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  • Commentary

    Memorial to Deserters and Other Victims of National Socialist Military Justice, 2015–16

    Thanks to the choice of language, the stands out against the figurative monumentality of the existing sculptures and especially from the stereotomy of the Monument to the 76th Regiment by Richard Kuöhl of 1935, colloquially known as the Kriegsklotz (War slab): first, in the sense of the actual choice of language in words and sculpture and, second, by the open, eloquent method of working as such.

    Helmuts Heissenbüttel’s (1921–96) poem “Deutschland 1944” of 1961 is the text selected.
    This sound collage about the wartime year 1944 is composed entirely of fragments of language from the perpetrators and participants. The principle of collage condenses the terminology: the beginning of the text is rendered in the bronze grates. Heissenbüttel’s poem, according to Franz Mon (b. 1926), is a “accusation against language as coconspirator” without the opportunity provided by speeches and their broadcast, the National Socialist movement would not have been able to reshape an audience that was still in part critical into a homogeneous mass.
    The propaganda measure of the violent regime could only function by means of language and its transmission.

    The principle of collage is the criterion of the text and of the plastic form.
    Franz Mon: “it lies in the structure of collage that every part can be viewed in isolation.” The principle of collage stands for an approach that has presented a means of representation in art since Dadaism.
    In the memorial to deserters, the combination of individual parts leads to a unity. Parts lean on one another, interpenetrate, and are recognizable as elements. This indicates a transparency and openness the resembles the transparency of a Baroque belvedere. Baroque articulation of space is based on free movement, on strolling. The National Socialists replaced it with marching.
    The stereometry of the National Socialist sculpture (found in many rationalist architectural idioms) contrasts with the open form. The control and discipline of stereometric architecture/sculpture tries to reduce human beings to squared objects. The soldiers of the monument to the 76th Regiment are not depicted as individuals but as squared objects captured as volumes.
    By contrast, my work shows the aesthetic subject. The individual is not captured in the structure but steps out of it freely.
    Desertion as a form of resistance is the knowledge of being able to step out of every situation, despite the danger, at any moment and to act. The distance of the deserter from the totalitarian system and the inner freedom of the decision are the central concerns of this work.

    Thinking about the period of resistance to National Socialist also applies to those who resist violence and violent rule today.

    Memorial to Deserters and Other Victims of National Socialist Military Justice, 2015–16

    10 × 10 × 3.58 m

    Concrete with text, steel, bronze, natural stone, six-channel sound installation (text by Heissenbüttel read by the author and brief biographies of the 227 victims)

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