Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Harald Hauswald and the other face of the GDR

Life in the German Democratic Republic had two faces. One modeled and promoted by the government, and a second one, which many claim to be the real one. Information on the mood of the population and the general living conditions was classified top secret. If someone wanted to show what he deemed to call the real face of the country, s/he would suffer from libel and slander, discrimination and persecution.

One of those people was Harald Hauswald, who remained true to his artistic principles of depicting the country and its citizens in its actual condition. On his photographs people tend to look lonely and exhausted, cities appear grey and deserted. State authorities labeled him a provocateur and a public enemy because he did not refrain from publishing his pictures in West German journals like Stern, taz or GEO. In its operations State Security Service nicknamed him “Radfahrer” (Biker).

Taking Hauswald’s case as an example Marc Thümmler in his film “Radfahrer” tries to show us how the authorities tried to suppress dissenting voices and alternative perspectives. The film is also a retrospective demonstration of how deeply rooted Hauswald’s photography was in the reality of life in the GDR. Viewers are confronted with a sequence of photographs which is contrasted with Stasi files read from the off by Klaus Wiesinger. It is not only the obvious content which makes this film worth watching; some might recognize its remarkable quality to be understood as a parable on how different our perception and judgment of reality can be, according to which senses we rely on.


10 May to 14 May at Tilsiter Lichtspiele (18:00)

1 August, 22 August at Free University Berlin (14:00)

13 September at Samariterkirche Berlin-Friedrichshain.

See a recent interpretation of Hauswald's oeuvre as part of "Ideological locations and dis-locations" (by Jutta Vinzent).