Festival report Werkleitz Biennale

By EDRi · September 10, 2004

For its 6th edition, the Werkleitz Biennale changed location, from Tornitz/Werkleitz to the city of Halle (near Leipzig) in east Germany. The theme ‘common property’ brought together many artists and activists working in copyright-critical environments. The location, a former workers-building from 1907 in very rich Jugendstil overlooking an idyllical park, offered an excellent meetingplace for both the invited guests and visitors from the city of Halle. Besides interesting debates about copyright and the post-heroic future of civil society activism, the Biennale excelled in concise film and video-screenings on biogenetics, on city-planning and on strategies of dissent.

The preview screening of the film ‘The Yes Men’ no doubt caused the biggest applause and the loudest laughs. In this film, the Yes Men (Andy and Mike) register what happened after they open up a parody-site on the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The site, www.gatt.org, seems official enough, in spite of many critical sentences, to make people take it serious. The Yes Men are invited to several conferences as official representatives of the WTO. Invited to a conference in Finland, they decide to give a talk about the world economic advantages of managerial leisure. After 10 minutes of semi-serious slides, the presenter tears off his business suit and and suddenly shows a ridiculous golden outfit with a gigantic phallus popping out that supposedly gives the manager full control over all his workers. In stead of being arrested, the audience doesn’t even respond surprised and seems to agree with every terrible idea the two come up with.

In the end, the Yes Men decide to give a press conference in Australia and announce the end of the World Trade Organisation. Dozens of very serious journalists agree with the statement that the WTO has indeed caused poverty to grow, and instead of promoting fair trade, have indeed been deepening the divide between rich and poor.

Werkleitz Biennale festival program (English and German)

Movietrailer from The Yes Men (directed by Dan Olman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith), to be released on 24 September 2004.