Why does Thomas Körner use reading games

Körner recognizes already in the seventies that the novel form is not ideal for the screen. He is looking for new forms for his texts. He also suspects that when reading on screen the reader will not focus as much as when reading a book. He is looking for new ways of designing texts that appeal to the reader. During the time of the 70s in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which he calls vacuole, that he can be “caught” by the state security (stasi) at any time, if he writes down dissident thoughts. The grudge of the surveillance system STASI was not only directed against political criticism, but also against new (art) procedures that do not correspond to socialist realism. New methods were e.g. Cut-ups by William Burroughs, possibly created in a state of intoxication, and new techniques such as visual poetry and surrealistic writing. A new tolerant and open thinking was demanded by the appeal of Leslie Fiedler in 1968: “Cross the border, close the gap”.

As Körner intended no peeking IM (IM was called an informal member of the state security system in the GDR) should find a coherent manuscript with him, he started writing on index cards. In addition, in his narration he switches between a realistic and an ironic language, the voice of the commentary-less realist or barbaroccan cabaret artist. He developed his reading games for two reasons: his fun idea to use socialistic game theory on one hand and thereby hiding his regime-critical thoughts. The staff of the State Security (STASI) lurked everywhere. That’s why you have to mask yourself and your writing.

The American artists Jane and Louise Wilson impressively captured the Stasi’s intimidation and torture tools in Hohenschönhausen Prison in the GDR in a video installation titled STASI CITY. This is currently being shown again in the exhibition Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy at the Metropolitan Museum New York:

Information about The Met and Jane and Louise Wilson with STASI CITY

Reading game of the general assembly (of the party SED)

In this reading game, which takes place on a kind of game board, the discussing persons throw their statement on a playing card into the middle of the game table like in a card game.
They have four-letter codes such as NECK or WULB, whose full names are easily recognized as Honecker and Walter Ulbricht. But there are also codes which are more difficult to interpret.
In the foreground they act according to the rules of socialist game theory, they talk about the five-year plan. Georg Klaus, the cybernetics pope of the GDR, appears as an expert. But actually only fermentation bubbles come out of the cards (of the party members), because it seems nobody really understands what they are talking about.

At the end of the very extensive reading game with more than 50 moves WULB hands over the power to NECK.

But play or read the game yourself:

The discussion of the party members starts here.

Manuscript Model

The manuscript model DOSSIER is the graphical guide to play the Reading game of the State visit. Körner has alienated the Fidel Castro Visit to the GDR in June 1972 into the fictive story about the Cumban prince Tandi. In addition, he fancifully and ingeniously incorporated the talks of the secret services of various nations. The unfolding directions (more than four!) of the Leporello embody the voices of the secret services, as Körner explains in the manuscript model:

Körner adds to his explanations of the model:

Actually this reading game can be understood as a performance of his ensembling-idea, as the author explains in his model under Zum Stoff:
By writing the text, while reading the newspaper, I got into playing like gambling, the situation of the intelligence agencies not quite far away. ‘Dossiers’, plans, distractions, pseudo solutions, minor characters were created as if by itself to the output you find here …

For the virtual reading game, the author has taken an alienated text and pictures from the daily newspaper Neues Deutschland. He has cut the heads off the embracing statesmen (Castro on the left and Honecker on the right) from a photo in Neues Deutschland from June, 14th, 1972 and uses the bodies (without heads) in his reading game as background picture on the first day.

The fictional and rather ironical conversation of the secret services can be reached by pressing the Omega button (to the right of the arrow keys):

Here you can continue play-reading by clicking on Reading game of the State Visit