Sommerspiele (2023)
25:41 min., film

Sommerspiele (Summer Games) is a surreal fiction that takes place in a former Nazi Summer Olympic Games (1936) venue at Berlin Olympic Park, a 70,000-seat football stadium, pool and open air theater. A German Avant-garde artist Valeska Gert lookalike inhabits the architecture and space, at once an intruder, agitator, and entertainer. She embodies various characters and identities as she wanders, dances and crawls through sites of historical violence and collective trauma, moving through different emotional states - absurdity, provocation, reflection, paranoia, delusion and loneliness. Confronted with the severe spectral emptiness of the architecture, which was built to celebrate imposing hegemonic values at a time when racist laws dictated the lives of millions in Germany, she conjures and challenges ideologies of the past with her unapologetic naked presence. She becomes an animalistic ventriloquist, with her grimaces, and grotesque actions, the pained witness of historical oblivion, and simultaneously, a modern canary in the mine, warning us of current global dangers.

Sommerspiele is Eszter Salamon’s second film. It is a cinematic speculation on history and memory that explores German Avant-garde artist Valeska Gert’s work and life in relation to the historical context of the Summer Olympic Games held in 1936 in Berlin. The spaces still carry traces of racial ideology and nazi propaganda and the complex relationship that artists had with the National Socialist regime, while others, including Gert, were considered creators of ‘Degenerate Art’. Against the backdrop of architectural buildings, which function today as sites of professional sports, mass entertainment, and leisure, the film addresses the failures of collective memory in a form of a poetic resistance.

Sommerspiele questions the representation of bodies, race, and gender, by blurring the frontier between the human and the animal, and creating connections between the past and the present. It addresses the issue of memory and the autonomy of the arts, and the relationship between nationalism and sport.

More on  Eszter Salamon’s ‘Reappearance series’:

The film series Reappearances is a cinematic speculation on history and memory. The films are built on two anecdotes recounted by Valeska Gert in her autobiographical book Ich bin eine Hexe. Kaleidoskop meines Lebens (1968). In one, she dances naked for her lover, a pianist, in exchange for the pieces he composed for her. In the other, which takes place in London in the mid-1930s, she tries her hand at writing a film script. For three weeks, she dictated her ideas to a man until she realised he was a drug addict and his transcripts were utterly illegible. The films are structured around this loss and Gert’s explorations of the different media of dance, theatre, cabaret, and film. At their heart are issues of female subjectivity and the materiality of the female body, as well as Valeska Gert’s use of the grotesque.

Reappearances reflects on the physical and artistic impermanence of performance and the potential the moving image has for constituting a space to alter the historical canon, while also creating a ‘tunnel to the future’; a trans-historical space of artistic and political dimensions. As a cinematic manifesto against oblivion, the series celebrates the genealogy that connects female artists from different periods by composing a transhistorical body, a kind of hybridisation formed of the visions and gestures of two artists, Valeska Gert and Eszter Salamon.

Director Eszter Salamon Voice and Performance Eszter Salamon Director of Photography Marie Zahir Editing and Story Advisor Minze Tummescheit Colour Grading and Special Effects Arne Hector Sound Design and Mixing Christian Obermaier

Assistant Director João Carvalho Additional Images Ashton C. Green, Minze Tummescheit Assistant Camera Viola Zichy, Loup Deflandre, Greta Markurt Gaffer Eli Börnicke, Janne Ebel, Katja Rivas Pinzón, Elisa Daniel Sound Recordist Manuela Schininà, Donata Schmidt-Werthern, Marina Funck, Arne Hector Electrician Ashton C. Green, Elisa Daniel, Harebell Suzuki, Nikita Znak, Mica Dans, Victoria Bergmann, Sol Astolfi, Héctor Calderon Drone Operator Andrea Schmidt, Anne Misselwitz Set Assistant Javier Blanco, Santiago Doljanin, Marilou Fiévet Best Boy Arne Weiß Catering Matthias Halke, Mašiko

Post-production Supervisor Minze Tummescheit Foley Artist Carsten Richter Foley Mixer Hanse Warns Foley Editor Helene Seidl Vocal Coach Johanna Peine

Camera and Sound Equipment flockefilm GmbH, Florian Brückner, Maier Bros., Camelot Broadcast Services Foley Stage Studio Warns Vocals Recording Mariia Mias at Viktoria Studios Berlin Postproduction Studio cinéma copains

Song „Vorbei“ (Rolf Marbot / Bert Reisfeld / Mauprey AJ) © Meridian Editions. Courtesy of Edition Marbot GmbH

Production Botschaft GbR / Alexandra Wellensiek, Studio ES / Elodie Perrin, Institute of Speculative Narration and Embodiment Production Manager João Carvalho Production Assistant Héctor Calderon, Laura Gönczy, Sonja Schreiber, May Dugast

Supported by the NATIONAL PERFORMANCE NETWORK - STEPPING OUT, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media within the framework of the initiative NEUSTART KULTUR. Assistance Program for Dance, KHiO - Oslo National University of the Arts Funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Community, the Regional Directory of Cultural Affairs of Paris – Ministry of Culture and Communication, French Ministry for Culture - DGCA (Direction Générale de la Création Artistique)

Special thanks to Verwaltung Olympiapark Berlin, Sommerbad Olympiastadion, Waldbühne Berlin / Ananda Siegling
Special thanks to Akademie der Künste, Svea Immel, Christoph Fey / Von Have Fey Rechtsanwälte, Bojana Cvejić, Lívia Páldi, Franziska Kollinger, Agnes Kern, Paola Yacoub

The Reappearances series relates in various ways to the following works by Valeska Gert: Humoreske (1916),Modedame (1917), Pause (1920), Kupplerin (1920), Laster (1920), Orgasmus (1922), Clown (1922),Versammlung (1931), Schlummerlied (1950s), Grüsse aus dem Mumienkeller (1926), as well as anecdotes andthoughts, articulated in her autobiographical book Ich bin eine Hexe. Kaleidoskop meines Lebens (1968). Some of the performative elements in the film have been developed after a series of works called The ValeskaGert Monuments, the sound installation Love Letters to Valeska Gert (2016) by Eszter Salamon, as well as theperformances The Valeska Gert Museum (2017), and The Valeska Gert Monument (2017), both created incollaboration with artist and performer Boglárka Börcsök.

© 2023 Eszter Salamon

Eszter Salamon in Sommerspiele (2023), short film directed by Eszter Salamon, Film Stills © Marie Zahir, Ashton C. Green