The Thingstätten Art Book
Between 1933 and 1936, so-called Thingstätte were erected as propagandistic open-air theaters and meeting places for National Socialism. Four hundred were planned, and around sixty constructed. Many of these today almost barely known sites, can still be found in Germany, Poland, and Russia. In the form of an interdisciplinary research project, art and documentation, texts and images by twenty-three international artists and scholars facilitate a pluralistic examination of the unusual history of the Thingstätte and the relevance of the past for the present.

Between 1933 and 1936 many ideologically motivated Thingstätten (“Thing sites”) were erected. The theme of the Thingspiele (“Thing plays”) performed there was German history. However, they were also used for Nazi rallies or celebrations and served to present an image of the so-called Volksgemeinschaft, or “people’s community.” Little is known about this attempt at creating propaganda theater built around architecture, even though many examples of this architecture can be found today.

These stages were particularly designed and situated. They alluded to historical Nordic-Germanic Thingplätze (“Thing places”), even though they were not actually consistent with them in terms of geography or meaning. The name Thingstätte was a politically motivated appropriation, intended to create “instant historicity.” The newly erected ceremonial sites were constructed with traditional materials, located at impressive sites, and, very importantly, were outdoors.

With the help of the Third Reich’s Labor Service, sixty of the planned four hundred Thingstätte were built throughout the territories of the Reich. Today, around fifty of these structures can still be found in Germany, Poland, and Russia. “The Thingstätte represent a time that is difficult to understand today, partly because, for a long time, a blanket of silence lay over the early years of enthusiasm for Hitler. When I stand in front of the architecture, it silently challenges me to find out more about this history,” says Katharina Bosse, an artist and the editor of the new publication. “Each Thingstätte has a historical and a contemporary dimension.” 

Their contemporary significance, for example, comes from the fact that some are still used today as open-air theaters, where groups such as the Rolling Stones or the Wattenscheid Shanty Choir perform – unbeknownst of their origins. Thingstätten are popular destinations for day trips, reached by hiking or mountain bike trails, and their beautiful locations in nature mean that they are attractive spots for activities. Last, but not least, they are places that have literally been lived down, remains of the past sought for outside of books. 

The interdisciplinary art project »Thingstätten« began in 2012 with questions about contemporary art, which Bosse was researching at a time when online social networks were rapidly developing; some of the issues were the significance of collectives and the relationship of the platform to content.

Yet another question arose out of the meaning of national identities in general and the German one in specific. For most of the participating artists, the Thingstätte was a completely new theme, and their task was to create (site)-specific works of art for this project.

The artists all had different reasons for participating, which were linked to their age, nationality, and gender: Some of the concepts were influenced by the artists’ life stories, while others touched upon the pleasure of discovering something unfamiliar. All of the works, however, variously refer to the powerful visual vocabulary of the Thingstätte and the ways that we deal with them today.

Thingstätten | The Relevance of the Past for the Present is both a reference work and a catalogue, in which individual Thingplätze serve as intersections where the perspectives of different artistic or historical investigations overlap.

Katharina Bosse, Rebecca Budde de Cancino, Doug Fitch, Jan Merlin Friedrich, Jakob Ganslmeier, Andrea Grützner, Rebecca Hackemann, Konstantin Karchevskiy, Hendrik Lüders, Daniel Mirer, Felix Nürmberger, Ralph Pache, Abhijit Pal, Philipp Robien, Jewgeni Roppel, Simon Schubert, Kuno Seltmann, Erica Shires, Thomas Wrede
Thingstätten | The Relevance of the Past for the Present

ISBN 978-3-7356-0699-0 [ENG]

Available through D.A.P.

24 × 30 cm
256 Pages
Languages: English

Katharina Bosse

Text by
Katharina Bosse, Bernhard Gelderblom, Gerwin Strobl, Beata Wielgosik, Stefan Wunsch

Design by
Nathow & Geppert, Bielefeld

Press ImagesHeidelberg © Felix NürmbergerHeidelberg, historische PostkarteHerchen © Jewgeni RoppelHerchen © Katharina Bosse, Doug FitchHolzminden © Erica ShiresNortheim, historische PostkartePrawdinsk, Russland © Konstantin KarchevskiyVogelsang © Katharina BosseBerlin © Daniel MirerVerden © Daniel MirerBad Segeberg © Katharina BosseBad Segeberg © Katharina Bosse

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