Über das Projekt

Starting Points

Art created in the GDR has been the subject of controversial debates since the 1990s. To this day, its (art) historical location and social relevance are discussed and questioned in academia and in the context of exhibitions. Prominent examples of this struggle for remembrance are the "deutsch-deutscher Bilderstreit" or the disputes surrounding the listing of architecture from the GDR as monuments. In this context, art production in the GDR is often portrayed pejoratively as provincial and self-referential. International relations are usually located in the so-called Eastern Bloc. It is hardly known that the GDR's network of contacts and exchange relationships in the field of visual art and architecture spanned almost the entire globe. Forms of this contact could be, for example, exhibition cooperations, artists' trips, or student exchanges.

Research Goals

Against this background, a broad transcultural perspective on artistic production in the GDR is essential to fundamentally re-situate the history of art in the GDR as an "art history of contact" (Kravagna 2013). In doing so, unknown spaces and restrictions of contact are illuminated beyond Eurocentric narratives. Special attention will be paid to stories and perspectives of actors from countries of the Global South. The diversity of voices and memories will provide space for intersectional perspectives and contradictions. Art in Networks - The GDR and its Global Relations aims to establish this new perspective and to communicate it to the public in the form of a digital platform. The REACT-research group is funded by the ESF between February and December 2022, and is located at the Chair of Visual Studies in Global Context at TU Dresden.

Art in Networks aims to make visible the connections between artists, architects, museums, and other cultural actors between the GDR and countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and to trace the international networks that emerged in the process. Using individual "nodes" as examples, the project will examine where and how forms of private and institutional artistic exchange took shape.  To what extent did cultural-political relationships materialize? Where did the boundaries of official exchange lie within the political framework? How were they sometimes transgressed in private? Where can traces of these contacts still be found today?

For this purpose, text and video contributions are created, which are mainly based on interviews with contemporary witnesses. The contributions are visualized in a timeline that is intended to go beyond the linear development of the GDR's international relations in the field of art and to show the ongoing emergence of networks up to the present. Focal points result from the individual research of the contributors. In addition to the interviews with contemporary witnesses, academic experts will offer interdisciplinary and international perspectives on the topics of Art in Networks. In interviews with scholars, archivists, and curators, for example, research approaches, exhibition and collection practices, and individual objects will be discussed.

Our Approach and Open Questions

Art in Networks explores the possibilities of oral art history as a method to link memories of contemporary witnesses with the materiality of works, artifacts and other sources in video interviews. The contemporary and personal perspective of the interviewees on past encounters, experiences and events also highlights the affective and emotional dimension of these art history(s).

While oral history is already established in historical studies, interviews are rarely used in art history. The format of a digital research platform with video contributions therefore also poses methodological difficulties and complex questions. For example, the interviews reflect self-assessments and subjective perspectives on the politics, culture, and society of the GDR and other countries, which cannot always be verified and historically contextualised in detail. We try to indicate political attitudes and, for example, contacts of the protagonists with the state security of the GDR, if known. At the same time, we are aware of how much we are deferring this point, which is often strongly emphasized in GDR research, in our project. A more in-depth exploration of these issues is not possible during the short duration of the project. Within our framework, we can only point to research literature that deals with the conflicting issues of living and working conditions in the GDR, where artistic freedom, like many other areas, was severely restricted by the repressive system.

Another challenge was to capture a range of voices as diverse as possible, because this intention is faced with a historical reality of predominantly white and male protagonists in the art world. We try to counteract this one-dimensionality and specifically include other perspectives.

And last but not least, it is important to question our handling of the material. For publication, all videos were edited by the Art in Networks team. During post-production, some wording that we perceived as racist and/or discriminatory was removed.  Furthermore, Art in Networks is aware that racist and discriminatory thoughts and actions can express themselves in many ways. They are often not even recognized as such by those who are not affected. This may also be the case for the Art in Networks team.

The fact that the international contacts of the protagonists were sometimes characterized by asymmetrical power relations and Eurocentrism becomes clear and also requires further evaluation. During post-production, many questions were therefore raised: How can exoticizations, stereotypes and racisms be dealt with without reproducing them - but also without concealing them? Can the video material stand on its own with only a brief historical-political contextualization by us?

We hope that the collection of material will be further used for academic studies with concrete questions in the future.

 Art in Networks does not see itself as a self-contained research project, but attempts to create a dynamic digital space in which scholarly exchange is facilitated and processed for a broad audience. Historical as well as current artistic explorations of the topic of the "global GDR" will be presented. At the same time, the new platform will be anchored in the existing research field. The project does not claim to be complete. The constantly growing platform is also intended to serve as a ressource for further research or art projects and is open to supplementary contributions, criticism and suggestions.


Our thanks go to all the interviewees who were willing to share stories of their life and work with us. We would also like to thank interviewees who were not comfortable with the idea of a video interview and who found other ways with us to tell their stories.

We would also like to thank the contributors, cooperating partners, the Advisory Board, the Fellows, and everyone who was involved in the project.

Art in Networks is a constantly growing project, suggestions, feedback and comments are welcome at artinnetworks@tu-dresden.de.

Project term: February 1 to December 31, 2022.


  • Kerstin Schankweiler
    Kerstin Schankweiler is Professor for Image Studies in a Global Context at the Institute for Art and Music, Technische Universität Dresden. Her research interests focus on art history in a global context, contemporary art from Africa, post-colonial perspectives, digital image cultures, and affect theory. She is the PI of the research projects “Art in Networks: The GDR and its Global Relations” and “Image Protests in Social Media”. Publications include Bildproteste (Berlin 2019), a Special Issue of Parallax on Affective Witnessing (2020, ed. with Michael Richardson) and the edited volume Reading Objects in the Contact Zone (Heidelberg 2021, ed. with Eva-Maria Troelenberg and Anna Messner).
  • Elke Neumann
    Art historian and curator. Studied art history, modern history and African studies in Berlin and Seville. Wrote her PhD on the Biennale of the Baltic Sea, it was funded by a travel grant from the Böckler-Mare-Balticum-Foundation. Since 2015 Elke Neumann is freelance curator in Berlin.
  • Pauline Hohn
    Studied art history and cultural heritage preservation in Bamberg and Dresden. Master thesis on exhibitions from art from african countries in the GDR.
  • Nora Kaschuba
    Studied history, art history and historical urban studies in Berlin. She wrote her thesis on the attempts of the GDR’s Building Academy to export technology and designs for mass housing to Maputo in the 1980s.
  • Jule Lagoda
    Studied Sciences of Art and Education in Braunschweig and Art History in a global Context in Berlin. Master thesis on the Graphic Series Das Glück der Erde (The Happiness of the Earth) (1980) by Martha Ketsela, an Ethiopian Artist in the GDR.
  • Anja Degner
    Doctoral candidate in Art History
    Studied French and Art History in Berlin, Paris and Leuven. Is currently working on her thesis Women as political subject in the works of Käthe Kollwitz. Her PhD is funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.
  • Laura-Maria Schulze
    Studied art history and history in Dresden. Bachelor thesis on The Woman, the Girl, the Mother - Solidarity with Vietnam - a Theme of Political Art of the GDR - considering Gendered Modes of Representation.
  • Janine Kläffling
    Study of art history and sociology in Dresden.

Advisory Board

  • Yvette Mutumba
    Yvette Mutumba is co-founder and artistic director of the platform Contemporary And (C&). She is curator-at-large at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and lecturer at the Institute of Art in Context at the University of Arts, Berlin. Mutumba was part of the curatorial team of the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018) and Guest Professor for Global Discourses at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (2017-2018). From 2012 to 2016 she was curator at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt a. M. She holds a PhD on the topic of “(Re-)Presentations, Receptions, Expectations: Contemporary Art by Artists from Africa and the Diaspora in the German Context 1960s – 2011”. In 2020, she and Julia Grosse were awarded "European Cultural Manager of the Year".
  • Elena Shtromberg
    Elena Shtromberg is Associate Professor at the University of Utah. She specializes in modern and contemporary Latin American visual culture with a particular focus on Brazil. Her interdisciplinary research interests extend to gender and media studies, cultural studies, as well as communications, geography and postcolonial theory. She has been the recipient of grants from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council and DAAD, among others. She is currently working on a scholarly monograph, The Politics of Memory in Video Art from Latin America, as well as several projects related to mail art, particularly circuits initiated by artists from and outside of Latin America, including those from East Germany.
  • April A. Eisman
    April A. Eisman (MA Courtauld Institute of Art, PhD University of Pittsburgh) is Associate Professor of Art History at Iowa State University. Her research focuses on contemporary art and theory with an emphasis on East German art and its reception. Publications include Angela Hampel: Das künstlerische Werk (with Gisbert Porstmann; Kerber, 2022), Kunst in der DDR: 30 Jahre danach (with Gisela Schirmer, Guernica Gesellschaft, 2020), and Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany (Camden House, 2018). In 2022 she co-curated a retrospective exhibition of Hampel's work at the Städtische Galerie Dresden and is currently completing a monograph in English on her work.
  • Angelika Weißbach
    Angelika Weißbach is an art historian. As a research associate at the Museum Utopie und Alltag, she is responsible for the inventory of art from the GDR in Beeskow. After completing her PhD on open spaces in the official art establishment of the GDR, she worked on the research project BILDATLAS - Kunst in der DDR. With a scholarship from the Société Kandinsky (Centre Pompidou), she edited the source edition Wassily Kandinsky – Unterricht am Bauhaus 1923–1933. Vorträge, Seminare, Übungen. She lives in Berlin and is a board member of the Max-Lingner-Stiftung.
  • Doreen Mende
    Doreen Mende is head of the Research Department at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD). Previously, she worked internationally as a freelance curator and theorist. Since September 2015, she has been head and professor of the research-based master's program and PhD forum CCC - Critical Curatorial Cybernetic Research Practices - in the Visual Arts Department at HEAD Genève - University of Art and Design Geneva/Switzerland, as well as an associate member of the Dutch Art Institute. Since 2019, she is leading the research project Decolonizing Socialism. Entangled Internationalism at HEAD Genève in collaboration with the Universität Basel, Exit Frame Collective, Kunstverein Leipzig, the Van Abbemuseum and HKW Berlin: www.entangledinternationalism.org.


  • Lena Geuer
    Lena Geuer (Ph.D) is an art historian. She works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Art and Music at the TU Dresden and teaches transcultural art history with a focus on modern and contemporary Latin American art. Lena received her PhD on Argentinean art from the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf as part of the graduate program Materiality and Production. In her habilitation project, she investigates the concept of renunciation and its aesthetic meaning in the field of art and sustainability. Together with Ömer Alkin she edited the anthology Postcolonialism and Postmigration. Her book Arte Argentino: Aesthetics and Narratives of Identity in Argentine Art. Selected Works by Marta Minujín and Luis Felipe Noé has just been published by transcript Verlag.
  • Sophie Thorak
    Sophie Thorak is a doctoral candidate and research assistant at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg. After studying art history and classical archaeology in Leipzig, Berlin and Paris, she worked as a research volunteer and press officer at the Lindenau Museum in Altenburg. At the BTU, she initiated the Cottbus Workshops on Art and Architecture of the GDR in 2021 with Prof. Dr. Sylvia Claus. Her main research interest is the influence of global conflicts and contemporary historical events on East German art, especially regarding its internationalization as well as the development of transnational networks. For her doctoral project, she is focusing on the late 1960s with a focus on the Vietnam War.
  • Lea Marie Nienhoff
    Lea Marie Nienhoff is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Basel and academic assistant at HEAD Genève - University of Art and Design Geneva. In her Master thesis “We Are Workers, Not Inmates!” (2019) she studied the decolonial practices and politics of space of Mozambican workers in East Germany. Her doctoral project engages with urban planning in the global East, the techno-political practices, and the critical and artistic reflections that accompanied the construction of ‘socialist space’. She is part of the research group “Decolonizing Socialism: Entangled Internationalism. An Intersectional Study of Cold War Projects from East Germany in Cinema and Cybernetics with Relevance for the 21st Century”, based at HEAD Genève and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. www.entangledinternationalism.org