Soft Opening

• Fri 30 10 2020 / 2 – 9 pm •
GHOSTS, Traces, Echoes: Works in Shifts


“Nobody can push us aside – Biz kovulma yiz – Ninguém nos tira daqui.” A song that is still being learnt, or is being learnt again, echoes through the shift Ghosts. The song sheet is the legacy of the Fraueninitiative Hattingen (Hattingen Women’s Initiative). It is a relic of a 1987 labour dispute in Hattingen, the largest the town has ever seen. This dispute was about the preservation of the Henrichshütte steelworks, which for generations had been the town’s biggest employer. “If Thyssen closes Henrichshütte down, Hattingen will become a ghost town” was one of the slogans the Fraueninitiative used at demonstrations, where they dressed in ghost costumes, to warn about the consequences of closing the factory.

The queer performance artist and activist Kathrin Ebmeier, who was born in Hattingen and is now based in Cologne and Bochum, collaborated with others – including historian Alicia Gorny – to set up a forum for women who were involved in the protests to come together again. What unites us? Meeting certain people again, and others for the first time, stirred up memories which were a source of strength but also of pain, highlighting fractured biographies and raising the question of what is left – of a time of shared politicization but also of disillusionment. Contrary to the often-heard expression, it became clear that the steelworks were not ‘our Hütte’. They were closed down to serve capitalist interests, not those of the workers.

The Fraueninitiative was made up of employees, their dependents and fellow campaigners for whom the closure of the factory was an existential threat. It was the first time they had taken part in a political campaign in the public arena. “… I grew into it, like many other women did”: these words, spoken by a female crane operator, serve as the title of an audio collage which weaves together older and more recent accounts by the women. Here, listening becomes intergenerational remembrance.

There were similar formations at many production sites. They kept in contact via networks, exchanged knowledge about strategies and positions, and supported each other. As part of the artistic work for this project, a poster was created incorporating the Hattingen Frauen:initiative’s campaign into this unfinished history: the role of women in industrial disputes in the Ruhr region.

The performative strategy of the ghost demo of 1987 was a creative intervention both in the public space and in forms of protest traditionally dominated by men and trade unions. It briefly attracted a great deal of attention. In 2020, however, the former ghosts didn’t want to shroud themselves in bedsheets again. The women appear as the people they are now. The exhibition, which was created as part of an artistic collaboration with Ale Bachlechner, documents that day of protest in Hattingen’s town center. Amid the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping district, at one of the sites of the 1987 protest, activism manifests itself as manual work and relationship work. This is overlaid with a ‘summoning of the spirits’, created using an augmented reality technique, which opens itself up to futurity: "This is how it will have been."

Artistic concept and realization: Kathrin Ebmeier
Artistic collaboration: Ale Bachlechner
Academic research: Alicia Gorny
Coordination Henrichshütte/LWL: Anja Junghans
Augmented reality: Grit Schuster
Poster design: Karen Zimmermann
Camera: Laura Hansen
Audio interviews 2020: Julia Hübner
Thanks to: Medienzentrum Ruhr e.V.

Opening Hours: Fri–Sun, 2–7pm
Venue: Academyspace, Herwarthstr. 3, 50672 Cologne
Free Admission

We look forward to welcoming you soon as a visitor to the exhibition Ghosts, Traces, Echoes: Works in Shifts. Please note that, for your, our and other visitors' security, the compliance with the general rules of hygiene and in perticular the use of a mask covering mouth and nose are mandatory during a visit. If you have any questions, please contact us at +49 (0)221 337748 92.
Hygiene measures as PDF

In cooperation with the LWL-Industriemuseum – Westphalian State Museum of Industrial Heritage.