Remembering is work. Artists’ Archives
What does artistic memory work look like? Digging. Reading. Collecting. Ordering. Noting. Recording. Rethinking. Crossing out. – These are creative processes that make up or accompany remembering. They result in notes, sketches, lists and models. Remembering, artists reflect, means to ponder. They describe it as an attempt to resolve what is merely held on to in memory, to endure retrospect, to swim against the current of forgetting, to invent mnemonic devices, to fail, to go on recounting endlessly. The ability to remember must be developed and criticism of memory must be practised. Memories themselves cannot be grasped. They only remain awake when they are recalled again and again, and when they are questioned.
The archive proves to be both resource and method. It gives a place and structure to the abundance of remembered material, and it challenges us to engage with memory, to read between the lines. Selected objects, designs and artworks by artists from the Archives of the Akademie invite us to trace memories in their works, explore storage media, comprehend archival methods and pursue the question of the politics of memory and the relationship between individual and collective memory. These objects are literally brought into the light. They are not memorabilia, yet they testify to memory as the driving force of artistic creation. Walter Benjamin’s programmatic text Ausgraben und Erinnern (Excavation and Memory) provides the framework for this line of thought: memory is the medium for exploring the present. The results of the memory work, such as Einar Schleef’s diary pictures, Käthe Kollwitz’s work curves, Walter Kempowski’s preparatory work for Echolot (Sonar), picture clippings by George Grosz and a letter by Inge Deutschkron, form a constellation of artistic procedures: “Erinnern ist Arbeit” (Remembering is work).
Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Inge Deutschkron, George Grosz, Walter Kempowski, Käthe Kollwitz, Ursula Mamlok, Heiner Müller / Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Edgar Reitz, Einar Schleef, Axel Schultes / Charlotte Frank, Uwe Timm, Heinrich Vogeler, Mary Wigman, Christa Wolf