To East Germany, with Punk Poster Love and Lore

Ensminger behind the DJ booth at Chemiefabrik

In early June, after the events in France, Visual Vitriol/Left of the Dial curator David Ensminger and his wife headed to Germany, where local musician and graduate student Franny Frantic, singer and guitarist for the band Venusshells, was able to secure sites for a poster exhibition at the local, and infamous, punk bar Chemiefabrik, a graffiti’d bastion of rock’n’roll in Dresden. During the clang and clatter of the night, Ensminger and Frantic spun LPs, wallpapered the walls with hundreds of posters (with help from eager staff), and debuted Ensminger’s folklore documentary film, “Chronicles from the Zero Hour,” which examines the narratives of popular musicians, such as members of  Dag Nasty, the Epoxies, and Strike Anywhere, recount their first encounters with punk culture. In addition, Ensminger was able to project over 100 digital slides of punk art as well, in a revolving carousel fashion. The room was full, conversation was lively, and the tunes carried both the weight of history and the urgency of the genre. At the end of the evening, Ensminger donated all copies of the flyers to the club owner, Andi, who generously supported the event.  Likely, the flyers will be used in future club remodeling.

Chemiefabrik digital display and punk flyer wall segment

Booth at Chemiefabrik with denizens of the punk night

Next, invited by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Georgi-Findlay, Ensminger lectured on diversity in punk, with a special emphasis on women, people of color, and gays and lesbians, at TUD, a well-regarded international technical university Frantic attended on the outskirts of the city, where 50 students, professors, and members of the public engaged each other for an hour and a half. Local tattoo artists mingled with American Studies academics, visiting workers from Portland, Oregon discussed their concerns about local right-wing tendencies, and young teachers-to-be expressed their enthusiasm about integrating pop culture into classroom discussions. The event was warm-hearted, informative, and insightful, which offset the ongoing rain and heavy winds.

Frantic in front of Soviet era East German music gear poster at TUD gallery space

Lastly, Ensminger was invited to set-up a casual display of punk art and more digital presentations by Eleni at the art academy that rests alongside the River Elbe  in classic gray downtown Dresden, where tourists flock and art students from Asia took up temporary residency in the gallery facing the river. Focusing on the work of Raymond Pettibon, including both his commercial art (45s, DVDs, booklets) and DIY punk flyers, along with the extensive work of Randy “Biscuit” Turner of the Big Boys, Ensminger demonstrated the ongoing motifs that have held firm within the flyer community for thirty years, such as raw and rough, expressionistic, b/w styles, or in the case of Pettibon, the combination of literary and lurid illustration, and with Biscuit, homegrown, homespun American surrealism ( The event was attended by local professors, visiting workshop leaders from Hannover, a few locals, and students as well. Relaxed and conversational, the event was low key but rich in spirit and rewarding as well.

Eleni at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts

This was the second visit that Visual Vitriol has made to Germany. In 2004, Ensminger hitched a ride with the band Retisonic throughout Western Europe, which included stops in Berlin, Hannover, Hamburg, and Passau.  Currently, future exhibitions include Houston and San Antonio in Sept. 2010, and Austin in Oct. 2011. Stay tuned for details.

Visual Vitriol show at Zeughaus in Passau 27 June 2004


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