The project 1990,- is an authentic example of the individual anarchic handling of the experience of the takeover or occupation at the time of the German reunification in 1990.
It is said that the threshold year of 1990 in East Germany lasted from November 1989 to October 1990; the opening of the border and reunification marks its two dates. But that is not true. The sale of the country had begun immediately after the opening and, strictly speaking, had already crossed the threshold in March. The Treuhandanstalt (trust agency) was founded after the first and, at the same time, last democratic elections to the Volkskammer, the East German parliament, with the victory of the CDU-led ‘Alliance for Germany’. From then on, it had the residual values of the industrial enterprises at its disposal, 80% of which were said not to be able to survive. If there were both positive and negative reports on future development, the negative one was usually implemented – in other words, the company was shut down after a quick risk transfer through a symbolic sale. In general, we were not able to keep up because we had not been able to form capital. The gradual termination of working relationships broke up everyday life. Some were afraid of the threshold, others jumped over to the West. According to estimates at the time, around one million people left East Germany in 1989/90, about 6% of the population. A total exodus threatened. In July 1990, the early end of the short freedom became even more openly visible: thanks to the monetary union, people now had the long-awaited currency in their hands and began to behave differently.
The workers were busy with survival, the intellectuals with The Third Path, and only the have-nots were lucky to have the sun shining out of their asses, because we enjoyed all the freedom we wanted. The threshold year of 1990 meant that the GDR executives were gone but connection to the FRG had not yet taken place. In a way, we felt stateless. In my case, the days looked like this: after two and a half years, I returned from Stuttgart to Leipzig, occupied an abandoned empty flat in Ernestistrasse in Connewitz, nailed two skis to the open window casement and painted pictures. A pair of thieves, Jürgen and Marion, moved in, fighting many brawls. The only one who had a lease agreement was the early pensioner and drunkard, Bernd, who soon didn’t have water, because Jürgen tore the lead pipes from the wall and sold them as scrap metal after ‘Klemmi’ had boiled pea puree and clogged Bernd’s drainpipe with the revolting dish. (‘If you don’t have a drain, you don’t need water either.’)
Late at night, Krauskopf and I drove a white Ford Taunus 1.6 saloon down the flat steps to the Stichlingsteich in the park of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal – strictly forbidden. The lack of a uniform answer to the violation of the law made me feel how much my inner format still depended on the imprint of the formerly seamless state power. The GDR had been my habitat for 23 years. Fascinated, I drove into the dark emptiness; a few lights in front of the windshield shone from afar. It pulled me out into this barbaric abundance of sudden absence, but you had to get out of your skin and I didn’t know how.
During the day, I had discovered a container with prostheses in front of an orthopaedic workshop. Legs, arms and replacements of every kind had been preserved as health insurance property following death. Now there was no more room for old crutches and supports. That’s why seven wooden legs stuck out of my trunk. Seven legs, a car from the West, two stateless young friends, a dark battle monument: the slightly clouded moon shone above everything, we drank beer and slowly circled around the basin with its large mirror-smooth water surface, an absurd riddle and yet only knee-deep.
Pictograms of all city sights were found on road signs across the city. We simply continued the system and sprayed signs with templates. We met up with Bernd, who appeared in his best suit. In my Ford with a Stuttgart number plate, we drove head-on to the sights. Bernd was the one who went out and held the sign. Photo. Everything was run down: the car, Bernd, the sights – and into this grey squalor, we smeared the greed of these foreign buyers who appropriated our city. Photo. Photo.
Postscript 2019: The evaluation of the institutional sides of the GDR as an injustice state (not to say criminal state: at least 140 fatalities at the Wall) still remains today.
Reunification was inevitable in 1990. But the fact that it was almost exclusively based on categories of economic organisation and that the political dimension of a necessary new constitution was not taken seriously comes back to haunt the country today. West Germany probably recognised itself at that time; it encountered the déjà vu of its own past. It did not want to admit this and fended it off with its economic pride – together with national pride for the purpose of reunification. Perhaps this is why the takeover of the East was so aggressive. The down-to-earth development of the eastern states within the newly set framework on the basis of their experiences, which radically deviated from that of the western states, was prevented by the union. Experiences are buried, memories are certainly transformed – but one should not confuse inner classification with GDR nostalgia. Bischofferode continues to have an effect. And so the outline of the GDR is still marked today in numerous German cartographic statistics; yes, it even seems to be more strongly reflected today than a few years ago. This is obvious proof that unification was not successful for many people.