Otto Dix
Workshop in Sibiu
Workshop in Cluj
Workshop in Cluj
Workshop in Sibiu
Workshop in Cluj
Workshop in Cluj

Photos: Wiebke Trunk, 2009

Workshop series on the theme of violence in pictures

Art needs up-to-date mediation formats. Art historian Wiebke Trunk accompanied the ifa "Otto Dix" exhibition for several months on its tour to Tiflis, Nicosia and to Romania. One of the stops in Romania was Timisoara, along with Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca and Brasov.

The subject of 'violence in pictures' has been taken up in many media in the last time. Images of torture and witch-burnings in past centuries show that the subject is not a new one. Within the ifa exhibition of graphic by Otto Dix, showing violence in war and in everyday life, the subject will be discussed and transferred into the present.

Art historian Wiebke Trunk is accompanying the exhibition with introductions and lectures, and also with workshops, especially for children and young people. The workshops serve not just to pass on knowledge, but create topical links to make it possible to reflect on the participants own worlds and thus create new access to the works of art.

Addressing the work of Otto Dix, whose etchings show sexual and military aggression in the First World War and the 1920s in Germany, leads to a dialogue with participants about violence and aggression in today’s pictures. The young people are given copies of Dix’s etchings, and the adults bring pictures relevant to the theme with them from their own sphere – these materials are made into collages and images of violence are mitigated as they feel best. Joint discussions and analyses of the work produced attempt to transform the images that originally had negative connotations into positive statements. The participants are often sceptical and reticent at first, but they soon develop different ideas when working with the pictures. So for example one of Dix’s prostitutes acquires a sofa to rest on and a flat she is safe in.

The young people identify, discuss and think about various aspects of the subject of violence in this way, whether it is violence in groups, in relationships between men and women or state violence in wars or other forms of repression etc. The new pictures produced are presented in the immediate vicinity of Otto Dix’s pictures after the workshop.

The participants react positively, many are surprised to find how this variety of positions leads to easy access to the works. Sophie Werner, programme director at the Deutsches Kulturzentrum in Hermannstadt, assessed the workshop as an important and successful contribution within the supporting programme, as very little of this kind is offered in Romania at the moment: 'Events of this kind (will also be) really desirable in future. Participants could be taken much further mentally in this way, and the exhibition can also make a lasting effect.'

The concept underlying the workshop is rarely put into practice: young and older people create their own access to the works of art together by producing their own work and by discussing their own and other people’s work. The aim is to achieve a fundamental understanding of art, so that it can be used as a way of reflecting about their own worlds and backgrounds. Exchanging arguments and questioning their own view leads to a much more sophisticated analysis of art than would be possible by merely passing on canonical knowledge as part of a lecture. But this approach to mediating art in which the public becomes a co-protagonist needs a great deal of careful chairmanship. A large number of languages were spoken in Romania, and the participants also came from a wide range of professions with correspondingly different degrees of knowledge, and they discussed and worked on the basis of their individual backgrounds and experiences.

So to make access to the works of art easier and to benefit from addressing them it is necessary to take the participants’ individual and cultural experience and backgrounds into consideration meaningfully and consistently, and to include them in the discussion.

Workshop direction: Wiebke Trunk, art mediator, artist and lecturer at the Hochschule für Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart
Participants: culture professional, teachers, social workers, doctors and disseminators, also children and young people
Initiator: ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
Organizers: Goethe-Institut Tbilisi, Goethe-Zentrum Nicosia and the German-Romanian culture centres in Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov and Timisoara, and the local museums