War and peace, man and woman, old and young. The AND as a conjunction, as a bridge, as a wall. Like a pact and a bond. Duality as unity. In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Being and Time – Heidegger, who loved Hannah Arendt, a thinker associated with National Socialism, a wanderer, then returned – in the AND?
Why this prelude? My profession as a vocation is a documentary director. I don’t know; I search, I find, I assemble images into words. I am not a literary thinker, but one who waits for inspiration. Rays of meaning from the cosmos of day and night? A conjunction, I am someone who unites, who wants to bond, loves to breed. I’m someone whose words flow from tongue to paper, through the keyboard in the MacBook. Writing as a pleasure. Me and you. Romeo and Juliet. More and/or even more?
The state parliament in Thuringia will be renewed in September 2024. There are fears that the right-wing nationalist party AfD could become the strongest parliamentary group and appoint Björn Höcke as Premier. A New Right politician.
Höcke seeks an alliance of ultranationalist groups for an ethnically homogenized Germany and Europe. Social scientists and historians identify fascism, racism, historical revisionism, anti-Semitism, and National Socialist ideas and language in Höcke’s statements. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classifies Höck as a right-wing extremist and has been monitoring him since the beginning of 2020 (Wikipedia).
Thuringia is my father’s homeland; that’s where I grew up. After World War II, this land in the middle of Germany belonged to the Soviet occupation zone, later called the GDR. As a young pioneer I had a positive vision of building socialism. My parents, having just escaped the dictatorship of National Socialism, did not see the new dictatorship of the proletariat as the lifestyle they desired. Protection and fulfillment were found in the Protestant church with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the primordial bedrock of Thuringia. Bourgeoisie and proletariat. The AND as a declaration of war. My father was a professional farmer who specialized in growing potatoes, and my mother a housewife – according to Karl Marx, petty bourgeois who needed to be re-educated. In the afternoon our mother learned Russian to help her children with their homework. The eternal friendship with the glorious Soviet Union was part of the “reason of state”.
At the age of fifteen I fled from the workers’ and farmers’ paradise to the island of West Berlin, a showcase of the free West. I went to live in a Protestant boarding school located in a stately villa in the Schlachtensee district. Residential area 1. East German classes had been set up for us Eastern students, and here Ernst Thälmann was not a working-class hero. Emperors, kings, princes, leaders: they became our new models throughout history. From the very first days at the Gottfried Keller gymnasium, it became clear that an as yet unrecognized dyslexic had taken refuge in the independent political entity of West Berlin. After a brief martyrdom as a high school student, my guardian at the youth welfare office discovered my talent for the visual. After an apprenticeship as a photographer, some study trips and a year in Rome, in 1966 I became a student at the newly founded German Film and Television Academy, the DFFB. Selected as one of 35 out of eight hundred candidates, I felt an aura over my head. I entitled my first film Santa Lucia and dedicated it to the patron saint of sight.
Let’s get back to Thuringia. After the reunification in 1990 – from the day of the currency exchange until the first free municipal elections –, I filmed Blaubeerwald, a modern Heimatfilm (national film) in my fatherland, together with cameraman and friend Hans Rombach. This was a work commissioned for the private TV station in Tokyo, Asahi. I attended the premiere in Japan. It could not have been a more dignified and mysterious event. The Japanese looked with amazement at a disintegrating country where, for example, my cousin’s husband collected crates of waste glass along the streets with a forty-year-old truck, a recycling system that I had already experienced as a young pioneer.
Twenty-seven years later, in 2017, I returned to my old homeland, now firmly integrated into unified Germany. The life of the inhabitants of the Green Heart of Germany seemed strange to me, and not only because some of my cousins had already died. Together with a young team from the Magdeburg company blende 39, a new media project was launched: Grossbreitenbach 100%. We promised our sponsors, in particular the Central German Media Fund (MDM) in Leipzig, that with our efforts we would be able to attract one hundred percent of the residents of Großbreitenbach to the polls. We broadcast our twelve films, each eight minutes long, to the world via YouTube on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8pm. Voter turnout was 65 percent and 37 percent gave their vote to the AfD.
Elections will be held again in 2024. Those eligible to vote will express their will in an electoral system under which candidates are elected to represent their interests in the state parliament of Thuringia. Our representative democracy is based on this process.
All democratic parties are warning against a shift to the right. How could this be achieved in a country where a coalition led by a left-wing force, the Linke, has been in power for ten years? Clearly, this coalition has failed. The situation is getting worse. Parties that consider themselves democratic have erected a firewall that prevents a possible coalition with the AfD. Since the CDU has also erected a fire wall against working with Linke, Thuringia risks becoming ungovernable. Reality and fiction.
And what is life for the rest of my family like in Großbreitenbach? Their daily life, which we call reality, is in competition with new media. Ruled by digital giants – the most powerful cartels in history – they live increasingly anonymously, disembodied in a digital modernity. According to the saying formulated by the poet Bertolt Brecht: First the stomach, then the morals?
Often misunderstood, Brecht means that one can only think about morality on a full stomach. However, the stomachs of most Thuringians are plenty full. So, this cannot be the reason why morality is no longer a current commodity.
Living in the midst of wild forests with a harsh climate, mostly in the gray slate-clad houses of their ancestors, they are entertained and informed by countless TV channels on cinema-sized screens, they succumb to shopping sprees, ordering without limits from the global department store Amazon, and then, without a real reason why, they send the purchases back to the seller.
The happy social life in Großbreitenbach is on the verge of extinction. There are no longer any local party branches, the pastor’s post is vacant, and the church choir has no director. Tradition meets modernity. In recent years, three locker points have been installed in the area for the delivery and collection of parcels.
What to do? What makes sense, what has form?
Our new project is called AI – 47. The average age in Thuringia is 47 years. We want to work with Artificial Intelligence tools. Not because they are fashionable, but because they are already indispensable tools in the organization of human life.
Our experimentation and reflection have led to a first result, perhaps the one that could save us. Using the predictions for the Landtag elections in 2024, we had the AI calculate a mixed color of the colors of the parties represented in the Landtag parliament, black-blue-red-red-yellow-green: 4F283b – purple-red.
Deep, elegant, promising, religious: in my eyes it is the perfect color for Thuringia, for the land of Luther, Bach, Goethe, Schiller. However, this list should not make us forget that Thuringia became a model electoral district after the 1929 elections, won by the National Socialists. Much of what happened in Germany after the seizure of power in 1933 was conceived and tested in Thuringia. The Bauhaus was banned in 1925, and the Buchenwald concentration camp opened in 1937, with the gate bearing the inscription “Jedem das Seine” (To each his own) – mirrored so that only the inmates could read it.
Someone who has worked intensively on the representation of the Holocaust is the German painter Gerhard Richter. Some of the paintings he created of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp are currently on display in the exhibition “100 works for Berlin”, as a permanent loan to the Neue Nationalgalerie.
I met Gerhard Richter, first among the most sought-after contemporary artists in the world, in Rome in 1965. He held his first exhibition in Italy at the Galleria Tartaruga, on Via del Babbuino. Together with Lena, my wife at the time, we went around Rome, and we danced La Dolce Vita at the Piper Club. His painting, Cervo, cost 3,500 marks. I would have liked to buy it and thought about becoming a gallery owner, I was so enthusiastic about his paintings and drawings. Richter signed an autograph for me on the back of a Photo Booth photo, which had nothing on the front. A photo of the future, I told him. Years later, he painted gray, empty paintings.
There is also a mirror in the “100 Works” exhibition. Ready-made? When I photographed myself in the mirror, I discovered a background image that I had overlooked that now magically attracted me. An almost square painting entitled “Mirror, blood red, 1991, colored coated glass”.
Its red is like our red, born by experimenting with mixing the colors of the parties represented in the parliament of the Landtag of Thuringia.
A chance discovery? A coincidence? An exhortation? That the image we created should be seen as a symbol to bring to the electoral campaign? Put the people of Thuringia in front of our crimson image and ask them: How do you see the future of Thuringia? Do we place ourselves with the image on the steps of Erfurt Cathedral, as Greta Thunberg did in front of her school? The global movement Fridays for Future was born from her call to strike for the climate.
Diversity and freedom and democracy – all this (and much more) is promised by all parties represented in the Thuringian state parliament – including the AfD; otherwise, it would not be a party admitted to democratic elections.
Instead of 95 theses, post a photo? Perhaps at the Wartburg castle gate? All social struggles are about power and money and property.
Luther’s theses opposed the trade in indulgences, which was common at the time in the Catholic Church. A profitable business model that financed, among other things, the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica.
War and peace. A unit that excludes itself.
Cover Image: Image with Mixed Colors
Translation from German to Italian by Sandra Paoli
Translation from Italian to English by Paul Rosenberg
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