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Die leere Mitte

The Empty Center
[Translate to English:] Filmstill aus „Die leere Mitte“ von Hito Steyerl. Straßenschilder in Berlin: Schlossplatz, Unter den Linden und durchgestrichen Marx-Engels-Platz.
© Hito Steyerl
  • Director

    Hito Steyerl

  • Germany / 1998
    62 min. / Original version with English subtitles

  • Original language


The enduring topicality of DIE LEERE MITTE is evident from the very first words spoken: “There are many ways to break through a border. There are many ways to erect new borders.” Hito Steyerl may be referencing the Berlin Wall from the standpoint of 1998, but the idea of the cyclical dismantling and reconstruction of borders still echoes through time, back into the past and forward into the future, within this film and beyond. Following the fall of the Wall, the centre of Berlin stood empty, triggering reflection both on its myriad previous functions and its potential role in the image of a new Germany, with the parallels between the two impossible to overlook. As Steyerl skilfully joins the dots between death strip squatters, the Mendelssohn family, the Haus Vaterland, colonial dictates and acts of resistance against them and a constant stream of protests and parades, the same trends keep transcending history: efforts to keep out foreign workers, construction projects brimming with ideological zeal, the slice and dice of borders, people of colour being harried, ostracised and discriminated against, again and again. Even if the centre is no longer empty, the flow never stops. (James Lattimer)

Hito Steyerl, born in 1966 in Munich, Germany. She studied art as well as film. Her works operate at the intersection between film and visual art and are shown at film festivals and in art exhibitions around the world. Her teaching experience includes several years at the University of the Arts in Berlin. She currently teaches at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Director Hito Steyerl. Cinematography Boris Schafgans, Meike Birck, Hito Steyerl. Editing Hito Steyerl.

Films: 1994: Deutschland und das Ich (42 min.). 1998: The Empty Centre (62 min.). 2001: Normality 1-X (37 min.). 2004: November (25 min.). 2007: Journal No. 1: An Artist's Impression (21 min.), Lovely Andrea (30 min.). 2010: In Free Fall (34 min.). 2012: Abstract (7 min.). 2013: How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational (16 min.). 2014: Liquidity Inc. (30 min.). 2015: Factory of the Sun (23 min.). 2020: SocialSim (18 min.).

Bonus Material


  • Still from the film "The Empty Center" by Hito Steyerl. A map of the norther Balkan region: Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria.


    Mark Terkessidis speaks with Hito Steyerl about the film (in German).

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