In 2020/21 I realised the “Artistic Commentary on the Ernst Thälmann Monument” after I had won 2nd prize in the Europe-wide art competition and my design was recommended for realisation. On the square in front of the memorial in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, 5 plinths made of red concrete were erected. The plinths have the proportions of the monument plinth and bear relief-like inscriptions that are also the titles of the 10 short films. The films can be viewed on the website www.vomsockeldenken.de via QR codes on the pedestals.
Thinking from the pedestal
Five plinth benches made of red concrete
10 short films, perspectives on the Thälmann Monument, 2021
VOM SOCKEL DENKEN consists of three elements. The five concrete pedestals here on site, ten short films that can be accessed via the QR codes on the pedestals and a website where the films and further information about the project can be found.Mehr anzeigen
The plinths have the proportions of the monument plinth. They multiply it, multiply it out into the square and bring it back to a human scale. They are large cuboids, just under 90 cm high, 2 m wide and over 1 m deep. You can’t just drop onto it, you have to make a bit of an effort to get onto the plinth.
They are made of red through-coloured concrete, coated with red paint, coral red. Depending on light, humidity, the red looks slightly different. It will endure the inevitable graffiti.
The plinths are at an angle of 45 degrees to the monument, in line with the axes of the high-rise buildings. The plinths take possession of the square, they create islands, focal points on this huge area that was intended for swearing-in ceremonies and vows – framed with floodlights and flagpoles. Today, surrounded by a lot of wild greenery, it is an empty space, an open space without a predefined purpose, for free use. That has become rare in the city.
The concrete plinths invite visitors to engage with the site and its history. Like the large plinth, they bear inscriptions. Red Front – Ernst Thälmann- Red Front are joined by new terms that enter into a dialogue. Red Front- Noble Plate- Ernst Thälmann- Flock- Coal Palm- Red Front- Always Dar- Gasometer- Head Fist Flag.
This lyrical-abstract dialogue leads directly to the ten short films. The terms are the titles of the films. The QR code is attached to the front of each plinth next to the relief. You can access the website with your own smartphone.
There are 10 films that explore the layers of place. From 1872, when windmills stood here in vineyards, to more than 100 years of gasworks on this site, to its demolition, life in the GDR, the construction of the housing estate and the monument.
They are short films, 3 to 8 minutes long, in which I collage archive material with drawings and animations. The archival material comes from many smaller and private archives.
It was important to me to create personal references, to tell small stories, to make the times tangible – in contrast to or in addition to the great historical truth.
The films each have their own formal language, I used many documentary techniques. This is to make clear the different perspectives on the monument. It also allows me to narrate in bullet points and let the material speak for itself.
I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE – works with pictures from the Aktuelle Kamera, the GDR news programme – from 15 April 1986, the inauguration of Thälmann Park.
FLAKE – is a biographical photo cartoon in predominantly black and white images
The Coal Palm – tells the story of the industrial site
IRMA’S TEDDY – with historical photos, film fragments and documents, I construct a fictional biography of Thälmann’s daughter and the family.
EVERMORE – a poetic interlude, images of the memorial at night and in the snow, assembled into a poem
NOBLE PREFABS – a rather classic interview with one of the first tenants, Hardy Krause, who shot colour slides here in the 80s.
Neckerchief – a pioneer song with children’s drawings, cheerful but gives you goosebumps
Gasometer – Photos of the triple Colosseum from Prenzlauer Berg, illegal leaflets and an open letter – a very personal story.
HEAD FIST FLAG – tells the story of the monument and how I, how we felt about it at the time – 3 years before the fall of the Wall, as we know today.
LOOKINOUT – this film is still in progress – it will focus on the use of the square and the installation and handover today. So the year 2021. Material has already been shot of people playing music, reading, celebrating, demonstrating, picnicking and cleaning at the memorial – and there have been discussions and painting activities with residents and users of the square. Of course, I am also curious to see how the plinths are taken into possession, what happens here.
If you would like to get involved, please feel free to contact me. Or Maria Wischnewski, the wonderful, creative producer of the films, whom I thank warmly.
At this point, many thanks to Christina Schmidt, who did an incredible job in researching, making contacts and opening up the view into the farthest corners of the archives. My sincere thanks to the archivists, especially to the Museum Pankow, Bernt Roder and Beate Böhnisch.
I thank Rainer Hässelbarth for the 16mm film of the demolition of the gasometers, which still makes me sad and angry. Wolfgang Fischer many thanks, he provided me with more than 600 b/w negatives from his archive.
Sven Boeck shot and mounted the poetic interlude immerdar, for which Kathrin Schmidt wrote a poem.
I sincerely thank the whole team and my family and friends who brought out their exercise books and children’s drawings and above all memories and stories.
Many thanks to Alexis Oehler and Till Gruhl who made and erected the pedestals. Thanks to Arthur Numrich for the advice. Thanks to Jens Hoffmeister for the work on the website and to Michalea Nolte for the wonderful texts.
Above all, I would like to thank my clients, who organised and implemented this competition with a long lead time, especially Annette Tietz, who supported the realisation of my work with a lot of energy and heart and soul.
Thank you for coming today and I hope you have fun and gain a lot of insights while watching the films and THINKING FROM THE PEDESTAL.
Betina Kuntzsch, on the presentation of the work
Square at the Ernst Thälmann Monument, Greifswalder Straße in Berlin, 18.11.2021
THINKING FROM THE PEDESTAL
Artistic commentary on the Ernst Thälmann Monument
Idea, concept, realisation:
lProduction and installation: Betonware Berlin
Consultation: Arthur Numrich
Model making: Friedrich Gobbesso
Typography: Cornelia Ellinger
QR code signs: Becker Schilderfertigung
Design and programming: Design for Humans
Text: Michaela Nolte
Translation: Lucinda Rennison
Many thanks to the Pankow District Office of Berlin
Office for Further Education and Culture, Department of Art and Culture
Annette Tietz, Paula Böttcher, Enkidu Leyendecker
Screenplay, direction, animation, editing: Betina Kuntzsch
Dramaturgy, research: Christina Schmidt
Camera: Sven Boeck, Martin Langner, Claire Roggan, Betina Kuntzsch
Producer: Maria Wischnewski
Production assistance: Lilly Rinklebe
Composition: Joachim Gies
Saxophone, percussion, electronics: Joachim Gies
Sampling, electronics: Michael Walz
Percussion: Denis Stilke
Speakers: Claudia Mehnert, Betina Kuntzsch
Voice recording: Urs Hauck
Sound design, sound mixing: Michael Walz
Technical Support: Helmuth Schneider
Subtitling: Babelfisch translations
GASAG AG Berlin
AFC Energie Berlin | ars cinema berlin e. V. | Rainer Hässelbarth | Filmmuseum Potsdam
Stasi-Unterlagen-Archiv Berlin, Bundesarchiv
Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum
Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück, Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten
Prof. Dietmar Kuntzsch
Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin | Jochen Haupt
PROGRESS Film GmbH
Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft e.V. | Werner Fischer | Rolf Zöllner
dpa Picture-Alliance GmbH
Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH
Poem „immerdar“ by Kathrin Schmidt from „sommerschaums ernte“
Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2020
Song „So ist ein Pionier” by Reinhold Andert, recording at the Friedrichstadtpalast 1974
Amiga | Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH
Reinhold Andert, AnwohnerInitiative Ernst-Thälmann-Park, Sören Benn, Paula Böttcher
Wolfgang Cortjaens, Vera Dehle-Thälmann, Ralf Forster, Philipp Herb, Ines Hahn, Philipp Karstädt
Anne Dorte Krause, Reinhard Krause, Olf Kreisel, Claudia Kuntzsch, Prof. Dietmar Kuntzsch
Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Annette Leo, Martin Lutzens, Enkidu Leyendecker, Ingrid Meyer, Michaela Nolte
Christoph Ochs, Britta Pawelke, Uta Rinklebe, Regina Scheer, Hans Scherner, Sabine Schmidt
Antje Schneider, Annette Schulze-Röger, Hans Soost † und Martina Nischewoff
Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH, Annette Tietz, Robert Wein, Eleonore Wolf, Nina Ziesemer
Special thanks to the Museum Pankow, Beate Böhnisch und Bernt Roder
© KOBERSTEIN FILM | Betina Kuntzsch | Bezirksamt Pankow von Berlin
Under the title KOPF FAUST FAHNE, a compilation of all the films can be seen in various cinemas and at festivals.
Dok Leipzig, German Competition, 2021