Born 1942 in Burscheid, Germany. Lives and works in Cologne, Germany
Günther Wallraff, "Ganz unten" (The Lowest of the Low), 1985. © KAOS Kunst- und Video-Archiv
Günther Wallraff, “Ganz unten” (The Lowest of the Low), 1985. © KAOS Kunst- und Video-Archiv
After finishing his apprenticeship in a bookstore (1962), Günter Wallraff entered the Civil Defence as a draft resister. Following this, he worked a number of different jobs and used his gained experiences in the reportage program “Wir brauchen dich. Als Arbeiter in deutschen Industriebetrieben” (1966; in 1970 entitled “Industriereportagen. Als Arbeiter in deutschen Großbetrieben”). Wallraff's so-called “character reportage” first appeared in the collection “13 unerwünschte Reportagen” (1969), in which he describes his experiences playing the role of an alcoholic, a homeless, and a chemical manufacturer. A consistent representative of documentary literature, he is one of the co-founders of “Werkkreises Literatur der Arbeitswelt” (The Labor Market's Literary Work Circle) in Gruppe 61, who held their first meeting in 1970. In 1973, the reportage collection “Ihr da oben, wir da unten” was released, which Wallraff had co-written with Bernd Engelmann. In 1975, the documentation of Wallraff's 1974 protest action in Athens against the Greek military dictatorship followed, during which he chained himself to the Syntagma Square with the words “Our next door facism. Yesterday's Greece – a lesson for tomorrow.” Wallraff attracted special attention for his undercover research at the editorial office of the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung and the following documentation: “Der Aufmacher. Der Mann, der bei Bild Hans Esser war” (1977); “Informationen aus dem Hinterland. Wallraff bei Bild” (1977); “Zeugen der Anklage. Die Bild-beschreibung wird fortgesetzt” (1979); and “BILD-Handbuch bis zum Bildausfall” (1981), in 1985 entitled “Bild-Störung, Günter Wallraffs BILDerbuch;” and “Enthüllungen, Recherchen, Reportagen und Reden vor Gericht” (1985). One of Wallraff's most politically effective reportages is “Ganz unten” (1985), his work on the misanthropic trade with migrant workers where he plays the role of the Turkish worker Ali. Another work is the reportage “Die unheimliche Politik" (1982). Selected publications include: Aufdeckung einer Verschwörung (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1976); Der Aufmacher. Der Mann, der bei Bild Hans Esser war (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977, 1982, and 1997); Bild-Störung (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1985); Ganz unten. Mit einer Dokumentation der Folgen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1988); Industriereportagen. Als Arbeiter in deutschen Großbetrieben (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1991); Mein Tagebuch aus der Bundeswehr (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1992); Zeugen der Anklage. Die “Bild”-beschreibung wird fortgesetzt (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1979 and 1982); 13 unerwünschte Reportagen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2002); and Ich – der andere (forthcoming).
Contribution: Participates in Station 3: The Movie Theater East of Eden, Aarhus, with “Ganz unten” (The Lowest of the Low), Germany 1985. 16mm (color), 100 min. Courtesy of the artist, The Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen, and KAOS Kunst- und Video-Archiv. The film is screened on Tuesday, October 5, 2004 from 7:30 – 9:15 pm.