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Stadt im Verborgenen (Hidden City)
1-channel film
B/w, sound
Shot on Super-16mm
Aspect ratio 4:3
11 min, 48 sec


Still today, German post-war collective memory is continually evolving. Its contested complexity has earned the word 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung' (coming to terms with or mastering its past) a unique place in the German language and national consciousness. The city, as a built environment, is an active participant in memory production – especially due to it being in a constant flux. The handling of, and interaction with this built environment, is shaped by its society’s collective memories and simultaneously helps shape them in return.

Stadt im Verborgenen (Hidden City) (1994) embodies Julian Rosefeldt’s earliest work complex. Developed together with his former artist-partner, Piero Steinle, for their master’s in architecture, the project directly addresses the charged history of Königsplatz in Munich. In the 1930s, the neo-classical Königsplatz underwent a fundamental shift with the rise of the National Socialist party (NSDAP): Munich came to embody the 'Hauptstadt der Bewegung' (capital city of the movement) with the party’s headquarters residing at Königsplatz itself. Until Rosefeldt and Steinle erected an on-site information board in 1995, in the context of the exhibition Bürokratie und Kult (Bureaucracy and Cult) held by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, any knowledge on the function and history of the NSDAP buildings had been withheld from Munich’s citizens and visitors. Whilst offsetting the flawlessly-famed portrayal of their hometown, the artists drive to expose the wound of the past and keep the bureaucratic machinery of the National Socialist perpetrators alive in present and public consciousness. A fundamental theme of the entire project: the fusing fluctuation between past and present draws our attention to the shifting status of the site over time. In addition, Stadt im Verborgenen (Hidden City) underpins many of Rosefeldt’s works in his confrontation of the still problematic dealing with German identity.

As far back as 1931, Adolf Hitler and the architect Paul Ludwig Troost began planning new buildings for the NSDAP headquarters. These were to be located in the immediate vicinity of the 'Brown House' (the party’s founding building) at the edge of Munich’s Königsplatz: a square characterised by neo-classical museum buildings and a style favoured by Hitler due to its grandeur associations and idealisation of antiquity. In addition to the two main buildings – the 'Führerbau' and the NSDAP administrative building – Hitler and Troost designed two 'Ehrentempel' (temples of honour) to house the iron sarcophagi containing the bodies of the 'Martyrs of the Movement' – Hitler’s associates in the abortive 1923 putsch. Underneath the two large party buildings, a hidden network of bunkers and connecting tunnels was constructed, the majority of which have remained structurally unchanged to this day and are now used as storage space by the new tenants. The Nazi party buildings and the 'Ehrentempel' survived the war more or less unscathed, however the latter were demolished by the Allies in 1947. The foundations of the 'Ehrentempel' survived the demolition but were densely planted shortly after the end of the war and later declared a biotope. When Rosefeldt and Steinle began their research, the former 'Führerbau' housed the University of Music and Performing Arts and the previous NSDAP administrative building was home to the Haus der Kulturinstitute (House of the Cultural Institutes) and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History).

A 12-minute film, titled Stadt im Verborgenen (1994) – the same as the photographic installation – accompanies the caretaker of the University of Music and Performing Arts as he walks through the eerily long tunnel network. Keys jangling in one hand, the camera stalks him from behind or waits at a distance as he either emerges from or disappears into the darkness. Denied of frontal recognition, his outline recalls the Rückenfigur (figure depicted from behind) of German Romanticism – a motif used later in many of Rosefeldt’s works. The history of the site unfolds via the caretaker’s disembodied, detached voice, as he narrates a personal and almost romanticised vision of his workplace. At times, a flickering torchlight searches or the camera cuts to close-ups of forbidden entries, a rotten bedframe and abandoned toothbrushes, revealing the decaying life of its former occupation. In parallel to the photographs of Hidden City (1994/2010), the film transcends time: interspersed archival footage (of the large-scale inauguration ceremony of the 'Ehrentempel' and their later demolition in 1947) plunges us back, whilst a glimpse at the building’s contemporary use pulls us to the present. The mediator remains the tunnelling camera, embodying a unique place between the two.

E. Lapper, a.o.
Film Credits
with Raimund Reichenberger
Director: David Scharfenberg
Concept: Julian Rosefeldt & Piero Steinle
Director of Photography: Jan Betke
Production Manager: Michael Holzinger
Assistant DoP: Frank Heidbrink
Gaffer: Stefan Richter
Sound Recordist and Re-recordist: Tschangis Chahrokh-Zadeh
Best Boy: Stefan Schneider
Editor: Christoph von Schönburg
Foley Artist: Felix Kratzer
Film Laboratory: Geyer – München
Special Thanks to:
Raimund Reichenberger
TU Bauamt
Filmmuseum München
Hochschule für Musik und Theater München
Staatliche Antikensammlungen
Technische Universität München
Supported by:
Bundesministerium des Innern
A David Scharfenberg & Michael Holzinger production
All rights reserved © Julian Rosefeldt, Piero Steinle & David Scharfenberg
Other Works / Stadt im Verborgenen (Hidden City), 1994 / Short Film