It is myself I have never met,
whose face is pasted
on the underside of my mind
Sarah Kane, “4.48 Psychosis” 2000
This video/sound installation examines the slogan “We are the people” with regard to its social relevance in 1989 and today, focusing on its inherent meaning in the light of the misuse it experiences from society and the media, on the one hand, and its romantic idealisation on the other. At the same time the piece inquires into the current state of affairs in Europe and discovers the local in the European context, and vice versa.
The fascination of this installation comes from the way it depicts a backward gaze with a melancholy hue, a poetically transformed reality, and the contradictoriness of life in Europe in the year 2014.
Elias Canetti writes in Crowds and Power: “Only together can people free themselves of the burdens of distance. And this, precisely, is what happens in a crowd. During this release distinctions are cast aside and everyone feels equal. In that crush, where there is scarcely any space between them, because bodies are squeezed together, each person is as close to the other as he is to himself; and an immense feeling of relief ensues. It is for the sake of this blessed moment in which no-one is greater or better than the next, that people become a crowd”.
We are the people.
Four video displays are to be set on the left and the right hand side respectively of the city ring road at a distance of approx. 20 metres from one another. The images in the video sequences are mutually synchronised and theme the way the slogan “We are the people” was used in 1989 and in the years 2013⁄14. A third level of visuals comprises video sequences from current European events.
The sound acts like a sound sluice. The careful choice of the sound systems (loud speakers with a narrow beam width) enables a precisely delineated sound space to be created that presents an intensive acoustic experience. The sources for the sound collage consist of historical material from autumn ’89, recordings of the demonstrations against the construction of a mosque in Leipzig, interviews on mdr radio with people opposed to a home for asylum seekers in Leipzig in autumn 2013, and recordings from topical events in the year 2014. The in part asynchronously linked images allow contexts to emerge with new connotations. The local merges with the national. History becomes the present, and vice versa. The line of vision and the assignment to autumn ´89 is relocated by the associative links, and the European dimension discovered in the Leipzig of autumn 2014.
The origins of the piece:
Early in February 2014: Putin’s games have just opened in Sochi, Switzerland has spoken out against “mass immigration”, and right now there is a press conference on the TV with Nazif Mujic, the Bosnian scrap dealer who was awarded the Bear for best actor in 2013.
During the film festival, he commutes back and forth between the hotel and the refugee centre in which he has lived for the last year with his wife. A week earlier has seen the most recent demonstration against the refugee home in Leipzig Schönefeld by the league “Leipzig steht auf” [Leipzig Arises]. In the Leipziger Volkszeitung on 5.2.14 we read that in this year’s European elections the right-wing NPD party will be concentrating on its centres in among other places Leipzig and Dresden. Their campaign slogan will be: “We are the People” with the express aim of addressing people from the middle classes.
I am sitting at my computer and searching for visuals from the autumn demonstrations in 1989, and from the demonstrations in autumn 2013 against the building of a mosque in Leipzig Gohlis and against refugee hostels in Leipzig and Saxony. I realise that I am unwittingly comparing the images. Are there resemblances in the faces, are there parallels between the gestures and the tone of voice? Did the indignant citizens in Leipzig today already take to the streets in 1989? Are there parallels between the events?
In their book Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen and Alexander Mitscherlich looked at Germany’s National Socialist past to study the defence mechanisms and processes of suppression in the individual and the masses against guilt and complicity in the crimes committed under National Socialism.
My thoughts return to the faces on the monitors. Was the “Peaceful Revolution” also a revolution in the socio-/psychological realm, or did it “only” change the property situation?
Did autumn ‘89 also amount to a questioning of the role of the individual in the system, or was it about fitting in and repressing the knowledge of one’s own personal failure and complicity. In what ways do the mechanisms of blind obedience continue to function?
We simply pass on what we have received if we do not undertake an active examination of our behaviour and our own past. The causes of intolerance, xenophobia and fear of the Other lie deep down and are nourished by sources acting below the threshold of consciousness, where they influence our behaviour, our standards and our outlook.
please open the curtains
Sarah Kane, “4.48 Psychosis” 2000
18.2.2014 – I see pictures on the news showing Kiev in flames. A young women is interviewed. She is outraged in an infectious kind of way and I feel sympathy for her. The atmosphere on the square radiates a marvellous sense of community. I hear her speak through her face mask, saying: “ми національний”, and a voice off screen translates: “We are the people” before she disappears into the tens of thousands in the crowd.
On 19.10. 2014 “Pegida” was inaugurated in Dresden.