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Fassbinder – NOW

The camera revolves around a man and a woman – this „magic“ moment of the first encounter of the two lovers was staged by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982) in the melodrama MARTHA (1973) as a dizzying 360-degree tracking shot. For a moment, time seems to stand still. The camera encircles the couple as if with an imaginary loop. The famous scene is a hommage to the cinema’s power to create illusions, while simultaneously undermining it by virtue of the extreme artificiality of the staging. Fassbinder lays obstacles in the path of his viewers‘ complete identification with the action and thus sensitises them to the cinema’s mechanisms. The Bangladesh-born artist Runa Islam deconstructs and radicalises Fassbinder’s method in TUIN (1998), with an alienated recreation of the scene. The visitor to her installation stands in the midst of three screens, two of which grant a glimpse behind the scenes: there one may see the camera and the circular tracks that have been laid for it. In addition, the visitor may walk around a third screen hanging freely in the middle of the room and follow in the camera’s footsteps. In this way, Islam strips the illusion from the enchanted encounter: she makes the mechanisms of film narrative visible while simultaneously deploying them herself.

This video work, along with six others, may be seen in the exhibition Fassbinder – NOW. Film and video art (30th October 2013 till 1st June 2014) in the Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt. Excerpts from Fassbinder’s films – a total of more than 60 minutes viewing time – make his motifs and aesthetic methods clear. Juxtaposed with them for comparison are the works of contemporary video artists. They thematically and aesthetically connect to Fassbinder’s work; they seize upon individual themes, recreate scenes from his films and transfer his concerns to the present. Comparison between Fassbinder’s films and current video art help point out both similarities and differences, providing an opportunity to look at both in a new light. The artists‘ works show what binds Fassbinder’s active period to the present day, but also where the differences lie. At a higher level, one is dealing with the question of how the cinema leaves its mark on current artistic media, as well as the question of the extent to which the boundaries between film and video art blur in the digital era.

Beyond that, the exhibition provides a glimpse into Fassbinder’s work and personality, opening access to his artistic approach and work methods: extracts from TV interviews (in total about 15 minutes) may be seen, as well as production stills and many original documents from the archive of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation Berlin, a cooperating partner in the exhibition. The entire Filmmuseum is being used as an exhibition space: on almost all floors there are videos to view or photographs or documents on display. In the cinema, an exhaustive retrospective of Fassbinder’s films, as well as those of directors influenced by him, complements the show.

In his active period, from 1966 to 1982, Fassbinder made more than 40 films, while developing a stable repertoire of both themes and the artistic means of expressing them. „Every colour is precisely considered, every image prepared“, he explains – and his work is, indeed, stamped by a very close relationship between content and form, making it highly recognisable to this day. In terms of content, he gave particular scrutiny to the reality of the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1970s, with a focus on the exclusion of minorities, emotional exploitation in personal relationships and the dysfunctionality of the family.


In MANDARIN DUCKS (2005), the Dutch artists Jeroen de Rijke / Willem de Rooij stage stereotypical upper-class characters; it is precisely through theatrical exaggeration that the appropriate characterisations are achieved. Without direct reference to Fassbinder being made, equivalencies manifest themselves: like Fassbinder, de Rijke and de Rooij make use of theatrical acting, garish colourful lighting and multiple reflections, thus depicting an upper-class that is simultaneously decadent and misanthropic in a way that is reminiscent of Fassbinder’s CHINESISCHES ROULETTE (Chinese Roulette, 1976).  The characters portrayed are motivated by financial interests and the search for sexual affirmation, wealth, honour and success. They seem unable to develop their own desires independent of societal dictates. De Rijke and de Rooij make the reciprocal relations between individual destiny and social structures visible. „It is society that makes people bad“, Fassbinder explained in 1974.

This context is visualised in quite a different way by Tom Geens. In his YOU’RE THE STRANGER HERE (2009) he sketches out a vision of horror: the female protagonist lives under a repressive regime, which prescribes summary execution by shooting for all who contract a mysterious illness. Random violence and unbearable social pressure are ubiquitous. This leads to the victim-perpetrator relationship being switched from situation to situation. These themes may equally be found in important Fassbinder films, such as DER HÄNDLER DER VIER JAHRESZEITEN (The Merchant of Four Seasons, 1971), DIE EHE DER MARIA BRAUN (The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1978) or his magnum opus BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (1979/80). Furthermore, there are similarities in the aesthetic strategies: constricting familial rooms, and multiple framings and reflections of visual immanence, as well as theatrical acting.

The artist Ming Wong refers directly to Fassbinder: for the video works Lerne Deutsch mit Petra von Kant/Learn German with Petra von Kant (2007) and Angst essen/Eat Fear (2008) he reenacts scenes from the Fassbinder films hinted at in the titles. By playing all the roles himself, speaking the lines originally spoken by Petra von Kant and Emmi and Ali in broken German and imitating their habitus, he enables his reenactments to veer between the comical and the serious. They show that Fassbinder’s films, even in this day and age, still have something to say about the view of Germany as seen from outside Europe.

In cooperation with the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation Berlin (RWFF), the exhibition presents original documents from the RWFF’s archive: screenplays, manuscripts, letters, notes and personal messages. Much of it was safeguarded by Fassbinder’s mother, Liselotte Eder. For the exhibition Fassbinder – NOW. Film and video art, the President of the Foundation, Juliane Maria Lorenz, gave permission, for the first time, to view all the documents. The Deutsches Filmmuseum digitised many texts, some of which may be seen in the exhibition. They provide an opportunity to come to grips in-depth with the prominent German post-war director.

A catalogue is being published in German and English editions.

Participating artists:

Tom Geens (born 1970, Belgium)
Runa Islam (born 1970, Bangladesh)
Maryam Jafri (born 1972, Pakistan)
Jesper Just (born 1974, Denmark)
Jeroen de Rijke / Willem de Rooij (born 1970 Holland, died 2006, Ghana / born 1969 Holland)
Ming Wong (born 1971, Singapore)


BRD 1973. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
102 Min. (1. Teil), 108 Min. (2. Teil)
Sa 02.11. 19:30 Uhr

BRD 1969. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 88 Min.
Vorfilm: CROSS. FLOWERS. ROLEX. R: Keren Cytter.
DE 2009.
Su 03.11. 18:00 Uhr // Tu 05.11. 20.30 Uhr

BRD 1970. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 103 Min.
Vorfilm: ART AND LIFE. R: Kerstin Cmelka. DE 2012.
Th 07.11. 17:30 Uhr // Fr 08.11. 20:30 Uhr

BRD 1975. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 88 Min.
Su 10.11. 18:00 Uhr // Tu 12.11. 20.30 Uhr

LOVE IS A TREASURE Rakkaus on aarre
Finnland 2002. D: Eija-Liisa Ahtila. 55 Min.
Th 14.11. 18:00 Uhr // Fr 15.11. 20.30 Uhr

BRD/FR 1976. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
86 Min.
Su 17.11. 18:00 Uhr // Tu 19.11. 20:30 Uhr

BRD 1978 / 79. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 110 Min.
Th 21.11. 17:30 Uhr // Fr 22.11. 20:30 Uhr

BRD 1980. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 120 Min.
Tu 26.11. 20:30 Uhr // Th 28.11. 18:00 Uhr



BRD 1969. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 88 Min.
Tu 10.12. 20:30 Uhr // Fr 13.12. 20:30 Uhr

BRD 1970. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 84 Min.
Su 15.12. 18:00 Uhr // Tu 17.12. 20:30 Uhr

FR 2000. D: François Ozon. 90 Min.
Th 19.12. 18:00 Uhr // Fr 20.12. 20:30 Uhr

BRD 1974. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 123 Min.
Su 22.12. 18:00 Uhr // Th 26.12. 18:00 Uhr

BRD 1981. D: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 115 Min.
Fr 27.12. 20:30 Uhr // Su 29.12. 18:00 Uhr

In March 1982, three months before his death, Rainer Werner Fassbinder explained: „I don’t believe in video […] I don’t believe you can replace film with video technology.“ The video artists of the time, conversely, didn’t believe in the cinema, writes Anna Fricke, curator of the exhibition Fassbinder – NOW. Film and Video art (30th October 2013 til 1st June 2014) at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, in her contribution to the catalogue being published in conjunction with the exhibition. Thus, Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik concentrated at first on television in their artistic-critical investigations. Cinematic references? Negative! That did not undergo a fundamental change till the 90s, Fricke continues, when visual artists began, almost abruptly, to interest themselves in cinema.

Film and Video art is the subheading of the exhibition Fassbinder – NOW, which examines the way in which contemporary video artists reference Fassbinder’s themes and aesthetic strategies today, thus linking him to the present. In her introductory words, Fricke sets out the exhibition’s thematic framework while summing up the ways in which video and other visual artists have been dealing with Fassbinder, from the 90s up to the present day, from Monica Bonvicini through Rirkrit Tiravanija and Brice Dellsperger to Ming Wong.

How the cinema and the film aesthetic have gradually found their way into art museums is analysed in-depth, using many examples, by Ursula Frohne in her article „Expanded Fassbinder – On the Aesthetic Legacy of Cinema In Contemporary Art“. Cinema lovers in the age of the ever-present digital image may take heart from her finding, with reference to Jacques Rancière, that “paradoxically, it is in its ,new hybrid forms’, which extend it into the museum, that cinema is succeeding in regenerating itself and having an impact beyond itself“. The catalogue, more than 300 pages, offers the opportunity to come to grips with all of the exhibition’s thematic concerns: in several compilations of excerpts from Fassbinder’s films, the topics that occupied him are illustrated, as is his formidable repertoire of aesthetic techniques. These are juxtaposed with the works of six contemporary video artists. Furthermore, the items on display, made available by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation Berlin, the exhibition’s cooperating partner – screenplays, documents, correspondence, notes, photographs – provide the visitor with insight into Fassbinder’s methods of thinking and working. These broad thematic arcs in the exhibition are reproduced and amplified in the catalogue: authors such as Brigitte Peucker, Cristina Nord and Thomas Elsaesser make contributions dealing first and foremost with analyses of the works: “Fassbinder Re-framed“ (Peucker), “,The little bit of freedom’ – Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Television“ (Nord) and “Retroactive Prescience: Fassbinder’s The Third Generation” (Elsaesser).

“Forms of exclusion, oppression, exploitation and (self-)destruction – sometimes more subtly, sometimes more overtly. As Fassbinder saw it, violence and power belong to the basic features of the present“, writes Nisaar Ulama in his text “Stories of Violence: How Tom Geens and Rainer Werner Fassbinder tell of a Possible Present and a Concrete Past“. This article examines, from the perspective of Fassbinder’s work, how it is linked to the society of fear and repression depicted in Tom Geens‘ short film YOU’RE THE STRANGER HERE.

Four of the six artists represented in the exhibition illuminate their own personal relationships to Fassbinder and his body of work in short essays: Tom Geens, Maryam Jafri, Jesper Just and Ming Wong. Also present in the exhibition are Runa Islam and Jeroen de Rijke / Willem de Rooij. Ralf Michael Fischer, Bridget Crone, Lilian Haberer and Svetlana Svyatskaya, herself the assistant curator for the whole exhibition, join Anna Fricke in subjecting the video artists‘ works to incisive analysis.

Hans-Peter Reichmann, head of the Deutsches Filmmuseum’s archives, concludes the catalogue with a mention of the treasures to be found among the thousands of documents safeguarded by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Archive, including, for example, the visibly well-worn working script for LILI MARLEEN (1980), containing many hand-written notes and comments by the prominent post-war German director.

The catalogue is published in both German and English editions, and it is rounded off by a Fassbinder filmography. An illustrations section more than 100 pages long enables immersion in the works of the participating artists. Comparison of aesthetic processes at the level of the individual frame makes it possible to see the way visual language is used to reference Fassbinder in the works of the video artists.


Fassbinder – NOW. Film and video art

Published by: the Deutsches Filminstitut
Frankfurt am Main
and the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, Berlin

Catalogue design:
Sabine Pflitsch and Andreas Tetzlaff (probsteibooks, Cologne)

Retail price: 25 euros

Panel: »The Black Box in the White Cube«

Thursday, 31. October 2013, 20:00 – 22:00

The mutually influential relationship of film and video art will be the subject of a discussion between lars henrik Gass, Director of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and Danish artist Jesper Just, whose work is featured in the exhibition, along with other guests. The central question is to what extent video art has significantly added to cinema as the inherited space of film, or whether it actually supplants it, relegating critical thinking about the medium of film to the museum. This conversation will be moderated by Sven von Reden.

With: Jesper Just, Lars Henrik Gass


Panel: »Geschichtsreflexionen in der zeitgenössischen Videokunst«

Friday, 1. November 2013, 20:00 – 22:00

In his short film “You’re the Stranger here” (2009), artist Tom Geens depicts a totalitarian society, and in the process he draws aesthetic parallels with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films about the persis- tence of fascistic structures in postwar Germany. Geens and other guests discuss ways that history is treated, evaluated, and visualized in contemporary video art. The Studiengalerie 1.357 is a project of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, the Städel Museum, and for this semester the Deutsches Filmmuseum. This event will take place in English and be followed by refreshments.

With: Senta Siewert, Tom Geens


Deutsches Filmmuseum
Schaumainkai 41
60596 Frankfurt am Main

Opening hours

Tue 10 am – 6 pm
Wed 10 am – 8 pm
Thur  – So 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Mondays

Adults: 8 € (concession 6 €)
Combined ticket (permanent + temporary exhibition): 11 € (concession 8 €)

18,00€ /Concession* 10,00€ / Family 28,00€
Tourists and visitors run the chance to obtain a Two-day-ticket that offers free admission to 33 exhibition locations in Frankfurter and surroundings. more

Adults 7,00 €
Students 5,00 €
With special guests, musical accompaniment, lectures, 3D: 2,00 € in addition

Information & Reservation
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Phone: +49 (0)69 961 220 220


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The exhibition is a cooperation with the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation Berlin. It is sponsored by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain, the  Stadt Frankfurt am Main, the Hessische Kulturstiftung, and the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.

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