Material:  Drawing on paper, 1986-1987

PlaceThe Norwegian Drawing Association, Oslo (N)

Curator:  Elise Storsveen (N)

Photo: Stefan Schröder

The National People’s Army (NVA) of Eastern Germany was an important tool of the state to demonstrate its totalitarian power and to teach young adults, that their individual desires were of no importance for the benefit of the social­ist idea. Several mechanisms worked inside of the army, some genuinely hierarchic, some triggered by collective self-control. For a lot of East German young men, those 18 months of service belonged to the most difficult and humiliating times of their life. Many of them developed personal ways of escapism in order to stay mentally undisturbed by the daily grind in the barracks. Stefan Schröder, who served in 1986/87 chose drawing as his tool to endure this time and moreover, he drew self-portraits as if to make sure his identity and his self esteem remained unafflicted.

 MG 3737 red


This long-term project was a instinctive piece of conceptual art, psychological study and social documentation at the same time. It is both artistically and historically important. Artistically, because it lines up with similar self-observations from Rembrandt to Roman Opalka. And histori­cally, because it documents the climate of the people’s army from inside, without any critical comment, but with a strong will for resilience towards the forced uniformity of the socialist society. Moreover, this cycle identifies creativity as an instrument of defiance and self-assertion. It show different mindsets, different moods, different styles and techniques and lets us witnesses, how this young soldier sticks with arts under hostile circumstances, using them for a kind of individual counter-education.
by Susanne Altmann, Dresden

Skisse for et liv Tegnerforbundet m

  • 1978-02-11, kleines Porträt als Gefreiter mit Uniformjakke am Tisch sitzend
  • 1986 02 11
  • 1986 01 28
  • 1986-01-26-Selbstporträt mit zugeknöpfter Uniformjacke wahrscheinlich bei Kunstlicht, Bleistift_1
  • 1986-01-26-Selbstporträt mit zugeknöpfter Uniformjacke wahrscheinlich bei Kunstlicht, Bleistift-2_1
  • 1986-01-26-Selbstporträt, nachdenklich mit aufgestütztem Kopf in Uniformjacke und seitlich gerichteten Blick, Bleistift_1
  • 1985-01-06-Selbstpoträt wahrscheinlich ein Jahr älter datiert, Bleistift
  • 1985-01-19- Selbstporträt mit Unterhemd, Bleistift
  • 1986-01-25-Selbstporträt mit vorgeneigtem Kopf und Uniformjacke mit Falte, Bleistift