The Cultural Report on east Germany is a study concerning the current situation of contemporary artistic and cultural production in the eastern German federal states, edited by Kristina Bauer-Volke and Ina Dietzsch.
The members of the study's advisory team are Andreas Dresen, Prof. Wolfgang Engler, Dr. Christine Hannemann, Thomas Heise, Wolfgang Kil, Prof. Bernd Lindner, Prof. Dietrich Mühlberg, Jutta Penndorf, Prof. Dorothee Wierling, and Norbert Zähringer.
Study Approach and Aims
Twelve years after German-German unification, east Germany represents a political, cultural and geographical area which has been examined from widely varying perspectives and repeatedly described as 'different'. All existing studies show that the region has always been characterised by particularly dynamic change, and it is regarded as a place in transition between the point of departure, the GDR, and a destination which is usually (although no longer as a matter of course) seen to be embedded in the value system of the Federal Republic.
The direction taken by the massive changes of the last twelve years is apparent in various areas of society, and can be described as follows:
An unemployment rate above the average, affecting half the population in some regions, suggests that the era of full employment is over, and, with it, the end of important cultural mechanisms which had previously integrated individuals into society and created the basic framework within which they could act. People from a "working kind of society" (Engler), whose work formed the essence of their self-identity, were and are still compelled to reinvent the relationship between work and life and the spaces of their social interaction. The loss of work-centred social contexts, which happened with scarcely any period of transition and was the result of the economic vacuum in the region, is accompanied by phenomena which seem to produce their own negative results in a downward spiral: impecunious governments do not only lack the funds to create new jobs, but also those that would create alternative structures able to stem this leak. The diverse cultural infrastructure inherited from the GDR has not yet been completely dismantled, and theatres, cultural locations and exhibition rooms have not all been closed. However, it is nevertheless already evident that in some, often rural regions, neither work-based nor cultural infrastructures will remain intact. This process brings what is often a mass exodus of young people from these regions in its wake, leading to a dramatic demographic displacement. At the same time, the various actors are developing cultural practices that leave them able to function in these conditions, and new strategies are developing in many places, with differing chances of survival.
The cultural area that is usually somewhat vaguely described as 'east Germany' is thus in a state of flux 'between states of being'. The old is disappearing or changing as the new appears. These processes work together, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes opposing each other.
The wider relevance of the situation in eastern Germany lies in the "advance phenomena" (Hannemann) that can be observed there, and that may be on the brink of developing in the societies of western Germany and western Europe. This assumption may seem absurd, but in view of the rising unemployment and empty public coffers across Europe, it might be advisable to look at east Germany more closely and ask questions about the strategies the society is employing - with whatever degree of success - to change its situation.
The study's objective is to create a snapshot of the cultural processes in the five eastern German states. No attempt will be made to draw a complete picture or to describe the situation in general. Instead, taking the large amount of existing research into account, the study will point to current problems and the varied developments resulting from a process of change that has now lasted for twelve years, and to put these in context.
The research centres on two issues:
1. How are social processes described, and what are their cultural dimensions? (Relationship between work and culture, changes in urban and rural areas, mobility and immobility, youth and ageing, political understanding and political culture, regionalisations and identifications)
2. What transformations and problems does the cultural scene have, and what are their social dimensions? (The consequences of Article 35 of the Unification Treaty, the relationship between 'high' and 'popular' culture, ideas for cultural promotion, the formation of new cultural regions, sponsored and market-structured forms of organisation)
Project management: Kristina Bauer-Volke, Ina Dietzsch, Sabine Hödt
Project manager Kristina Bauer-Volke: