Research Project: ENDZEITOPIA. Forever Celebrating The End. Post Punk, Goth and Avant Garde in East Germany (1982 – 1992)

The  punk scene was in a deep existential crisis when post punk, new wave and goth music and fashion trends finally reached East Germany in the Orwellian year 1984. For the punk community in particular, the prevailing mood was indeed a dystopian one (Pehlemann, Papenfuβ, Mieβner, 2015). Punk was not dead (yet), but East German punk (no) future views increasingly contained a sense of pessimist fatalism, while goths escaped any kind of future scenario by playing already being dead. In any case, change was happening within the cultural underground which corresponded with a broader societal change and a spreading Endzeitstimmung (Wirsching, 2006) during the final phase of the Cold War. This ‘global’ existential fear, caused by political, societal and environmental crises, like nuclear threat, AIDS and environmental pollution (for example the ‘Waldsterben‘: dying forests) inspired both avant garde artists and participants in protest movements on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

The government of the communist satellite state maintained its zero tolerance policy towards ‘Western’ (sub)culture with the use of its main weapon of repression and control, the Stasi. The infiltration and intimidation of underground scenes took its toll. Punks in particular were frequently arrested and imprisoned. A considerable number of punks and punk groups broke under the pressure. Both these negative ‘local’ experiences and the fundamental ‘no future’ attitude influenced East German (post) punk in the post-1984 phase. Not just punks themselves, but other underground actors too, expressed fears and hopes regarding the future of punk, underground culture in general, and the future of their Heimat, the GDR. Punk song lyrics and interviews point to an ambiguous sense of solidarity and dedication within the underground which represented itself both as a community belonging to the GDR, DDR Von Unten, and as a societal outcast and an enemy of the state. Furthermore, underground actors seemed torn within questions of ideology and identity. However, as the research shows, goth embodied ‘no future’ and Endzeitstimmung in a way in which these issues which were at stake disintegrated and dissolved.

The project investigates documents, such as (post) punk and goth song lyrics, interviews, poems, letters, art works, magazines of the Kirche Von Unten (underground church), environmental protest statements and fanzines which are produced by different actors within the context of the cultural underground and which can all be considered as expressions of Endzeitstimmung. A close-reading of these subcultural (self-)testimonies enables a detailed analysis of the link between a transition phase from below, as punk evolves into post punk and goth, and from above, as mainstream industrial societies are simultaneously going through change. On both levels and between two different phases, 1982 to 1986, and 1986 to 1992, with Chernobyl as a turning point, the boundaries between ideologies and identities are crossed. The transition is expressed by various underground voices, who, as a whole, describe a process of fragmentation, polarisation and radicalisation both happening within the underground and within society in general. The collective fear of the future triggered escapist, fatalist-nihilist views and according life styles, but also a (new) faith in collective life (Jenks, 2005: 135) and its (potential) power with soft to extremist forms of protest. As such, Endzeitstimmung, albeit symbolically, was a uniting force in which the East German goth scene in particular played a key role, as a transnational community based on common music and fashion tastes was established through the efforts of individuals and groups already before the fall of the Wall. As such, goth can be considered as a form of groundbreaking countercultural collectivism, which provided a strategy regarding existential fears, by collectively celebrating the end as it does until the present day.

 


Marlene Schrijnders

Drs. (M.A.) Marlene Schrijnders is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham and the Institute for German Studies. She is a member of the Postgraduate College at the German Institute Amsterdam. Since her Master Studies at the University of Amsterdam, her research focuses on youth, pop and subculture in East Germany and Berlin (1955 - 1995). Her PhD project focuses on post-punk, goth and avant-garde (1982 - 1992) in the context of Cold War society, nuclear threat and environmental protest. The title of her dissertation is 'Endzeitopia. Forever Celebrating The End. Post Punk, Goth and Avant Garde in East Germany'. For further information, please visit: https://vpp.midlands3cities.ac.uk/display/~mxs749@bham.ac.uk Contact: MXS749@student.bham.ac.uk / endzeitopia@outlook.com

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About Marlene Schrijnders

Drs. (M.A.) Marlene Schrijnders is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham and the Institute for German Studies. She is a member of the Postgraduate College at the German Institute Amsterdam. Since her Master Studies at the University of Amsterdam, her research focuses on youth, pop and subculture in East Germany and Berlin (1955 - 1995). Her PhD project focuses on post-punk, goth and avant-garde (1982 - 1992) in the context of Cold War society, nuclear threat and environmental protest. The title of her dissertation is 'Endzeitopia. Forever Celebrating The End. Post Punk, Goth and Avant Garde in East Germany'. For further information, please visit: https://vpp.midlands3cities.ac.uk/display/~mxs749@bham.ac.uk Contact: MXS749@student.bham.ac.uk / endzeitopia@outlook.com

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