Report on a visit to the didactic branch of the Museum for Applied Hermeneutics, Bielefeld, Germany, August 11, 2117
Published in 2A Magazine Issue #13 – Spring 2010
We are led into a large hall with comfortable seating. A young, noticeably longhaired staff member takes over the introduction. The following is an account of our impressions and excerpts from our recordings.
Speaker: “Though we see ourselves as following completely in the tradition of the Annales School, a narrative account of one individual’s experience can be useful in so far as it is symptomatic of the full sequence of events. As you surely already know, we supplement Oral history with Visual history. The abundance of cameras installed in the public and private spheres at the start of the century has provided us with material that can be edited into a film-like montage depicting past events. The film I am about to present is one of these films. While watching, please take into consideration that a) the material has been edited together by us, b) the image and sound quality is very poor at times and c) supplementary films are in the works that, for example, will show what was done in the Entity’s Pavilion under Yusuf Etiman.”
Each of us had to share a visor between two. As unaccustomed as we were to seeing 2D images without smell and taste, we quickly got used to it.
We see a dark-haired, middle-aged woman asleep in bed. Subtitles inform us that what we are seeing took place on the 30th floor of the (unfortunately now destroyed) Friendship Tower. The woman’s name is “Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis.” Sunlight streams through the windows, her dimming system is apparently defunct. She opens her eyes and casts a worried glance over the objects on the walls and in the room, now bathed in bright sunlight. Among them: a woodcut by K. Utamaro (Beautiful Woman Cleans Her Pipe, 1805)
On a small table, we see a miniature version of A. Jodorowsky’s orgasm machine that nods with tiny flags and opens at the slightest touch (after Montaña Sacra, 1973), across from The Meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (ca. 1455) by P. della Francesca.
Finally, her gaze settles on a framed, first sketch of the Entity by Antje Majewski.
Note: These subtitled artifacts, the images of which were inserted into the film in a far better quality than the rest of the material, are clearly reproductions of objects from the collection of the Museum for Applied Hermeneutics and could in fact obscure other objects in the space. On the other hand, other sources reveal that such artifacts were often kept in apartments, where their keepers saw to their preservation.
Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis goes into the bathroom and brushes her teeth. She then chooses her clothes for the day, a white Salvar Kameez, fixes herself and looks for her handbag. She tosses her mobile phone in it and leaves the apartment.
In the elevator, she talks on the phone (in Farsi). The sound quality is very bad here, we can only make out that she is worried about traffic and the possibility that she will be late. Maybe she would be better off taking the chute. She picks up her car from the underground garage and drives over the highway. We can hear the radio. She speaks shortly on the telephone again. During the drive, we see historically very interesting shots of DD.
She arrives at Jan Wellem Maktum bin Buti Hall, wher e DD’s “art collections” are kept. A valet parks her car, and she follows another server to a pavilion hidden in the greenery. It is a magnificent structure made of Lebanon cedar, the biomorphic walls of which are partially covered in malachite tiles.
As soon as she reaches the door, she is greeted in English language by a youthful-looking man in a very impressive coat (note: Tajik handiwork, ca. 1930) as “Mr. Pflugfelder”. She enters a hall where four small groups of people have already gathered and are sipping alcohol-free beverages around several bistro tables. A buffet is waiting off to the side. The hall is tastefully decorated with flowers. Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis gives a friendly nod to several acquaintances before approaching a bearded man that we have identified as the legendary Yusuf Etiman, the first director of the Pavilion of the Entity. He immediately begins his speech.
(In English language):
Yusuf Etiman says a few general words about his delight that this day has finally come. He thanks Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis for her extremely generous financial donation, without which neither the Entity’s development nor the erection of the pavilion would not been possible, and gives her the word.
Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis thanks him on her own behalf, emphasizing that her contribution is only a small part, and extends her most heartfelt thanks to Dubai Düsseldorf for its trust in donating the building plot and associating the Pavilion of the Entity with the “art collections.”
“What role will art play in the future?” she asks the audience. “Many science fiction scenarios reflect the fear of a world designed to the last detail, one in which human beings are degraded to the level of will-less consumers in an aseptic, artificial paradise – a scenario not unlike the possible future of Dubai. The will to humanity in these stories is often in the guise of a desire for the damaging, such as alcoholic excesses and cigarettes; or also, as in P. K. Dick, in the form of Wilbur Mercer, who is endlessly, painfully pummeled with stones and therefore keeps the feeling of empathy alive among in humans.
Time and again, the Western museum has supported artists willing to serve a cathartic function and exemplarily make the suppressed “other” visible – in Düsseldorf, for example, Joseph Beuys.
In the future, there will be a demand for abstract art focusing on non-consumable or applicable knowledge: repulsive, organic objects incorporating transience, death and perversion, similar to the technological reliquaries by Paul Thek.
And now I would like to introduce the artist Antje Majewski who, in cooperation with the biotechnology company MEL, has developed a completely novel work of art.”
Antje Majewski also thanks the collector on her own behalf for the financial support for her project: “What is unique about this new life form that we have created is that it possesses neither sense organs, nor reproductive organs, nor means of transport or a nervous system. The organism is life in the abstract sense; it has such a low energy consumption that its metabolism is extremely slow. It can neither take in food nor eliminate waste and lives by selfconsumption until his insides are completely eaten away, leaving only a dry shell. The artwork succeeds in complete self-referentiality, something that has always been desired in Concrete Art It is acceptable to the Muslim community because it doesn’t depict anything – it just is. At the same time, it introduces organic waste into the sterile world of the museum, something that people – like sexual organs or diges- tive waste – don’t care to see because
especially in terms of its smell, it remains very foreign and therefore unattractive.
At the same time, its only activity is slow self-digestion and therefore extremely slow death.”
Taking the word once more, Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis explains what she finds so fascinating about the project: “The artwork of the future reminds us of transience, and evokes empathy after initial disgust. It can therefore be ethically effective as an artwork across different cultures and religions. In the Kantian sense, it forces us to reflect on ourselves as human beings, encouraging a social bond by awakening new enthusiasm for our natural physical and mental abilities, admittedly limited as they are.”
Mrs. Armaghan bint Bilqis reaches inside a plastic box and pulls out a round object. Its surface shines in twinkling green to orange colors. She hands the object to Yusuf Etima who carefully, lovingly takes it. A few people standing around the object, mostly other contributors or assistants, lean toward it with interest, then quickly pull back in disgust. Everyone present begins to clap. End of the film.
At first it was hard for us to understand the onlookers’ reaction, but then a Museum for Applied Hermeneutics employee explains that numerous, concurrent historical sources show that the object emitted an almost intolerable smell.
He continued to explain, occasionally punctuating his presentation with Vidisnaps as a visual aid.
Speaker: “It would be over our time limit, if I wanted to present the following events in just as much detail. Unfortunately we do not own any documents about Antje Majewski from the time in which the Entity was developed, nor do we have those from the MEL biotechnology firm. We do hope, however, to have given you better insight into the original intention of those responsible for the Entity’s creation and presentation.
Here we have a picture from the year 2056 (Vidisnap) Using
plans developed by architects Pflugfelder and Miessen, Dubai and Düsseldorf – having developed far from the Entity pavilion’s early, idyllic beginnings – have built identical Kunsthallen allowing for the Entity’s cult-like worship. Long ago, the organism (now shriveled and wrinkled) (Vidisnap),
ceased to encourage self-reflection and awaken abstract empathy.
Instead, it stirs only state-controlled, nationalistic sentiment,
since Dubai and Düsseldorf are the only two places that own the Entity. More than a few openly submit themselves in prayer to the object and try to touch the shrine with a tip from their clothing. (Vidisnap)
After the catastrophic events at the turn of the century, the Dubai and Düsseldorf Kunsthallen were destroyed.
This Vidisnap is from the year 2101. A tourist took it by
coincidence at a vegetable shop where the owner happened to have participated in the looting of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. The disk is a decorative element that once decorated the entrance to the shrine. The surface is dirty, but still glows with the Entity’s colors. Behind that, we see a glass cube on the floor that contains a small, round thing, similar in appearance to a shriveled fruit. It is the dead Entity, having consumed itself into a mummy.“
At this point, several of us felt the urge to vomit and began looking for the nearest restroom. Others wept.
We highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Applied Hermeneutics. It evoked powerful, but also cathartic feelings within us and we extend our deepest gratitude to the Museum for its historical investigations.
Models: Mathieu Malouf, Ralf Pflugfelder, Heji Shin, Oliver
Helbig, Yusuf Etiman, Solmaz Shahbazi, Jana Petersen, Delia Gonzalez, Michael Waller, Julia Majewski, Zille Homma
Hamid; Costumes: Antje Majewski, Ayzit Bostan; Architecture design: Ralf Pflugfelder / Noffice; Assistent: Katrin Vellrath
2 Kitagawa Utamaro, Beautiful Woman Cleans Her Pipe, from: Meisho fukei, Bijin juni (Famous Places and Twelve Kinds of Beautiful Women), woodcut, 1805
3Alejandro Jodorowsky, La Montaña Sacra, Mexico / USA 1973
4 Piero della Francesca, The Meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo, ca. 1455
5 Antje Majewski, Sketch for the outer form of the Entity (2009), making use of Leonardo da Vinci, Mortars with Explosive Projectiles, from the Codex Atlanticus, 1478 –1519 Permanent ink print on paper, 10 x 10 cm, 2009
6 Noffice, Dubai, 2009
Philip K. Dick
7 Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965
8 Paul Thek, Excursion (from the “Technological Reliquaries” series),1964
9 Antje Majewski, The Donation (2024) Oil on canvas, 290 x 355 cm, 2009
10 Ralf Pflugfelder and Markus Miessen / Noffice, Kunsthalle Dubai, 2009
11 Antje Majewski, Decorative element that once adorned a passage leading to the shrine (2101) Oil on wood, Ø 200 cm, 2009
12 Entity (2101)
Glass cube, 35 x 35 cm and organic remains, 2009
All images by Antje Majewski‚ © Antje Majewski and Jens Ziehe