89/19 beyond revolution

, 2019

Die Arbeit 89/19 entstand im Rahmen des Projekts "Private Fotografien in Ostdeutschland zwischen 1984 und 2000" in Kooperation mit Dr. Friedrich Tietjen und der Stadt Leipzig anläßlich des 30. Jahrestages der Leipziger Montagsdemonstrationen. Ausgangspunkt meiner künstlerischen Aneignung sind Amateurfotografien, die dort um den Jahreswechsel 1989/90 entstanden. Die Losungen und Forderungen sind kontrovers. Die Mauer ist bereits auf, der politische Wandel innerhalb der DDR wird nicht mehr stattfinden. Für meine Arbeit interessierte mich, der Zufälligkeit, den Einzelnen, ihrem Schauen, ihren Gesten und Interaktionen, die mit jeder politischen und demokratischen Bewegung einhergehen, Raum und somit dem Vergangenen einen Bezug in die Gegenwart zu geben.
Die Urheberin der von mir verwendeten Fotografien ist die Amateurfotografin Maria Notbohm. "Ich bin aus Interesse am Zeitgeschehen auf die Demonstrationen gegangen. Die Leute riefen mir zu: Ja, halt das fest. Hier wird Geschichte geschrieben."

June 2019, Leipzig
Gesine and Maria
Two conversations


It irritated me that Gesine insisted in our conversation that something special was happening between people on the demonstration marches back then. I thought that her disappointment about what it had become just a few months later, or the little that remained of it, should be stronger. She was neither unrealistic nor vain in her role as a contemporary witness. It was me, representative of the following generation, who had brought her prejudices, her story about a failed and designated revolution. Gesine spoke of the moment when the crowds joined them as an engine that could carry us together into the future.


Maria does not explain much. She doesn't like to be the centre of attention, neither as a person nor with her opinion. She said she just photographed everything that came in front of her camera. People would have shouted at her, "Yes, hold that! History is being made here!"


Gesine Oltmanns, civil rights activist, co-initiator of the Leipzig Monday demonstrations in 1989, board of directors of the Peaceful Revolution Foundation
Maria Notbohm, rower in the national team of the GDR, physiotherapist and amateur photographer is the author of the photographs I use


The starting point for the artistic work 89/19 beyond revolution are photographs of the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig by the amateur photographer Maria Notbohm. The photographs around the turn of the year 1989/90 document - if you want to see it that way - the dying moment of political change in the GDR; the revolutionary awakening is just being laid to rest. Nevertheless, people are working out a democratic format together. They chant, wait, demonstrate. They are astonished, full of expectations, demanding. The individual who happens to look into the camera, the man looking back, open glances, people who seem to be in the crowd and with themselves at the same time. People 30 years ago were uncertain, expectant, sceptical. In any case, they had a future-oriented idea of something good. What meaning can this have for us today?

Open to All was the message of the early initiators of the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. Until 9 October 1989, the demonstrations were also a dangerous place. After that, they were already an outlet for many and many things. Right-wing radicals also marched. The revolutionary movement that the civil rights activists had set in motion was virtually buried by the opening of the Wall on 9 November 1990. Every Monday, the masses continued to march towards Germany united as a fatherland. I spoke about this with the former civil rights activist Gesine Oltmanns and asked her if she was disappointed about the developments. She answered me that it was not relevant. "What is relevant in retrospect is the moment when everyone joined in and demonstrated peacefully with each other for change. What happened in 1989 remains as a kind of engine: it was and is possible."

The awkward, flawed amateur photography formally relates to this to a tee. Cropped, over-flashed heads, faulty perspectives - the photographer is right in the middle of the action in various ways. When selecting and editing the original material, I focused on the presence of the individual people, on those who stand out from the crowd because of the composition of the picture, because they stay behind or happen to look directly into the camera. The random glances caught by the camera show expectation and readiness. Hopes and wishes for a positive but uncertain future are in these looks. The flip side of the same coin is scepticism, fear and anger. Individuals are diverse, but within the photographic image, each person is guaranteed his/her place in the crowd.


This work was made possible thanks to ...


My artistic research project on Private Photographs in East Germany between 1980 and 2000 received second place in the Ideas Competition for the City of Leipzig's Light Festival 2019 in December 2018 and was made possible with funding from the City of Leipzig. Art historian Dr Friedrich Tietjen is instrumental in the development of this work. I got to know the Leipzig amateur photographer Maria Notbohm, who made her photographs available to me. Maria has been taking photos intensively since the 1970s, worked in the photo club, took part in city and district competitions. She attended the Monday demonstrations from the end of 1989 out of interest. When the chants "Germany united fatherland" increased and soon replaced the shouts "We are the people", she went along as a detached observer. Her goal was to capture the events of the day with her camera. Gesine Oltmanns is a civil rights activist, one of the initiators of the Leipzig Monday demonstrations in 1989 and a board member of the Friedliche Revolution Foundation.