A GERMAN-RUSSIAN PROJECT ON THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD
How do we go about commemorating an inconceivable crime? How and in what form can past events be visualized and transformed? As the cultural theorist, Aleida Assmann states in her book Der Lange Schatten der Vergangenheit (The Long Shadow of the Past) on the culture of remembrance and the politics of memory, the “potential impact deriving from an interpretation and appropriation of the experience of history” constitutes a decisive aspect in the creation of collective identity. Monuments to memory are therefore representations of a particular view of history, a time and a place and are perforce contingent upon the perspective of those doing the commemorating.
Alongside the Holocaust, the Siege of Leningrad is considered to be one of the most egregious crimes in the history of the Second World War. It took place between 8 September 1941 and 27 January 1944, lasting almost 900 days with a death toll in excess of one million, predominantly civilians, primarily due to severe malnutrition. Deliberately planned by the German forces, this tragedy is still barely imaginable in its scale and are to be viewed in a wider context of the war of extermination perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.
Whereas the Siege of Leningrad has become both part of collective memory in the former Soviet Union and today’s Russia and the focus of a dedicated official museum of remembrance in present-day St. Petersburg, it barely features in public discourse in Germany today. Unlike many other groups who fell prey to National Socialism, there is no public memorial in Germany to those who starved to death in Leningrad. This lack of public awareness in Germany formed the starting point for 900 and Some 26 000 Days. The project is geared towards stimulating public debate and paying tribute to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad by reflecting upon different possibilities of remembrance within the framework of an integrated exhibition, accompanying film screening and program of discussion and talks.
Young artists from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Hamburg (twinned with St. Petersburg) present their ideas and designs for possible public forms of artistic engagement with the topic of the siege. They met initially in 2014 in a workshop in St Petersburg in order to acquaint themselves with the historical facts, meet contemporary witnesses, visit existing memorials in St Petersburg and, on the basis of an exchange on public art and the various approaches to it, think about how the siege could be commemorated in St. Petersburg – a city well-endowed with museums – as well as in Hamburg. The ideas generated by this exchange will be presented at the Kunstverein in Hamburg from mid-October onwards. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of films in the arts cinema Metropolis as well as a program of discussion on the evening prior to the opening and on the opening day itself.
A joint project, initiated by the Goethe-Institute Moscow / St. Petersburg, together with the Kunstverein in Hamburg, the Rodchenko Art School, Moscow, the PRO ARTE Foundation, St. Petersburg, the University of Fine Arts Hamburg, the Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg (FZH), the State Agency for Political Education, Hamburg, and the Metropolis Kino Hamburg. With friendly support of the Ministry of Culture of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
The University of Fine Arts Hamburg, Prof. Michaela Melián: Tim Theo Geissler / Tobias Muno, Roy Huschenbeth, Alice Astern Peragine, Judith Rau, Clara Wellner Bou; The Rodchenko Art School, Moskau, Prof. Haim Sokol: Nadia Degtyareva, Nick Degtyarev, Semen Kats, Nikolay Spesivtsev, Dzina Zhuk;
The PRO ARTE Foundation, St. Petersburg, Prof. Ludmila Belova: Alexandr Androsov, Alexey Grachev, Natalia Khvoenkova, Anastasia Kizilova, Vadim Leukhin, Natalia Tikhonova, Vadim Zaitcev
Goethe-Institute Moscow (Astrid Wege, Lisa Welitschko), Goethe-Institute St. Peter