Artists & Agents – Online16. March 2020 - 01. June 2020 Online only
+++ The exhibition "Artists & Agents - Performance Art and Secret Services" has duely closed on 19 April 2020. To cover the time until the reopening of the HMKV with the next exhibition on 02 June, we are keeping this exhibition accessible for you here at Artists & Agents Online. On this site, we collect additional material, videos, podcasts, etc., which illuminate special aspects of the exhibition. You can also follow us on social media the hashtag #HMKVathome. +++
From a photograph as private memory, to a piece of] 'evidence' for the Stasi, and finally to an art object:
In 2007, Alba D’Urbano discovered a 25-year-old photograph of her colleague Tina Bara, also a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig (HGB), in an exhibition of the Spanish artist Dora Garcia in the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst (Contemporary Art Gallery) in Leipzig. The (anonymous) black-and-white photograph, which is also reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalogue, shows Tina Bara naked with a black bar over her eyes, together with the line of text “BStUKopie MfS HA XX/Fo/689 Bild 9.” The photo is part of a private black-and-white photo bundle from 1983 which the Stasi had confiscated in the context of Operation “Wasps.” Dora Garcia uses this material as a ready-made, without however researching the origin of the images in detail. “Wasp Files” was the Stasi’s codename for the “women for peace” who were engaged in the GDR in the 1980s for demilitarization, disarmament, and peace-oriented child education.
Learn more about how the artists went about re-appropriating the photographic material - including its story - after these as violently experienced expropriations, in their video documentary.
Cover Girl: Wasp File (Story Tales), video “Re-action”, 60:00 min., 2008–09
COURTESY: ALBA D’URBANO, TINA BARA
The ‘reading room’ in our exhibition presented eight case files that provide an in-depth look into the working methods of secret services – as well as into their distrust of artists.
Artists were often directly summoned to interviews by the Stasi. This was a typical „disruption measure“ with the purpose of „undermining self-confidence“. There were also cases where citizens were summoned to fake, „legendated discussions,“ i.e. to interviews whose purpose was to stoke suspicion that the summoned person was working with the state. These were „discussions“ where both of the examining Stasi officers were interested not only in the artists but also in action art as a genre. State security feared action art – as a genre from the West, as a praxis of the historical avant-garde, as an unpredictable event.
Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), GDR: „But this kind of action art is a little foreign to me – A Discussion“ (German only)
Audio recording of a transcript of an audio recording, abridged and redacted by the curators
Source: BSTU, MFS HA II TB 198 ROT
For reasons of privacy, we present here a recording spoken by actors which avoids references to any specific actions.
Kata Krasznahorkai on the audio recording from the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), GDR (German only)
In this podcast the co-curator of the exhibition „Artists & Agents – Performance Art and Secret Services“, KataKrasznahorkai, talks about a chance discovery in the archive of the BstU (Federal Commissioner for Records of the the State Security Service) in Berlin.
„Artists & Agents" – Sylvia Sasse on the relationship between artists and secret services
"It's about showing the massive interferences into people's lives." – Using examples from the exhibition, curator Sylvia Sasse shows the extent of disinformation and 'decomposition' of artists by secret services in the former socialist states, which goes far beyond simple observation. These cases demonstrate that those conflicts are not an issue of the past, but continue to this day.
“Artists & Agents” - Kata Krasznahorkai on the curious case of László Algol
Artist or agent? The man with long hair and a blue shirt introduced himself as László Algol in artistic circles around György Galántai. But his real name was Gusztáv M. Hábermann. Hábermann/Algol worked under the alias "Pécsi Zoltán" for the Hungarian State Security, in the end as a full-time officer.
Curator Kata Krasznahorkai talks about this particularly exciting case in which an artist was at the same time an agent and spied on an entire art scene.
"The si(l)ence of Clara Mosch is Underrated" – Searching for traces
What happens if you take the reports of the Stasi seriously? In September 2019, the three curators Sylvia Sasse, Kata Krasznahorkai, and Inke Arns undertook an experiment: Using the Stasi files on the artists' group "Clara Mosch," they tried to find the exact location where the group had held a happening in 1980. Kurt Buchwald, an artist friend, celebrated his birthday together with "Clara Mosch" on this day. Slogans were written with paint on the country road near Dittmannsdorf. Ralf-Rainer Wasse, a friend and photographer of the group "Clara Mosch", wrote a particularly provocative message on the street: “Das Sch(w)eigen von Clara Mosch wird unterbewertet” ("The si(l)ence of Clara Mosch is underrated"). An allusion to Joseph Beuys' action "The silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated" from 1964, but the slogan can also be read as a protest against the closure of the group's gallery. Why the "w" is missing in the word "Schweigen" is not known. Buchwald suspects a reference of Wasse to himself, a kind of signature of his work.
Artist and agent in a double role
As it turned out later, Wasse, alias IM "Frank Körner", was a long-time Stasi informer. With his photos he documented the group's actions both for artistic as well as for purposes of observation. It was not until four years after the happening - in 1984 - that he wrote his report on the "smearing" and blamed the slogan on Buchwald. In the Stasi file we see forensic photos of half crumbled letters that were meticulously measured. But why was this report written four years after the "crime"? At the time, Buchwald was trying to gain admission to the Artists’ Association (Verband bildender Künstler) - and the report by Wasses was intended to compromise Buchwald ("Compromat"). Buchwald was accepted anyway.
The curators’ research trip to Dittmannsdorf was a success thanks to local help: With the enthusiastic assistance of Enrico Münzner, chairman of the Dittmannsdorf local history association, and the Chemnitz taxi driver Toni Baeßler, and with the help of Wasse’s photos, it was possible to find the exact site, which has since been covered over. The Stasi files only gave a rudimentary and rather inaccurate picture of the location on the country road. Nobody in the village could remember the happening or the writing, not even the elderly former LPG farmers who were phoned.
In Dittmannsdorf, the research trip led to the (re)discovery of an unknown chapter of the village’s history which has so far received little attention from art history. The slogan "The Si(l)ence of Clara Mosch is underrated"- forgotten for over 40 years - has now found its way into the village’s everyday culture since its use at this year's carnival meeting.
Read more about the group "Clara Mosch" and the Stasi strategies of surveillance and subversion of artists in the magazine accompanying the exhibition. It can be downloaded as a free PDF from the website.
You will find press material on this program item in our press area.