defa futurum: In the dust of stars, 1976, min. 01.25.19, dir. Gottfried Kolditz and Joachim Hellwig (c) defa foundation

04 The Time Lag of Defa-Futurum


On April 23, 1975, at Karl Marx University in Leipzig, the East German filmmaker Joachim Hellwig (1932–2014) and scriptwriter Claus Ritter (1929–1995), both initiators and authors of the artistic working group defa-futurum, defended their collectively written practice-based PhD on the “artistic forms for imagining a socialist future by the means of film under specific consideration of the experiences of the working group defa futurum.” Strongly influenced by Hellwig’s antifascist projects and nonfictional documentary practice, defa-futurum demonstrates a specific concern for a Marxist cybernetics with regard to creative thinking, labor, love, and political work. The latter is elaborated in greater detail by engaging with the forgotten writings of the philosopher Franz Loeser. Defa-futurum allowed the idea of film-as-theory to endorse the GDR as a sovereign state—promoting also an East German socialist internationalism—under the conditions of the global Cold War by the means of cinema. By using methods from visual culture and cultural studies to facilitate a decolonizing analysis of defa-futurum’s films, Stasi files, archival material, and original writings, the article aims to argue that decolonizing socialism is necessary in order to break through the Cold War’s binary limits for understanding technopolitics, art, and social realities in the post-1989 world. The case study has been published as a scientific article by Doreen Mende under the same title in Aga Skrodzka, Xiaoning Lu, and Katarzyna Marciniak (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures, 2020.

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