CologneOFF 2011 Baltic Sea 2
Pro Arte Foundation
During the CologneOFF 2001 years program, the event structure – 3 venues on 3 days in Sankt Petersburg/Russia – is playing a particular role, not only due to the complexity of the program composing, or the Russian venues as such, but mainly because the event was overshadowed by a scandal. The Russian event is a collaboration between Wilfried (as a representative of CologneOFF and artvideoKOELN) and the Russian partners Smolny University Sankt Petersburg, Pro Arte Foundation, NCCA – Nation Centre of Contemporary Art Sankt Petersburg and Cyland Media Art Lab – a local organisation dealing with art & technology and, all is supported by the Goethe Institute Sankt Petersburg. The local organsation is lying in the hands of Vika Iliushkina, a curator @ Cyland, who is also taking the function of the mediator and moderator of the three events.
Wilfried is the invited guest at the three venues and today, 19 May, Wilfried is holding his lesson at the start of the presentation at Smolny University, a branch of the liberal arts @ The National University of Sant Petersburg. Wilfried arrived two days ago, and he was surprised how much Sankt Petersburg is looking like Amsterdam, where he spent so many years for study or other Dutch cities, he knew of course the history of Sankt Petersburg, how much Czar Peter the Great was imitating Amsterdam by erecting a network of channels (grachten). But, of course, it’s not Amsterdam, because St.Petersburg is missing the particular spirit of freedom and tolerance. While Amsterdam is and was a citizens city, the architecture of St.Petersburg is feudalistic and fits actually perfectly in the “new” Russia under its new czar. The authoritarian spirit is perfectly represented by German officials busy in diplomatic services for the German government. Many of them did not recognize, yet, that the Nazi era is over already more than 70 years ago, and it comes like is has to come – a conflict between the freedom of art, the word and expression represented by Wilfried and his media art activities, and the director of the St.Peterburg Goethe Institute (his name can be found in the archives of the Goethe Institute) who is telling proudly everybody, how much he is hating media art, that media art is representing the new “evil”. And now, starting his lecture at Smolny University is not possible because after Wilfried is speaking his forth or fifth word, another guest of the university, the director of the Goethe Institute is not only interrrupting the moderation of Vika Iliushkina, but Wilfried’s lecture, attacking Wilfried and his explanations about mediart and videoart, which the big audience is expecting eagerly, and suddenly Vika and Wilfried are sitting in front of a tribunal with its head prosecutor in shape of the Goethe Institute director, he uses the same aggressive Nazi vocabulary as Joseph Goebbels was using when he was accusating different minded people at the “Volksgerichtshof” of the Nazi (People’s Court). Not only Wilfried, but all the students and intellectuals are remaining in shock – and there were young Russians who were first speaking of the Goethe Institute director as a Nazi – there is no chance that Wilfried can continue his lecture, and …………..Yes, this was one of that embarrassing moments to be a German!!…………. Wilfried is such emotionally paralyzed that does not recognize that sometimes the screening program is running and later sometimes the nightmare is finished, and the Goethe Institute director is afterwards behaving as if nothing had happened, at all, and it would be usual that the little dictators who have no chance to play that role in Germany, have their stage outside of Germany, in Russia and elsewhere. The peak of bad taste is happening now when this little dictator is inviting Vika and Wilfried for dinner, it is a shabby pizzeria somewhere downtown of St.Petersburg, it reminds of the mafia quaters of Naples. While the little dictator is explaining Wilfried that he has all right to destroy Wilfried’s presentation – Wilfried answers very slowly and precise – he (the little dictator) would never have dared to behave like that if Wilfried would have been one of the Goethe Institutes prominent guests, and the husband of the little dictator is talking as much nonsens as the little dictator himself does for the next 2 hours while Wilfried and Vika remain in absolute silence – this is a surreal play and the stage is the public outdoor area of the shabby pizzeria – suddenly Wilfried starts laughing out loud because it is like in a horror comedy.
Later, sitting in the hotel room at his laptop, Wilfried is writing an email to the Goethe Institute director, telling him, for his disgusting Nazi like behaviour he is not welcome anymore to attend Wilfried’s presentations at the next following venues. Wilfried is sure nobody ever has reacted like he was doing!
Next morning the world will have changed like after the impact of the asteroid causing the extinct of the dinosaur.
But Wilfried feels liberated and really unhappy alike, he sees St.Petersburg now with different eyes, and on 20 May when Wilfried will be starting his presentation at Pro Arte Foundation, the Goethe Institute director is not appearing, indeed, Wilfried – prepared to throw the little dictator out of the space of the prestigeous art foundation – will be happy that he will never be confronted anymore with the would-be Joseph Goebbels.
Wilfried, however, will recognize also, that Vika Iliushikina does not seem to be very happy about the course of events, because she and the St.Petersburg based organisations were counting much on the collaboration with the Goethe Institute, but Wilfried had to follow his heart like he always is doing – and he is right to do so.
By reviewing the scandal from the distance 10 years later, however, Wilfried knows in 2020 definitely, he would behave the same way, if he would meet another such little, dirty dictator, wherever in the world.
And what about art? That’s why Wilfried was travelling to St.Petersburg wasn’t he……………..????
In any case, the CologneOFF 2011 programs are excellent – it is art which is the winner, finally!!