From the Group Journal of Christiane P.
Based on my biography and following the series of pictures Flagraising Ceremony – Staged Photographs to the 3rd German Art Exhibition in Dresden, 1953, which I produced in 1988/89 1), I have devoted myself in a new series of scenic photographs to the question of which key images could be used today to describe the dictatorship of the GDR and in particular my youth in the 1970s in East Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg.
Karl Corino, head of the literature department at Hessischer Rundfunk, aptly described my working method in 1995: "Every epoch has a blind spot that prevents it from seeing the ridiculousness of its goings-on, the time-bound, the involuntarily comic. Leupold has the talent of placing the tripod of his camera in precisely this blind spot and showing all the exaggerated, slippery and unfortunate, perhaps even mendacious things that remained hidden from contemporaries at the time "2).
The impulse for this personal image-text work came from the desire to tell an inner view from memory and to visualise it through repetition at the moment of staging. Precisely those things that were self-evident and omnipresent at the time have not entered the collective memory of the GDR: Wearing Pioneer and FDJ uniforms, military training in adolescence in the Society for Sport and Technology (GST), preparation for service in the National People's Army (NVA), the instruction day in production (UTP) at the sponsoring brigade, the Subottnik, the group council election, following the rules associated with it was a matter of course for my generation. Participation in mass demonstrations, e.g. on 1st May and other public holidays, was institutionally obligatory for schools and work collectives. In order to consolidate the GDR's recognition abroad, top sporting achievements were particularly encouraged. The GDR nomenklatura tried to influence the thinking and actions of young people from kindergarten age through the youth organisations and continuous propaganda. This included going to the cinema to see Soviet anti-war films, laying wreaths at memorials to anti-fascists and Soviet soldiers of World War II, singing political songs, creating wall newspapers and keeping group journals.
The title of the publication: Aus dem Gruppenbuch der Christiane P. (From the Group Journal of Christiane P.) alludes, among other things, to the absorption of the individual in the group. The group journal contained the joint undertakings of the school class as an organisational level of the young pioneers / Thälmann pioneers / Free German Youth (FDJ). Since there were hardly any young people who were not organised in this way, this picture-text work can be seen as exemplary for the experiences of a generation of former GDR citizens.
Those who did not submit were spat out by the system: Be it the dropped gold medallist or myself. In 1982, I was charged with failing to report my best friend's escape from the Republic and imprisoned in the Central Remand Prison Facility of the GDR's Ministry of State Security in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. Here I experienced depersonalisation as a systematic means of suppressing dissent.
In this context, I returned with my fellow collaborators to many authentic sites of the events, such as the aforementioned remand centre in Hohenschönhausen (today the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial), the ruins of the Arthur Becker Barracks in Goldberg of the NVA Tank Regiment 8 near Schwerin, the Soviet Memorial in Berlin-Treptow and the German-Russian Museum in Berlin Karlshorst.
1. Leupold, M. and Kleinerüschkamp, W., 1992. Fahnenappell. Szenische Fotografien zur III. Deutschen Kunstausstellung in Dresden 1953. 1st ed. MARBURG: JONAS.
2. Leupold, M., Corino, K. and Immisch, T., 1996. Die Schönheit der Frauen–Female Beauty. Studies in the Open-Air. 1st ed. Leipzig: Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung.
Leupold, M., 2022. From the Group Journal of Christiane P. 1st ed. Berlin: Photo Edition Berlin
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