The Documentation Center Thuringia (DZT) is dedicated to researching radical political movements in Thuringia that glorify oppression and violence. Founded by artist Erik Niedling and writer Ingo Niermann, the DZT examines both what was and what is, as well as what could be. Unlike documentation centers dedicated to Nazi history, the DZT does not confine itself to surveying particularly catastrophic past events, but understands the pursuit of oppression and violence, as manifested in National Socialism and its underlying racism, sexism, ableism, and totalitarianism, as something always undergoing transformation. In order to resist it successfully, the DZT strives to apprehend not only its existing forms but also its potential future mutations.
In the DZT’s first exhibition – Dokumentationszentrum Thüringen – Erik Niedling explores the question of how Thuringia became a rallying point for right-wing radicals and neo-Nazis after the fall of the Wall, and chronicles how, in order to violently oppose them and the annexation of the socialist Eastern Germany by the capitalist Western Germany, he and his friends founded the “Anarchist Faction” as teenagers. Niedling gathers archival material and historical artifacts and presents his personal story as a fragment in world events.
At the center of the exhibition is the film In the Heart of Germany, in which the artist Amy Patton reads a script recounting the history of divided Germany, the period of reunification, and the activities of the Anarchist Faction over a montage of tranquil images of Thuringia. A present-day encounter between Niedling and an old comrade-in-arms, who today belongs to the QAnon movement, gives a glimpse into an ominous future.
Two display cases contain Anarchist Faction documents, press photographs, and artifacts directly related to the film’s narrative. On the walls are four photographic stills taken during the making of the film. Furthermore, Niedling shows two Flag Paintings, executed in the state colors, red and white, which are omnipresent in Thuringia, on GDR-era canvases found during the artist’s research, and a painting from the Burial of the White Man series which shows a black triangle on a white ground.
Also on view are two artifacts that came into his possession during excavations on historical grounds. The first is Information Board, a decommissioned noticeboard from the radical right-wing Thuringian party Der III. Weg (founded 2013), the second is Target, a fragment of a steel girder riddled with bullet holes that Niedling excavated on a former firing range in Erfurt’s Steigerwald, which was used by neo-Nazis as a training ground after the fall of the Wall.