Gudrun and Christiane

Die Bleierne Zeit, ein Film von Margarethe von Trotta,1981 / Gudrun Ensslin / Christiane Ensslin (hrsg von), Zieh den Trennungstrich jeden Tag, Konkret Literatur Verlag, 2005 / Franz Kafka, Ein Hungerkünstler, 1921 / Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus, 1921 / Rotarmisten / Roten Armee Fraktion (RAF)

18 × 7 × 3.2 m:
Spatial drawing with sound:
Gouache, crayon, pigment pen, 10 loudspeakers and red cabel:
Rohkunstbau art festival, Villa Kellermann, Potsdam:
      Rohkunstbau (192)

Photograph header: Bernd Uhlig

The specific point of departure for my spatial drawing is the film “Die bleierne Zeit” by Margarethe von Trotta (1981). The film deals primarily with the personal relationship between two sisters, and clearly reflects the relationship between the German siblings Gudrun and Christiane Ensslin – the latter of whom played an active role in the film’s development. The sisters both led politically engaged lives: on the one hand, Christiane, legally as a journalist; the other, Gudrun, radically as a terrorist for the German RAF (Red Army Fraction), who abandoned partner and child to go underground and was eventually incarcerated.

In 2005, Christiane and her brother Gottfried Ensslin published the letters that Gudrun wrote from solitary confinement in the early years of her imprisonment, 1972-73. One reason for the intensive written exchange was the strict limitation on visitation and correspondence permissions to include only immediate family members. Missing are Christiane Ensslin’s letters; the dialogue allows itself to be reconstructed only from Gudrun’s answers. Her private letters – as Gudrun Ensslin was well aware – were read by the state authorities and censored. In light of this background, the “private” aspect of these testaments is relative.

Passages from Gudrun’s letters to Christiane penetrate the hermetic exhibition space in deep red handwriting. On top of these personal words, in a lighter red, are excerpts from literary as well as philosophical and political texts that Gudrun Ensslin asked her sister to bring to her in prison. These include Friedrich Engels’ “The Origin of the Family,” “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka, poems by Ezra Pound, dramas by Jean Genet und “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” by Ludwig Wittgenstein. The literary influences on Gudrun Ensslin are evident beyond her “authentic” voice – just as the red star points to the history of the Russian Red Guard, before it was adapted as the symbol of the German RAF.