Christoph Draeger b. 1965
Black September (2002)
Following The Last News, Christoph Drager created Black September (2002), a video-installation with both appropriated footage from a documentary movie and video sequences from his re-enactment of the historical events of September 5, 1972, the terrorist attack during the 20th Olympic Games in Munich. A group of eight Palestinians, members of the so called "Black September" group, took eleven members of the Israeli team hostage in their apartment in Connolly-Straße 31, right in the center of the Olympic Village.4 Two Israeli athletes were shot dead in the apartment. The hostage-takers demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel and the additional release of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof from German prisons, where they served their sentence for terrorist attacks. However, negotiations between the hostagetakers and the deputies of Germany and Israel were constantly delayed and deadlines postponed. Finally, late at night, during a chaotic confrontation with German Police officers at Fürstenfeldbruck Airbase, all the remaining Israeli hostages, as well as five Palestinians, were killed. The next day the fiasco dominated the international press.5 Christoph Draeger's work Black September concentrates on what happened inside the apartment in Munich during that day on September 5, 1972. The core of the piece is a synchronized two-channel video installation which is shown in two separate rooms. The first room is a detailed reconstruction of one room in the Munich apartment according to photographs from the site of crime, including a vintage television set. It shows a bedroom in total devastation with bloody traces on blankets and floor. Many scattered clothes and personal items allude to the violent action that seems to have just recently lead to this chaos. The second room is an empty dark space and accommodates a video projection. Both videos—the one screened on the museum wall and the one that runs on the TV-set—run parallel. They basically show footage from Kevin MacDonald's official documentary film One day in September (1999) that deals with the terrorist attack during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. In contrast to the video-footage that runs on the TV, some sequences on the screen projection are substituted by images that the artist created himself by re-enacting the events. Draeger reconstructed the bedroom of the Munich apartment within the exhibition space of Roebling Hall Gallery New York and re-enacted what he supposed had happened there. He recorded the re-enactement on video. Since then, the setting of this reenactment, that particular room in the Munich apartment, forms a consistent part of the screening environment in the museum installation of Black September. In a certain way, the artist has created a mis-en-abyme situation that again reflects on the precarious limits of the disaster zone; in other words, he provokes the emersion of the representation into the exhibition space. The crucial part of the video are the scenes that the artist has created himself and that he intersperses with original documentary footage. The artist teases the imagination of the observer by supposing a scenery, which no one could have really seen from outside of Conolly-Straße 31 in the Olympic Village. As an effect of the montage, the re-enacted scenes and the documentary merge to a coherent unit in the viewer's mind (Ammann 2003: 24). Nevertheless, Christoph Draeger formally retains an amateur filming style to demonstrate the fictional character of the video. Draeger's artistic process reveals on the one hand the viewer's indiscriminate consumption of images, on the other hand it shows how video images, once they are removed from their context, be it TV movies or news, become increasingly indistinguishable. The art installation Black September questions the conditions of the mutual constitution of cultural memory and collective memory (Assmann 1994). As artefact, the artwork is part of cultural memory. It seeks to fill in the 'blind spots' of the collective memory that the official documentation, such as the footage from One Day in September, cannot supply. Draeger's re-enactment of the missing link within the documentary is actually not based on testimony, but on forensic reconstruction of the event. Besides the documentary movie Draeger also uses photographs from newspaper reports in 1972 as inspiration for his artwork. His recreation of the hostagetaking fills a lacuna in the official collective memory, because there are no images of the action within the apartment before Draeger's artistic intervention. This alludes to the question of the unspeakable and unimaginable within the reconstruction of traumatic events, (see Mitchell 2005) which is part of Draeger's artistic strategy. He—the artist—is the one who proposes a narrative that forms what before was unseen and unimaginable.