Germany: Exhibition about East Europe’s censored rock music

11 October 2007
On 7 October 2007 the KLIPZENSORED exhibition opened in Berlin. It presents music clips and music-based video art that for various reasons weren’t shown or played in the former European East Bloc countries such as East Germany and Hungary.

Many of the presented works in the exhibition are seldom seen clips from television, film and private archives – from artists and acts such as Wolf Biermann, Klaus-Renft-Combo, Freygang, AE Bizottság, Kontroll Csoprt, Rammstein and Tankcsapda.

The clips are complemented by interview statements by clip makers, musicians, state broadcasting employees, music television staffers and youth protection officials. It presents the kind of music which wasn’t played in mainstream media, cinemas, music venues or youth clubs in their countries of origin – or, if at all, only in censored form or at certain times of day.

The clips and statements are presented on vintage tv sets from the respective eras in which the clips were made. Documents, photos and posters provide additional information and context. This includes material that due to youth protection regulations is only accesible for visitors over 18 years of age.

This project is funded by Bipolar German-Hungarian projects. Bipolar is an intitiative of Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). The opening was attended by apprimately 100 persons, and the press coverage has generally been positive, in particular among bloggers and other online media, said press officer Natalie Gravenor.

Freedom of expression versus political correctness
The focus countries in the exhibition are Hungary and the former East Germany, as well as post-1990 Germany. The exhibition doesn’t end with the momentous events of 1989 and 1990 but continues to the present day to highlight current debates about freedom of expression versus political correctness, as most recently exemplified by the controversy over racist and homophobic rap songs.

In East Europe films and scripts for films usually had to pass through some forms of state control – a broadcasting supervisory board, or a cultural institution – that evaluated the works’ political and moral appropriateness before they could be shown on tv music programs or in cinemas and youth clubs. Whatever didn’t conform to the system, that is what was “morally objectionable”, counterrevolutionary, without class consciousness or often merely critical, was not shown. Or pulled out of circulation after the fact as soon as possible, as was the case in some countries when certain artists were banned or became “non-persons” after emigrating or being expelled.

After the dissolution of communism – although free media were introduced at least nominally – certain music clips came under fire by state run and now private (editors of music tv stations and music shows on commercial tv) control mechanisms. Many clip makers were/are tempted to test the limits of what is acceptable and sometimes purposefully violate transgress those limits. When pop songs in general violate political, sexual or religious taboos, this is already cause for alarm. All the more so when already provocative lyrics are visualized or otherwise innocuous songs are coupled with taboo breaking visuals.

KLIPZENSORED – Rock Music in Film, Television, Music Clips and Media Censorship in Hungary, GDR and post-1990 Germany

Location: General Public, Schönhauser Allee 167c, 10435 Berlin
(Subway station Senefelder Platz)

8 October to 21 October 2007
Open daily from 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm.
Entrance over 18 years of age

Film Screenings with Guests – Musicians, Film Makers and Experts
25 October to 31 October 2007
Kino in der Brotfabrik, Caligariplatz, 13086 Berlin – Tram M2, 12
Related reading
Making Marx in the Music: A HyperHistory of New Music and Politics
Extensive article on music and politics, by Kyle Gann

“No one can doubt that music has a big role to play in the world of political protest. The controversial musicians we read about in the papers, though, are mostly from the pop and folk genres. It’s not only that those musicians are more visible, though that’s certainly true as well. Classical music and jazz seem to have a more long-term, measured, even sublimated approach to political protest, slower to react and more deeply embedded in the structure of the music itself.
When John Mellencamp writes a political song, he can use the same old chords and instruments he always uses; political classical composers often feel that the political intention entails a special style and strategy. When Billy Bragg is infuriated by an item in the paper, he can fire off a song that day. The classical and jazz worlds, however, generally have a longer turnaround time.”

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