In the making of the film Max Tischler, I collaborated with Raimund Wolfert, author and publisher in the field of international liberation movements of the 20th century, to highlight similarities between scientific and artistic studies. The film is an insight into Raimund’s research on Max Tischler (1876 – 1919), an employee of the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld at the Scientific Humanitarian Committee. Raimund’s participation is not only a scientific contribution but also a language-based performative act, shaped into a voiceover and intercalated by moments of silence.
The film delves into the historic research on Max Tischler. I accompanied Raimund’s research steps, such as visits to the Brandenburg Main State Archive, where we viewed documents mostly from the Regional Finance Bureau Berlin-Brandenburg, including asset declarations of Max Tischler’s siblings, property inventory, pension records, notice of confiscation as well as correspondence between the Asset Reclamation Office and the Secret State Police, the Higher Finance Pay Office, the German Reichspost, bailiffs, notaries and home owners. The viewing of these documents was not included in the film and stayed as part of the historic research. It is at this point, that the film follows a different path from the research itself: it does not list findings or results. Instead, it focus on Raimund’s commitment and the compelling forces that drive his independent studies further. The film therefore does not intend to evaluate Raimund’s research on German-Jewish history but to depict research itself as a continuous, at times, introspective process.
The film bears resemblance to long shots of cinematic settings, consciously underlining the absence of a documental plot. In fact, if we may speak of a script, it began to exist only during the making of the film itself, when Raimund and I initiated a dialogue and, finally, formalised it in the process of editing. The images refer to specific moments of the research process, such as visits to the Magnus Hirschfeld Society, to the Jewish Cemetery in Berlin Weißensee, to the National Archives and the Royal Library in Copenhagen, but they do not depict them as events. By refusing sequence, the relation between image and text is not one of cause-and-effect but, instead, it relates to rather non-narrative film forms. The blank screen or the absence of image refers to the hiatus experienced by many historians, when faced with undocumented events, and contrasts with the examination of legacies.
1 – schwarze Leinwand – gewünschte Länge: 1:11 min.
///// Wenn Du Dich intensiv und über längere Zeit mit einem Menschen beschäftigst, /// der bereits verstorben ist und Briefe oder Tagebücher hinterlassen hat, /// näherst Du Dich ihm auf eine besondere Art und Weise.
Die Beziehung, die Du zu ihm entwickelst, kann sehr eng und exklusiv sein. // Du liest, was er über sich und sein Leben mitteilt. // Du fragst Dich, warum er dieses oder jenes getan hat, /// und Du stellst Dir vor, was er wohl unter anderen Bedingungen, in einer anderen Situation, getan hätte.
Der andere wird fast zu einem lebendigen Menschen für Dich, // zu einer Art Begleiter. // Nur ist er gerade nicht bei Dir. /// Du kannst das manchmal so erleben, als sei er kurz weggegangen, kehre aber später wieder zurück. /////
3 – Das dänische Nationalarchiv – gewünschte Länge: 1:26 min.
///// Angefangen hat die ganze Sache mit Karl Peder, einem Freund von mir. // Er hatte im dänischen Nationalarchiv sowie in der Königlichen Bibliothek in Kopenhagen Fotos, Briefe und Tagebuchaufzeichnungen von Poul Andræ, // einem dänischen Mitglied und Obmann des Berliner Wissenschaftlich-
humanitären Komitees, gefunden, /// sie ausgewertet und einen Artikel über sie geschrieben.
Das sprach mich an, und ich habe dann den Artikel ins Deutsche übersetzt. // Es tat sich dabei aber eine Nebenspur auf, die Karl Peder nicht näher verfolgt hatte:/// die Beziehungen Poul Andræs nach Berlin ab etwa 1900. // Karl Peder hatte sich in seiner Arbeit vor allem auf die frühen Erfahrungen Andræs bis in dessen fünfzigstes Lebensjahr konzentriert. /// Mich interessierten aber auch seine späteren Kontakte zum Wissenschaftlich-humanitären Komitee. /////
When you intensely delve into a person’s life for a long period of time, a person who is already deceased and has left behind letters or journals, you come closer to him in a special way. The relationship you develop with him can be very close and exclusive. You read about what he shares about himself and his life. You ask yourself why he did this or that and you imagine what he may have done in other circumstances, in another situation. The person almost comes alive for you, a kind of a companion; only he is not with you. You may sometimes think that he has just gone away for a little while and will be back later.
When I research and question the life of another person, I carefully try to put together the pieces that I have found over time into an overall picture. Perhaps at some point new insights may arise, new perceptions may come to light of which I am not aware today. I must take that into account as it is a natural quasi learning and development process. It is something that needs to be explored with a certain humility. After all, a research always bears fruit if there is interplay and mutual influence. A publication can serve as
a basis for a question posed by another that may never occur to me or he offers answers that I would have never found. It is always like this: a finding forms a basis for another finding. It is only when you have experienced or accepted something that you are able to go a step further and open a new door. This also holds true if you make a mistake. You must always be aware that you are merely on a journey.
The theatre piece Hvað er í blýhólknum? was written in 1970 by the Icelandic author and politician Svava Jakobsdóttir. Its original version hasn‘t been published or translated to any foreign language. The publisher Skrudda has published an edited version for television, in 2003.
I have found out at the Women‘s History Archive that some of the original writings by Svava are kept at the National Library of Iceland, eventually, also this piece‘s script. Her writings hadn‘t been catalogued by then and could therefore not be viewed. I watched the TV production of the piece, equally directed by Maria Kristjansdóttir, at the archive of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
During my stay at the The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists, I conceived a presentation as a reading and discussion that gathered four guests with diverse backgrounds in literature, theatre and politics. The event began with the reading of an excerpt of the piece by Guðlaug Rún Margeirsdóttir. The guests discussed theatre practices during the 60‘s and 70‘s and the women‘s movement in the country.
Þórhildur Þorleifsdóttir has been a practitioner in theatre and politics since then. She mentioned the raise of awareness for women‘s rights as being itself one of the most important aspects of that time. Margrét Steinarsdóttir is the director of the Icelandic Human Rights Center and has gathered experience in lawmaking. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir speaks of how Svava Jakobsdóttir appropriates diverse texts in the piece. She sees a new production with circumspection. Instead, she proposes that a work group takes Hvað er í blýhólknum? as a platform for a performance piece emerging from within its own contemporary social circumstances.