Anne Tismer

Volksbühne Berlin

What would Hitler say? This question has recently gone from being posed ironically in Germany to a global musing. YouTube now has more than 140 mash-ups of the movie Der Untergang (The Downfall) (2004), which answer the question by using subtitles to show what Hitler would say if he found out that the iPad does not support multitasking play, or that he lost the LA MOCA directorship to Jeffrey Deitch. These mash-ups have turned Hitler into a global meme for uncontrolled rage. Now Anne Tismer has merged Hitler with the amazingly popular Facebook game FarmVille. Her performance Hitlerine, 2010, asked: What would Hitler do if she were a FarmVille-obsessed mother of a young daughter?

Tismer was a successful stage actress; her subsequent transformation to performance artist is symptomatic of a recent affair between art and theater in Berlin: Johnen Galerie’s twenty-fifth anniversary staged artists in a series of plays, while the theatrical curtain has appeared as a prop in both the 2009 exhibition of Thomas Demand at the Neue Nationalgalerie and the permanent collection at Hamburger Bahnhof. This is not a one-way street: Theaters have been staging art performances, too; the theater Hebbel am Ufer has hosted artists Janet Cardiff and Keren Cytter as well as a talk by the curators of the 2009 Istanbul Biennial, the WHW collective Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, and Sabina Sabolović, about their obsession with Bertolt Brecht.

Instead, one could read Hitlerine as being about the totalitarian tendencies in creative production: For Tismer, the format of art performance means liberty from male directors and authors (even though this performance lists Alexis Bug as a director)—she is the boss now. Simultaneously, the performance is a production of non-sense, a rejection of narrative expectations. The second way of reading the work is more culturally specific: Tismer juxtaposes two modes of speaking, that of the dictator (lots of yelling) and that of the neo-bourgeois Berlin family—lots of attention to the ant-daughter’s antics, which are enhanced by the props (those pretty knitted shit-threads) made by a puppet theater group. This is an interesting commentary on current discussions of families and the role of women. Young stylish mothers are seen as the saviors of the republic from the threat of an aging population, sixty years after the glorification of mothers during the Nazi era.

Yet, while these allusions to neocolonialism, fascism, and family life are equally provocative and silly, Tismer’s performance lacks many things: the physical and conceptual rigor of Marina Abramović’s work, the thoroughness of Alice Creischer’s and Andreas Siekmann’s critique of the globalization of the German museum industry, the over-the-top excess of Jonathan Meese’s play with history, to name a few. If Tismer wants to go on being a performance artist, she will have to become a tougher dictator of her own creativity.

Daniel Boese