Arts

Stasi investigator to curate German pavilion at Venice Biennale

She investigated the crimes of the East German secret police for a decade. Now Marianne Birthler and architecture firm Graft are set to "unbuild walls" at the German pavilion in Venice next year.

Curators of the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2018 (obs/GRAFT)

Marianne Birthler, a German politician from The Greens party who was tasked with investigating Stasi crimes in former East Germany from 2000-2011, has teamed up with Berlin architecture firm Graft to curate the German pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Bienniale.

It was announced Wednesday that the team would propose a concept that addresses Germany's divided history. "Unbuilding walls," as their application was called, won over the jury charged with selecting the next curator.

Read more: From God to the Stasi, how we respond to being watched

"Beginning with a look back at Germany's history with the Wall and the time afterward, the concept uses examples from architecture and urban spaces to grapple with separation and coming together," said German Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Barbara Hendricks.

"With it, the German entry is a response to the forthcoming Biennale's motto of 'Freespace.'"

People walking through the German pavilion in Venice in 2016 (Getty Images/AFP/V. Pinto)

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A detailed version of the winning concept, created with the Graft team represented by Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz and Thomas Willemeit, will be on display at the beginning of 2018.

Former Stasi records commissioner

A politician with roots in former East Germany, Marianne Birthler has been a prominent human rights activist for decades. A member of The Greens party, Birthler started her career in politics in 1990, just as the country was being reunited.

Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, she was a vocal opposition leader whose words spoken at the Alexanderplatz Demonstration on November 4, 1989 have been memorialized at the German History Museum.

Read more: Biennale: Venice celebrates freedom of art

"It is good to fight for freedom of expression, freedom of movement, a better functioning economy and a new education system. All of this is bitterly necessary," she told demonstrators five days before the Wall came down.

Birthler's knowledge of the former East and role as an activist led to her selection for the role of Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (BtSU). In that role, Birthler was responsible for the safekeeping and securing of the archives at the Stasi Records Agency, which stores the documents left behind by the former East Germany's Ministry of State Security, the secret police and intelligence organization.

ct/kbm (dpa, kna)

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