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Image Missing or Scenes Based on an Unrealized Play by Bertolt Brecht (1939), and Later Reimagined by Peter Weiss (1978), about Engelbrekt and the Peasant Uprising in Sweden 1434—36
Samuel Richter

The work deals with the power and the limits of aesthetic mediation of political history, as well as the relation between political and aesthetic representation. It takes its point of departure in an unfinished script for a never realized play, found in the archives of the National Library of Sweden, written by Bertolt Brecht during his exile in Stockholm 1939—40 with the intention to stage the Engelbrekt rebellion (a Swedish peasant uprising in the 15th century, named after its ambiguous leader Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson).

Brecht’s fragmented script was later revived 1978, when the German-Swedish author Peter Weiss constructed a fictive, albeit detailed, complementary description of how he believed Brecht would have developed the play, in his novel Aesthetics of resistance (Vol. 2). Weiss’ fictitious description includes ideas about the stage design and other representational means to be used in the dramatization of the uprising. In that way the play lives on without ever being realized, and therefore manifests an unresolved tension between its own historical layers: the 1430s when the uprising happened; the 1930s when Brecht tried to represent this uprising; the 1970s when Weiss reconstructed Brecht’s unrealized representation.

The work takes the form of an essayistic landscape film which uses the voices of two narrator who reads parts from Brecht’s respective Weiss’ texts, to activate shots of historical locations with a relation to the uprising (the medieval mine district, the place where the city wall was located, fields that likely was cultivated by the peasants, etc). Another layer is added by archival footage (form the Harun Farocki Institute) where Peter Weiss himself talks about the play and its political motives and history.

Prod. format Generic HD-video
Duration 00:21:12
Color Color
Year 2019
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About the artist

Samuel Richter graduated from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, with his research focusing on an unfinished play by Bertold Brecht. This research was used for the documentary Image Missing (2019), with its international premiere at IFFR 2020