“Each woman is the melody of herself and the echo of others.”
—Gabriele Stötzer on collaborative performance art in Bätz (1993, 77)
In 1983 a group of young East German women defied repressive laws and artistic
conventions to form an unassumingly renegade collaborative group with a
naive mission: to create an alternative meaning in their lives through art, beauty,
and camaraderie. In this way they presented a subversive resistance to the oneparty
state’s authoritarian regime that dictated the role of art in the German Democratic
Republic’s (GDR) society. The group,1 founded in the small city of Erfurt
in the German state of Thuringia by ambitious dissident Gabriele Stötzer,2
began without high expectations of rebellion, and yet eventually grew into a performance
art collaborative that focused on self-expression and social disruption.
Before creating their performances, Stötzer and these women expressed themselves
through paintings, weavings, photography, pottery, amateur 8 mm films,
and sewing clothes. By 1991 they founded a space, the Kunsthaus Erfurt (Art
House Erfurt), for contemporary art exhibits, workshops and studio spaces. The
Kunsthaus Erfurt still thrives today and symbolizes the legitimacy of their sixyear
(1983–1989) resistance against the GDR’s directives.
Stötzer formed this collaborative art group of women, which she later
called the Künstlerinnengruppe (women artists’ group). In 1989 the women
named themselves Exterra XX, in order to fashion an indirect resistance to the
GDR and its limits upon artistic expression. This artistic culmination is bittersweet:
by establishing the Kunsthaus Erfurt, a recognized institution at
which to display art in the newly re-unified Germany (1990), and by not having
to work against GDR restrictions anymore, these artists’ drive to produce
collaborative art seems to have dissolved.

A r t i s t i c
B e d f e l l o w s
EDITED BY
HOLLY CRAWFORD
HISTORIES, THEORIES,
AND CONVERSATIONS IN
COLLABORATIVE ART PRACTICES

 

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