Nie wieder und jetzt

Laura Fiorio
Jakob Ganslmeier

Graphic: Viktor Schmidt/Nora Keilig


9/5 – 21/7/2024

Curated by Julius Kaftan and Lina Kröger

“Nie wieder und jetzt” is the second part of the annual exhibition programme KANTEN UND KNOTEN


8/5/2024 6 pm

1/6/2024 at 3 pm
Workshop with Laura Fiorio

19/7/2024 7 pm
„The untold story of Mohammad Peter“ (Theatre performance) Kollektiv Scheherazade

21/7/2024 4 pm

The exhibition “Never again and now” deals with right-wing extremism. It examines the historical legacy and the social and political relevance of right-wing extremist ideas, the spread of National Socialist and neo-Nazi symbols and ideologies and how the difficult legacy of National Socialism is dealt with in the family memories of the German population. At the same time, it shows a possible space for coming to terms with the past: The exhibition sees itself as an attempt to initiate processes of reflection, in which the thematisation of individual and collective memories makes it possible to determine one‘s position and engage in selfcriticism.

The starting point of the exhibition is therefore a critical examination of the exhibition venue. Before its current use as a municipal art gallery, the Bärenzwinger was, as the name suggests, a bear enclosure for the amusement of Berliners – with more than just an ethically problematic history: The Bärenzwinger was opened on 17 August 1939, two weeks before the Wehrmacht invaded Poland, in the presence of Berlin mayor and National Socialist Julius Lippert and “numerous leading men from the state and party”, as the Berliner Morgenpost reported the following day. The im-petus for the construction of a bear kennel came from a suggestion by the town‘s residents. One important advo-cate was Wilfried Bade. Bade was an employee and, from 1940, a ministerial councillor in the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under the direction of Joseph Goebbels and was also acquainted with him. He had published an appeal in the B.Z. am Mittag newspaper on 23 August 1937, in which he emphasised the need for a living symbol in the heart of the city. Lippert took up this suggestion favourably and arranged for the construction of a Zwinger. In the days leading up to its opening, articles appeared daily in the B.Z. am Mittag and other Berlin daily newspapers. An article from 9 August 1939 by Lud-wig Heck, zoological director of the Berlin Zoo and racial theorist and National Socialist, explained to readers that the bear was stronger than a lion, unpredictable, stubborn and very skilful. An explanation that could undoubtedly be understood as self-symbolisation and also fitted in with the political agitation and rhetorical armament of the Nazi regime shortly before the start of the war. The Bärenzwinger as a building thus has a significant National Socialist past.

Jakob Ganslmeier presents two works. The first work, “Haut, Stein” (“Skin, Stone”), is a photographic juxtaposition of the remaining, use and blurring of one-time National Socialist and neo-Nazi symbols from two perspectives: The colour photographs (“Skin”) in the atrium of the Bärenzwinger, which were created in collaboration with EXIT-Germany, show portraits of former neo-Nazis who, in the process of leaving the extreme right-wing scene, have also had the symbolic, often forbidden inscriptions in their skin, their tattoos removed or covered over. Swastikas, SS skulls, black suns and the like are sometimes still faintly recognisable. The tattoos belong to the bodies of former comradeship leaders, members of the NPD party, the neo- Nazi sub-group “Hammerskins” or the “Autonomous Nationalists”. However, the removal and tattooing process takes time and causes more than just physical pain. The critical examination of one‘s own history and the finality of leaving result in profound ruptures in the realities of individual lives. These ruptures are often accompanied by social ruptures. It is often the social environment that forms the ferment of radicalisation or facilitates it. Leaving the radical right-wing scene therefore always leads to a decisive break in friendly and/or family relationships. The EXITGermany initiative supports people in leaving the far-right scene and developing new perspectives. In this sen-se, the portraits bear witness to the possibility of enabling change through self-criticism and the problematisation of identityforming habits of action and thought. At the same time, the nudity and closeness of the portraits provoke an immediacy in which the absolute boundary between the viewer and the person portrayed is undermined. The black and white photos (“Stein”/”Stone”) in the trench – the second perspective – show historical Nazi symbols that have remained fragmentarily visible in numerous places in public space: in and on the architecture. Ganslmeier‘s pictures reveal these fragments and examine their wider spatial context. Yet today‘s use of the places often remains indifferent to the symbolism and their origins. And it is not in the least this indifference that normalises the existence of National Socialist symbols in public spaces. “Stein” (“Stone”) thus forms the contrasting programme to “Haut”, as the architectural details depicted stand for a silent conti-nuity, a lack of reflection – a continuity that is in turn undermined in “Haut” (“Skin”).

Ganslmeier‘s second work, in the central Zwinger, which he conceived and developed in collaboration with Ana Zibelnik, is a two-channel video installation in which historical (“Strong is beautiful”) is brought into dialogue with contemporary video material (“War Room”). The title “Public Enlightenment” is a reference to the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The collaged videos include sequences of historical propaganda films from the Nazi media machinery as well as excerpts from contemporary YouTube videos from the so-called New Right or global, often globally networked extreme right-wing movements such as the American Alt-Right movement, the Italian post-fascists, etc. “Strong is Beautiful” deals with the National Socialists‘ social-darwinist and cultural-aesthetic self-image: the struggle for existence was presented as a human condition and linked to ideas of military and physical defence, esprit de corps and racial cohesion. The misanthropy contained therein was in turn (supposedly) cancelled out by a display of cheerfulness and interpersonal intimacy. As in “Strong is beautiful”, the fundamental finding that radicalisation and ideologisation are mediated by the media also applies to “War Room”. Unlike during the Third Reich, however, today this is mostly more decentralised and takes place online – through the use and/ or alienation of images, symbols and memes. “War Room” explores the origins of the fascination with conspiracy theories, Nazi nostalgia and the relativisation of National Socialist crimes against humanity, while also showing that contemporary right-wing extremism appears in many different forms. However, the sometimes shocking stagings and depictions of violence do not merely serve to reproduce the material, but are intended as a reframing of their original purposes and horizons of meaning.

Laura Fiorio‘s work in the Bärenzwinger is part of her artistic project “My Fascist Grandpa”. Based on her own private family history, the project addresses Italy‘s often tabooed and concealed fascist and colonial past. To this end, she collects heirlooms from family archives, photos, letters, etc., and projects them onto fascist buildings as alienating and alienated interventions in order to reveal their historical background behind the façade. The continuation of the project in the Bärenzwinger is processual and participatory. The artist and the curators of the exhibition have issued a call to the local public to hand in materials related to German fascism: National Socialism. The materials were arranged sculpturally by Fiorio in order to place the individual and private stories and memories in a larger discursive context and bring them to the public. The project is designed in such a way that visitors can also submit materials during the exhibition and incor-porate some of them themselves. In this way, visitors are not only activated as participants, but are also included in the discourse and challenged to critically analyse their own family history. The exhibition is also accompanied by a workshop that offers the opportunity for further in-depth exploration. Fiorio‘s three-part intervention in the bear cage begins in the left cage. It is the silence and the backlog of reflection of the often shameful, repressed individual stories that are focussed on here. Two Leitz Leica slide projectors, built in the 1930s, project images of deceased fascists and National Socialists onto textile prints hung one behind the other with pictures of the same and other historical figures. The porosity and permeability of the prints and the resulting interaction between them in turn points to the interrelatedness of individual and collective histories. This also problematises the discrepancy between collective demarcation and individual reappraisal of the family‘s National Socialist legacy. According to the Remembrance Monitor (MEMO Germany), only 23 per cent of Germans consider their ancestors to be perpetrators, while 36 per cent state that their family members were victims of the Nazi regime. However, more than 30 per cent believe that they themselves would have actively resisted. According to estimates, however, the proportion was actually less than 0.3 per cent. In view of and in opposition to these glaring discre-pancies, Fiorio shows the first results of the appeal in the right-hand kennel. Here, materials (photos, letters, crockery, etc.) are installed in a floating sculpture. Their suspended state is representative of the fragile incompleteness and the necessity of a moral regulative in dealing with the National Socialist legacy. The image projections of the overhead projectors also cast shadows, i.e. blank spaces, on the wall of the Zwinger and thus shed light on the problem of historical transmission: what has been intentionally or unintentionally forgotten forever and how should this be dealt with from a political and social perspective? Furthermore, how can the instructional mentalisation of (un)knowledge about history be prevented? The discourse on the National Socialist legacy itself takes on a historical tone in the resonance of these questions. The third part of Fiorio‘s interventions is dedicated to this:

In the anteroom to the Bärenzwinger – which forms both the entrance and the exit – an expansive video installation can be seen in which the variability and historicity of historical and contemporary contexts of meaning are called up and carried out in real time and in an endless loop. To talk about trees, as Brecht‘s poem An die Nachgeborenen (To Those Born After) puts it, is no longer a concealment of crimes in the sense of historical development. Rather, it is a necessary part of the discussion about the consequences of climate change for social peace, the development of democracy and dealing with its greatest enemy, right-wing extremism. Not least against this background, right-wing extremism is a global problem.


8/5/2024 from 6 pm

Free Entry

On Wednesday, 8 May 2024, from 6 pm the Bärenzwinger invites you to the opening of the exhibition »Nie wieder und jetzt« („Never again and now“).

The duo exhibition brings together the artistic works of artists Laura Fiorio and Jakob Ganslmeier.

In four exhibitions under the title EDGES AND KNOTS, the Bärenzwinger explores lines as a fundamental element of networks in which knots stand for people or places and edges represent the relationships between them – based on graph theory, according to which knots represent individual points and edges the connections between them.

The second exhibition in 2024 examines which border negotiations and connections arise in the context of (right-wing) extremism.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a workshop by artist Laura Fiorio and a performance program by the Scheherazade collective.

Laura Fiorio

Laura Fiorio (born 1985) is an artist working with photography, installation and relational practice. She lives and works in Berlin.

Her projects, developed through choral narratives, interact with existing archives and materials, questioning the power dynamics embedded in the editing process of images as memories, their institutionalized use and hence their critical and healing potential.

She has worked with participatory and multimedia photography in social projects, especially with imprisoned, disabled and homeless people.

Jakob Ganslmeier

Jakob Ganslmeier (born 1990) is a visual artist and photographer. He lives and works in The Hague, Netherlands. The focus of his works is to dismantle representations of radical ideologies by counteracting them through a participatory and artistic approach. This creates spaces and questions that break the closed ideological system.

His works have been exhibited in memorials and art institutions such as the Foam Museum Amsterdam, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow – MOCAK, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and the Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art in Cottbus and have been awarded prizes such as the European Photo Exhibition Award, ZOZ Academy Grant and the Lotto Brandenburg Foundation Grant.

Since 2021 he has been working together with the visual artist Ana Zibelnik.

Nie wieder und jetzt?

My Nazi-Grandfather

When: 1/6/2024 at 3 pm with Laura Fiorio

Where: Bärenzwinger Berlin, Rungestraße 30, 10179 Berlin.

Registration required by 31.05.24, 3 pm at the latest via the following link:

Due to the size of the venue, a maximum of 10 participants will be able to take part in the workshop. You will be notified by email. Thank you for your understanding!

Following the historian Ann Laura Stoler, an “aphasia” can be observed with regard to history in some contemporary discourses, i.e. an inability to speak about one’s own past, especially when it comes to tracing systemic violence and power relations.

Departing from her own family history and the involvement of her grandfather in the fascist regime in Italy as well as in the colonial war in Ethiopia, Fiorio developed a collaborative long-term project that uses participatory archiving methods to deal with histories that, given their intimate sphere of affection, demonstrate the normalization of ideologies.

How do those legacies influence our present?

This workshop invites the public to bring to the event items (pictures, objects, documents) or oral memories from their own family archives or to share family histories that can be considered a “difficult heritage”, specifically in connection with the NS-time in Germany.  The collected material will be activated to initiate a discussion at the intersection of public and private.

Creating a space for sharing and discussion, the aim is to weave connections through the multiplicities of personal stories, but also reflect on the many silences and hidden traces on our present everyday. Collectively unfolding narrations and narratives linked to loss of democracy and genocides, the workshop invites to reflect on the present.

The workshop addresses individuals interested in opening up their memories, unfolding together private archives and need a safe space and confident community to share them. The group will discuss the potentialities and ways of reusing the collected items and documents to rethink and rewrite personal and collective history. Aim is to exercise storytelling and shared methodologies to to counter revisionist intentions, one-sided, partly institutionalized narratives and the instrumentalization of history. The workshop is also an invitation to remember that every single stories counts and has a role in shaping history.