Turnen/Gymnastics

Photo: Chiara Faggionato

Turnen/Gymnastics: A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures is a site-specific exhibition about dissident bodies in the former gymnastics hall of the Stasi by Elske Rosenfeld, with works by Gabriele Stötzer, Wolfgang Scholz and Elske Rosenfeld in an installation by Andrea Pichl

In the films in this exhibition, bodies appear as agents and subjects of the specific forms of the political in the late GDR and in the revolution of 1989.

Gabriele Stötzer’s Veitstanz/Feixtanz (1988, Super 8, 25 min), shows a cast of characters from the different (non-)scenes of the late GDR – a punk, a pregnant woman, a dancer, a peacenik, an old woman, a football fan – dancing themselves into a trance in a setting chosen by each of them – on the sidewalk, on the roof-tops, by the river, on a playground, in front of a ruin, in the East German city of Erfurt – against a soundtrack of trams and passersby. For Spitze (1986 Super 8,12 mins) she asked a male friend to climb up phallic architectures. He later turns out to have spied on her for the Stasi.

Wolfgang Scholz’ Body Building (1988, 25 mins) is a documentary film about a male body-building group in Dresden and the time they spent torturing themselves on their self-made machines. We see them passing time in a training barracks: a rhythm of sweating bodies whose only aim it is to have larger muscles as symbol of greater strength. Body-building was considered a capitalist sport and frowned upon in the GDR.

Elske Rosenfeld’s edits of videos recorded by dissident film-maker Klaus Freymuth in 1989/90 – A bit of a Complex Situation (2014, 14 min) and Versuche/Framed (2018, 20 min) intensify the physical movements that are created when the experience of a (post-)revolutionary moment exceeds the currently sayable.

Andrea Pichl’s installation and display TSC (2019) sets these films into and against the disturbing aura of a room in which the Stasi took care of its employees through yoga and table tennis. “TSC” is short for Berliner Turn- und Sportclub e.V., the Berlin Gymnastics and Sportsclub that was founded as a counterpart to the sports clubs of the Army and the Police.

The exhibition is part of Elske Rosenfeld’s ongoing research into the body and revolution, “A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures”. Her book of the same name will come out at Archive Books in 2020.

Organised by Archive Kabinett e.V. under the artistic direction of Chiara Figone. The exhibition Turnen/Gymnastics: A Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures is supported by Haupstadtkulturfonds.

Photo: Chiara Faggionato
Photo: Kim Bode
Photo: Kim Bode