Clearances. Reading by Manuela Koelke and screening of Harun Farocki’s The Leading Role (1994).
Presented at TIER The Institute of Endotic Research, Wednesday, October 23, 2019 as part of Objects Before and After the Wall, Part 3.

“For the third part of Objects Before and After the Wall at TIER, a collaboration with Tlaxcala 3 in Mexico City, Manuela Koelke will investigate her experiences of East Berlin, and we will screen Harun Farocki’s film The Leading Role (1994). Both works reflect on the role subjective experiences and conflicting media narratives play in the capture, remembrance and re-writing of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In her reading, Manuela Koelke revisits her childhood experience of growing up in East Berlin before and after the fall of the wall in November 1989, which brought about a sudden change of appearances, people disappearing, the economy crumbling, ideologies shifting, socialized land and goods being privatized, and new commodities flooding the East. But what really changed, from whose perspective? How do the subjective micro-stories of those who lived through these events relate to the state-sanctioned and media-driven narrative, then as now? How is the conflict between personal and collective affectedness to be understood, considering walls both within and outside? This foray into memories will question the value of being persuaded by any one perspective, whether personal or collective, and instead emphasize the need to make up one’s own mind, not to uncritically believe what the media claims to be true, and to find one’s own answers by relating to motivations other than one’s own.
Five years after the fall of the wall, Harun Farocki’s film The Leading Role (1994) delivers a montage film of media footage, produced by East and West German television crews at that time trying, for days on end, to get an emblematic image which would crystallize the event. In the attempt to define this ‘absent image’, “[…] this material shows the extent to which the collective conscience was affected by the event, as well as all the efforts made to repress the trauma” (Harun Farocki).”

Clearances © TIER – Institute of Endotic Research

The publication Objects Before and After the Wall was launched in an online conversation on Wednesday, June 10, 7pm together with the editors Benjamin Busch and Lorenzo Sandoval, and the contributors Tlaxcala3 (Ali Cotero and Clara Bolivar), Rodolfo Andaur, Eli Cortiñas, Manuela Koelke and Sung Tieu. Continue reading

Just A Little Worse

This is my quick and rough translation of Michel Houellebecq’s open letter about the pandemic published on Radio France, May 4, 2020:


Just A Little Worse
Answers to some friends

It has to be admitted: most of the emails exchanged in recent weeks were primarily aimed at checking that the person they were talking to was not dead or dying. But, once this verification was done, we still tried to say interesting things, which wasn’t easy, because this epidemic managed the feat of being both frightening and boring at the same time. A banal virus, with little or no reputation compared to obscure flu viruses, with poorly known conditions of survival, with unclear characteristics, sometimes benign, sometimes deadly, not even sexually transmissible: in short, a virus without qualities. This epidemic may have killed a few thousand people every day around the world, but it nevertheless produced the curious impression of being a non-event. In fact, my esteemed colleagues (some of them, nevertheless, are esteemed) did not talk about it so much, they preferred to address the issue of containment; and here I would like to add my contribution to some of their observations.

Frédéric Beigbeder (from Guéthary, Pyrénées-Atlantiques). A writer doesn’t see many people anyway, he lives like a hermit with his books, confinement doesn’t change much. I completely agree, Frédéric, when it comes to social life, it doesn’t make much difference. But there’s one point you forget to consider (probably because, living in the country, you’re less of a victim of the forbidden): a writer needs to walk.

This confinement seems to me the ideal occasion to settle an old Flaubert-Nietzsche quarrel. Somewhere (I’ve forgotten where) Flaubert says that people only think and write well when they’re seated. Protests and mockery of Nietzsche (I’ve also forgotten where), who goes so far as to call him nihilist (so it happens at a time when he had already begun to use the word wrongly and incorrectly): he himself conceived all his works by walking, everything that is not conceived in walking is null and void, moreover he has always been a Dionysian dancer, etc. Hardly suspicious of any exaggerated sympathy for Nietzsche, I must however admit that in this case it is rather he who is right. Trying to write if one does not have the possibility, during the day, of walking for several hours at a sustained pace, is strongly to be discouraged: the accumulated nervous tension does not manage to dissolve, thoughts and images continue to spin painfully in the poor head of the author, who quickly becomes irritable, even mad. Continue reading

A Climate of Suspicion, Uncertainty and Denunciation

Here’s my translation of Aleida Assmann’s contribution to the debate on Mbembe, and the relation between (non-)antisemitism and postcolonial studies:


A Climate of Suspicion, Uncertainty and Denunciation[1]

After the attacks on the director of the Ruhr-Triennale, Stephanie Carp, and the philosopher Achille Mbembe: suggestions for a more clearly formulated concept of antisemitism.

Germany has not only an old, but also a new antisemitism problem. The identity of the Germans cannot be detached from the Holocaust. The responsibility for this crime against humanity is linked to a special responsibility for the State of Israel. This responsibility is not only part of the German raison d’être of the state, but also shows itself in the close cooperation with people in this state and its institutions. It borders on being a miracle that Jews of the third and fourth generation are once again living in Germany after the Holocaust and have found a basis for their existence here.

It is all the more shocking that this Jewish life in Germany is now under dramatic threat. Wearing kippas makes people the target of verbal and physical attacks, Jewish community facilities are no longer safe and finally the attack in Halle suddenly calls into question everything that has grown and been achieved in this country. We cannot rest easy, the spread of the poison of antisemitism in right-wing extremist groups and on the internet has reached a new level of escalation and requires decisive action by the police forces, clear positions from politicians and the vigilance of all citizens. This fight against antisemitism needs all our efforts and should thus be unanimous by all means. Unfortunately, it is precisely this unanimity that is disturbed by a debate that distracts from this important task, confuses minds and targets the wrong opponents.

Targeted are the director of the Ruhr-Triennale, Stephanie Carp, and the philosopher Achille Mbembe, whose texts suddenly appear in the public spotlight and have found many readers who read them with only one interest: to discover suspicious statements in them. Jürgen Kaube immediately found what he was looking for in the FAZ and promptly confirmed the accusation of antisemitism based on the ‘fruits’ (findings) of his reading. The consequences of this hermeneutics of suspicion are severe for people in leading positions; they must expect to be dismissed and to face permanent stigmatization because the cultural-political spokesman of the FDP, Lorenz Deutsch, the antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein and the Central Council of Jews have turned this into a case. Continue reading

Off the Beaten Track [Holzwege]

by Martin Heidegger

The future human being is about to experience a contestation of the nature and history of Western metaphysics. Only in this contemplation, the transition to the planetary Dasein of man will be accomplished and this world-historical Dasein will be attainable as a grounded one.
Holzwege constitutes attempts of such contemplation. Outwardly, they present themselves as a collection of lectures about things that bear no relation to one another.
Thought of the matter as such, everything is in a hidden and strictly constructed harmony.
None of the paths is to be taken unless the others have been trodden. In their unity, they show a piece of the way of thinking that the author has meanwhile tried to pursue since Being and Time.

They are going astray.
But they do not lose their way.


Translation (by Manuela Koelke) of Martin Heidegger, “Holzwege,” in: Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens. 1910-1976. Gesamtausgabe Band 13. Klostermann, Frankfurt a.M., 1983, p. 91.

Life without Property. The “Groundlessness” of Anarchist Settler Movements

My recent article, “Life without Property. The “Groundlessness” of Anarchist Settler Movements” is one of many contributions to the essay collection Architecture on Common Ground. Positions and Models on the Land Property Issue, edited by Prof. Florian Hertweck and just published in German with Lars Müller Publishers / University of Luxemburg.

“The book addresses the ways we deal with land and its far-reaching implications for architecture and urban development. The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in the privatization of urban land and in speculation. Many European cities that today find themselves under extreme development pressure have virtually no land left to build on. In view of the acute housing shortage, the issue of who owns the land is therefore more relevant than ever: To what extent are we able to treat the land as a common good and guard it from the excesses of capitalism?[…]
After a number of specialist journals have already addressed the land property issue, this book aims to dig deeper by providing a historical overview spanning an arc from Henry George to the present day. Interviews with stakeholders in global models provide insights into the current handling of the issue. The book presents outstanding projects based on either a legal or spatial distribution of land and thus makes a valuable contribution to the current discussion on sustainable land policy.”[1]

Continue reading