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The Realm of the Real (Warsaw Lecture. Part 1)

9. August 2012, 12:57 Uhr

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I created my production company IIPM on 2007 as a working title for one of my neo-futurist phantasies at that time: to reenact on the large campus of the Festspielhaus Hellerau in Dresden (a big festival-area constructed in the beginning of the last century as an anti-center to Bayreuth and after the second world war one of the general bases of the red army in Germany), a diptyche of the two most known attempted assassinations of Hitler, both bomb attacks:

The one in 1939 in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich which Hitler survived because he finished his speech 13 minutes earlier than scheduled (the air was foggy and Hitler instead of flying back to Berlin as announced took the train).

The other one in 1944 in the Wolfsschanze, known as the „Stauffenberg-Attentat“ or the „Attentat of the 20th of july“ – failed, because Hitler in the moment of the explosion leaned over a thick oak table who saved him like an armour plate. Stauffenberg – and with him the whole group of conspirators – was shot or hanged.

Even if this diptyche-installation wasn’t realised, the planning of it was the birth of the IIPM.  Half a year before, in automne 2006, when I was working on a more classical project at the State Theatre of Dresden – „Pornografia“, a quite free adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz novel –, the idea of making the two attacks against Hitler came across my mind when I discussed with the then-dramatic advisor of the State Theatre another adaptation – an adaptation of the post-apocalyptic documentary-novel „The world without us“ by Alan Weisman which describes the collapse of infrastructure after the sudden and over-night disappearance of human kind as a slow motion „roman de choses“.

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The idea was to adapt this posthuman drama for the city of Dresden as a long-term-project in recently deserted apartment houses, and the working title was – not very inventive – „Dresden without us“. For understanding that, you should know that the eastern part of Germany since 1989 has lost more than two millions of its citizens – not by political murder, but by exodus. The urbanists resolve this problem with the so-called „Rückbau“ – the naturalization, the un-building – of deserted accommodations to prevent their slow decay, for the simple reason that the costs of abandoned quarters are much bigger than their total destruction. As a result of this, hundreds and thousands of prefabricated houses (the typical GDR-„Plattenbauten“) disappear every year and with them the memories of their former residents.

So, at one hand, the very simple purpose of „Dresden without us“ and of the re-enactment of the two „rooms“ of resistance against Hitler was to counteract the neoliberal logic of destroying the past and to re-awake the romantic, middle-European landscapes of ruins. We know this kind of „memory space“ – which by the way disappeared very quickly after the foundation of the German Reich on 1871 – for example from the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich.

But the reason for my ruin-plans were certainly different: Unlike than in Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings, „Dresden without us“ was not planed as a spiritual allegory of the unification of the human mind with nature in a posthistoire ecstasy (as, by the way, the most of post apocalyptical narratives). And even if these fragmentary projects – „Dresden without us“ and the double monument of resistance against Hitler were stopped after their conceptual state – were driven by a romantic interest for the monotonous work of time (after their controlled explosion, the second Bürgerbräukeller and the second Wolfsschanze would have been left on the place of the performance, exposed to sun, rain, snow and the desperate youth of Dresden): What I wanted to invoke by these performances was not some private or political heroism lurking behind the veil of passing time, it was not a strange variety of „Ostalgia“ or hero worship, but only the attempt to denoting as concretely as possible this simple fact: that something happened and someone was there. That history cannot be erased and that the notion of „history“ isn’t just a narrative (as postmodernist historians are used to say), but in the most positive and naive sense of the word: a fact.

The aim of these performances was also a materialistic one in the classical sense in which Diderot uses the term: Can art talk about the reality? Can history, can the real be denoted? Not in a dramatically closed, but in a totally open context. And not in a formalistic set-design, but in the banality of real time and real space – in the banality of Dresden.

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The words time and space, these two popular „emblems“ of science (at least since Einstein), lead us to another point.

As the expression „Institute“ in „International Institute of Political Murder“ implies, the problem of a real-time performance like the explosion of the barrack in the Wolfsschanze or „Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus“ is not only a question of the sense or non-sense of a hardboiled realism, but it’s first of all a practical one. This has, paradoxically, got to do with the imaginary power of images like the one of the Ceausescus in the trial-room: Its phantasmagorical energy is so overwhelming, that the first step of re-enacting an event, an image like this (according to the „Time Magzine“ one of the five best-known television-pictures in TV-history, together with the assassination of JFK and the first man on the moon) is a work of archaeology – of the re-founding of the body of the event as such under the magma of collective memory and political or just paranoiac imagination. Who says „Stauffenberg“, thinks of Tom Cruise; who says „Ceausescu“, thinks of a crazy mixture of Stalinist platitudes and absurd gestures, especially if he knows the Romanian theatre.

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When Andy Warhol – to take a famous and very different example of dealing with this problem: the power of images and collective narratives -, when Warhol repeats or rather copies popular media-pictures of disastrous events as in his serigraphs „Plane Crash“ or „Pink Car Crash“, he insists in the post-heroic and machine-like coolness of this gesture of repeating.

So, „Plane Crash“ or „Pink Car Crash“ – authentic reproductions of the image of the event – are decidedly anti-authentic and tell us nothing about its concrete reality, about its spacial and material scenery – but in exchange a lot about popular imagination, the making of modern fairy tales, the functioning of the media, the intruder-like experience of „disaster“ in a peaceful consumer society and so on. I mention „Plane Crash“ and „Pink Car Crash“, because these works are like an ironic abstract of the unsolvable problem of a real repetition: You can reproduce me 1000 times, says „Pink Car Crash“, but you will never look behind the pictures and their narratives. You will never see the real Car Crash.

For that reason, the re-enactments of my production-company „IIPM“ are, compared to Warhol, in the first place resolutely naive – naive in the sense that the aim is not a meditation about the absence, about the disappearance, about the poor and unhappy real eaten by the simulacra and so on, but about its concrete shape. Who wants to produce a re-enactment, has first of all to ask the good old childish question: How was it really?

What really happened on the 7th of july 1944?

What really happened on the 25th of december 1989?

On March 2011, the founder and director of the IIPM, Milo Rau, was invited to Poland to discuss in the Library of the University of Warsaw with artists and academics (a. o. Artur Zmijewski, Yael Bartana and Magdalena Marszalek) the esthetical concepts of his work and the history of his production company IIPM. To the second part.

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