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Program 4

Beyond Wagner:

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy,
Arnold Schönberg and the Memory of Resistance

Thursday, April 25, 2013, 7 p.m. 

„Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenbergs Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene“
Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, BRD 1972, 15 min, german OV

„Die leere Mitte“
Hito Steyerl, D 1998, 62 min, german OV

Two films and two composers, beyond Wagner: In 1850, Richard Wagner attacked the jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in his antisemitic pamphlet „Das Judenthum in der Musik“ (usually translated to „Judaism in Music“). Wagners attacks lead to the dismissal of Mendelssohn Bartholdy´s work in the second half of the 19th century. After 1933, performances of his works were forbidden. In Hito Steyerl´s dense essay „Die leere Mitte“ („Empty  center“), the story of this composer is just one of numerous findings in the course of a filmic excavation at the construction site of Berlin´s Potsdamer Platz. Steyerl´s film deciphers this place and uncovers numerous archeological layers in the „empty center“ of reunited germany. At this site of memory, traces of nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, power and violence are to be found – aswell as entombed, silenced histories.

Straub/Huillets small, fierce film is a collage after Arnold Schönbergs same-named musical piece (opus 34, 1929/30), with the subtitle „Drohende Gefahr – Angst – Katastrophe“ („Impending Hazard – Fear – Catastrophe“). The film also quotes a letter from 1923, written by Schoenberg to Wassily Kandinsky, where he refuses his appointment to the Bauhaus in Weimar due to his experiences with german anti-Semitism. The film recalls the memory of the Shoah and goes on, back and forth: adding images of a raising B52-bomber and the photography of murdered communards, separated through black frames. The film, called „our most aggressive one“ by Straub, asks for the relations between fascism and capitalism.