janet grau

Irmtraud Morgner Lesen

Irmtraud Morgner Lesen. A Memorial to the Writer

Participatory project, staged photography, video, digital reference work, 2008

As a memorial to the writer Irmtraud Morgner in her hometown of Chemnitz, I created the artwork Irmtraud Morgner Lesen (Reading Irmtraud Morgner), which playfully interprets her work and ideas to motivate viewers to learn more about the author and her work.

For Irmtraud Morgner Lesen, I worked with various collaborators to re-imagine, re-combine, and re-create various elements, scenes, and images from Irmtraud Morgner’s literary works. Her central themes (e.g., utopian ideals, the feminist movement, the cultural and political situation in East Germany) were incorporated into the conceptual process and formed into scenes staged for the camera.

The memorial is now on permanent display in the Stadtbibliothek Chemnitz (Chemnitz City Library), and consists of three elements: ‘Lesen’ (Reading), ‘Nachlesen’ (Reading About) and ‘Vorlesen’ (Reading Aloud).

The section ‘Reading’ presents the staged scenes (photos), and challenges viewers to ‘read’ them. A simple media-based navigation nearby directs the user to further information, which is divided into three main areas:

  • Bildlektüre (Reading the Images) includes an interactive Bauplan des Bildes (Blueprint of the Image) for each of the four staged photographs. These can be used to find out which passages in Morgner’s work are quoted by the pictorial elements. In addition, there are making-of video clips for the staged scenes, as well as other information (e.g., about the actors and locations).
  • A selection of biographical information and author quotes is available to users in the ‘Reading About’ segment.
  • The ‘Reading Aloud’ section consists of video clips of people reading their favorite passages from Irmtraud Morgner’s literary work, which are presented without any interpretation or explanation whatsoever.


The physical results of this participatory process consist of four staged photographs displayed in light boxes (60 x 40 cm each) and a digital reference work (with images, texts, video sequences) located nearby. The immaterial results include many an enriching conversation and an introduction to the work of an important author.

Radio feature by Grit Krause, MDR Figaro:

For the staged scenes, I worked with Thilo Fröbel (camera) and Robert Thiele (video, assistance).

Many thanks to the many hard-working helpers who supported me with the conceptual, logistical and practical implementation of the performances as well as with proofreading and editing and to the Lila Villa for helping me find them:

Karoline Bartel, Marina Berger, Emma Bulang, Tobias Bulang, Egmont Elschner, Elvira Grecki, Anna-Sophie Groth, Minna Maria Günther, Christel Hartinger, Maria Jäntsch, Ellen Kaettniß, Thomas Kehl, Beate Kunath, Franz-Christian Lorenz, Pia Lorenz, Christoph Martin, Kathinka Richter, Ulrike Richter, Axel Scheibner, Ursel Schmitz, Ingrid Schneider, Ilona Seifert, Iris Tätzel-Machute, Luise Wilsdorf, Thomas Winkler.

I would like to thank Geoffrey Westgate and the POLITEIA project of the Haus der FrauenGeschichte for the rights to use their essays.

An exhibition copy of Irmtraud Morgner Lesen has also been shown, most recently in the exhibition Entdeckt! Rebellische Künstlerinnen in der DDR (Discovered! Rebellious Women Artists in the GDR), curated by Susanne Altmann, at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, 2011.

Irmtraud Morgner Lesen
Detail of the 'Reading Aloud' section
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