Brain Box – Ideologie
I tried to trace the path from an idea to an ideology. The notion of idea is an open one; we often use the term as a synonym for inspiration. Things or possibilities inspire us – they seem to have an external source. In the “Brain Box” I show this external link by the bands that stretch from or towards the ceiling. The main strand leads to the ceiling and falls back into the Brain Box, ending in a knot. The idea becomes entangled, resulting in an ideology, or becomes a system that connects various concepts.
How does an idea become ideology, a system of belief? When and how does an idea become radical? How is society connected to the individual? When do we become trapped in our own labyrinth of thought?
The Brain Box shows the path of a person who reacts to and positions herself in relation to society and history. It is the spatial sketch of an idea that can, under certain circumstances become an ideology, a model for living.
Spanned bands give rise to a hierarchical system in which biographical elements become the foundation and the companion of a thought. Through the various concepts noted on the wall, facts are connected to fictions, actions to reactions, and events to experiences. Rubber bands of various thickness stand for different connections, tracing a development that ends tragically in its radicalization.
Cultural symbols such as the pentagram find their way from the outside (via the elastic bands) into the thought process. The pentagram is a highly complex symbol: on the one hand it stands for the universal human; but turned it on its head, as on the right wall, it symbolizes evil. On the floor is the red five-pointed star fully colored, which, for example, the RAF selected as the ideological symbol of their political struggle.
The strongest link, a red knit cord, represents the beginning – an idea – that ends in an inextricable knot, interrupting development.
Then the material changes: an elastic band, only 5 mm thick, brings together six concepts into a universal pentagram: experience with event, dream with trauma, and fact with fiction.
Visitors can walk through the installation, the pentagram changes according to the position of the viewer. It seems to stretch or constrict, even as its form remains constant. The left side depicts the concepts along a historical course, while the right side notes the person’s reactions through key words.
The interconnections become even more apparent along the lower, thinner web of lines, along which notions such as truth and reality, action and reaction, real and radical are clearly united. The central notion of power is further divided on the right wall into myth / martyr / moral / manipulation / impotence.
The next level, indicated by elastic bands only 3 mm thick, joins social and political aspects with autobiographical reactions to them. This reveals a historical trajectory, which is prerequisite for an individual biography.
Ultimately a person becomes recognizable, who is reacting to (her) contemporary history. Behind this lies a real person; a woman on whose biography I based this piece. She remains unnamed, and the situation remains a model.
The thinnest and most delicate lines show the progression of a catastrophe. The actual process of radicalization occurs through the move into illegality and the use of violence. Here, the helplessness of a society is shown through the state authority that imprisons, decrees solitary confinement, and prohibits all communication. What started as the idea of a new social order through peaceful protest becomes a resistance with bilateral violence, and ends with injury to the constitutional state and the suicide of highly talented people.
The installation can be realized in other locations and in other contexts.
Under the overarching theme “Idea – Ideology” I identifie numerous words and phrases associated with Ensslin’s life, from historical and personal writings, actions, and reactions. The texts are written on the wall; emerging from each is a red strand that stretches to meet another text. The matrix of spanned lines, ranging from fine to coarse, create a hierarchical system comprised of fact and fiction, events and experiences.
The strongest link, a red woven cord, shows the start of an idea that ends in what seems to be a hopelessly tangled knot. Going from one text to another, the visitor gains insight into the biography of a person in a politically charged time, whose prevailing ideologies influenced large segments of German and European society in the 1970s. Here the biographical and the historical are closely intertwined.
The radicalization of the RAF terrorists and their willingness to use violence must naturally be rejected. Yet then as now, the reasons for their revolt at the time – against the infiltration of German state power by former Nazis, the implementation of the German Emergency Acts, and the madness of the Vietnam War – remain comprehensible.
Today, Andersen’s fairytale from 1845 is also quite relevant, in light of the European, or better, global refugee crisis, making the story all the more saddening. On that cold winter night, no one tended to the freezing girl trying to sell matches and who did not dare to return home, as she burned match after match to warm herself. Andersen linked the fate of the individual with a bitter indictment against the lack of empathy and the consumption mentality of the wealthy people rushing about who simply overlooked the child.
Both stories end tragically. Both female protagonists, the Little Match Girl and Gudrun Ensslin, fail due to the coldness of a bourgeois society. In the installation, I have painted two red five-pointed stars on the floor of the exhibition space. One rests among the spanned threads, and thus as part of Ensslin’s biography it becomes the RAF symbol. The other stands alone in the space with no further concepts on the wall around it, representing the nameless girl who was denied a longer life of experience, understanding, and the right to resistance.
When a star falls from the heavens, a soul ascends to God, so goes the fairytale. The red threads that emerge from the star and stretch up to the ceiling symbolize the girl’s delirium at the end of the fairytale before she dies, a moment both beautiful and sad, as she joins her grandmother to rise up to God, to fly.
In her installation “Brain Box (Ideology)” Brigitte Waldach examines when and how an idea becomes an ideology and then a system of thought, and how the underlying radicalization can occur in reaction to the indifference of a society.
A comparably radical form of music underscores and augments the tension created in the space by this site-specific work. The sound collage was loosely inspired by Helmut Lachenmann’s opera “The Little Match Girl,” alluding to Odense as the birthplace of author Hans Christian Andersen.
Individual lines of text from Andersen’s fairytale are affixed to the front side of the stairs, located on the second floor of the museum building. Climbing the staircase, the visitor is gradually introduced to the context of the awaiting artwork, step by step.