The Wave

Stuttgart-Stammheim / Herman Melville’s Moby Dick / Andreas Baader, “Ahab” / Holger Meins, “Starbuck” / Jan-Carl Raspe, “Zimmermann” [Engl. “Carpenter”] / Ensslin, “Smutje” [Engl. “Cook”] / RAF members / Heiner Müller

Die Welle – Moby Dick (The Wave, triptych), 2011
Gouache, pigment pen on handmade paper
185 × 420 cm

Noch Meer (Still Seas)

Sea of words. Four figures in the waves of a novel. To confuse the station guards at Stuttgart-Stammheim, Gudrun Ensslin gave herself and the other RAF prisoners code names from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Andreas Baader became “Ahab”; Holger Meins, “Starbuck”; Jan-Carl Raspe, “Zimmermann” [Engl. “Carpenter”]; while Ensslin called herself “Smutje” [Engl. “Cook”]. Brigitte Waldach’s triptych, “Die Welle (Moby Dick)” / “The Wave (Moby Dick),” is composed with four different shades of blue that correspond to the figures floating on the tide: Meins is light blue, Raspe, medium blue, Baader is cobalt blue, Ensslin is dark Prussian blue. The left side is filled primarily with quotes from Moby Dick, while the middle and right parts of the triptych contain statements by the four individuals as well as witness reports about them. The strands of red words on the bodies themselves describe characteristics that Gudrun Ensslin used, in the language of Melville, to describe the RAF members. Ensslin herself swims in a red quote by Heiner Müller: “The history of the RAF was a single racing monologue,” which leads to a statement made by Ensslin: “Destruction appears as self-destruction.”

Nicola Kuhn