Accessibility Sitemap Skip menu
 „Artist & Agents – Performance Art and Secret Services“, HMKV at Dortmunder U, 26.10.2019 - 22.03.2020, Foto: Ion Grigorescu: „The Talkie-Walkie People“ (1975), Design: Nathow & Geppert.

„Artist & Agents – Performance Art and Secret Services“, HMKV at Dortmunder U, 26.10.2019 - 22.03.2020, Foto: Ion Grigorescu: „The Talkie-Walkie People“ (1975), Design: Nathow & Geppert.

HMKV Exhibition "Artists and Agents – Performance Art and Secret Services" Opens on 25 October

From 26 October 2019, the HMKV (Hartware MedienKunstVerein) will be showing the extensively researched international group exhibition Artists & Agents - Performance Art and Secret Services at the Dortmunder U. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition highlights the interaction between secret services and performance art - an art form that was considered most dangerous by the single-party dictatorships of Eastern Europe. In order to effectively infiltrate the art scenes and ultimately "decompose" and "liquidate" them, the infiltrating agents in some cases had to 'perform' and become 'artists' themselves. Artists & Agents presents numerous examples of artistic subversion as well as hitherto unknown cases of secret service infiltration of the art scene by agents, presenting materials some of which have never been shown before.

The exhibition, developed in cooperation with the Slavic Seminar of the University of Zurich, is curated by Inke Arns (HMKV), Kata Krasznahorkai and Sylvia Sasse (both from the University of Zurich) is the result of extensive research in the secret service archives of the former Eastern Bloc countries. After 1990 these were opened to research for the first time. Investigation of the documentation of art by informants and of the influence of the secret services on artistic work became possible. What is new and unusual about our exhibition is the focus on the perspective of the secret services on performance art - in other words, on the files that various secret services in the GDR, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and the USSR have compiled on performance art between 1960 and 1990," says HMKV director and co-curator Inke Arns. Another novelty is the significance that secret service records are revealed to have had for art history: In meticulous detail, the reports document artistic activities, some of which were hardly known, as well as the active, operative intervention of the state in the artistic creative process - with the aim of preventing and destroying it as well as socially discrediting and criminalizing dissident artists.

According to the Slavicist and co-curator Sylvia Sasse, the files “reveal little about the observed, but quite a bit about the observers‘ fears and strategies: "Performance art was considered so dangerous because the secret police could not classify it at all," says art historian and co-curator Kata Krasznahorkai. "It doesn't produce 'pictures' or 'sculptures'. It could appear anywhere and at any time – and disappear again. Highly suspicious was also its origin in the USA and the fact that it created a new public sphere – a parallel, free public sphere that these secret services feared the most".

In order to prevent such art happenings and to frame artists as enemies of the state, however, the agents themselves had to 'perform'. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the exhibition is the "destructive power" of this 'fake art' on behalf of the state, according to Sylvia Sasse: "Agents were smuggled into happenings to criminalize artists. Anyone who imagines the secret police as a bureaucratic machinery overlooks its 'theatre' – an elaborate orchestration aiming to produce internal enemies. Of course, this does not only apply to Eastern Europe and to 'back then', but these are strategies that are also on the rise again today."

The artists were partly aware of this situation and reflect on it with the help of the distance of decades. In addition to a wealth of file material, the HMKV will present numerous works by performance artists confronting their own files, as well as more recent artistic positions that deal with the intersection of art and secret services, including some from beyond Eastern Europe.

The exhibited files and artistic positions therefore also contribute to raising awareness of the dangers and warning signs of autocratic systems: "In the files we read how, for example, the Stasi spoke of contemporary art - often in a very degrading and defamatory language. One recognizes this language again today in right-wing populist parties which accuse contemporary art and culture of showing too little loyalty to the ‘nation‘,” the curators say.

Artists & Agents – Performance Art and Secret Services

An exhibition by the HMKV (Hartware MedienKunstVerein), Dortmund in cooperation with the Slavic Department of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Artists: Alexandru Antik (RO), Tina Bara & Alba D'Urbano (DE), Kurt Buchwald (DE), Károly Elekes / Árpád Nagy / Gruppe MAMÜ (RO), György Galántai / Artpool (HU), Ion Grigorescu (RO), Sanja Iveković (HR), Voluspa Jarpa (CL), Jens Klein (DE), Daniel Knorr (RO/DE), Csilla Könczei (RO), Korpys/Löffler (DE), Jiří Kovanda (CZ), Jill Magid (US), Simon Menner (DE), Arwed Messmer (DE), Clara Mosch (DE), Orange Alternative (PL), Peng! Collective (DE), Józef Robakowski (PL), Cornelia Schleime (DE), Nedko Solakov (BG), Gabriele Stötzer (DE), Tamás St.Turba (NETRAF-agent) / Gábor Altorjay (HU).

With files from Politische Polizei, Switzerland, Ministerium für Staassicherheit (MfS), GDR, Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB), PR Poland, Štátní bezpečnost (ŠB), ČSSR, Komitet gosudarstvennoj bezopasnosti (KGB), USSR, Belügyminisztérium (BM), PR Hungary, Securitate, SR Romania, Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), Chile, Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD), the Netherlands, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and by the European Research Council (ERC) in the framework of the project "Performance Art in Eastern Europe 1950-1990. History and Theory".

Funder HMKV: Kulturbetriebe Stadt Dortmund / Dortmunder U - Center for Arts and Creativity.


The exhibition magazine will be available in late November: In addition to an introduction to Artists & Agents, it contains answers by the curators to "FAQs", descriptions of all art works, background information on all files, an extensive glossary explaining the terms used by the secret services, as well as numerous illustrations documenting the exhibition. The printed edition will be available at the HMKV bookshop (5,00 €) or by e-mail order (10,00 €), the PDF download via the HMKV website will be available free of charge.

Publication at Spector Books:

Kata Krasznahorkai, Sylvia Sasse (Eds.): Artists & Agents. Performance Art and Secret Services, Leipzig: Spector, 2019, 34,00 €

Authors: Inke Arns, Mădălina Brașoveanu, Anna Krakus, Liliana Gomez, Hristo Hristov, Kata Krasznahorkai, Tomáš Pospiszyl, Łukasz Ronduda, Sylvia Sasse, Tamás Szőnyei and Anikó Szűcs

Publication date: 25 October 2019




Opening hours

Tue-Wed 11:00-18:00

Thu-Fri 11:00-20:00

Sat-Sun & bank holidays 11:00-18:00

Mon closed



Admission is free. Donations to the Hartware MedienKunstVerein e.V. are welcome!


Public guided tours

Sundays and bank holidays: 16:00, duration ca. 45 min. Admission is free.


Curators‘ Tour

Saturday, 26 October 2019, 15:00, duration ca. 90 min.

With Inke Arns, Kata Krasznahorkai and Sylvia Sasse. Admission is free.


Family Sunday

On each first Sunday of the month at 15:00, HMKV offers a free kids‘ tour of the exhibition Artists & Agents. Our kids‘ tours are suitable for the whole family. No registration needed. Just come by!

Duration ca. 30 min. Meeting point at the entrance of the exhibition. Admission is free.


Accompanying programme



Special guided tours on date of choice

For groups of up to 25 persons (60€)

Registration and further information at:

Individual booking is possible at any time. Also available in English. Please register at least 7 days in advance.

Page is being loaded...