Workshop: (Self-)Narratives and
Traces of Upheaval in the Œuvre of
Artists of the GDR

Spetember 21 and 22, 2023

University of Potsdam
Campus III – Griebnitzsee
August-Bebel-Straße 89
14482 Potsdam

The workshop of the “Images of History in Contemporary Art” research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) in Berne will take place in the second half of September 2023. Besides invited guests, young researchers can also apply to this call with a paper.

With the title “(Self-)Narratives and Traces of Upheaval in the Oeuvre of Artists of the GDR”, the workshop will embark on the search for a precarious relationship, namely that between artistic practice and the self-narrative as a genre for narrative depiction of a life.

Seiichi Furuya, Berlin-Ost 1987, Copyright the Artist, Courtesy Galerie Thomas Fischer.

The self-narrative will be examined as a social form of knowledge and as a cultural pattern arising from the history of ideas that engenders concepts of individuality and identity in the form of a range of materials. The relationship between narrative and artistic practice that is targeted presumes less an illustrating or mediating relationship than a performing one. This is because for both the narrative and the artistic practice, what is not said and not shown is also meaningful. Precisely what is left out and emphasized can show something of the configuration of the self, in particular its embedding into the lifeworld of the GDR. Hence, a self-narrative is neither pure fiction nor a faithful rendering of all of a life’s actions and coincidences, but rather a plausibility test of narrative contexts that constantly renews itself.

Self-narrative sources include diary entries, photographs, artists’ books, notes, letters, postcards, posters, (literary) writings, films and oral history, such as interviews with artists. The workshop will examine self-narratives of this type with a view to artists in the GDR and their works, investigating how artistic convictions feed into descriptions of one’s own life, and vice versa, namely how autobiographical experiences feed into art: where does the oeuvre begin and where does it end? How can the oeuvre of artists from the GDR be seen and (re-)interpreted through the lens of their autobiographical writings? Do autobiographical self-thematisations of critical life events provide insight into more or less concurrent changes in direction in the artistic work?

If you are interested, please send an abstract for a 20-minute talk (max. 900 characters incl. spaces, one-half DIN A4 page) and a short CV by 20 May 2023 by e-mail to Anna Leonie Grimm ( Travel and accommodation costs can be subsidised if required.

The workshop will be carried out by the team of the “Images of History in Contemporary Art” research project ( led by Melanie Franke) at the University of Potsdam. It is enabled by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) in Berne and the promotion of science and technology transfer (FöWiTec) at the University of Potsdam.