Die leere Mitte

The Empty Center
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.
by Hito Steyerl Germany 1998 German 62’ Colour Documentary form


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

Additional information

Courtesy the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin

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.


1994 Deutschland und das Ich; 42 min. 1998 Die leere Mitte (The Empty Centre); 62 min. 2001 Normalität 1–10 (Normality 1–X); 38 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.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2022