Zipp – German-Czech Cultural Projects /


Life-worlds /

Utopia of Modernity: Zlín /

Kafka /

1968|1989 /

An Initiative of the
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Zipp: German-Czech cultural projects. The name of the Initiative describes its character. Just as a zip – as it is also called in Czech – effortlessly connects fabric -- the idea of the enterprise is to link up academics, artists and others working in the cultural sphere with the greatest possible ease. The participants are involved in collaborative projects under the umbrella of “Zipp”, and work in a diverse range of areas including theatre, film and radio, architecture, fine arts and contemporary history. The projects do, however, have one thing in common. They all focus upon topical social issues. As far as ease of relations is concerned, the idea is to establish working relationships and intellectual links that are as stable as possible, but at the same time also flexible. The intention is to help free up German-Czech relations, which have become rigid and stereotypical in character in many instances, not least for historical reasons.

“Zipp – German-Czech Cultural Projects” is the third bilateral cultural exchange between Germany and an Eastern European state organised by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. It was preceded by “Büro Kopernikus” between Germany and Poland and “Bipolar” between Germany and Hungary. They all share a common aim. The idea is to promote long-term collaboration between East and West over several years rather than to stage showy, short-lived events.

Cultural diplomacy is a wide field. “Zipp” chooses to focus on transnational contemporaneity. The intention is to help understand the conditions of our common future in Europe by expressly referring to the complexity of present-day reality. This focus on the present does not mean forgetting the past. This is demonstrated by the historical points of reference that the projects return to again and again. The reality of 2008 would remain incomprehensible if the ruptures of 1968 and 1989 were not taken into account. “Zipp” asks questions that go far beyond German-Czech relations. The artists and academics taking part reflect upon the legacy of the democracy movements, transformation processes in a globalized world, and the future of cities in the post-industrial age. A definite thematic focus of this kind can only unfold in a curated project. However, in addition, “Zipp” also works together with other bilaterally active institutions that distribute their funds on the basis of public application procedures and whose focus is therefore determined by the concepts of the respective applicants.

1968/1989, Kafka, German-Czech Life-Worlds, Utopia of Modernity : Zlín are the four thematic focal points of “Zipp”. How do the political changes in 1968 and 1989 relate to one another? And what is their legacy for present-day reality, which can no longer be conceived simply in national terms? What were the utopias both eastern and western Europe attempting to achieve at the same time? Where were the similarities and the differences? Where did misunderstandings happen? These are all central questions tackled by the German-Czech collaborative projects. With Kafka, the German-speaking writer from Prague, it becomes clear what kind of force literature can assume in a political movement. The model city of Zlín shows how a modern social and architectural utopia has survived a change of system and times and has now become an acid test for how we deal with our postindustrial legacy. Close-up views of contemporary realities on both sides of the border testify to awareness of neighbourly relations, but also to mutual ignorance among people no longer separated by the Iron Curtain.

By the way, the zip was patented in 1893, but it took another 30 years before it was ready for mass production. “Zipp” will not be around for as long as that. And we can hardly expect that our partners will be able to arrive at marketable results during the short course of the project. But that is not what “Zipp” is about. The aim here is to encourage long-term engagement and debate, not to sell zips. So the longer it takes the better. If the process happens, on occasion, to get jammed, this could give rise to a new idea.

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Under the heading “Life-Worlds” three Zipp projects reflected and contrasted the reality of both countries in varying artistic formats. For “rádio d-cz” for example, stations in Germany and the Czech Republic produced radio works by authors, radio dramatists, and composers, who captured individual and collective experien in the neighbouring country and transformed them experimentally into soundscapes. Featuring experts from Dresden and Prague, the theatre project “Vùng biên giới” was developed by Rimini Protocol (Helgard Haug / Daniel Wetzel), a collective acclaimed for its work with amateurs. Under the title “Breathless”, five documentary films looked into the upheavals in Germany and the Czech Republic over the past few decades.
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Utopia of Modernity: Zlín

The Moravian city of Zlín is a model city of Modernity. Built in the 1920s and 1930s, its planners drew their inspiration from Le Corbusier’s “functional city”, Howard’s garden city and Garnier’s “cité industrielle”. Its urban-utopian aspiration made it into a unique example of urban planning in the history of European industry – inseparably connected to the Zlín firm of Bat´a, one of the first shoe manufacturers to operate globally. The success story of the company’s founder Tomáš Bat’a and Zlín’s architectural history have both been exhaustively examined; what is missing is an extensive cultural analysis of Zlín as a “utopian project”, one which examines urbanity from the perspective of a comparative critique of ideology on the one hand, while also striving to (re-) vitalize the discussion of the relationship between Modernity and the city. A symposium held in Zlín and Prague from 19 – 23 May 2009 and an exhibition in the autumn of 2009 analyzed for the first time the interrelationships between economic and social, biographical and architectural factors in this utopian urban planning project. Both the symposium and exhibition thus also represented an important contribution to the current European discussion on urbanity.
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The Kafka conference held at Liblice Castle in 1963 is generally regarded as one of the intellectual precursors to the political upheaval and sense of new departure that gripped Czechoslovakia and culminated in the “Prague Spring” of 1968. To mark the 125th anniversary of Franz Kafka’s birth, the crucial years between these two dates were re-explored. At a conference in Liblice entitled “Kafka and Power. 1963-1968-2008” held in October 2008, the different perspectives of literary scholars, contemporary witnesses, historians, and philosophers on the events and their context were interrelated. In addition, for a period of 20 months Zipp supported work on the projected 30 volumes of the historical-critical edition of Kafka’s works (FKA) by the German scholars Roland Reuß and Peter Staengle. It is the goal of the FKA to facsimile Kafka’s complete works, making them accessible to the public in an authentic form.
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1968/1989 – these dates are not to be thought of as isolated events; rather, the mirroring game between the dates first becomes interesting when the interplay between the two is followed by a third element and 2008 is also considered. The anniversary years of 2008 and 2009 generated enormous interest in ‘68 and ‘89. At the same time, the comparison between East and West proved to be thoroughly irritating. As Rudi Dutschke found out in Prague: although the revolts took place simultaneously, they were based on fundamentally different ideological assumptions. What has become of them after the fall of the Iron Curtain, which dreams were realized and which betrayed, was explored collaboratively by historians, dramaturges and artists in the Zipp project “68/89 – Art.Contemporary.History”. The result was a diverse array of artistic and scholarly formats: five theme nights in Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Žilina and Brno, six theatre productions, a conference and four journals. The latter have recently been released by Metropol Verlag in a single publication entitled “Transit 68/89”.
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Background texts

Reissverschluss am Trainingsanzug der Geschichte

Über zwei Jahre wird Zipp – deutsch-tschechische Kulturprojekte mit sieben gezielt initiierten Projekten den deutsch-tschechischen Kulturaustausch bereichern. Künstler, Kulturschaffende und Wissenschaftler aus beiden Ländern kooperieren in verschiedenen Konstellationen, um die Herausforderungen europäischer Gegenwart gemeinsam und kreativ zu verhandeln. In Ausstellungen, Theaterstücken, im Radio und auf Konferenzen. In welchem Kontext aber geschieht das? Wie komplex ist das deutsch-tschechische Verhältnis, wie mächtig die Vergangenheit, wo liegen die Grenzen gut gemeinter Diplomatie, welche Chancen bietet Zipp? Katrin Klingan, Leiterin von Zipp, Tomáš Kafka, Diplomat im tschechischen Außenministerium, und Tobias Weger vom Bundesinstitut für Kultur und Geschichte der Deutschen im östlichen Europa im Gespräch, Moderation: Christiane Kühl.


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