Dialogues of ABM

This group-dialogue format examines the collective memory of Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahmen (ABM) – a state subsidized short term job program - in order to research the ways in which the socialist personality was shaped by them.

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Brick wall illuminated by the sun, on which three half-relief figures in the style of socialist realism are mounted on pedestals. The figures represent forms of work: on the left, a male bricklayer with a brick and trowel; in the center, a woman with a child; on the right, a lawyer with a weighing pan. The shadow of a tree falls across the lower right quarter of the picture and covers the figure on the right.  (opens enlarged image)
Architectural detail, Sparkasse Bitterfeld. Copyright / Credit Elbe Trakal

How did the transformation of society after 1989 affect the socialist personality? In Dialogues of ABM (Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahmen – a state subsidized short term job program), I am particularly interested in the people who were in the midst of working life when the Wende took place. How did mass unemployment, mass emigration, property redistribution and right-wing violence on the one hand and new liberties, democratic processes, looser forms of labor organisation and a European border opening on the other hand, contribute to a self-understanding and self-knowledge of new post-socialist subjects? How are these narratives remembered today on the basis of ABM work experiences?

Through discussion formats, writing exercises and performative exercises, 6-8 participants come together for a structured weekend of joint questioning of their memories. A writing workshop collects scenes of their ABM experience which will be written down for a reenactment of their memories.

Project lead: Elbe Trakal

Contact: www.trakal.net