January 28 – February 25, 2012
Florian Goeschke, Eske Schlüters, Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e. V.
Ulrike Gerhardt, Susanne Husse, Jana Sotzko
•What Would You Say It Is?•
News about the Apocalypse #1
»What Would You Say It Is? News about the Apocalypse #1« sets the tone for the approaching end and is dedicated to the subject of love. As a cultural practice and most subjectice experience alike, we introduce love as a means of describing an awareness of the apocalyptic (Roland Barthes). The microcosm called love serves as one of those sites on which modern dilemmas such as authenticity, autonomy, equality, freedom, commitment and obligation are being played out (Eva Illouz). For »What Would You Say It Is?«, these cultural key motives are connected with traditional codifications of love – as an irrational, subversive power, a source of existential, as an indescribable, painful restlessness or the continuously pure new element amidst century-old patterns – and used for a consideration of the end and the new beginning.
In between the attraction of decay and love as a social system, »What Would You Say It Is?« presents books and documents from the archive of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, a sound installation at Senefelderplatz by Florian Goeschke and Knowing as much as the Man in the Moon – Soviel verstehen wie ein Blinder von Farben, a work by video artist Eske Schlüters. Over the entire span of the exhibition series, artist Friederike Hamann will develop Archive Scenes, a walk-in research station. It enables visitors to study related literature, as well as to add and copy material.
With her video installation Knowing as much as the Man in the Moon – Soviel verstehen wie ein Blinder von Farben (2004) Eske Schlüters lays out tracks for the hearing eye, the seeing ear, the »blind seeing«. Jaques Lacan already warned against the ridiculousness of love, for it constructs an illusion out of a desire bound for failure. His damning verdict declares all symbolic relations to be illusory. Images, however, cannot be separated from the imaginary – no line can be drawn between material and conceived images. This »imagination« within the images (emerging in the spectators’ minds through the observation of the rustling pictures) is challenged by her video installation, as well as orchestrated by means of sound, light, darkness and silence.
Eske Schlüter’s dual-channel projection is split into two »narratives«. One is made up of a composition of various moving images from feature- and auteur films. The other shows a boy-like and a more stout man having a conversation about love. Over the course of eight short episodes, the discourse is held in an indefinable environment, aimed toward and against the camera. With each new episode they switch roles while remaining dressed in the same way. Again and again one of the men whispers into the other one’s ear, the latter then memorizes the information and vocalizes it after a brief pause. One after the other, the phrases are stated in an unconnected-connected way. They are characterized by a dialogic logic which operates outside established conventions.
A central motif of both projections is the reoccurring desire to be lied to: »Tell me a lie. Do pretend that we`re in love. Just for a minute. That you’ve been waiting for me for years. Without me you would die. You’d never stopped loving me.« This seemingly absurd, yet self-chosen wish reflects the lover’s longing for metaphors and symbols. The constant recurrence of these spoken words turns them into formulas of exorcism in between the sounds, voices, sound tracks, film sequences, subtitles and black screens. They mirror the turmoil of emotion that the ‘lovesick’ person is aching for, those desired sentences that consequently stick to the ears and the eyes. Phases of doubt – painful when in love – and insecurity are replaced with the self-chosen wish for this one minute of mergence and the returning illusion: »There is only trouble and desire.« »Trouble and desire?« Returned or unrequited love, to be found in the water or on the moon – Eske Schlüters stages the cultural gestures of love in a way that lets them appear to be alien and familiar at the same time.
1. »Winterreise Apparat (Cold Wind Has Bitten My Flowers)« (Peltier Element, Audio, 2010)
A glass encased loudspeaker playing a recording of Schubert’s song cycle, Winter Journey (1827), becomes covered with ice over the course of several weeks. A Peltier element, by polarizing the temperatures on each of its faces, cools the isolated space inside the glass dome. Slowly growing ice crystals chill the speaker’s membrane into completely muted dormancy.
In Schubert’s Winter Journey a man is moving toward the frozen paralysis of his death, dreaming briefly of a spring and a warm love that will never come. In seeing ice crystals appearing like flowers on his window pane, he wonders when the bleak world outside might turn green again.
The end of a single man’s journey, written as though anticipating Schubert’s own end that coming year, parallels the same immobilization on universal scale: the ultimate heat death of a continuously expanding space whose loss of energy ends in an empty frozen stasis.
2. »Ping Pong« (site specific sound installation in public space, 2012)
In Ping Pong, a pair of loudspeakers are installed along facing walls of neighboring buildings. In this canal space (a passage leading toward the youth sport center) a game is being played. The hermitic Winterreise Apparat is externalized, the solitude burst. Back and forth impulses are volleyed, caught between the parallel walls until their energy dissipates into the open sky.
If one extreme is the icy stiffening of a degenerative universe, its polarity is the explosive heat of (re)generation. This is what we find down the passage, as well as the flip side of the Winterreise Apparat’s Peltier element. The games people play together with their burning expenditure of energy. Perhaps it is the playful youth of the second installation that leads to the solemnity of the first. The parrying fun of a new love so easily frostbitten by the bitter wind of heartbreak. Text: Elen Flügge (*1986)
The Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft (Magnus Hirschfeld Associaton) is dedicated to research and commemoration activities concerning the history of sexual science, the sexual reform movement and sexual minorities. Founded in 1982 in Berlin, the association strives for the re-establishment of the Institute for Sexual Science, which Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) inaugurated in 1919.
For the exhibition »What Would You Say It Is? News about the Apocalypse #1« the Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft collaborated with the curators to develop a presentation of historical writings on the topic of ‘Love’. The selection combines works of science, education and popular culture that were published in Hirschfeld’s lifetime and shortly after his death. Some of the books contain his major sexual-scientific positions, such as his Theory of Sexual Attraction. With his scientific work he aimed at basing his fight for sexual self-determination and the de-criminalisation of sexual minorities on an objective, scientific fundament. His books and the other publications on display - released until 1932 – provide an insight into the developments and perception of the sexual-scientific discourses of the time. In 1933, Hirschfeld’s writings were prohibited by the national socialists, and his publications were set on fire during the book burnings on May 10th. The Institute for Sexual Sciences he had founded was vandalised and closed down. The here presented books which were released in subsequent years document the ideological exploitation of the sciences and the instrumentalization of sexual education for racist aims in the times of national socialism.
The contribution of Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft to this exhibition shows books functioning as artefacts and witnesses, while deliberately avoiding a visual representation of their contrary ideological aims. The chronological juxtaposition of excerpts from each book’s central chapter allows the visitors to confront and compare their contents. With the presentation of the books we are attempting to stress the boundedness of knowledge and (scientific) truth to structures of authority. Connected by the term Liebe (eng. love), the selection relates the reflection on love with questions about its social, cultural, historical and political constitution. Thus, the contribution drawn from the archive of the Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft is to convey relevant impulses for the reflection on the meaning on (sexual) self-determination and a discussion about how we want to live.
Books in the exhibition:
Wilhelm Bölsche, Liebesleben in der Natur. Jena 1906
Hanns Martin Elstner, Liebe und Ehe. Dresden 1939
Hans v. Hattingberg, Über die Liebe. München/Berlin 1940
Hanns Heinz Ewers, Arabische Liebeskunst, 1929
Hugo Hertwig, Das Liebesleben des Menschen. Berlin 1940
Magnus Hirschfeld, Naturgesetze der Liebe. Leipzig 1914
Magnus Hirschfeld, Richard Linsert, Liebesmittel. Berlin 1930
Max Hodann, Geschlecht und Liebe. Berlin 1932
S. Jessner, Körperliche und seelische Liebe. Leipzig 1924
Ludwig Levy-Lenz, Hexenkessel der Liebe. Leipzig 1931
Richard Linsert, Kabale und Liebe. Über Politik und Geschlechtsleben. Berlin 1931
Paolo Mantegazza, Hygiene der Liebe. Berlin 1924 (Igiene dell'amore. Mailand 1877)
Paolo Mantegazza, Physiologie der Liebe. Berlin o.J. (Fisiologia dell'amore. Mailand 1873)
Hannelore Palkow, Liebeslexikon von A-Z. Leipzig 1933
Picture: Magnus Hirschfeld, Geschlechtskunde, Bilderteil. Stuttgart 1930