the editing forms of the individual pictures and attaches other narratives to the pictures. In this way we see what we were shown, what we should see and also what we could see instead. Thinking about what we might see simultaneously opens up a space of possibilities. And in this space, perhaps other forms of living together and empathetic connections with each other are possible.
Hito Steyerl is an experimental filmmaker and video artist. She studied cinematography and documentary film directing in Tokyo and Munich and completed her doctorate with a philosophical thesis in Vienna. Her research interests are media, technology and the dissemination of images. In her texts, performances and essayistic documentaries, she also explores postcolonial critique and feminist representational logic. In doing so, she works at the intersection of visual art and film as well as theory and practice.
Babenhausen is a film that speaks for itself. The video work by Hito Steyerl from 1997 opens with the quote: “In view of these images, we think that no speech will be able to reflect what went on here.” The voiceover in the film tells of the anti-Semitic violence and its continuous history in Babenhausen. At the end, we look at the burnt-out house of the Jewish Merin family after the 1997 arson attack. It will remain as a memorial in the small Hessian town.
The course of the No 10th Victim mourning demonstration was documented by several camerapeople, including Sefa Defterli, who used all the material to create a film documentary and thus an important testimony to this rally. The video in this exhibition is an excerpt from it.
The No 10th Victim demonstration was organised by the families and friends of the NSU victims. It took place on 6 May 2006 in Kassel and in June 2006 in Dortmund. Shortly before, Halit Yozgat was murdered on 6 April 2006 and Mehmet Kubaşık on 4 April 2006. In Kassel, the route led from the vicinity of the internet café of the Yozgat family to the Kassel city hall. With banners and in speeches, the approximately 4000 participants called on politicians and the public to recognise the racist patterns behind the acts and to search for the perpetrators.
Forensic Architecture is a research institute based at Goldsmiths University in London. They investigate human rights violations committed by states, police forces, the military or corporations. These investigations are commissioned by civil society groups or institutions and are often a counter-investigation to reports or statements made by official bodies. In 77sqm_9:26min they investigated the statements of the officer for the protection of the constitution, Andreas Temme, about the murder of Halit Yozgat.
Forensic Architecture was commissioned by the “Tribunal NSU-Komplex auflösen” to examine the testimony of the officer for the protection of the constitution, Andreas Temme, on the murder of Halit Yozgat. Halit Yozgat’s family has been demanding for years that the glaring contradictions in his testimony be investigated. 77sqm_9:26min is a reconstruction of Temme’s testimony on how the crime took place on 6 April 2006 and underpins the doubts about Temme’s version of the events. The work raises the question of why investigating authorities and courts did not pursue these contradictions, and what civil society interventions can contribute to clarifying the NSU complex.
On 12 August 1979, Raúl Garcia Paret and Delfin Guerra died in a racist hunt in Merseburg. To mark the 40th anniversary of their deaths, the 12 August Initiative was founded in 2019 and held a public commemoration for the first time. The initiative deals with racism and racist violence in the GDR. It demands an overall social and legal reappraisal of all racist murders in the GDR. Racism must be named and the silence broken. Furthermore, it advocates compensation for the families of the victims and former contract workers in the GDR.
The initiative BREAK THE SILENCE – In Memory of Oury Jalloh was founded by bereaved families in response to the murder of Oury Jalloh. On 7 January 2005, Oury Jalloh burned to death in a police cell in Dessau. The circumstances of his death remain unclear to this day. The so-called constitutional state is unwilling to clarify the crime and draw appropriate consequences. The initiative clarifies the perpetrators and the background of the Oury Jalloh case and thus takes over the task of the state and the so-called security authorities. Furthermore, it deals with racism and police violence and supports those affected.
The SPOTS are a series of audiovisual interventions on aspects of the NSU case. The series was developed collectively for the Tribunal NSU-Komplex auflösen in Cologne in 2017. They address the blind spots in coming to terms with the NSU complex. They shed light on the racist conditions that make right-wing networks and their deeds possible in the first place.
The spot Was würden Nazis niemals tun? (What would Nazis never do?) deals with the world of perception of the majority society and how Nazis can move undisturbed in it. The spot Wo geht es zur Halitstraße? (Which way to Halitstraße?) deals with the demand that Holländische Straße be renamed Halitstraße. Halit Yozgat was born and killed there. The city opposes the renaming. Halitstraße is part of a contested commemoration that is evident in many places in the NSU complex.
Anne König lives as a publisher and author in Leipzig. Together with Markus Dreßen and Jan Wenzel, she founded the publishing house Spector Books in 2001. In 2016, she co-curated the 7th and 8th Festival of Photography f/stop Leipzig together with Jan Wenzel (2016/2018). In 2019, she published Bruchlinien. Drei Episoden zum NSU (Fracture Lines. Three Episodes on the NSU) together with Nino Paula Bulling as well as I Seem to Live – The New York Diaries, 1950-1969, Vol. 1 by Jonas Mekas. She is currently working with Anselm Graubner on the photo book Der kurze Winter der Anarchie (The Short Winter of Anarchy) – Weimar 1989/90.
Nino Paula Bulling draws comics and writes texts. Nino studied at the Kunsthochschule Halle and has published numerous shorter and longer picture narratives since their debut in 2012. Nino’s latest book, Bruchlinien, was published in 2019 in collaboration with Anne König by Spector Books.
The NSU trial reveals fault lines running through Germany as if under a burning glass. The book Bruchlinien. Drei Episoden zum NSU (Fracture Lines. Three Episodes on the NSU), with drawings by Nino Bulling and texts by Anne König, reconstructs three episodes that fell by the wayside during the five-year trial. The episodes deal with the experiences of Gamze Kubaşık, the daughter of the murdered Mehmet Kubaşık, of Susann Eminger, a supporter of the NSU, and of an employee of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution who was in charge of destroying the NSU files. The illustrated stories are supplemented by various interviews. The book is also available in the exhibition’s library.
In his productions, Ulf Aminde negotiates the relationship between social movements, collective memories and resistance. His works often move in public space and are often shown there. His filmic works are usually characterised by collaborations with the protagonists and experimental settings. In Cologne, he is developing a cinematic and, through the use of augmented reality, participatory memorial in memory of the racist attacks by the terrorist network in Probsteigasse in 2001 and Keupstraße in 2004.
Herkesin Meydanı was founded in autumn 2019 and advocates for the construction of a planned memorial in Cologne’s Keupstraße. It will commemorate the NSU racist terrorist attacks in Cologne. The memorial will be a forum for migrant knowledge, a place for encounter and remembrance. However, a group of investors is blocking the site and Cologne’s politicians remain inactive. This shows the structural racism of a city that still has no place to commemorate the victims of the NSU. The initiative therefore demands a public square at the entrance to Keupstraße – the Herkesin Meydanı – Square for All.
Offener Prozess is a project of ASA-FF e.V. on coming to terms with the NSU complex in Saxony. The project carries out educational trips, research projects, critical walks in Chemnitz, and produces teaching materials for schools, films with people affected by right-wing violence, and the exhibition Offener Prozess. The project is the follow-up project to the Undetected Neighbours theatre meeting and has been led by Hannah Zimmermann since 2019.
Jörg Buschmann studied political science at the TU Dresden and the University of Leipzig. From 2017 to 2018, he documented the trial of the right-wing terrorist group Freital for the counselling centres for victims of right-wing motivated violence in Saxony. He worked for the project Offener Prozess starting 2019.
The Critical Map is an interactive map that zooms in on the respective cities that became NSU crime scenes. The map was created in the Open Process project and will be adapted to the borrowed locations in the course of the touring exhibition. It traces the socio-spatial connecting lines of the NSU complex in different cities.
The documentary films şahîd – nhân chứng – whitnesses tell the stories of people in Saxony who became victims of the NSU and right-wing violence. They are stories of former contract workers and their children, of punks who spent their youth in Chemnitz during the post-reunification period and of accidental victims who are only lucky enough to be able to tell their stories today. As witnesses, they provide an insight into life in a society and region in which the NSU was able to live and work undetected. The films were developed as part of the project Offener Prozess under the direction of Hannah Zimmermann and with the production team Red Tower Films.
Theo Treihse studied politics and history in Dresden and is currently working in the field of extracurricular political education in the educational collective Educat. Both professionally and as an activist, he deals with the NSU complex, among other things. He conducted the seminar #doing memory 2019/20 at TU Chemnitz as a co-lecturer.
Irène Mélix is an artist and cultural scientist. She studied in Dresden/Kraków and Hildesheim/Paris and works in intersections of political and aesthetic issues. She is currently doing her PhD at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and lives in Dresden. She did the exhibition production for this exhibition.
As part of the seminar “doing memory – Historical Social Space Explorations and Memory Work in the Former Fritz Heckert Area” at Chemnitz University of Technology, students worked with the artist Irène Mélix and the lecturers Theo Treihse and Hannah Zimmermann on the history of the Fritz Heckert area, its urban development and the NSU connections in the neighbourhood. The result of the seminar was a new edition of the district magazine FRITZ, which was published as issue 0 in 1998. The magazine is a socio-spatial search for traces and a political intervention in the district.
As part of the exhibition, The Library forms a research and meeting space. Here you will find various publications, autobiographical books, graphic novels and magazines on the subject of the NSU complex. In the spirit of the exhibition, the focus remains on marginalised perspectives and an overview is given of the work done so far to come to terms with the past. In this way, the library opposes the destruction of files and the ignorance of migrant-situated knowledge in the NSU complex by the authorities and secret services and becomes a place of active, democratic remembrance culture. An invitation to linger, reflect and remember.
In the NSU complex, society’s inadequate handling of right-wing violence and right-wing terrorist structures is condensed in many ways. In order to change this approach, a place is needed where insights and experiences can be collected, processed, communicated and discussed. It needs a place of “living memory” that creates space for those affected by right-wing motivated violence and their perspectives. The task of the Documentation Centre is to help society permanently unlearn discriminatory practices. It is a place that still needs to be created.
Ülkü Süngün is a visual artist and art activist. With photography, installations, video and performances, she critically examines migration and identity politics as well as memory. With her long-term project Institute for Artistic Migration Research, she is currently a studio fellow at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart. In 2019, she realised her artistic research project Gemeingut Jungbusch on the functions of migration and cultural institutions in the context of gentrification at zeitraumexit in Mannheim.
Protest signs want to fight for a different reality in protests and have their own performative role. This is also the case in the exhibition. The protest signs connect and transport knowledge, analyses and collective demands from mourning demonstrations after right-wing terrorist acts of the last decades. The collection shows continuities and transformations of the struggle against racist division. The protest signs demand something, admonish and form bonds of solidarity. At the same time, they draw attention to grievances.