A History of Violence - Photography and Writing as an Experience, Experiment and Insight

Kai Ziegner
40 min Presentation + 40 min Discussion
Magnus Bärtås
Olavshallen: Cinemateket
Through experimental writing and conceptual photography, my artistic research uses the example of my own biography to investigate the consequences of societal transformation processes in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The focus is on the period of regime change known as the “turnaround” in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the form of an experimental book, I describe in detail the holding-together of the personal and the impersonal, through the intersection of processes of writing, staging, and documenting via photography, as well as my own personal history of living through state and social violence. My research intends to render visible multiple causes for outbreaks of violence that accompanied a radical societal paradigm shift. The objective is to submit critical testimony to the silence surrounding seldom-discussed side effects of the transformation. Based on the example of my own and my family's history, it demonstrates the way in which authoritarian regimes impacted on three generations of citizens. Throughout the narrative, outbreaks of senseless violence are treated as side effects of disruptive transformation processes, as are ambivalent situations in which actors of social change recognize themselves to be simultaneously victims and perpetrators of violent incidents. My aim is to clarify through artistic research what techniques can be developed to articulate, and to account for divergent and contradictory vectors of interest and desire that emerge in the co-composition of bodies and media. Since personal memories and historical documents served as the basis of my work, the central challenge was to carve out generalizable elements from individual examples. The research outcome is thus an attempt to portray the multidimensional nature, complexity, and polyphony of the subject, and my intent is to offer readers an opportunity to deal with the material in the way they desire.

Kai Ziegner

Kai Ziegner, PhD (born 1975 in Plauen, GDR) studied German philology, political sciences, journalism (Leipzig), photography (Berlin) and fine arts (Zurich), holds a Master´s degree awarded by ZHdK, completed a PhD thesis in artistic research with distinction in 2021 at UfG Linz, worked as a journalist, filmmaker, photographer, author, researcher and educator, Ziegner´s artistic interest is in processes of contemporary history and specific experiences of various social actors. His works seek to test out how individual and collective experiences can be both remembered and conveyed artistically.