In Memory of Rotraut Pape

In deep sympathy and with great condolence, we would like to remember Rotraut Pape, who played a key role in shaping the Kassel Dokfest as a longtime companion and friend. In 2016 she received our honorary award for her creative work. Based on one of their central videos we say: You always had a heart for us and we will not forget that!

Text of our catalog from 2016:

"Rotraut Pape’s work as media-artist moves between the poles of film and video art, performance and installation. She is especially interested in technical innovation, producing, for example, computer-tomographic pictures for her videos and installations, and developing artistic projects for the 360° fulldome-format in planetaria and for Oculus Rift with students from the University of Art and Design Offenbach’s film class and other universities in Hesse. Since the beginning of the eighties, Pape has dealt with: pop-cultural phenomena; speech patterns in television; leisure behavior; and club culture, analyzing and paraphrasing the structure of the phenomena and narratively recreating it.

Pape has had connections to Kassel for many years. In 1987, she was represented in the documenta 8 with a performance of her Hamburg group M. Raskin Stichting Ens. Time and again, her film and video work have been featured at the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival. In 1998 a comprehensive retrospective exhibition of her work was shown in two programs, with a total of 24 films from over twenty years. Parallel to this, in cooperation with the Kasseler Kunstverein, a solo exhibition with video installations was shown in the Fridericianum. The special importance that the Dokfest ascribes to Pape’s work is demonstrated by the fact that she is the only artist to have been represented on both Jubilee-DVD editions (2003 and 2008). Pape’s long-term research project on the disappearance of the Berlin wall was first shown in 2009 in a 20-minute pre-version as part of the exhibition Monitoring. This year, in the context of her being awarded the festival’s honorary prize, her now finished, and for the time being final, two-hour version of this work will be shown in the Kassel Hauptbahnhof. Pape describes the wall as the “worldwide largest media wall”. 15 pictures running simultaneously show her repeatedly walking along a section of the Berlin inner-city wall, in the process recording her disappearance and changes in the urban space.

In addition to the artist’s own work being presented at the Kassel Dokfest, film and media work by her students at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach – where Pape has been professor since 2001 – are also represented in the Dokfest. Pape is committed to the support of the younger generation of film artists. She is a co-founder of the Hessian Film and Media Academy and the Hessian University Film Day, which has been an integral part of the festival program in Kassel since 2009. Hence Rotraut Pape has been actively involved in the festival, one way or the other, every year.

Pape’s résumé is characterized by collaborations and media-artistic research. In 1975, in order to study at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg (HfBK), she moved from Berlin to Hamburg. Undecided about the possibilities offered by painting, she discovered the video medium, which at that time was sill defined by large, heavy, hand-held machines. Since cuts were hardly possible, she did without them and produced moving occurrences in front of the camera that she recorded in real time. The HfBK Hamburg was at that time the only place for experimental film in Germany. Rüdiger Neumann, who established the course of study, recognized the student’s talent and supported her. During this time, Pape made fast cut 16mm films; however she was dissatisfied with the individualistic way artists worked. In 1981, in a break from this insularity, Pape, together with fellow students Andreas Coerper, Elisabeth Fiege, Oliver Hirschbiegel and Kai Schirmer founded the performance group M. Raskin Stichting Ens. Some of the performances of this group took place on building sites and in squatted houses, rather than at international performance festivals, although invitations to the latter followed soon after. The medium of video was at that time, above all, used for documentary purposes, however, as years passed, the medium gained in significance and popularity.

In addition to her individual work, Pape continued the practice of collaborative art making. At the beginning of the eighties she met the Hungarian filmmaker Gábor Bódy, who was responsible for initiating the first international magazine on videocassette, dedicated to experimental film and media-art. Pape and Hirschbiegel release the 2nd edition and supported further editions of Infermental. In Lyon, where Pape takes part in productions of Frigo, communal forms of work play a central role. The former dairy has become, among other things, an art-laboratory, inter-medial room with video gallery, radio station, and artist residence with international exchange. At the beginning of the nineties, after Germany’s reunification, Pape returned to Berlin. Here she commenced her project on the Berlin wall and, in a team from Turner&Tailor, produced television programs about the capital city’s booming club culture that initial subcultural movement soon evolved into the commercial structures of techno, hip hop and punk.

Rotraut Pape has been of indispensable value to the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, both as an artist who has time and time again trod new paths, and as a partner in the tracing of new trends and the development of new formats."