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From the Feuilletons


11/03/2005 

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11.03.2005

Sieglinde Geisel portrays Turkish-German author Emine Sevgi Özdamar. Born in Turkey, she moved to West Berlin at 19. In 1976 she began working as assistant director at the Volksbühne theatre in East Berlin. She describes this experience in her novel "Seltsame Sterne starren zur Erde" ("Strange Stars Stare at Earth"). "She didn't have to draw on memories, but uses excerpts from her own diary, which she started keeping in the doldrums of East Germany. At first she commuted daily from West to East. 'The Wall never interested me, and I never thought about the secret police.' Anyone could have written about the Wall, and the results would have been similar. But Emine Sevgi writes with the voice of her earlier 'I', about things nobody else experienced. Who else could have written about the Turkish woman who passed as a West German in East Berlin, or about trying to find someone whose apartment she could live in, even though she would still have to cross back into the West once a day as she had no long term visa. When the narrator returns to the West, she is astonished every time that it has rained on the other side of the Wall. In the West she lived in a '70s commune – the bathroom door remained open and the roommates bathed four in the tub, gossiping about Jens' new girlfriend, who screamed so loud during sex and nobody believed her."

Heribert Seifert reports on how video activists are gradually turning the camera into a political and journalistic weapon. Human rights organisations like Witness in New York, for example, are collecting film documentation of discrimination, oppression and exploitation. "Peasants in the Philippines or factory workers in Argentina should be given the possibility to fight disenfranchisement and socio-economic crimes. In some cases such films have aroused the interest of television stations or triggered police investigations. By contrast, video activism in Germany is somewhat feckless. Initiatives like Labor B, Kanal B and Indymedia that have been working in this area since 2000 allege they are creating 'counter-publicity for anti-capitalist resistance' not found in the mainstream media. But if you look at their productions, which include monthly video magazines and hastily-produced agitprop clips against globalisation or the Hartz IV social reform package of the SPD government, such claims are hardly warranted."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11.03.2005

The Stanford sociologist Stanley Kurtz presents his gloomy perspective on cultural changes in ageing societies. Either they continue to shrink or they develop artificial breeding mothers on the initiative of feminists, or they return to conservative family values, which seems to be the preference of the author. "Secularism, individualism and feminism are all aspects of our social system that contribute to the sinking birth rate. If the world cannot survive as a result of the shrinking population, maybe these cultural trends are just as incapable of surviving. Put another way, if we don't modify or compensate for these cultural trends, the population is going to decrease faster and faster."

The FAZ reprints an article from Le Monde written by Andre Glucksmann on the assassination of Chechen politician Aslan Maskhadov. signandsight.com publishes Glucksmann's article in its features section.


Frankfurter Rundschau, 11.03.2005


Elke Buhr was very impressed by "Occupying Space", an exhibition of concept art from the collection of the Generali insurance company. The show in Munich's Haus der Kunst gallery features works by Adrian Piper, Mary Kelly, Valie Export and Florian Plumhösl, the likes of which are seldom seen in Germany. For Buhr, "it took the respectable insurance firm – in whose Prague office Franz Kafka once worked – to collect works of this kind. 'Occupying Space' can also be seen as a lesson in how privately financed institutions can fill the gap left by public museums today." Yet "for the Generali Foundation, the boundaries between patronage and quasi-parasitical art commissioning are easily blurred. And they know it. Artist Andrea Fraser asked managers and employees at the company about the purpose and effect of the works, which were made at considerable cost. The results hang on the wall in the exhibition, one artwork among the many others. According to a spokesperson, the company's interest in contemporary art will send a message to customers 'that we are modern, forward-looking, and dynamic'. Exposing employees to the art should make them more flexible intellectually. For one employee however, the company first cracks the whip, then harasses them with art they don't understand."


Die Tageszeitung, 11.03.2005

Hakeem Jimo sees a rupture in the Fespaco Film Festival in Ouagadougou. The first prize – the Golden Stallion – was won by "Drum", a film about the "legendary journalist Nxumalo", who wrote about Apartheid in South Africa in the 1950s. According to Jimo, the film is "closer to American film language" than previous prize winners. "The other difference has to do with the spoken language. The South African film was the second English-language film to have won the first prize in thirty years." The other winners were generally French-language films. "There was a lot of talk of a political choice. South Africa is considered an aspiring film nation in Africa, and if this development is ignored in Burkina Faso it could push the festival into obscurity. The explosive development of the film and video culture in Nigeria – also known as Nollywood – found no echo at the Fespaco. Self-critical film makers in Nigeria admit their television films are less suited to artistic festivals than to mass consumption. Another reason for the change of attitude in the Fespaco jury was suggested in the statement by festival director Bab Hama. He regretted that last year's winner 'Heremakono' did not manage 'to leave the ivory tower' to find a wider audience. With this year's winner 'Drum', that's not likely to be the case."

Daniel Bax presents the record label "Eastblok" which wants to introduce the West to new music from Eastern Europe. Behind the label are "music managers Alex Kasparov and Armin Siebert, who previously ran the Eastern European branch of record giant EMI. Now they've gone out on their own in an inconspicuous store in Berlin-Kreuzberg. For too long they were busy importing Western pop stars like Robbie Williams into the East, as EMI was hardly interested in business going the other direction. Now the two want to make Russian punk bands like Markscheider Kunst from Leningrad or the ethno-electronic sounds of Amina Sound System from Hungary known to a wider audience." Their first CD is a compilation with revolution-pop from the Ukraine.

Harald Fricke has listened to "Human After All", the latest CD of the French electro-duo Daft Punk, and asks how much shock potential the band has left. "Very little, one is inclined to think. But one is simply amazed that Daft Pop has managed to find some virgin territory on the map of quotable pop that has not yet been colonised for the dance floor. We're talking rock here. Hard rock, heavy rock, unleashed and guitar-cutting drone rock through the gigantic Marshall towers. The kick-start to happiness. In the video to the single 'Robot Rock', a double-neck Gibson guitar is shown – formerly the fetish that Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page used to get out when there was room for a solo in 'Whole Lotta Love'. For Daft Punk it's enough to use the antiquated monster for a fraction of a second in a shaky cam-corder shot, the sound comes from a sampler anyway. The heightened rock factor is similar: full power ahead, but always nice and digital."
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