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Open letter against giving AfD a stage in Zurich theatre

March 1, 2017

OPEN LETTER

Dear Gessnerallee Team, dear organizers of the upcoming discussion panel “The New Avant-Garde” on March 17th, 2017,

You have decided to invite the AfD [Alternative for Germany] politician Marc Jongen to sit on the panel of your event “The New Avant-Garde”. In your announcement of the event, you describe him (in keeping with his own self-description) as being “avantgard-conservative” (sic.) From the early 20th century on, the term ‘avant-garde’ – originally of military origin – came to describe – both in the arts, as well as in politics – a radical severance from tradition and a concept of progress, mainly expressed in blueprints of a communist utopia. The many reasons behind attempts by the extreme right to appropriate this term are not addressed by the constellation of the panel. Even worse: the term is simply handed over. Thus uncommented, it takes on a dangerous appeal for those with little political experience, radical chic.

Marc Jongen is one of the most sophisticated speakers (demagogues) in ranks of the AfD. To place him on a panel and speak of an “experiment”, demonstrates naivety. His application of Sloterdijk’s political-psychological experiment Rage and Time (2006) in the AfD has been carefully planned for years and is ideologically firmly ingrained. Beyond any ostensible analysis, it has already become a clear guideline for action – every time a theatre event is disturbed, every attack on a leftist bookstore, every burning refugee shelter is an applied case of “rage politics” legitimized by this very discourse.

What exactly are the “rage politics” of the AfD? For Jongen – as for Sloterdijk – “thymos” stands for rage, pride, and courage. This ideology not only sheds an entirely different light on a wide range of direct rage politics within the right-wing extremist movements, e.g. Pegida street fighting, “subversive activity” (a term originally coined by the SDS – Socialist German Student Union, later adopted by Götz Kubitschek), “aesthetic intervention” (a likewise previously leftist term adopted into the jargon of the “Identitarians”), it also permeates representative party politics – thus bringing both sides together. Jongen’s “superstructure” aims to merge both extra-parliamentary and internal parliamentary “thymotic energies”. Just recently, Jongen spoke at Kubitschek’s “Institute for State Policy” (IfS) about a lack of “thymos tension”, when he argued in favor of “civil disobedience”. Do we really want to wait and see which strategies this “rage rationalizer of the AfD” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) recommends next when placed on a panel about the avant-garde?

The list of examples of how this “thymotic energy” is seeping into culture, is currently growing longer and longer. The AfD has called for a cultural-political “turn of memory” towards romanticism, an “era, in which we Germans came into our own” (AfD-member of the parliament in Saxony-Anhalt Hans-Thomas Tillschneider). What this really means for arts and culture in AfD-governed states, becomes evident in the following examples of recent attacks on culture:

– In January 2017, a right-wing mob protested against an art installation by Syrian artist Manaf Halbouni in front of the Frauenkirche in Dresden.

– Recently, four actors and actresses terminated their contracts in Altenburg, among them Ouelgo Téné from Burkina Faso, who played the “Captain of Köpenick”. Reasons given were: right-wing aggression and attacks.

– In November 2016, there was a bomb attack on the Lokomov Cultural Center in Chemnitz, where a theater project was commemorating the murders committed by the NSU (National Socialist Underground). Neonazis had previously also beat up visitors and thrown bags of paint and stones at the building.

– In October 2016, the AfD protested against Kevin Rittberger’s piece “Peak White oder Wirr sinkt das Volk“ in front of the Theater Heidelberg. At the same time, the AfD city council called for six positions in the ensemble to be cut, by posting a photo of Rittberger’s production on Facebook, which featured exactly those six actors on stage.

– In late 2016, the AfD called for a stop of the dance theater project “Das Fremde so nah“ (“The Foreign So Close”) at the Anhaltische Theater in Dessau. The AfD described the production, featuring Syrian and German teenagers and young adults, as a “manipulative theater project” aimed at “driving out and negating the differentiation between own and foreign out of our teenagers” (Gottfried Backhaus, AfD-member of the parliament in Saxony-Anhalt).

The fact that two of the guests invited by the Gessnerallee – both the AfD politician as well as Jörg Scheller, art historian at the ZHDK Zurich – have a partly overlapping analysis, as revealed in prior dispute between them, such as an open distaste for political correctness and what they call “repressive tolerance” (for which they actually used gender mainstreaming as an example) – bodes ill for the direction that the upcoming event may take: the term “repressive tolerance” as used by right-wing politicians not only conceals actual repression, as emanating from an openly racist political party, but also negates and twists the history of the term which dates back to Herbert Marcuse and the leftist movement. What we really need is to reinstate this knowledge and reappropriate the term in order to critically unmask a growing, right-wing conservative to extremist ideology of “security”, discrimination and isolationism. Instead Jongen’s conspiracy theories are granted ample space to rant against “those up there”, leftist liberals and “leftist fascists” – with uncommented links posted online next to the announcement of the event.

The “crucial question” posed by Jörg Scheller: “how do the new nationalist and right-wing conservatives see liberals” is formulated in such a way that it sounds like no more than a homage to the opponent and not worthy of much further consideration. In our opinion the really crucial question is: wouldn’t an institution such as the Gessnerallee probably be first on an AfD list for elimination?

With all this in mind, we call on you and all other theaters and theater makers to not provide a stage for the AfD.

With solidarity towards all, who stand up against hate,

Signed by                                                                               Berlin, 24.2.2017

Kevin Rittberger, Autor und Regisseur, Berlin
Joy Kristin Kalu, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Kuratorin, Berlin
Alex Karschnia, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Nicola Nord, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Sascha Sulimma, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Florian Thamer, EGfKA, Berlin
Tina Turnheim, EGfKA, Berlin
Konstanze Schmitt, Künstlerin und Regisseurin, Berlin
Simone Dede Ayivi, Theatermacherin, Berlin
Matthias Naumann, Futur II Konjunktiv, Berlin
Elena Polzer, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Sandra Klöss, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Ulf Wuggenig, Dekan Fakultät Kulturwissenschaften, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Dr. Cornelia Sollfrank, Künstlerin und Commons-Forscherin, Berlin/ Zürich
Diedrich Diedrichsen, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien
Necati Öziri, Autor und Dramaturg, Berlin
Tobias Herzberg, Regisseur und Autor, Berlin/ Zürich
Aljoscha Begrich, Dramaturg, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Irina Szodruch, Dramaturgin, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Ludwig Haugk, Leitender Dramaturg, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Sebastian Huber, Leitender Dramaturg, Residenztheater München
Holger Bergmann, Kurator, Ruhrgebiet/ Berlin
Sandra Umathum, Professorin für Theaterwissenschaft und Dramaturgie, Berlin
Falk Richter, Autor und Regisseur, Berlin
Dirk von Lowtzow, Musiker, Berlin
Dr. Nanna Lüth, Juniorprofessur Kunstdidaktik/ Geschlechterforschung, UdK Berlin
Sonja Hornung, freie Künstlerin, Berlin
Marc Schäfers, Verleger, Köln
Wolfram Lotz, Schriftsteller, Leipzig
Daniel Richter, Dramaturg, Berliner Festspiele
Tobias Schuster, Leitender Dramaturg, Schauspielhaus Wien
Samuel Weiss, Schauspieler, Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg
Silke Ballath, Kulturagentin für kreative Schulen, Berlin
Veronika Albrandt, Künstlerin/Mathematikerin, Berlin
Rafael Cardoso, Schriftsteller, Berlin
Imanuel Schipper, Dramaturg und Theaterwissenschaftler, Hamburg
Chang Nai Wen, SdF-Sisyphos, der Flugelefant, Berlin
Benny Drechsel, Filmproduzent, Leipzig
Janina Möbius, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Filmemacherin, Berlin
Johannes Müller, Regisseur, Berlin
Michael Lorber, Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Jörg Albrecht, Schriftsteller, Berlin
Mariama Diagne, M.A., Tanzwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Julius Heinicke, Kultur- und Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Anna Mareike Holtz, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Katharina Rost, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Hauke Heumann, Schauspieler, Berlin
Gesine Hohmann, Performerin, Duisburg
Olivia Wenzel, Autorin, Berlin
Moritz Gagern, freischaffender Komponist und Dramaturg, Berlin
Jan Deck, Freier Theaterschaffender, Frankfurt/Main
Natascha Siouzouli, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Therese Schmidt, Regisseurin und Autorin, Performing Arts Programm Berlin
Sandra Wrampelmeyer, Soziale Arbeit, Berlin
Janina Benduski, Berlin
Stefan Sahlmann, Berlin
Elke Weber, Kulturmanagerin, Berlin
Kristin Flade, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Lilian Seuberling, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Julia Wolf, Schriftstellerin, Leipzig/Berlin
Lena Mody, Bühnen- und Kostümbildnerin, Berlin
Susanne Foellmer, Tanz- und Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin/Coventry
Karina Rocktäschel, Studierende der Theaterwissenschaft, Berlin
Julian Kamphausen, Kurator, Berlin
Nicola Schmidt, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Dramaturgin, Berlin
Jens Lüstraeten, Videokünstler, Berlin
Alisa Tretau, Regisseurin, Berlin
Steffen Klewar, Regisseur, copy & waste, Berlin
Sylvia Schwarz, Schauspielerin, Berlin
Nadia Shehadeh, Soziologin, Bielefeld
Antje Prust, Regisseurin und Performerin, Berlin
Katharina Kellermann, Audiokünstlerin Swoosh Lieu, Hamburg
Mariam Soufi Siavash, Theater im Pavillon, Hannover
Veronika Gerhard, Künstlerin und Filmemacherin, Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin
Dr. Azadeh Sharifi, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Golschan Ahmad Haschemi, Kulturwissenschaftlerin und Performerin, Hannover
Frederik Müller, Regisseur, Autor, Performer (Kollektiv Technocandy), Berlin
Maren Barnikow Kulturwissenschaftlerin, Gera
Maximilian Marcoll, Komponist, Berlin
Steffi Weismann, Künstlerin, Berlin
Julia*n Meding, Theatermacher*in und Musiker*in, Berlin
Maike Tödter, Produktionsleiterin, Hamburg
Ivar Thomas van Urk, Regisseur, Berlin
Michael Wächter, Schauspieler, Theater Basel
Prof. Dr. Steffi Richter, Japanologin, Kyoto-Universität, Japan
Hildegard Bockhorst, Projektreferentin Kulturelle Bildung, Berlin
Anja Kraus, Professorin für Pädagogik, Växjö, Schweden
Rahel Puffert, Kulturwissenschaftlerin und Kunstvermittlerin, Hamburg/Oldenburg
Hugo Holger Busse, Architekt u. Kurator, Berlin
Anne Brammen, Dramaturgin, Berlin
Franziska Rieder, Fotografin, Berlin
Florian Evers, M.A., Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Judith Philipp, Bühnen- und Kostümbildnerin, Berlin
Elsa Lindig, Performerin bei Hysterisches Globusgefühl, Dresden/Berlin
Simke Kalu-Preussner, Hebamme, Oldenburg
Johannes Birlinger, freier Musiker, Berlin/Helsinki
Alexander Ostojski, Performing Arts Festival, Berlin

The list is updated on a regular basis.If you would like to sign, please send your name, occupation, city of the following address: offenerbriefgessnerallee@gmail.com

Translation by Elena Polzer

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