Tania Bruguera at a press event before the reading on February 6th
Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa
The performance was supposed to last 100 hours, that's what the title says: "Where Your Ideas Become Civic Actions (100 Hours Reading 'The Origins of Totalitarianism')". For that long, from Wednesday to Sunday evening, the Cuban artist Tania Brugueras wanted to take turns reading from a comprehensive analysis of totalitarian structures by Hannah Arendt with public figures. On Sunday she canceled the art event because the performance had been disrupted by pro-Palestinian protests the day before.
The performance took place at Hamburger Bahnhof, a Berlin museum for contemporary art. As the two museum directors Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath described, a group of political activists disrupted the reading twice on Saturday: First, hate speeches were given in the afternoon. According to reports, around 20 people returned in the evening and insulted one of the readers and one of the museum directors with hateful tirades.
Under these circumstances, the open dialogue that was intended with this performance was no longer possible, the directors said. On Sunday morning, the artist decided to end the performance to defend herself against hate speech and all forms of violence.
Roth: “Hate, anti-Semitism, racism and such forms of violence are absolutely unacceptable.”
"We respect and fully support the artist's decision and categorically reject any form of hate speech and violence," said Bardaouil and Fellrath on their Instagram channels. The step was necessary to protect the safety of the participants in the performance.
Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens) said: “Hate, anti-Semitism, racism and such forms of violence are absolutely unacceptable and have no place in the area of art or anywhere else.” Roth continued: “This evil anti-Semitism and racism was obviously also directed directly against a Jewish cultural worker, the Cuban artist and a director of the Hamburg train station. Roth welcomed constitutional consequences for the authors. According to police, a report had previously been received on Sunday.
Bruguera had to realize the performance at home under arrest in 2015. With the performance in Berlin she wanted to “show the power of art and activism.”
The Jew Arendt (1906-1975) had to emigrate from Nazi Germany in 1933. She wrote her analysis of the origins and development of National Socialism shortly after the end of World War II and the liberation of Germany. A few years later she supplemented the work with the peculiarities of Stalinism.