5-2 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.TGVC.5-2.8 | Artist Port­fo­lio | Draeger Baden PDF


This con­tri­bu­tion intro­duces to the video instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber (2002) by Swiss artist Christoph Draeger and presents state­ments of the artist giv­en in an inter­view in 2012. Draeger col­lects media rep­re­sen­ta­tions of dis­as­ters in order to recon­fig­ure their inher­ent sen­sa­tion­al­ism lat­er in his art­works. The video instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber  con­sists of appro­pri­at­ed footage from a doc­u­men­tary movie and video sequences from a re-enact­ment of the his­tor­i­cal events of Sep­tem­ber 5th 1972, the ter­ror­ist attack dur­ing the 20th Olympic Games in Munich. Even the artist him­self gets involved in the play in his mimikry of a hostage-tak­er and ter­ror­ist. Thus he ques­tions the con­di­tions of the mutu­al con­sti­tu­tion of cul­tur­al mem­o­ry and col­lec­tive mem­o­ry. His video instal­la­tion cre­ates a “counter image” in reac­tion to the “omnipresent myth of ter­ror­ism”, gen­er­at­ed by the tragedy of 9/11 and the media reports in its after­math. Both ter­ror­ist attacks, in Munich 1972 and in New York 2001, mark a turn­ing point in the visu­al dom­i­nance of ter­ror­ism. In the case of Sep­tem­ber 11th, the recur­ring images of the air­plane-attacks and the explo­sion of the WTC, fol­lowed by its col­laps­ing, sym­bol­ize the lega­cy of the “ter­ror of atten­tion”, that would affect every spec­ta­tor. The video ques­tions the lim­its of the “dis­as­ter zone” in fic­tion­al real­i­ty and mass media. The art­work re-cre­ates cen­tral scenes of the event in 1972. It brings the ter­ror­ist action close to the spec­ta­tor through emer­sive images, but tech­ni­cal­ly obtains a crit­i­cal dis­tance through its mode of reflec­tion upon the catastrophe.The instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber stim­u­lates and sim­u­lates his­to­ry and mem­o­ry simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. It fills the void of a trau­mat­ic nar­ra­tive and tries to recap­ture the signs that have been unknown yet.

On présente ici l’installation ciné­matographique Black Sep­tem­ber (2002) de l’artiste suisse Christoph Draeger, accom­pa­g­née des com­men­taires de l’auteur recueil­lis lors d’un entre­tien don­né en 2012. Draeger rassem­ble dif­férentes représen­ta­tions médi­a­tiques de cat­a­stro­phes dans le but de recon­fig­ur­er leur sen­sas­sion­al­isme dans ses oeu­vres. L’installation Black Sep­tem­ber se com­pose de séquences d’un film doc­u­men­taire et de vidéos enreg­istrées lors d’une recon­sti­tu­tion his­torique des événe­ments du 5 sep­tem­bre 1972, l’attaque ter­ror­iste des vingtièmes jeux olympiques à Munich. L’artiste lui-même par­ticipe à la pièce et inter­prète le rôle d’un pre­neur d’otages. Il inter­roge ain­si les con­di­tions de la for­ma­tion simul­tanée d’une mémoire cul­turelle et d’une mémoire col­lec­tive. Son instal­la­tion pro­pose une « image à rebours » en réac­tion au « mythe omniprésent du ter­ror­isme » généré par la tragédie du 11 sep­tem­bre ses représen­ta­tions médi­a­tiques. Les deux attaques ter­ror­istes, de Munich en 1972 et de New York en 2001, sym­bol­isent une vic­toire médi­a­tique pour le ter­ror­isme. Dans le cas du 11 sep­tem­bre, c’est à tra­vers la répéti­tion des images témoignant des attaques aéri­ennes et de l’effondrement du World Trade Cen­ter que le legs de la « ter­reur médi­a­tique » s’installe. La vidéo inter­roge les lim­ites de « la zone de cat­a­stro­phe » dans la réal­ité fic­tion­nelle et les médias de masse. L’oeuvre recrée des scènes cen­trales des événe­ments de 1972. Les images entraî­nent les spec­ta­teurs au coeur de l’action ter­ror­iste, alors qu’en par­al­lèle la tech­nic­ité du mode de réflex­ion sur la cat­a­stro­phe crée une dis­tance cri­tique. L’installation Black Sep­tem­ber stim­ule et simule à la fois l’histoire et la mémoire. Elle rem­plit les blancs d’une nar­ra­tion trau­ma­tique et tente de cap­tur­er des signes encore incon­nus.

Intro­duc­tion and inter­view | Sebas­t­ian Baden

Skype video-inter­view at Uni­ver­sität der Bun­deswehr (Uni­ver­si­ty of the Ger­man Army), Munich, Ger­many, August 31, 2012

Shooting History:
An Interview with Swiss artist Christoph Draeger about the reenactment of terrorism in his video installation Black September (2002)

Fig. 1: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

The fol­low­ing skype-inter­view with Swiss Artist Christoph Draeger was con­duct­ed on August 31, 2012, dur­ing the 11th work­shop of the Ger­man Net­work for Ter­ror­ism-Research (NTF) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Ger­man Army in Munich. The Eng­lish trans­la­tion is an abridged ver­sion of the orig­i­nal Ger­man-lan­guage inter­view. The artist talks about the pro­duc­tion back­ground to his video instal­la­tion, Black Sep­tem­ber (2002). Draeger’s art­work can be under­stood as a “counter image”[1] cre­at­ed by the artist in reac­tion to the “omnipresent myth of ter­ror­ism” (Ammann 28), gen­er­at­ed by the tragedy of 9/11 and the media reports in its after­math.

Since the ear­ly nineties, Draeger’s work piv­ot­ed around dif­fer­ent rep­re­sen­ta­tions of vio­lence, rang­ing from nat­ur­al cat­a­stro­phes to hor­ren­dous acci­dents and ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties (Kun­st­mu­se­um Solothurn 2003, Baden 2007a). Draeger col­lects media rep­re­sen­ta­tions of these dis­as­ters in order to recon­fig­ure their inher­ent sen­sa­tion­al­ism lat­er in his art­works in pho­tog­ra­phy, video, instal­la­tion, or sculp­ture.

After the events of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, Draeger first cre­at­ed the video The Last News (2002) in coop­er­a­tion with Amer­i­can direc­tor Reynold Reynolds and ani­ma­tion artist Gary Bres­lin and sub­se­quent­ly pro­duced his video instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber (2002) at Roe­bling Hall Gallery in Brook­lyn, New York. The lat­ter was exhib­it­ed for the first time at Mag­nus Müller Gallery in Berlin, Ger­many, in Sep­tem­ber 2002.

Fig. 2: Christoph Draeger. The Last News. 2002.

For the video The Last News, the artist made a mon­tage of footage from sev­er­al TV news-reports about cat­a­stro­phes and from Hol­ly­wood movies such as Armaged­don or Inde­pen­dence Day, sim­u­lat­ing an “MSNBC 24 Dis­as­ter and Sur­vival News Chan­nel.”[2] The images include the top of Big Ben as it is being destroyed, the explod­ing White House, and a bird’s-eye view on Paris which resem­bles the Ground Zero of a nuclear attack. One short sequence even shows the par­tial­ly destroyed tow­ers of World Trade Cen­ter.

News­cast­er Guy Smith com­ments on this ‘info­tain­ment’ pro­gram that runs in the back­ground. Though all found-footage played in the back obvi­ous­ly is fic­tion, the “LIVE”-broadcasting sug­gests real media cov­er­age of dis­as­ters, ter­ror­ist attacks and reports on the „Oper­a­tion Strike­back with Infi­nite Jus­tice.” While the pro­gram is on air, sev­er­al erup­tions dis­turb the broad­cast­ing. The explo­sions that were lim­it­ed to their rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the stu­dio­screen, increas­ing­ly affect the stu­dio itself. Final­ly, Smith’s TV Stu­dio seems to be total­ly destroyed and he col­laps­es in front of the view­er in a ner­vous break­down. Sub­se­quent­ly, Smith los­es con­tact with all his cor­re­spon­dents world­wide and seems to be lost in chaos, to say it with Slavoj Žižek, “in the desert of the real.”[3] The tele­vi­sion sig­nal of The Last News ends in White Noise.

In this con­densed 13 minute video, Draeger and Reynolds par­o­dy sen­sa­tion­al­ist news­cast­ing through the imi­ta­tion of com­mon Amer­i­can news pro­grams which com­bine infor­ma­tion with enter­tain­ment. In The Last News the news­cast­er is both eye-wit­ness and vic­tim of the cat­a­stro­phe he is report­ing about. The video pro­vokes var­i­ous ques­tions: How can the view­er dis­tin­guish between fic­tion­al real­i­ty and doc­u­men­ta­tion? When even the ‘expert’ reporter is lost in ter­ri­ble chaos, how is the view­er sup­posed to cope with bad news? Can evil tran­scend the safe­ty-screen of our tele­vi­sions? Where are the lim­its of the “dis­as­ter zone”? (Bin­swanger 1999: 54–61)

Fol­low­ing The Last News, Christoph Drager cre­at­ed Black Sep­tem­ber (2002), a video-instal­la­tion with both appro­pri­at­ed footage from a doc­u­men­tary movie and video sequences from his re-enact­ment of the his­tor­i­cal events of Sep­tem­ber 5, 1972, the ter­ror­ist attack dur­ing the 20th Olympic Games in Munich.

A group of eight Pales­tini­ans, mem­bers of the so called “Black Sep­tem­ber” group, took eleven mem­bers of the Israeli team hostage in their apart­ment in Con­nol­ly-Straße 31, right in the cen­ter of the Olympic Vil­lage.[4] Two Israeli ath­letes were shot dead in the apart­ment. The hostage-tak­ers demand­ed the release of Pales­tin­ian pris­on­ers in Israel and the addi­tion­al release of Andreas Baad­er and Ulrike Mein­hof from Ger­man pris­ons, where they served their sen­tence for ter­ror­ist attacks. How­ev­er, nego­ti­a­tions between the hostage-tak­ers and the deputies of Ger­many and Israel were con­stant­ly delayed and dead­lines post­poned. Final­ly, late at night, dur­ing a chaot­ic con­fronta­tion with Ger­man Police offi­cers at Fürsten­feld­bruck Air­base, all the remain­ing Israeli hostages, as well as five Pales­tini­ans, were killed. The next day the fias­co dom­i­nat­ed the inter­na­tion­al press.[5]

Christoph Draeger’s work Black Sep­tem­ber con­cen­trates on what hap­pened inside the apart­ment in Munich dur­ing that day on Sep­tem­ber 5, 1972. The core of the piece is a syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion which is shown in two sep­a­rate rooms. The first room is a detailed recon­struc­tion of one room in the Munich apart­ment accord­ing to pho­tographs from the site of crime, includ­ing a vin­tage tele­vi­sion set. It shows a bed­room in total dev­as­ta­tion with bloody traces on blan­kets and floor. Many scat­tered clothes and per­son­al items allude to the vio­lent action that seems to have just recent­ly lead to this chaos. The sec­ond room is an emp­ty dark space and accom­mo­dates a video pro­jec­tion. Both videos—the one screened on the muse­um wall and the one that runs on the TV-set—run par­al­lel. They basi­cal­ly show footage from Kevin MacDonald’s offi­cial doc­u­men­tary film One day in Sep­tem­ber (1999) that deals with the ter­ror­ist attack dur­ing the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

Fig. 3: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

In con­trast to the video-footage that runs on the TV, some sequences on the screen pro­jec­tion are sub­sti­tut­ed by images that the artist cre­at­ed him­self by re-enact­ing the events.

Draeger recon­struct­ed the bed­room of the Munich apart­ment with­in the exhi­bi­tion space of Roe­bling Hall Gallery New York and re-enact­ed what he sup­posed had hap­pened there. He record­ed the re-enacte­ment on video. Since then, the set­ting of this re-enact­ment, that par­tic­u­lar room in the Munich apart­ment, forms a con­sis­tent part of the screen­ing envi­ron­ment in the muse­um instal­la­tion of Black Sep­tem­ber. In a cer­tain way, the artist has cre­at­ed a mis-en-abyme sit­u­a­tion that again reflects on the pre­car­i­ous lim­its of the dis­as­ter zone; in oth­er words, he pro­vokes the emer­sion of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion into the exhi­bi­tion space.

Fig. 4: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

The cru­cial part of the video are the scenes that the artist has cre­at­ed him­self and that he inter­spers­es with orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary footage. The artist teas­es the imag­i­na­tion of the observ­er by sup­pos­ing a scenery, which no one could have real­ly seen from out­side of Conol­ly-Straße 31 in the Olympic Vil­lage. As an effect of the mon­tage, the re-enact­ed scenes and the doc­u­men­tary merge to a coher­ent unit in the viewer’s mind (Ammann 2003: 24). Nev­er­the­less, Christoph Draeger for­mal­ly retains an ama­teur film­ing style to demon­strate the fic­tion­al char­ac­ter of the video.

Draeger’s artis­tic process reveals on the one hand the viewer’s indis­crim­i­nate con­sump­tion of images, on the oth­er hand it shows how video images, once they are removed from their con­text, be it TV movies or news, become increas­ing­ly indis­tin­guish­able.

The art instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber ques­tions the con­di­tions of the mutu­al con­sti­tu­tion of cul­tur­al mem­o­ry and col­lec­tive mem­o­ry (Ass­mann 1994). As arte­fact, the art­work is part of cul­tur­al mem­o­ry. It seeks to fill in the ‘blind spots’ of the col­lec­tive mem­o­ry that the offi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion, such as the footage from One Day in Sep­tem­ber, can­not sup­ply.

Draeger’s re-enact­ment of the miss­ing link with­in the doc­u­men­tary is actu­al­ly not based on tes­ti­mo­ny, but on foren­sic recon­struc­tion of the event. Besides the doc­u­men­tary movie Draeger also uses pho­tographs from news­pa­per reports in 1972 as inspi­ra­tion for his art­work. His recre­ation of the hostage-tak­ing fills a lacu­na in the offi­cial col­lec­tive mem­o­ry, because there are no images of the action with­in the apart­ment before Draeger’s artis­tic inter­ven­tion.

This alludes to the ques­tion of the unspeak­able and unimag­in­able with­in the recon­struc­tion of trau­mat­ic events, (see Mitchell 2005) which is part of Draeger’s artis­tic strat­e­gy. He—the artist—is the one who pro­pos­es a nar­ra­tive that forms what before was unseen and unimag­in­able.

Draeger offers a pos­si­bil­i­ty of how the his­to­ry of this crit­i­cal moment could be re-writ­ten and con­se­quent­ly, how the col­lec­tive trau­ma could be accessed and processed. The art instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber, how­ev­er, is lim­it­ed to a muse­um audi­ence. In a way, this art­work may be con­sid­ered a pre­fig­u­ra­tion of what Steven Spielberg’s movie Munich (2005) would make acces­si­ble to a larg­er pub­lic.[6] In Spielberg’s movie, the imag­i­na­tion of how the hostage-tak­ing could have tak­en place is a key ele­ment of  the trau­mat­ic plot. From this start­ing point, the col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of the Munich attack would be formed. In the course of the film, the imag­i­na­tion of ter­ror is revealed through sev­er­al flash-backs that show the bru­tal action inside the apart­ment and on Fürsten­feld­bruck Air­base. The esca­la­tion of vio­lence leads to the process of revenge in Spielberg’s movie Munich.

The artist Christoph Draeger and the Hol­ly­wood direc­tor Steven Spiel­berg both offer a suc­cess­ful exam­i­na­tion of col­lec­tive trau­ma with their video and full length movie, respec­tive­ly. In com­par­i­son to Spielberg’s Hol­ly­wood movie, Draeger’s video instal­la­tion con­cen­trates on the iso­lat­ed sequence of the hostage-tak­ing, that he includes with­in a hap­tic sit­u­a­tion. Though Draeger obvi­ous­ly puts the traces of vio­lence in the fore­ground, his art­work is more focussed on the top­ic of obser­va­tion and self-reflec­tion. The advan­tage of his artis­tic strat­e­gy is its dou­ble bind process of decon­struct­ing the scenery. Through the cor­re­spon­dance between the two chan­nels of the video instal­la­tion and via split-screen inserts, the artist offers dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on his video-doc­u­ment­ed re-enact­ment. In this mode of com­par­a­tive obser­va­tion the trau­ma that is rep­re­sent­ed through the images can be seen more clear­ly. The observers are stand­ing with­in the site of the event, which means that they are forced to take the posi­tion with­in the scene, either the per­sec­tive of the hostage-tak­ers or that of the hostages whom they observe in the video. Through this kind of embed­ded recep­tion, which Draeger cre­ates in his instal­la­tion, he puts the adi­ence in prox­im­i­ty to the traces of the re-enact­ment in Black Sep­tem­ber that is only pos­si­ble in a video art instal­la­tion.

Art his­to­ri­an Inke Arns states that re-enact­ment as artis­tic strat­e­gy unveils the uncan­ny in  Freudi­an terms, i.e. “some­thing that is actu­al­ly known but has been repressed, from whence it returns” (Arns 2007: 63, see Hoff­mann 2011). Today, re-enact­ment as an artis­tic strat­e­gy takes on a key-func­tion in the pro­cess­ing of col­lec­tive mem­o­ry through cul­tur­al arte­facts.

Only the recre­ation and sub­se­quent rep­e­ti­tion of his­toric events can empha­size their sig­nif­i­cance as the deci­sive moment, which seeks expla­na­tion in order to be ful­ly under­stood.

Most­ly, this sig­nif­i­cance is fur­ther stressed by cul­tur­al arte­facts such as paint­ings, pho­tographs or films that rep­re­sent what is com­mon­ly under­stood as cul­tur­al mem­o­ry. Espe­cial­ly works pre­sent­ed in the con­text of art exhi­bi­tions evoke a crit­i­cal dis­tance to the uncan­ny in his­to­ry. Like Black Sep­tem­ber demon­strates, these images are part of a con­struc­tion of mem­o­ry which is based on media. Inke Arns asserts, “re-enact­ments are artis­tic inter­ro­ga­tions of media images, which insist on the real­i­ty of the image but at the same time draw atten­tion to how much the col­lec­tive mem­o­ry relies on media” (Arns 2007: ibd.).

Because Draeger’s instal­la­tion is not a live re-enact­ment, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a ter­ror­ist act, it cre­ates a crit­i­cal dis­tance through the remote pre­sen­ta­tion in the space of the muse­um.

What Draeger presents as pieces of evi­dence for what real­ly hap­pened in Munich on Sep­tem­ber 5, 1972 is based on his imag­i­na­tion of spec­ta­cle, vio­lence and mur­der.

The artist him­self gets involved in the play in his mimikry of a hostage-tak­er and ter­ror­ist.

When the view­er enters the space of the instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber by Christoph Draeger, the re-enact­ment has already tak­en place and is replayed in the video doc­u­men­tary. The vis­i­tors play the role of wit­ness­es after the event. The only evi­dence left from the re-enact­ment is a dev­as­tat­ed room and a video of fic­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the event. The trau­ma is trans­ferred into a dis­tant closed cir­cuit video-nar­ra­tive.

One might say, in the sit­u­a­tion of posthis­toire,[7] the assault on the Israeli hostages in Munich in 1972 is brought back to our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry by the art­work of Christoph Draeger and by the sub­se­quent obses­sion of mass media with ter­ror­ism after the 9/11 attacks.

Sabine Him­mels­bach explains Draeger’s art­work in the con­text of con­tem­po­rary ter­ror­ist strate­gies:

The world stands at shock over the cur­rent state of glob­al ter­ror­ism, Sep­tem­ber 11th lingers in our minds, Intifa­da is unleashed in Pales­tine, and as such, the back­ground set­ting for Black Sep­tem­ber informs our read­ing of both the actu­al event in his­to­ry and of Draeger’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The dis­tance in time allows for a fic­tion­al ele­ment, the myth has replaced the news. But thir­ty years lat­er the same adver­saries are still stand­ing bit­ter­ly across from each oth­er. Look­ing to address not just this con­di­tion but per­haps also its roots, Draeger goes on to ask, if the glob­al­iza­tion of the image and the glob­al­iza­tion of ter­ror­ism are not just coin­ci­den­tal­ly con­gru­ent; and asserts that vio­lence and its simul­ta­ne­ous wide­spread illus­tra­tion have always gone hand in hand.

Both ter­ror­ist attacks, in Munich 1972 and in New York 2001, mark the visu­al dom­i­nance of ter­ror­ism, which in case of Sep­tem­ber 11th and through the recur­ring images of the air­plane-attacks and the col­lapse-explo­sion of the WTC proof the lega­cy of the “ter­ror of atten­tion” (Rötzer 2002), that would affect every spec­ta­tor. Beyond the visu­al­i­ty, the effect of inse­cu­ri­ty and fear is pro­lif­er­at­ed through the media reports about ter­ror­ism. This became obvi­ous in the offi­cial com­ments that tried to re-cre­ate social cohe­sion in the US and world­wide after the ter­ror­ist attacks of 9/11. Every-day life should go on! This was the parole giv­en by New York may­or Giu­liani in his words: “Show you are not afraid. Go to restau­rants. Go shop­ping.” (Mur­dock 2001) In a sim­i­lar way, Olympic Com­mi­tee mem­ber Avery Brundage com­mand­ed in 1972, “the Games must go on,” there would be no inter­rup­tion of the sports com­pe­ti­tion due to any ter­ror­ist inter­ven­tion. The Ger­man art his­to­ri­an and the­o­reti­cian Bazon Brock has coined the term “der ver­botene Ern­st­fall” (for­bid­den emer­gency) as cop­ing strat­e­gy for such sit­u­a­tion. i.e. war and ter­ror only are tol­er­at­ed in fic­tion­al real­i­ty or as sim­u­la­tion (Brock 2002).

Both pol­i­tics and art do not accept any inter­fer­ence through acts of ter­ror­ism, but instead try to encap­su­late the ter­ror­ist trau­ma in cul­tur­al mem­o­ry. On the one hand, through rit­u­al events, mon­u­ments and fic­tion­al nar­ra­tive the ter­ror attacks are kept in remem­ber­ance.

On the oth­er hand, the abstract con­ju­ra­tion of the “war on ter­ror” marks a des­per­ate and help­less anti-strat­e­gy on how to cope with trau­mat­ic events. Quite forsee­able, the trau­ma is only rein­forced by this war.

Fig. 5: Kevin McDon­ald. One day in Sep­tem­ber. 1999.

In the first sequence of Draeger’s video mon­tage, the ABC newss­peak­er Jim McK­ay is utter­ing the words “They are all gone.” Except for three of the hostage-tak­ers, all hostages and five Pales­tini­ans were killed at the Air­base Fürsten­feld­bruck next to Munich in the night from Sep­tem­ber 5 to Sep­tem­ber 6, 1972. It was one of the most trag­ic moments in Ger­man his­to­ry after the Sec­ond World War, and—again—Jews have been mur­dered on Ger­man soil.

This is what caused the trau­ma in Ger­man nation­al mem­o­ry after the attack at the Olympic Games in 1972 and it lastet 40 years, until the offi­cial remem­ber­ance startet in 2012. Thus, pol­i­tics final­ly offer the pos­si­bilty for pub­lic grief and solace. News­pa­pers like Der Spiegel report­ed on the cir­cum­stances of the his­toric event and how politi­cians today cope with the chal­lenge of remem­ber­ance (Der Spiegel 2012).

In addi­tion to this offi­cial way of cop­ing with sup­pressed nation­al mem­o­ry and his­to­ry, art pro­vides rep­re­sen­ta­tions that might be called “counter-his­to­ry” oder “counter-dis­course” in terms of Michel Fou­cault. The French philoso­pher explained how his­to­ry and cul­ture are con­front­ed with counter-nar­ra­tives that set oppo­si­tion­al or alter­ing inter­pre­ta­tions to offi­cial or pop­u­lar def­i­n­i­tions of his­toric events (Fou­cault 1990: 76). When Draeger frames his re-enact­ment with sequences from orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary footage, he cre­ates a reli­able con­text, in which at first glance the restaged images could be tak­en for real. He thus blends a counter-nar­ra­tive into col­lec­tive mem­o­ry. With­in the instal­la­tion spec­ta­tors are nev­er­the­less well aware that they are not part of the play. They appear in the cen­tre of the scene - too late though - and can only observe and try to dis­tin­guish between fact and fic­tion. The stage is left in chaos, only the traces of recon­struc­tion can be seen in the instal­la­tion. After the event, ter­ror­ism has become a vir­tu­al phe­nom­e­non that can be analysed from a secure posi­tion - in both media and art. Ter­ror­ist vio­lence has been turned into the “aes­thet­ics of ter­ror”, as cura­tor Manon Slone defines it. Images of ter­ror tend to lose their sig­nifié and get a new con­no­ta­tion when they become the icon of a rad­i­cal-chic con­sumer cul­ture (Slome 2009). This would cre­ate the myth of ter­ror­ism accord­ing to french philoso­pher Roland Barthes. In Mytholo­gies, he calls the struc­ture of myth a “sec­ond-order semi­o­log­i­cal sys­tem” when the orig­i­nal mean­ing of a sign is cov­ered by new means.

In Christoph Draeger’s instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber the myth of ter­ror­ism is trans­lat­ed into images that aes­thetize the ori­gin of the sto­ry. And yet, the re-enact­ment and its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the video instal­la­tion seem like a cop­ing strat­e­gy for lost sig­nifiés. The art­work re-cre­ates the event. It brings the ter­ror­ist action close to the spec­ta­tor through emer­sive images, but tech­ni­cal­ly obtains a crit­i­cal dis­tance through its mode of reflec­tion upon the cat­a­stro­phe (Baden 2007b). The instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber stim­u­lates and sim­u­lates his­to­ry and mem­o­ry simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. The art­work fills the void of a trau­mat­ic nar­ra­tive. It tries to recap­ture the signs that have been unknown yet. What real­ly hap­pened inside the apart­ment?

Interview with the artist Christoph Draeger:

SB: Christoph, we are talk­ing via skype. You are in your stu­dio in Vien­na. At the end of this con­fer­ence day, we have just been watch­ing your video Black Sep­tem­ber (2002), which is part of the com­plex instal­la­tion on that top­ic that you have cre­at­ed. The video was made in 2002, it was pro­duced in New York after 9/11. Since then, “war on ter­ror­ism” is dom­i­nat­ing the polit­i­cal agen­da. In your video, you are deal­ing with Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists in 1972 in Ger­many, thir­ty years before the ter­ror­ist attacks on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. What was your moti­va­tion to pro­duce the video and espe­cial­ly this instal­la­tion?

CD: First of all, I pro­duced this work for my upcom­ing exhi­bi­tion at the Müller de Chiara gallery in Berlin in 2002. On Sep­tem­ber 11, in 2001, I was in New York and very close to the attacks. This had a strong impact on me, espe­cial­ly the unbe­liev­able reac­tion of all the peo­ple and the media cov­er­age on 9/11. Tele­vi­sion was occu­pied by replays of the attack, all the flags that hung every­where and all the allea­gance to “Unit­ed We Stand” or sim­i­lar pledges made me feel uncom­fort­able. This is why I pro­duced a first video as reac­tion, The Last News (2002), which clear­ly is a very sar­cas­tic reck­on­ing with media-reac­tion to cat­a­stro­phes in gen­er­al. It is a total­ly exag­ger­at­ed satir­i­cal video which com­ments on a fic­tion­al­ized ter­ror attack—as innu­en­do to 9/11. The cat­a­stro­phe in the video hap­pens with­in 13 min­utes and rapid­ly leads to the end of the world.

Fig. 6: Movie Poster: Kevin Mac­don­ald. One Day in Sep­tem­ber. 1999.

Dur­ing my research for The Last News I found the film One day in Sep­tem­ber, direct­ed  by Kevin Mac­Don­ald. It is a doc­u­men­tary about the ter­ror­ist attack in Munich in 1972 and was the Acad­e­my Award Win­ner in 2000 for Best Doc­u­men­tary Fea­ture. It pro­voked my thought as I have been con­stant­ly deal­ing with cat­a­stro­phes and ter­ror­im in my art­works: I should do some­thing in response to 9/11, but cer­tain­ly noth­ing that is direct­ly linked. There had been such an over­load of reports and images in the media in the after­math of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, I would have felt absurd to join in. Then I found this doc­u­men­tary movie and instant­ly knew: that is it, because it deals with a moment in his­to­ry that in the mean­time was almost for­got­ten. Even in Ger­many it had been blocked out in a way, prob­a­bly because the assault had a bad impact on the image of Ger­many after the Olympic Games.

That’s why I decid­ed to appro­pri­ate the doc­u­men­tary One Day in Sep­tem­ber. Its pro­duc­er Arthur Cohn is from Switzer­land, he has Jew­ish ances­tors. His movie obvi­ous­ly treats the Pales­tini­ans as evil. But through many reports we know that there are rea­sons for Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism that are like­ly con­cealed. How­ev­er, I only want­ed to put the events in a time­line, just a they hap­pened, with­out stereo­typ­ing the Israeli as vic­tims, the “nice guys,” while let­ting the Pales­tini­ans play the role of “evil.” I real­ly attempt­ed to objec­tivize the whole thing—knowing this sounds like a strange inten­tion. I con­cen­trat­ed on the footage of this doc­u­men­tary. Because the direc­tor used music to rein­force the atmos­phere, I could not sep­a­rate the orig­i­nal sound­track from the com­men­tary of the anchor­man. Thus I inte­grat­ed the music into my video, too. Now, it auto­mat­i­cal­ly has the same dra­mat­ic effect.

After this, I pro­duced the video instal­la­tion Black Sep­tem­ber in the sum­mer of 2002. I remem­ber it was ter­ri­bly hot when we did the shoot­ing for the video. I built the set in the gallery space of Roe­bling Hall and recruit­ed actors from my friends. The fact that I played the ter­ror­ist, by the way, was due to an emer­gency. I did not plan to play Issa[8] myself, but the main actor, who also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the video The Last News (2001), did not want to come that day, he sim­ply did not appear, that is why some­one had to play Issa. So I did it. Lat­er I showed the video in Ger­many in Sep­tem­ber 2002. There were some reac­tions. I got a few reviews, in the Berlin Zit­ty-Mag­a­zine and in some oth­er news­pa­per in Berlin, but noth­ing else hap­pened, I have to admit.

SB: What was in gen­er­al the sta­tus quo of remem­ber­ing the 1972 attack on the Olympic Games in Munich in 2002, just one year after the ter­ror­ist attacks in New York?

CD: In com­par­i­son to 2012, when we com­mem­o­rat­ed the 40th anniver­sary of the attack, there was almost noth­ing rec­og­niz­able in 2002. There was no issue of Der Spiegel with that theme on its title, the news­pa­pers only pub­lished a few arti­cles that were com­mem­o­rat­ing the events 30 years ago. All this com­mem­o­ra­tion-machine, that has just begun to run—probably also because of the cur­rent Olympic Games in Lon­don in August 2012—did not exist just ten years ago. My instal­la­tion was shown the sec­ond time at Roe­bling Hall Gallery in New York, but for me it was sig­nif­i­cant that it was pro­duced espe­cial­ly for a Ger­man con­text and also was shown there first. Hence, my attempt to show the exhi­bi­tion at the same time as the 30th anniver­sary in Sep­tem­ber 2002 worked out and hit a nerve.

Fig. 7: Cov­er page. Der Spiegel. Geheimak­te Olympia.

SB: From the per­spec­tive of art his­to­ry, we are inter­est­ed in the pro­duc­tion and per­cep­tion of images. How does the artist work with images, where does he take pic­tures from, and how does—in comparison—television deal with visu­al tes­ti­mo­ny and authen­tic­i­ty? Your instal­la­tion con­sists of two rooms that are con­nect­ed, as we can see on the floor-plan. The sit­u­a­tion with­in the apart­ment is recon­struct­ed accord­ing to the orig­i­nal set­ting in Munich, Con­nol­ly-Straße 31, right in the Olympic Vil­lage. All inven­to­ry has been com­posed in the con­tem­po­rary style of ear­ly 1970s design, even the bags, the TV, the clothes. There are churn up beds, lit­ter, traces of blood among all kind of scat­tered acces­soirs on the floor. Only the corpse is miss­ing, which is shown in the video and on one of your pro­duc­tion stills. On the small TV you can see orig­i­nal footage from the news cov­er­age. In the next room, the video pro­jec­tion shows re-enact­ed sequences. Obvi­ous­ly, it is impor­tant for you to show the vis­i­tor the oppor­tu­ni­ty to look out of the room through the door of the bal­cony, though in the exhi­bi­tion there is no real exit, just some light behind a cur­tain. You have two sit­u­a­tions that can be switched, depend­ing on if you first enter the video pro­jec­tion or the apart­ment. On the one hand, there is the video that shows the restaged events, and on the oth­er hand, the observ­er enters this set of destruction—and lat­er gets to know what hap­pened when he is watch­ing the video. What motivi­at­ed you to choose this pre­sen­ta­tion struc­ture?

CD: The main idea—and prob­a­bly the most impor­tant one—was to imag­ine, that both ter­ror­ists and hostages could attend the live-broad­cast­ing of their own dra­ma. The con­cept of my instal­la­tion is inspired by the imag­i­na­tion to enter the room just like in that moment, when Ankie Spitzer—the wife of one of the mur­dered Israeli—came in, right after the dra­ma hap­pened. The corpse is miss­ing, only the destruc­tion is vis­i­ble. And just like a media ‘after­glow’ the TV is still show­ing the same news that also her hus­band, respec­tive­ly all hostages and ter­ror­ists have been watch­ing, and which, of course, influ­enced all the sub­se­quent events. It was the news that informed the ter­ror­ists about how the Ger­man police tried to take over the sit­u­a­tion by assault—going over the rooftops dur­ing “Oper­a­tion Sun­shine.” That is why the assault was soon can­celled. For me, this live-feed­back was extreme­ly impor­tant to con­cep­tu­al­ize my art­work.

In fact, the con­cept of the instal­la­tion is based on found-footage that I show on the small TV in the destroyed room. You have to know that the doc­u­men­tary time­line is run­ning at the same scale as my reen­act­ment-video in the dark room. The audio-track is the same in both videos, also the fram­ing news run par­al­lel, but on TV you can­not see my re-enact­ment, you just see the doc­u­men­tary footage.

Fig.  8 and 9: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

SB: On the flat rooftop on the oppo­site side of Con­nol­ly Straße 31, the team of the Ger­man-Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic-TV and many oth­er teams were live-broad­cast­ing and film­ing all day. I guess, the cru­cial point in your instal­la­tion is the sit­u­a­tion of the observ­er who actu­al­ly gets the impres­sion of being observed, too. This obser­va­tion is an excit­ing moment because in your art­work it does not only refer to the his­tor­i­cal moment in real-life pol­i­tics that is doc­u­ment­ed in the news-cov­er­age, but also to art his­to­ry. It is about the self-obser­va­tion of the observ­er. This idea of con­struct­ing a “closed-cir­cuit” instal­la­tion was a new artis­tic strat­e­gy in 1972, when spec­ta­tors become their own observers in the video with­in the exhi­bi­tion. US artist Dan Gra­ham invent­ed this con­struc­tion for his Instal­la­tion Time Delay Room (1974). This way, the sit­u­a­tion of the observ­er with­in the exhi­bi­tion is empha­sized and the spec­ta­tor focus­es on his own role. That feed­back-con­struc­tion with­in your instal­la­tion is the essen­tial con­nec­tion. Two screen­shots demon­strate how you cre­at­ed the mon­tage of the images. The Splitscreen shows the per­spec­tive of the news-teams from out­side on the left next to an inte­ri­or scene depict­ing the re-enact­ment on the right.

CD: Yes, one might say the point is that this sit­u­a­tion in Munich seems as if it was actu­al­ly cre­at­ed for the ter­ror­ists. Of course they took advan­tage of this glob­al stage, as it has often been con­firmed. Hence, con­cern­ing the closed-cir­cuit feed­back, one of the ter­ror­ists could have lit­er­al­ly con­firmed his media appear­ance by just step­ping on the bal­cony and turn­ing around to see him­self on tele­vi­sion. I empha­size this sit­u­a­tion by hav­ing my artist col­league Rain­er Ganahl, dressed as ter­ror­ist, step­ping out through the bal­cony-door. Then I made a cut at the same moment, switch to the orig­inial footage, to show the real ter­ror­ist who was filmed on the bal­cony in 1972. I tried to bring a log­i­cal coher­ence between the images of the footage and my re-enact­ment.

Fig. 10: Steven Spiel­berg. Munich. 2005.

SB: I depict­ed a scene for com­par­i­son which demon­strates this cut­ting point. It is not tak­en from your video, but from Steven Spielberg’s movie Munich (2005) who shot the same scene, of course. Spiel­berg put the tele­vi­sion on the oth­er side of the room, right in front of the cur­tain that obscures the win­dow. Thus you can see at one glance how the ter­ror­ist is filmed from out­side at the same time when he is step­ping on the bal­cony. Spiel­berg shows this obser­va­tion explic­it­ly, the terrorist’s per­sis­tent appear­ance on the bal­cony to check what’s going on out­side. The direc­tor reduces com­plex­i­ty for the view­er when he pre­tends to demon­strate the truth.

CD: I have to say, Spiel­berg made his film after I had done my work. And prob­a­bly, even after he had seen my video. Hence he said to him­self: “I will cer­tain­ly avoid obvi­ous mis­takes in scenog­ra­phy.” (laugh­ing)

SB: Spiel­berg shows explic­it vio­lence in his film, like in the bru­tal scene when Joseph Romano is shot dead. As dra­mat­ic strat­e­gy he uses slow motion and puts the torn up bod­ies into the focus of the cam­era. This is, of course, a big dif­fer­ence to your pro­duc­tion, you had less bud­get and non-pro­fes­sion­al actors. In your video, the vio­lent aspect is played very ele­gant­ly, because of the con­cealed act of killing. Right at the moment of the exe­cu­tion, when one of the hostages is shot dead, you cut, the image switch­es to the shoot­ing starter’s gun at an Olympic run­ning com­pe­ti­tion on TV. That is very clever—and no coin­ci­dence, I guess?

Fig. 11: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

CD: Of course not. I tried to point out the fact that the Olympic Games went on despite of this mur­der. There­fore I insert­ed the start­ing shot as impor­tant sym­bol. In my video I want­ed to com­bine two aspects. The TV in the apart­ment was con­stant­ly run­ning, hence the hostages and the hostage-tak­ers did not only fol­low their own dra­ma on tele­vi­sion, but prob­a­bly also saw the live-broad­cast­ing of the Olympic Games, as long as they were going on. That is why I thought it would be ele­gant to edit the orig­i­nal mur­der with the start­ing shot.

Ques­tion from the audi­ence (Thomas Nachrein­er):

I was won­der­ing, if the cross­fade from start­ing shot to mur­der could not be under­stood vice ver­sa, con­cern­ing the trig­ger for mem­o­ry-cul­ture. Hasn’t the attack been the start­ing point of a media event that we are com­mem­o­rat­ing for many years and over gen­er­a­tions? Oth­er­wise the Olympic Games in 1972 would have been one among many? Is the art­work not point­ing to that ambiva­lence?

CD: The sym­bol­ism of the start­ing shot is rather men­ac­ing and does not real­ly relate to the idea of “bright games.”[9] And since 1972, the Olympic Games are not bright any more, but pro­tect­ed by a shield of thou­sands of police-offi­cers. There is a sim­i­lar­i­ty to civ­il avi­a­tion which also was a bright hob­by for rich and wealthy peo­ple. How­ev­er, since ‘sky­jack­ing’[10] occurred, trav­el­ling has become dis­tress­ful by all this con­trol appa­ra­tus at air­ports which is of course absolute­ly nec­es­sary. I am even con­vinced that con­tem­po­rary ter­ror­ists would exploit the cur­rent Olympic Games in Lon­don 2012, if they only could. But they can­not any­more because there is no access avail­able like before in Munich. That is why I would agree, the start­ing shot has sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance.

Fig. 12: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002.

SB: Christoph, let us speak about your own role as an actor in the video. How do you stage a ter­ror­ist? You tried to restage the actors and their out­fit accord­ing to doc­u­men­tary footage. You present sev­er­al stereo­types: the guy with a  machine gun and his mask gives a clichee. Next to him there is Issa. With black shoe-pol­ish make-up on his face and a white hat, he looks like a come­di­an. There is a third per­son with Ray Ban sun­glass­es and a cow­boy-hat, sim­i­lar to a Mav­er­ick, that Amer­i­can West­ern-hero. He is smok­ing cig­a­rettes. He also reminds me of the Marl­boro-Man. What is the basis of such aes­thet­ic? Do these out­fits refer to orig­i­nal char­ac­ters, that you saw in news­pa­pers reports?

CD: That is del­i­cate, because now we speak about hav­ing fun in my pro­duc­tion. In a cer­tain way, my re-enacte­ment is sort of a game, but it restages extreme­ly sad events. Almost like kids that play cops and rob­bers. In sev­er­al scenes you become aware of the iron­ic alien­ation that should be a sig­nal not to take the video too seri­ous. I am aware, this does not real­ly fit with the dra­ma and the effect of the events. In many of my works I do not only depict ter­ror, but cat­a­stro­phes in gen­er­al. I dare to exploit my artis­tic lib­er­ty, my jester’s licence, which is not avail­able to Spiel­berg in his com­mer­cial cin­e­ma, for exam­ple. He would not be allowed to show iron­ic exaggeration—I guess—without being pun­ished lat­er, where­as for me, because I work in a small­er, secure space—in art—I take the lib­er­ty of doing so. This way, I can change com­mon lay­ers of per­cep­tion. If tragedy is not treat­ed real­ly seri­ous­ly any­more, then you can prof­it from iron­ic alien­ation. This allows some fun­ny effects, like Rain­er Ganahl has to smoke in my video—for the very first and last time in his life. He orig­i­nal­ly is a mil­i­tant non-smok­er. You can see he smokes real­ly bad­ly.

Ques­tion from the audi­ence by Eva Her­schinger:

Doesn’t irony per­haps bring some relief, just like we know from the­ater? On the one hand, you stiffle your laugh­ter, but on the oth­er hand you have the impres­sion that every­thing is not that seri­ous. This cre­ates a feel­ing of relief which simul­ta­ne­ous­ly turns into dis­ap­point­ment. Per­haps, the irony that you use as an artist does not always seem to be suit­able.

CD: There is still anoth­er element—the plot is very dra­mat­ic. The dra­ma hap­pens with­in these 14 min­utes. Final­ly there is a void: death. That is all known, there is no redemp­tion in any sense. You can insert a cer­tain lev­el of alien­ation into fic­tion, but in the end, any laugh­ter stiffles because there is no escape from fate in this sto­ry.

SB: We already talked about the two forms of pre­sen­ta­tion. How did you change the instal­la­tion?

CD: There is an end­less vari­ety of pre­sen­ta­tion modes, because every time when I set up the instal­la­tion, it seems like a new work for me, due to the fact that I am con­stant­ly arrang­ing things a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly. Maybe this relates to shift­ing mem­o­ries. Though I have the same ele­ments, I do not use all of them every time.

SB: But you need a kind of a suit­case with req­ui­sites, to keep all props like bags, TV, shoes, clothes avail­able…

CD: Those parts wan­der, of course. They are in stock and I sent them to the exhi­bi­tions. Some­times the dimen­sions of the two rooms are dif­fer­ent, accord­ing to the muse­um space, and it hap­pens that peo­ple from the staff get mea­sures wrong or make any oth­er mis­take, then I have to adjust the instal­la­tion. In gen­er­al, as I said, there is lit­tle dif­fer­ence when a vis­i­tor has seen the work in Antwer­pen in 2006 or now again in Toulouse in 2012. He will say it is the same work. There are no dra­mat­ic changes, only sub­tle vari­a­tions. There is also the pos­si­bilty to show only the video as pro­jec­tion or on a sin­gle mon­i­tor, but that is uncom­mon. The Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou showed it that way. Nor­mal­ly, I insist on the pre­sen­ta­tion of the whole instal­la­tion.

SB: If we take a look back, we are now 40 years after Munich, eleven years after 9/11. How do you see your work and its reflec­tion of media and cul­tur­al mem­o­ry in rela­tion to 1972?

CD: It is dif­fi­cult to judge, because I have not real­ly been close to the events in 1972. I was a child and I can hard­ly remem­ber, but all I know is of course what every­one knows from movies, the news cov­er­age, books etc. For me, it is chal­leng­ing to think about the adverb “back then” and what it means, or what impact the glob­al TV-broad­cast­ing had on us. For exam­ple, I can bet­ter remem­ber the first man on the moon than 1972 in Munich, just because per­haps my par­ents allowed my to watch the moon land­ing. They spared me the events in Munich. At that time, when the Olympic Games took place, I was sev­en years old.

But the way in which ter­ror­ists used the world as stage was, look­ing at the exam­ple of Munich, accom­plished at a high lev­el of sophis­ti­ca­tion. It was the first time when Olympic Games have been broad­cast­ed live around the world and the ter­ror­ists instant­ly cap­i­tal­ized on their chance to get atten­tion. After Munich 1972, the ter­ror­ist attacks on 9/11 were much big­ger in scope, also because today we have more media cov­er­age, we are far more linked. Every­one saw it on a dif­fer­ent screen. In 1972, there were only a few pro­grams avail­able, and radio. Today you could see an event like 9/11 every­where, and it has con­stant­ly been replayed. I think the con­cep­tu­al dif­fer­ence was much less than we assume, between 1972 and 2001.

Com­ment from the audi­ence (Simone Egger): Every­time when I am walk­ing through Con­nol­ly-Straße, I feel like a movie is repeat­ing­ly played in my head. I always try to recon­struct the events in my mind and reflect about what might have hap­pened inside the apart­ment. I auto­mat­i­cal­ly insert the images from the media into my mem­o­ry. That is why I think your instal­la­tion exem­pli­fies this reflec­tion much more pre­cise­ly and more real in com­par­i­son to any slick doc­u­men­tary.

CD: It is cer­tain­ly a method of iden­ti­fy­ing with the events when I restage things like that. There are soci­eties that are inter­est­ed in re-enact­ing his­tor­i­cal events, like the bat­tle of Get­tys­burg. These soci­etes dress in his­tor­i­cal cos­tumes and meet annu­al­ly at the his­tor­i­cal site to re-enact the event. There is this famous art­work by the British Artist Jere­my Deller, called The Bat­tle of Org­reave (2001).[11] For this re-enact­ment he asked Eng­lish minework­ers, police­man and vol­un­teers to re-enact the bat­tle they fought with the British police 16 years lat­er. He even put real police­men on the set.

SB: But Jere­my Deller also allowed some actors to switch roles, the police­men played min­ers and the min­ers were policemen—just to alien­ate the con­ven­tion­al way of role-play (Far­quhar­son 2001). The artist cracked the code of rep­re­sen­ta­tion.  He would not do the same as the re-enact­ment soci­ety. That is sim­i­lar to your work when you play the ter­ror­ist in your re-enact­ment.

CD: I believe re-enact­ment has much explo­sive poten­tial because it is not left to Hol­ly­wood only. We do this already as chil­dren. We try to cope with expe­ri­ence by restag­ing and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reflect­ing what we look like when we play. That is impor­tant for many re-enact­ments, not only mine. I did many re-enact­ments in the nineties, but my work about Munich was propably the most dis­cussed. Before I did reen­act­ments of vio­lent Hol­ly­wood- movies. But any­one could do this. When you look at such a work and you see how the artist has cre­at­ed it by using only few things, a very cheap and rapid shot, like a sketch, like some­thing every­one could do with a video cam­era, then you know spon­tane­ity is part of the game. This spon­tane­ity allows vari­a­tions of real facts. Per­haps, impro­vi­sa­tion also helps to devel­op a clos­er rela­tion to the event and then you can han­dle it in one way or anoth­er. That is what my strat­e­gy is. This is the main rea­son why I do my work at all, I do not want to leave the stage only to Mis­ter Spiel­berg.

Simone Egger:

Have you shown your video in Munich or why did it not work to show it here?

CD: No, I have not yet. The Black Sep­tem­ber video has nev­er been shown in Munich. But I showed it in very close dis­tance, last year in 2011 at the Muse­um der Mod­erne in Salzburg. Nev­er­the­less, 40 years after the Olympic Games attack it would have been per­fect to show it here in Munich.

SB: I know, our host today here in Munich, the Bun­deswehr (Ger­man Army) has a mil­i­tary archive. But it is only for real weapons. They don’t col­lect art­works yet.

CD: A pro­pos Army. In my video, the footage quotes a phrase by the amer­i­can news reporter after the dis­as­ter has been made pub­lic on Sep­tem­ber 6, 1972: “The Ger­man Army, because of very com­pli­cat­ed laws, was not allowed to par­tic­i­pate.” Thus, the Bun­deswehr can­not be accused for the fail­ure of the police at Fürsten­feld­bruck Air­port, when so many peo­ple died at the end.

SB: How do you think the space of the muse­um and art­work in gen­er­al can func­tion as an agent for peace and a civ­il soci­ety? Like an insti­tu­tion, sim­i­lar to a demo­c­ra­t­ic par­lia­ment, whose dis­course lev­el cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss and solve con­flicts, but not out­side com­mon polit­i­cal process­es?

CD: Nat­u­ral­ly, we have to stay real­is­tic and admit, that art has no reg­u­lar impact on soci­ety. There are few excep­tions, like the Chi­nese artist Ai Wei Wei who has already been pun­ished because he artic­u­lat­ed sub­tle protest against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. When I do such an art­work, I want to offer a dis­pos­i­tive that has not yet had a for­mat of dis­cus­sion. In addi­tion, I hope some­one might see it. But how many peo­ple would see the whole instal­la­tion, if not right at a doc­u­men­ta-exhi­bi­tion in Kassel/Germany? And even if it was shown at doc­u­men­ta, on such a big event,  every­one is only con­sum­ing art just as a “must have”! With­in one or a few days you rush through the exhi­bi­tion with­out remem­ber­ing much after­wards. I am real­is­tic, unfor­tu­nate­ly, not very opti­mistic. Art belongs to leisure today, to a gen­er­al cul­tur­al attrac­tion that soci­ety cre­ates for itself—I am part of that. And if I would show even more blood or bru­tal­i­ty in my video, peo­ple would be cal­lous, look into the instal­la­tion and ask, “oh, what was that?”, then they go to see the next art­work. I am not very opti­mistic about the effi­cien­cy of art as a trig­ger for social change, but I believe, it has some effects, though, just like your ter­ror­ism research-net­work.[12]

SB: Thank you. We will stick to that.

End Notes

[1] The term “counter image“ was promi­nent­ly deployed by the recent exhi­bi­tion Bild–Gegen–Bild/Image Counter Image at Haus der Kun­st München in 2012 (Dan­der and Lorz 2012). For the ori­gin of the term, see Mey­er 2009.

[2] http://​www​.christoph​draeger​.com/​c​a​t​e​g​o​r​i​e​s​/​d​a​t​a​/​c​a​t​e​g​o​r​i​e​s​/​0​4​_​V​i​d​e​o​s​/​L​a​s​t​N​e​w​s​/03

[3] After the ter­ror­ist attacks of 9/11 Slavoj Žižek’s the­o­ry is often referred to as expla­na­tion of the shock that was pro­lif­er­at­ed through the media (Zizek 2002). Zizek him­self quotes this metaphor from the movie The Matrix, direct­ed by the Wachows­ki Broth­ers in 1999. Where­as the Wachowskis refer to French philoso­pher Jean Bau­drillard who already coined the term in 1978 in his book „Sim­u­lacres et Sim­u­la­tion“ (Bau­drillard 1994: 3). „The desert of the real“ sig­ni­fies what Bau­drillard describes as „hyper­re­al­i­ty“, accord­ing to the sur­re­al­ist writ­ings of Jorge-Louis Borges, mean­ing that real­i­ty has been replaced by the indif­fer­ence of the „pre­ces­sion of sim­u­lacra“. In 2001, the notion of sim­u­la­tion has often been dis­cussed by media the­o­ret­ics in the after­math of Sep­tem­ber 11th.

[4] The „Black September“-group was found­ed after the PLO was dis­persed from Jor­dan. It was part of the el-Fatah organ­i­sa­tion in Lebanon and the al-Saikah organ­i­sa­tion in Syr­ia (See Dietl et. al. 2006: 43–45; Forster/Knieper 2008).

[5] The three Pales­tin­ian hostage-tak­ers who had been impris­oned in Ger­many, were released to Lybia in Novem­ber 1972. Many doc­u­ments and his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion about the event are con­tained on the unof­fi­cial web­site: “Die Spiele der XX. Olympiade München 1972.” Web. 5. March 2013. http://​olympia72​.de/​a​t​t​e​n​t​a​t​1​.​h​tml, See Reeve 2000; Forster/Knieper 2008.

[6] Munich, direct­ed by Steven Spiel­berg, USA 2005. Screen­play by Tony Kush­n­er and Eric Roth, based on the nov­el Vengeance: The True Sto­ry of an Israeli Counter-Ter­ror­ist Team by George Jonas, first pub­lished in 1984.

[7] Daniel Bin­swanger refers the the term ’posthis­toire’ coined by Alexan­dre Kojève when he speaks about Draegers works that are cre­at­ed after the cat­a­stro­phe, which means they are delayed. „Draeger’s ease is a symp­tom of inescapable tar­di­ness that one attempts to des­ig­nate as posthis­toire.“ (Bin­swanger 1999: 55)

[8] Issa was the name of the leader of the Black Sep­tem­ber group who nego­ci­at­ed with the state deputies and knew to speak the Ger­man lan­guage, too; he is the one of the Pales­tini­ans with the white hat and black make up face, he also has been pho­tographed the most.

[9] In Ger­many, the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 were announced as “Heit­ere Spiele”, because they should bring the new “bright” Ger­many to the atten­tion of the world audi­ence. This should mark the dif­fer­ence to the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 that were dom­i­nat­ed by Nazi-Pro­pa­gan­da.

[10] The term ‚sky­jack­ing’ is derived from its ori­gin ‚hijack­ing’, but espe­cial­ly refers to air­plane-hijack­ing. Most promi­nent female sky­jack­er was Pales­tin­ian Leila Khaled, pho­tographed by Eddie Adams, See: “A Day With The Arab’s No. 1 Lady Sky­jack­er.” The Vic­to­ria Advo­cat 29 Nov. 1970: 62. Print.

[11] On June 18th, 1984, the con­flict between the British Nation­al Union of Minework­ers and the British gov­ern­ment esca­lat­ed in a vio­lent clash near the cok­ing plant of Org­reave in South York­shire. Mar­garet Thatch­er, who was deter­mined to break the pow­er of trade unions, sent out police units to dis­perse the protest­ing min­ers. The British artist Jere­my Deller did research on that event and revived his­to­ry in coop­er­a­tion with for­mer par­tic­i­pants of the „bat­tle“, sup­port­ed by so-called „re-enact­ment“ groups, min­ers and police­man. The re-enact­ment was doc­u­ment­ed by Mike Fig­gis for Chan­nel 4 tele­vi­sion, com­bin­ing scenes from the restaged event on June 17th, 2001, with doc­u­men­tary pho­tographs of the clash of 1984 (Wag­n­er 2007).

[12] Since 2007 the Ger­man Ter­ror­ism-Research-Net­work NTF e.V. (Net­zw­erk-Ter­ror­is­mus­forschung) is offer­ing an aca­d­e­m­ic exchange plat­form for inter­dis­ci­pli­nary schol­ars who do research on dif­fer­ent top­ics in rela­tion to ter­ror­ism and polit­i­cal vio­lence. www​.net​zw​erk​-ter​ror​is​mus​forschung​.org

Works Cit­ed

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Arns, Inke. “His­to­ry Will Repeat Itself.” His­to­ry Will Repeat Itself. Strate­gien des Reen­acte­ment in der zeit­genös­sis­chen (Medi­en-) Kun­st und Performance/ Strate­gies of Re-enact­ment in Con­tem­po­rary (Media) Art and Per­for­mance, Eds. Inke Arns, Gabriele Horn, and Hart­ware Medi­enKun­stVere­in Dort­mund and KW Insti­tute for Con­tem­po­rary Art Berlin, Frank­furt am Main: Revolver, 2007. 37–63, 63.

Ass­mann, Alei­da, and Jan Ass­mann. “Das Gestern im Heute. Medi­en und soziales Gedächt­nis.” Die Wirk­lichkeit der Medi­en. Eine Ein­führung in die Kom­mu­nika­tion­swis­senschaft. Eds. Merten, Klaus, Siegfried J. Schmidt, and Siegfried Weis­chen­berg. Opladen: West­deutsch­er Ver­lag 1994. 114-140. Print.

Baden, Sebas­t­ian. “Ter­rorkun­st. Die ästhetis­che Dis­tanz zur Katas­tro­phe.“ Ter­mi­na­tor – The Poten­tial of the End. Destruc­tion and Cop­ing-strate­gies as Cre­ative Process­es. Ed. Sebas­t­ian Baden. Bern, Karl­sruhe: Hochschule der Kün­ste Bern, Staatliche Akademie der Bilden­den Kün­ste Karl­sruhe, 2007a. 100-110. Print.

Baden, Sebas­t­ian. “Mod­el­lkatas­tro­phen und das Puz­zle der Rezep­tion. Zur Zer­störung im Werk von Christoph Draeger.“ Die Zer­störte Stadt. Repräsen­ta­tio­nen urbaner Räume von Tro­ja bis Sim City. Eds. Böhn, Andreas and Chris­tine Mielke. Biele­feld: tran­script, 2007b. 339–365. Print.

Barthes, Roland. Mytholo­gies, Lon­don: Pal­adin, 1972. Print.

Bau­drillard, Jean. Die Ago­nie des Realen. Berlin: Merve, 1978. Print.

Bau­drillard, Jean. Sim­u­lacra and Sim­u­la­tion. Ann Arbor: Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Press, 1994. Print.

Bin­swanger, Daniel. “On the Local­iza­tion of Apoc­a­lypse.” Christoph Draeger. Dis­as­ter Zone. Ed. Zep­pelin Muse­um Friedrichshafen, Orchard Gallery Der­ry, Kul­turhaus Rosen­garten Grüsch, Galerie Urs Meile Luzern, Friedrichshafen: Gessler 1999. 54–61. Print.

Brock, Bazon. „Kun­st und Krieg – der ver­botene Ern­st­fall.“ Kun­st + Krieg. Eds. Brock, Bazon und Ger­linde Koschik. München: Fink, 2002: 275–284. Print.

Der Spiegel; ler/dpa/dapd. “Olympia-Atten­tat 1972: Gedenk­feier für die Opfer von München.” Spiegel-Online, 5 Sep. 2012. Web 18 Aug. 2013; http://​www​.spiegel​.de/​p​o​l​i​t​i​k​/​d​e​u​t​s​c​h​l​a​n​d​/​o​l​y​m​p​i​a​-​a​t​t​e​n​t​a​t​-​1​9​7​2​-​g​e​d​e​n​k​f​e​i​e​r​-​f​u​e​r​-​d​i​e​-​o​p​f​e​r​-​v​o​n​-​m​u​e​n​c​h​e​n​-​a​-​8​5​4​1​8​3​.​h​tml

Dietl, Wil­helm; Kai Hirschmann, and Rolf Tophoven, Eds. Das Ter­ror­is­mus Lexikon. Täter, Opfer, Hin­ter­gründe. Frank­furt am Main: Eich­born, 2006. 43–45. Print.

Dan­der, Patrizia and Juli­enne Lorz, eds. Bild–Gegen–Bild/Image Counter Image. Haus der Kun­st München 10. Juni – 16. Sep­tem­ber 2012, Köln: Ver­lag der Buch­hand­lung Walther König, 2012. Print.

Hoff­mann, Felix and C/O Berlin, eds. Unheim­lich vertraut/ The Uncan­ny Famil­iar. Bilder vom Terror/ Images of Ter­ror. Köln: Ver­lag der Buch­hand­lung Walther König, 2011. Print.

Far­quhar­son, Alex. „Jere­my Deller. The Bat­tle of Org­reave.“ Frieze no. 61/ Sep­tem­ber (2001). Web 03 March 2013. URL: http://​www​.frieze​.com/​i​s​s​u​e​/​r​e​v​i​e​w​/​j​e​r​e​m​y​_​d​e​l​l​er/ (03.03.2012)

Forster, Klaus, and Thomas Knieper. „Das Blut­bad von München. Ter­ror­is­mus im Fernseh-Zeital­ter.“ Das Jahrhun­dert der Bilder. 1949 bis heute. Bd.2, Ger­hard Paul, ed. Göt­tin­gen: Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, 2008: 436–441. Print.

Fou­cault, Michel. Die Ord­nung der Dinge. Eine Archäolo­gie der Human­wis­senschaften. Frank­furt am Main: Suhrkamp 1990. Print. [The Order of Things. An Archae­ol­o­gy of Human Siences, New York: Pan­theon Books 1970.]

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Mey­er, Petra Maria, ed. Gegen­bilder. Zu abwe­ichen­den Strate­gien der Kriegs­darstel­lung. München: Fink, 2009. Print.

Mitchell, W. J. Thomas. „The Unspeak­able and the Unimag­in­able. Word and Image in a Time of Ter­ror.“ Eng­lish Lit­er­ary His­to­ry, 72. 2, Sum­mer (2005): 291–308, [Rpt. in Mitchell, W.J.T. Cloning Ter­ror. The War of Images, 9/11 to Present. Chica­go Uni­ver­si­ty Press 2011.] Print.

Mur­dock, Deroy. “Giuliani’s Finest Hour. The mayor's emer­gence.“ Nation­al Review Online, Sep­tem­ber 14, 2001. Web 16 Aug. 2013. http://​www​.nation​al​re​view​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​2​0​5​0​1​7​/​g​i​u​l​i​a​n​i​s​-​f​i​n​e​s​t​-​h​o​u​r​/​d​e​r​o​y​-​m​u​r​d​ock

Reeve, Simon. One Day in Sep­tem­ber. The Full Sto­ry of the 1972 Munich Olympics Mas­sacre and the Israeli Revenge Oper­a­tion "Wrath of God". New York/London: Arcade Pub­lish­ing 2000. Print.

Rötzer, Flo­ri­an. “Das ter­ror­is­tis­che Wet­trüsten. Anmerkun­gen zur Ästhetik des Aufmerk­samkeit­ster­rors.“ Medi­en­Ter­rorKrieg. Zum Kriegspar­a­dig­ma des 21. Jahrhun­derts. Eds. Goedart Palm and Flo­ri­an Rötzer, Han­nover: Heise, 2002. 86-104. Print.

Slome, Manon. “The Aes­thet­ics of Ter­ror.” The Aes­thet­ics of Ter­ror. Eds. Joshua Simon and Manon Slome, Milano: ChAR­Ta, 2009.8–29.  part 1, Web 13.03.2013. http://​www​.artlies​.org/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​.​p​h​p​?​i​d​=​1​7​6​0​&​i​s​s​u​e​=​6​2&s=

Wag­n­er, Renate. “The Bat­tle of Org­reave.” His­to­ry Will Repeat Itself. Strate­gien des Reen­acte­ment in der zeit­genös­sis­chen (Medi­en-) Kun­st und Performance/ Strate­gies of Re-enact­ment in Con­tem­po­rary (Media) Art and Per­for­mance, Eds. Inke Arns, Gabriele Horn, and Hart­ware Medi­enKun­stVere­in Dort­mund and KW Insti­tute for Con­tem­po­rary Art Berlin, Frank­furt am Main: Revolver, 2007. 86–89. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. Wel­come to the Desert of the Real. London/New York: Ver­so, 2002. Print.

Image Notes

Fig­ure 1: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, destroyed hotel room, dimen­sions vari­able, Instal­la­tion view, Alcala 31 Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter, Madrid 2003. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 2: Christoph Draeger. The Last News. 2002, Video, MiniDV to DVD, 13 min, Ed. of 5, videos­till, Christoph Draeger and Reynold Reynolds, Dig­i­tal ani­ma­tion by Gary Breslin/PanOptic, Star­ring Guy Richard Smith. Cour­tesy the artist. Web. 13.03.2013. http://​www​.christoph​draeger​.com/​c​a​t​e​g​o​r​i​e​s​/​d​a​t​a​/​c​a​t​e​g​o​r​i​e​s​/​0​4​_​V​i​d​e​o​s​/​L​a​s​t​N​e​w​s​/06

Fig­ure 3: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, Videos­till. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 4: Christoph Draeger, Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, Instal­la­tion view, Galerie Müller Chiara Berlin 2002. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 5: Kevin McDon­ald. One day in Sep­tem­ber. 1999. Videos­till. Cour­tesy Pas­sion Pic­tures.

Fig­ure 6: Movie Poster: Kevin Mac­don­ald. One Day in Sep­tem­ber. 1999. Web. 13 March 2013. Dig­i­tal Image. http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​i​l​e​:​O​n​e​_​D​a​y​_​i​n​_​S​e​p​t​e​m​b​e​r​_​C​i​n​e​m​a​_​P​o​s​t​e​r​.​jpg

Fig­ure 7: Cov­er page. Der Spiegel. Geheimak­te Olympia. 30, 23. July 2012.

Fig­ure 8: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, videos­till. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 9: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, videos­till. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 10: Steven Spiel­berg. Munich. 2005. Film­still. Cour­tesy Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures.

Fig­ure 11: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, videos­till. Cour­tesy the artist.

Fig­ure 12: Christoph Draeger. Black Sep­tem­ber. 2002. Syn­chro­nized two-chan­nel video instal­la­tion, DVD 14:30 min. loop, videos­till. Cour­tesy the artist.


This arti­cle is licensed under a  Cre­ative Com­mons 3.0 License although cer­tain works ref­er­enced here­in may be sep­a­rate­ly licensed, or the author has exer­cised their right to fair deal­ing under the Cana­di­an Copy­right Act.