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Detonation Deutschland, 1996

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Julian Rosefeldt / Piero Steinle
Detonation Deutschland
7-channel video installation
7 screens, mirror
B/w and colour, sound
Aspect ratio 4:3
Loop, 54 min
Edition 5 + 2 ap

In contrast to one of the most accentuated actions in post-war Germany – the reconstruction of destroyed cities – Julian Rosefeldt and his former collaborator Piero Steinle constructed the episodes of German post-war history with Detonation Deutschland (1996/1999) through a storyline of deconstructions.

They collected excerpts of original video and film footage showing demolitions from 1945 up until the mid-1990s, and collaged the extracts to typologies. Almost like a moving, cinematic antithesis to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s serial photographs of building typologies, the sequences are shown on seven screens in a darkened and longish room, doubled by a mirrored wall. Whilst ideologically fraught buildings such as bunkers, or the complex of the ‘Reichsparteitag’ in Nuremberg, are the first to be demolished, war-damaged buildings soon follow in order to delete the crucial traces of a tragic past. In the 1960s a second destructive wave rolls over Germany, when damaged and undamaged pre-World War II houses are destroyed to realise modern urban utopias. In the 1970s industrial buildings give way to the infrastructure of a changing economy. Finally, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a frantic series of demolition starts again and post-war housing blocks (Plattenbauten) become the target of post-modern city planning.

The collage-like simultaneity of the projections contradicts the chronological historicity of the documents. The demolitions become metaphors of changing and vanishing systems, ideologies and societies. As ‘romantic mist’ and ‘orgies of dynamite power in frequently varying choreographies’ (R. Spieler) they allow the observer to slip into an ambivalent state, torn between fear and pleasure.

Summarised from Reinhard Spieler, in: News: Eine Videoinstallation von Julian Rosefeldt und Piero Steinle (1998); and Matthias Winzen, in: Deep Storage – Arsenale der Erinnerung (1998)

All rights reserved © Julian Rosefeldt / Piero Steinle

Exhibtions / Catalogues

Still Alive, Installations, Schenkung Sammlung Hoffmann, Dresden, Marc-July 2021 (curated by Dr. Dorothée Brill, Katarina Lozo)
Lausitz Festival, Installations, Görlitz, September–October 2020 (artistic director, Daniel Kühnel)
Destroy Athens, 1st Athens Biennial, Athens, September–November 2007 (curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Poka-Yio,
   Augustine Zenakos; catalogue)
Global Players: Contemporary Japanese and German Artists, Bankart Yokohama and Tokyo Gallery, September–October
   2005; Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, January–March 2006 (curated by Harald Kunde, Yuzo Ueda;
De Schoonheid van het Kwaad. The Beauty of Evil, De Zonnehof centrum voor moderne kunst, Amersfoort, October 2001–
   January 2002 (curated by Paul Coumans; catalogue)
Julian Rosefeldt / Piero Steinle: Detonation Deutschland, Architekturzentrum, Vienna, June–September 2001 (curated by Kerstin Gust)
Multiple Sensations: Series, Collections, Obsessions, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, August–October 2000
   (curated by René de Guzman)
Performing Buildings, Tate Modern, London, October 1998 (one-night screening, show curated by Iwona Blazwick)
Deep Storage – Arsenale der Erinnerung, Haus der Kunst, Munich, August–October 2007; Neue Nationalgalerie/Kulturforum,
   Berlin, November 1997–January 1998; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, February–March 1998; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center,
   New York, July–August 1998; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, November 1998–January 1999 (curated by Ingrid Schaffner, Matthias Winzen;
Detonation Deutschland, Orangerie, Munich, March–May 1996 (curated by Julian Rosefeldt, Piero Steinle; catalogue)


Briegleb, Till. “Detonation Deutschland.” Die Zeit Magazin. April 19, 1996, pp. 10–18.
Jandl, Paul. “Detonation Deutschland.” Neue Züricher Zeitung. August 13, 2001, p. 24.

Film & Video Works / Detonation Deutschland, 1996