Interview with Prof. Katharina Bosse, FH Bielefeld, director of the international Art & Science “Thingstätte-Project” for the TV Feature “Westart”. The Interview was filmed on the site of the “Freilichtbühne Mülheim an der Ruhr”, built as a Thingstätte by the Nazis in 1936.
Would we perceive a concert differently if we knew it was taking place on a former Nazi site? That’s an exciting question: Grönemeyer at the “Waldbühne”, for example.
This is a so-called “Thingstätte”, built by the Nazis, but never really used for cultural purposes. A large-scale cultural project, including a book of photographs, takes a closer look at these strange and problematic places, of which there are several in Western Germany.
When superstars give huge concerts on the Waldbühne in Berlin, or “Winnetou” and “Old Shatterhand” play war in Bad Segeberg, most spectators don’t know who once created these stages.
Quote of Goebbels: “In hundreds of years, people will still be able to read from these steep stones, the creative power of our time.”
Approximately 60 so-called “Thingstätten” were built by the National Socialists between 1933 and 1936 as propaganda meeting places. And they still exist today, like the open-air stage in Mülheim on Ruhr. Completed in 1935 and opened with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it served the Nazis as a pathetic backdrop for staging Volksgemeinschaft.
Katharina Bosse: The idea was to build a meeting place in the open air that was supposed to tie in with a kind of imaginary Teutonism. Hence the name “Thingstätte”.
Photographer Katharina Bosse wants to explore these problematic sites anew, together with others. For her Thingstätten project, she brought together photographers, filmmakers, and scientists. In their works, they take a critical look at the timelessness of this place burdened by history.
Katharina Bosse: What interested me was the question of national identity, which has taken on a whole new meaning in the last ten years. I think it’s socially important to look at it from an artistic perspective. The Thing sites are so interesting for us because they are everywhere.
Even in small communities, like Herchen an der Sieg. Almost like a fairy tale, enchanted in the forest, lies the former Nazi cult site. Katharina Bosse brought the American video artist Doug Fitch to this place. Together with students from Herchen, he created a cultic performance about a Tibetan deity to breathe new energy into the former “non-place”.
Katharina Bosse: “The people we came into contact with there, a teacher from the school and the students, learned about the past of the place. It confirms local volunteers, who work very hard for the recognition and proper information of its problematic history.
Bosse wants to encourage the local people to deal with the past. In this project by artist Rebecca Hackemann, passers-by can look back through giant mobile binoculars.
Franz Kluwe, Herchen: There are no written records (in the town’s archive). We found documents from the Napoleonic period en masse, but nothing from the time of the Third Reich. Gone – as it has never existed, but of course, it has.
The catalog is only one pillar of Katharina Bosse’s large-scale project. On a research page on the Internet, everyone is called upon to actively participate, to discover new Thing sites.
Katharina Bosse: The basic question is, what does it mean to me today when I look at the past? That is, I always have this overlapping of different times in the entire project and the question is, how do I bring these overlays together?
Artistically, perhaps like this: Bosse projected historical photographs onto the stones of the Thing site at Vogelsang Castle, like the original faces of these sculptures destroyed in the war. The present meets the past.