Maria Hetzer | Berlin
Negotiating Memories of Everyday Life during the Wende
The visual essay is based on collaborative research a group of performance-based researchers conducted between 2010 and 2015 under the title “Bodies of Crisis—Remembering the German Wende.” The project mainly consisted of oral-history research and a series of performance events presented in the UK and Germany. In 27 interviews, women from East Germany recollected their embodied quotidian experience amidst the political transition from a socialist to a capitalist state in 1989 and thereafter. Live performance opened up access points for a transcultural translation of this experience involving practitioners from diverse cultural and creative backgrounds. The performance work extended the culturally specific experience beyond the East German case by pointing toward global struggles for existence, acceptance, and emancipation. The following sequence of images and clips invites readers to reflect on the embodied quotidian as a valuable approach to the study of the historical experience of 1989. Short commentaries consider how memories of somatic quotidian experience influence the experience of the body vis-à-vis wider social change.
Performance collaborators: Maiada Aboud, endurance art researcher (UK/Israel); Jessica Argyridou, video performance artist (Cyprus); David Bennett, dancer-researcher (UK); Michael Grass, heritage researcher and visual designer (UK/Germany); Linos Tzelos, musician (Greece). Further studio collaborators: Elia Zacharioudaki, actress (Greece); Osama Suleiman, media artist (Saudi Arabia/Jordan); Gordon Palagi, actor (USA).
Copyright lies with the project or photographers/agencies referenced in the image captions. Project photographers for Bodies of Crisis: Michael Grass (MG), Maria Rankin (MR), Ian O’Donoghue (IOD). My sincere thanks go to Seán Allan and Nicolas Whybrow, who supervised this research project, as well as Marc Silberman and two anonymous reviewers who made valuable comments on a draft of this essay. More information on the performance research can be found on the project’s website http://bodycrisis.org.
Aboud, Maiada. Stigmata: Marks of Pain in Body Performance by Arab Female Artists. Ph.D. dissertation, Sheffield-Hallam University, 2016.
Bude, Heinz, Thomas Medicus, and Andreas Willisch. Überleben im Umbruch. Am Beispiel Wittenberge. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2012.
BritNat. bn.org.uk, accessed September 30, 2016.
de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. U of California P, 1984.
Eghigian, Greg. “Homo Munitus: The East German Observed.” Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Life and Culture, edited by Paul Betts and Kathy Pence. U of Michigan P, 2008, pp. 37-70.
Eisman, April A. “Review of Art of Two Germanys / Cold War Cultures.” German History, vol. 27, no. 4, 2009, pp. 628-30.
Grix, Jonathan. The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR. Macmillan, 2000.
Highmore, Ben, editor. Everyday Life. Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies. Routledge, 2012.
Holm, Andrej, and Armin Kuhn. “Squatting and Urban Renewal: The Interaction of Squatter Movements and Strategies of Urban Restructuring in Berlin.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 35, no. 3, 2011, pp. 644-58.
Landsberg, Alison. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. Columbia UP, 2004.
Lefebvre, Henri. Critique of Everyday Life. Vol. 2. Verso, 1991.
Lindenberger, Thomas. “Eigen-Sinn, Domination and No Resistance.” Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, docupedia.de/zg/Eigensinn, accessed October 4, 2016.
Links, Christoph, Sybille Nitsche, and Antje Taffelt, editors. Das Wunderbare Jahr der Anarchie: Von der Kraft des zivilen Ungehorsams 1989/90. Ch. Links Verlag, 2004.
Lüdtke, Alf. The History of Everyday Life: Reconstructing Historical Experiences and Ways of Life. Princeton UP, 1995.
Mattheuer, Wolfgang. Text next to sculpture in Bonn, Haus der Geschichte. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22Der_Jahrhundertschritt%22_(Step_of_Century),_Wolfgang_Mattheuer,_1984 -_Bonn.jpg, accessed October 4, 2016.
McLellan, Josie. “Visual Dangers and Delights: Nude Photography in East Germany.” Past & Present, vol. 205, no. 1, 2009, pp. 143-74.
Moran, Joe. “November in Berlin: The End of the Everyday.” History Workshop Journal, vol. 57, no. 1, 2004, pp. 216-34.
Olivo, Christiane. Creating a Democratic Civil Society in Eastern Germany: The Case of the Citizen Movements and Alliance 90. Macmillan, 2001.
Clip and Image Notes
Image 1: “Tasting apples.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Michael Grass.
Image 2: “November 4, 1989, Berlin, Alexanderplatz.” Copyright by Andreas Kämper, Robert Havemann Gesellschaft, 1989. Available online: revolution89.de/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_O_3.9.1_02_org_8b629c5d5d.jpg
Image 3: “Round Table talks, East Berlin, 1989.” Copyright by dpa / BAKS. Available online:
Image 4: “Kommune I, the most famous squat in Mainzer Straße, East Berlin 1990.” Copyright by Umbruch Bildarchiv.
Image 5: “Example of an East German supermarket (Kaufhalle) addressing the desires of East Germans in 1990.” Copyright by dpa / MZ.web. Available online: mz-web.de/kultur/ddr-geschichte-streit-um-vergangenheit-entzweit-viele-menschen-3193808
Image 6: “Young East German woman eating.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, private.
Image 7: “The ambivalence of everyday practice in a state crisis. Scene from the performance, Apples.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Ian O’Donoghue, 2012.
Image 8: “An East German woman’s application to a Western employer marked down “Minus Ossi”.” Copyright by dpa / n24.de. Available online: www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/media.media.f7378dec-32a6-4b52-b51a-1f3cf99b354c.normalized.jpeg
Image 9: “Plan for the “New Berlin” 1997. Map of Berlin with demarcation of Wall.” Copyright Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin, 1997.
Image 10: “Projecting histories onto bodies.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Ian O’Donoghue, 2012.
Image 11: “Translating the comfort zone of stereotyping.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Maria Rankin, 2012.
Image 12: “Tentatively exploring cultural practices for room to maneuver.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Maria Rankin, 2012.
Image 13: “Scene from the performance, The map.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Ian O’Donoghue, 2012.
Image 14: “Jahrhundertschritt by Wolfgang Mattheuer.” Copyright Stiftung Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Available online: zeithistorische-forschungen.de/sites/default/files/medien/static/mattheuer1.jpg
Image 15: “East German bathing.” Copyright by Eulenspiegel Verlag / Welt.de.
Image 16: “Participants of the 1941 conference of British Naturists’ Associations.” Copyright by IMAGO / Welt.de.
Image 17: “GDR stamp illustrating allegiance to a global fight against racism incorporating a drawing by John Heartfield.” Copyright by Nightflyer. Available online: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Stamps_of_Germany_(DDR)_1971,_MiNr_1702.jpg
Image 18: “The fist as a symbol for global feminist struggle.” Copyright by history.org.uk. Available online: goo.gl/images/u9d1uK
Image 19: “The Olympic team of the FRG, June 1972.” Copyright by ullstein bild / Tagesspiegel.de. Available online: tagesspiegel.de/images/heprodimagesfotos85120130902_imago-jpg/8725044/4-format2.jpg
Image 20: “Scene from performance work, Fist.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Michael Grass, 2012.
Image 21: “Scene from performance work, Tub.” Copyright by Bodycrisis, Michael Grass, 2012.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 International 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.