LAZNIA 1 2009 - Florian Wüst SCREAMING CITY: WEST BERLIN 1980s
13.06.2009, at 6 p.m.
Screaming City: West Berlin 1980s
Curated by Florian Wüst

In the decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a vast number of films were produced in and about West Berlin, dealing with the ambivalent realities of the enclosed city. Highly subsidized by the Federal Republic of Germany as a "shop window of the Free West", West Berlin had become an island, an inverted fortress for all those who saught to experience themselves without economical pressures, and to express themselves by all means. It wasn't about devoting oneself to the World Revolution anymore, but to implement alternative life styles and ways of housing, giving rise to social resistance, strident underground cultures and sexual border-crossing. Pessimism and apocalyptic moods, not least driven by the enhanced arms race and nuclear threats of the period, mixed with extravagance, punk and queerness.

Where images lived a special life inmidst the deadlock of socialist and capitalist ideologies that nowhere else materialized as spectacular as in the divided city of Berlin, an idiosyncratic crossover of music, performance, art and super-8 movement developed. For many young filmmakers, super-8 facilitated the production of low cost and truly independent films. The technical limitations of the medium embodied a strong means of spontaneity and purposeful dilettantism, while super-8 was easy to distribute and show in underground cinemas, clubs and cafés. Even institutions like the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (dffb) fostered a spirit of radical subjectivity and experimentation among students.

Screaming City: West Berlin 1980s presents a selection of short experimental films and music clips based on an extensive retrospective, entitled Who says concrete doesn't burn, have you tried?, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and Florian Wüst curated for Kino Arsenal, Berlin, in October 2006. Recently they published a book of the same title, with texts in German and English, addressing the specific social and cultural conditions of the enclosed city in a variety of ways seen from the present.

Norma L., Horst Markgraf, BRD 1983, 6'
Tattoo Suite, Rolf S. Wolkenstein, BRD 1984, 23'
Musterhaft – das Ende, ein Intermezzo, Michael Brynntrup, BRD 1985, 8'
a-b-city, Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, BRD 1985, 8'
Das Leben des Sid Vicious, Die Tödliche Doris, BRD 1981, 10'
Persona Non Grata, Christoph Doering, BRD 1981, 16'
Geld, Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, BRD 1983, 4'
Naturkatastrophenkonzert, Die Tödliche Doris, BRD 1983, 3'

Norma L.
Horst Markgraf, West Germany 1983, 6'

A young woman in a scarcely lit space, dressing up, polishing her nails, while the camera continuously drifts into darkness. A performance of solitude and vain, set to the music of The Birthday Party, with singer Nick Cave. The title of the film, Norma L., plays with the creation of a fictive persona that refers to the actress's fascination with Marilyn Monroe before she became a star, still known under her real name Norma Jeane Mortenson.

Tattoo Suite
Rolf S. Wolkenstein, West Germany 1984, 23'

During his studies at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (dffb), Rolf S. Wolkenstein sought for an unconventional film narrative that would reflect the multiplicitiy of impressions and influences he encountered as a young man in the divided city. Consequently, Tattoo Suite, an experimental film for which Wolkenstein collaborated with a vast number of friends, colleagues, and fellow filmmakers, presents a cluster of staged performances that are only connected through surreal cuts and radical changes of scenery, creating a collection of moods and figures capitivated by discommunication and isolation.

Musterhaft – das Ende, ein Intermezzo
Michael Brynntrup, West Germany 1985, 8'

Michael Brynntrup, one of the significant figures of the West Berlin super-8 scene and one of the most important queer experimental filmmakers of his generation, shot Musterhaft – das Ende, ein Intermezzo (Exemplary – The End, An Intermezzo) entirely in his apartment which at the time was adorned with all kinds of pictures and props, many of them skulls. Though never losing their connection to death, skulls keep recurring in Brynntrup's films, suggesting a provocative playfulness in the appropriation of the loaded symbol.

Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, West Germany 1985, 8'

Accompanied by a score composed of music by Pere Ubu and Einstürzende Neubauten, a-b-city revolves around West Berlin's psychodelic atmosphere. Brigitte Bühler and Dieter Hormel, who were renown for their fast paced and skillfully edited super-8 clips, mix TV images and time-lapse shots of nightly streets, drifting clouds, and a man continuously jumping in front of the Berlin Wall. The film brings about an impression of the enclosed city that constantly shifts between ecstacy and depression.

Das Leben des Sid Vicious
Die Tödliche Doris, West Germany 1981, 10'

Not long after the death of Sid Vicious from heroine overdose in 1979, Max Müller and Nikolaus Utermöhlen of Die Tödliche Doris (Deadly Doris) re-staged the life of the infamous bassist of the Sex Pistols. For the lead role, they chose Oskar, three-year-old son of Dagmar Dimitroff, drummer of Die Tödliche Doris. Babyish Sid with spiky hair waddles down a West Berlin street, wearing a ripped up Swastika T-shirt, before he eventually stabs his girl-friend Nancy Spungen on the bed, played by seven-year-old Angie. The insertion of children in such adult context (drugs, sex, punk, and the willful provocation of Nazi symbols) is alternately hilarious and shocking, a true expression of the experimental extravaganza and counterculture at the time.

Persona Non Grata
Christoph Doering, West Germany 1981, 16'

The world at war plays on a TV screen in an empty space. While the light sets over the city, a young man eventually takes the TV and throws it out of the window. This is the moment for him to head out into the dark, ecstatic jungle of the night full of punk music, drugs and wild drives on the city's highway. The films of Christoph Doering, who was a member of the artist group Notorische Reflexe, are key to West Berlin's notorious super-8 scene of the early 1980s.

Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, West Germany 1983, 4'

Even before music videos revolutionized the industry and MTV arrived in Germany, Geld (Money) was produced and released as a video clip for the all-female band Malaria!. Bühler and Hormel shot the band members around Gudrun Gut and Bettina Köster in an empty cellar. Streaks of light were projected onto the musician's faces and androgynous bodies, and refilmed on super-8 so that they seem to peek out from behind a layer of torn darkness. This low-tech effect combined with double exposure and cross fading creates a striking visualization of the nebulous lyrics of the song: "there is no clarity / there is no fog / ah, if I weren't hungy / how happy would I be / our belief is our world / our belief is our money."

Die Tödliche Doris, West Germany 1983, 3'

On a sand heap in front of the Berlin Wall, Die Tödliche Doris stages their Naturkatastrophenkonzert (Natural Catastrophy Concert), shot on video for West German TV.  After the microphone has been set on fire, short musical pieces are played in an overly amateurish fashion. The group around Wolfgang Müller, Käthe Kruse and Nikolaus Utermöhlen existed from 1980–87, and represented one of West Berlin's most idiosyncratic artistic formations that mixed music, art, performance, and film.
Municipal Institution of Culture