Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 – Rudolf Herz & Julia Wahren - Desperados 19 - Lecture performance

Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 / Game Changers

Anarchists infiltrate a group of workers—stealing and kidnapping, inciting resistance—but ultimately they are discovered, punished, and killed. This is the plotline of an anti-Bolshevik propaganda film shot in Munich in 1919. The agitators are the criminals: They are dealt with by the anger of the people, and law and order are re-established. Entitled Desperados, this silent film was financed by two ministers from the government of Bavarian premier Kurt Eisner—likely without his knowledge and under strict secrecy. This act constituted a betrayal of the revolution and its democratic principles. When the film finally reached cinemas, its macabre vision had already been implemented: The Bavarian Soviet Republic had been bloodily suppressed and morally discredited.

The film was eventually lost, and for many years it was entirely forgotten. Recently, stills, a treatment, and numerous other documents related to the film were discovered: findings that sharpen and radicalize perspectives of the Bavarian revolution and counterrevolution. In their lecture and performance, Desperados 1919, Rudolf Herz and Julia Wahren investigate the production history, rhetoric, and visual politics of a propaganda film that formed an ideological basis for National Socialism.

The venue (Schwere-Reiter-Gelände, Halle 6) is also a significant component of the performance: It is situated in a neighborhood that was once dominated by military barracks. And the only resistance to the film being made took place here when workers at the artillery works in Schwere-Reiter-Strasse refused to appear as extras. Munitions workers also formed the core of the strike that took place in Munich in January 1918, which supported the end of the war and the democratization of Germany.