0: THE VITRINE
News from the World of Gimel
The Aleph is stored in a writer’s basement. It contains of all the things of this world simultaneously.
“Under the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness. At first I thought it was spinning; then I realized that the movement was an illusion produced by the dizzying spectacles inside it. The Aleph was probably two or three centimeters in diameter, but universal space was contained inside it, with no diminution in size.” In his short story The Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges follows a vertiginous list of far and near, past and present things; unrelated, they tumble one after another. “What my eyes saw was simultaneous: what I shall write is successive, because language is successive.”
Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph,
The Beta world contains not only the things of this planet, but also all those of all other possible planets and universes: the multiverse. It contains all pasts, all futures, and also the worlds in which there is no time or several times, likewise one-dimensional to x-dimensional spaces. Inevitably, it is not describable or representable.
The World of Gimel inquires as to the relations of all these things to each other and to ourselves.. Two years ago, Peter Pakesch and Adam Budak asked me to think about the Universalmuseum Joanneum, which is turning two hundred years old this year. It consists of a complex of individual museums, one of which is Kunsthaus Graz. The Universalmuseum was originally a project of the Enlightenment, founded for the Styrian population by the liberal Archduke Johann. . The universality of this knowledge proved limited, both historically and regionally. The systematics of the natural scientific departments were redetermined, and their usage is now another. The mineralogy, for instance, was originally intended to support the Styrian mining industry (Archduke Johann also helped to found a university for mining knowledge, now known as the “Montanuniversität”). Folklore collections were supposed to have a strengthening effect on the national spirit – these were associated with liberation movements and liberalism in the 19th century, though these days one would have a hard time understanding how collection of traditional folk costumes could serve to form a national character. The departments were to be of practical use to the population, serving a purpose that is barely relevant today. Furthermore, compared to the analogy transformations of the Schloss Eggenberg, the differentiated, museum knowledge systems of today offer no symbolic knowledge about the world that can be translated into the everyday dealings with and relationships between people and their surroundings.
Presented in my universal museum, the painting of a glass vitrine and a museum guard, are seven objects that I bought them on my travels; as to why exactly these seven should become my universals and what they meant, I didn’t know when I first started thinking about them three years ago. They are things of very little value; as proved by the expert’s report issued by the individual departments in Graz, none of them would be interesting for a museum collection.
Wissenschaftliche Gutachten über die Objekte, erstellt vom Joanneum Graz
Shortly thereafter, I received another invitation by basso in Berlin. Opening there, parallel to the opening of the prestigious “Neues Museum” in Berlin, was a very nice little museum with everything that a museum needs: guards, tour guides, online information, exhibition area, research, conservation…but in this museum, people also danced, made music and did performances, ate, talked and lived. All of these activities took place collaboratively and were also developed out of the moment. I painted The Guardian of all Things that are the Case for both exhibitions. Like a nutshell, the painting in the exhibition at basso already contained everything that will unfold in the big exhibition in Kunsthaus Graz.
In seven other paintings, the objects found in the vitrine are separately introduced or held by different individuals. There they are a nameless attribute, like in paintings of obscure Catholic saints, and they resemble Borges’ things. Each of these paintings found its place in an exhibition in which they came into contact with other artworks, artists and contexts.
Then I traveled to the places that the things came from: to Senegal, China, Poland and France. Everywhere I met people that helped me further. A few old artists became my teachers. I learned that you cannot rob things of their history, because they also always contain the history of the people who had held it in their hand before. Every one of my things that was “meaningless” but fascinating to me, taking me to a place in which it was alive and in a state of constant transformation. Many stories emerged around these few objects; they took me all over the world, and a network of friends, sages, askers and lovers tied together all by itself.
Now the things go to the dead site of the museum, the Joanneum in Graz, where the process of their mummification begins. Hopefully visitors will continue adding more and more knots to the net… The view I am describing is neither a simultaneous nor a successive one; it is rather like an ever-expanding net, the knots of which contain very simple truths. The simplest is the most difficult to say, but perhaps it can be encountered.
I THE HEDGE APPLE/OSAGE-ORANGE
The first object in my collection appeared in the summer of 2008, while I was creating a science fiction scenario for the Dubai-Düsseldorf  exhibition. The scenario involved me working together with a biotechnology company to develop a living artwork: the Entity. It was a living organism that has no sensory organs and cannot reproduce; instead it consumes itself from the inside until it is mummified: a monad. In the Pavilion of the Entity, its sole purpose was to serve as a point of contemplation and reflection: What is this thing that is no more than a being, a living, dying thing that has no relationship to anything, no exchange with the world and no metabolism? And what are we?
Marcus Steinweg, What is an Object
I searched the internet for an organism to model it after. I imagined it as maybe a round fruit, possibly one that is hairy or stinks. My search for “hairy balls” did not lead me to fruits, so I tried “fruit + ball” and ended up with a so-called “hedge apple” or Osage orange. I changed the colors and painted the thing in the hands of a patron as she hands it over to the care of the Entity Pavilion director in 2024.
Unfortunately, it turns out that people cannot stand being unable to attribute any meaning to this thing. Rather than the biomorphic Pavilion of the Entity, Kunsthalles are built in Dubai and Düsseldorf, where the thing is cultishly venerated (2056). Whole pilgrimage centers emerge (architectural designs: Noffice, Miessen / Pflugfelder) . The Kunsthalles have a monumental architecture and a perfect, modernist facade. As for the shrine that houses the shriveling Entity, it looks as though one of John McCracken’s gleaming steles has buckled and caved in; it now resembles a Prada display.
There is an unspecified catastrophe a few decades later – a revolution or a war – and the Kunsthalles are destroyed. What remains is a decorative element and a glass cube containing the mummified Entity, which – in the year 2101 – is now in the hands of a greengrocer who had taken part in the looting.
Antje Majewski, Entity
This story is about the question of the living and the dead in art. How can life be preserved and conveyed, and what is the significance of this mummification process? As much as museums strive to allow life to take place inside of them, they remain above all places for dead objects. These things, whether a painting, sculptures, medieval suits of armor or minerals, are carefully and expensively coffined and painstakingly preserved. Why? What role do these things play in the visitors’ formation of the self, in their connection to the dead?
II THE SHELL
I bought the large shell in Dakar, Senegal seven years ago. I can’t remember where it was exactly that I found it – but I believe it was near the Place de l’Indépendance, just before I left the country.
We met a young woman in a shared taxi from St. Louis to Dakar, and she invited us to visit her family. Her elderly father was a marabout, an Islamic scholar who was consulted as a mediator to God. He could pray for you vicariously, give advice and also help you find more luck. Nanete had inherited this gift, as had her brother, a rap musician. His three families lived in a complex of houses surrounding a courtyard, on a quiet, unpaved road that I liked very much. I flew back to Berlin with the shell in my suitcase, along with the vague idea that I would have to return to Dakar, find this road again and shoot a film there with Nanette. This film should be called La Collectioneuse. A girl should be assembling things on a shelf in her room in Dakar, things that I would find in the port area in Bremen, Germany and wanted to send on a journey to Africa by ship.
Instead I myself traveled back to Senegal in the spring of 2010 and brought my objects with me, with the intention of maybe showing them to a marabout. I had the urgent feeling that now I had to go to Dakar, had looked for different ways to do so and eventually became acquainted with Clémentine Deliss, who also wanted to Dakar. I packed my old camera and a small microphone. Clémentine was certain that I should meet her longtime friends Issa Samb and El Hadji Sy, members of the Laboratoire Agit Art, and ask them about my objects.
Clementine Deliss, Some thoughts on the transformational psyche of objects
El Hadji Sy came into my hotel room, saw the objects spread on the table and said to me, “ Ce sont les choses mêmes qui t’ont ramené ici.” (“It’s the things themselves that led you here.”) The next day, we went to visit Issa Samb. Issa lives in a space full of things either standing around or hanging on strings. Friends and visitors sit down with him under a huge tree, which stands in the middle.
After sitting there in silence for a few days, just listening to the conversations from the sidelines and photographing all the objects, I gave up hope. Issa did not speak to me. But then
Abdou Bâ, a friend of his said to me, “Come on Friday morning.” I came to the space and set up my camera, and Issa Samb sat down and we had a conversation that became very important to me.
Issa told me that we should not deprive things of their history, because that would negate the history of all the hands that made them or through which they had passed. Besides their use, they also carry something else within them that is the same as that which we carry within us, and that we have to respect even in the smallest, most breakable thing from China: a force that fills not only people, animals and plants, but also objects. Every action, every movement of things and people changes the world order, and it is our responsibility to help objects with their movements so that they can participate in the self-realization of the world.
The Shell. Conversation between Issa Samb and Antje Majewski, Dakar 2010
Finally I put the shell, the meteorite and the Buddha hand on the table. But it wasn’t Issa who explained my things to me: I had to do it myself. Abdou said, “I’ll help you,” took over the camera and filmed the second half, most of all me. Issa led me deeper and deeper into an inner seascape, until I finally had to admit – against my will – that in truth I no longer saw the sea, but heard a woman’s voice singing a single note, clear and pure. Issa made a motion and I fell into a trance. That all came to me quite unexpectedly. The next day, and even in the next few months, I was very exhausted, as if emptied. While the voice in the shell was sweet and loving, the energy conveyed to me in the trance was very strong but also cold, even icy.
The Stone, The Ball, The Eyes. Conversation between El Hadji Sy and Antje Majewski, Dakar
Two days later, I filmed another interview with El Hadji Sy in which we talk about reflections, hinges, and the gaze. In this conversation, I mention a door by Marcel Duchamp that is mounted between two doorways, and compare the hinge to my trip to Africa, which also represents a hinge. With doors like these, it is not clear which side is the front and which is the back, just as in my interview with Issa Samb, I cannot say whether the second half of the conversation (during which something spoke through me) is the reverse side of the first part where Issa was speaking.
I have blacked out the trance part in the film because I don’t want to show it. It doesn’t seem right to me. I know what was conveyed to me: but I have no words, no story to tell. I can’t say anything about it. Even Issa has not told me whose voice it was that I heard in the shell, or what was transmitted to me. Once I reawakened, he stood up and continued sweeping the yard.
I later asked Abdou if it couldn’t have been N’doep – but he said no: first of all I wasn’t ill, second, there were none of the ceremonies associated with it. Supposedly there had been a special relationship between Issa and myself, one that he did not understand, either; but in this case whatever had happened was good – “like an assisted birth”.
The Lebou, to whom Issa Samb also belongs, are traditionally fishermen and very closely tied to the sea. There is not only one deity of the sea, but different ones for different places along the coast, all of which have different names and can be male or female. The Lebou conduct trance ceremonies called N’doep, which are primarily meant to lead the mentally ill back into the community. N’doep works by involving the entire village, which organizes a celebration over several days in hopes of leading the afflicted back to his community. Mental illness is seen as the as the result of broken ties: the person becomes a stranger in his own family, his village – or goes crazy after he moved to town, because he has been estranged from his roots. In order for him to be cured, the disease must be violently broken once more. The afflicted, for instance, lies under blankets next to a sacrificial animal. Spirits are called to ward off whatever has taken hold of the afflicted.
On a trip to Senegal, the photographer Leonore Mau and writer Hubert Fichte investigated the practice of psychiatry in Fann, where Western medicine was applied along with the traditional methods of N’doep. Laboratoire Agit Art also participated in attempts to find a new form of psychiatry that uses African knowledge.
Clementine Deliss, Some thoughts on the transformational psyche of objects
For Fichte and Mau, their travels to Africa were also an a were also an attempt to establish a connection between the Afro-American religions and the Brazilian Cadomblé, which they had been studying so closely, in hopes of establishing a link with its origins in West Africa. Though neither allowed themselves to be initiated, they did take on an important task: they brought the chants of the Casa das Minas from Brazil back to the place from which they came, to the court of the king of Abomé. The Casa das Minas priestesses wanted to know if these chants were still correct after 500 years of exile in Brazil. They gave Fichte and Mau a glass bead necklace as an identifying sign, which was inspected pearl-by-pearl in Abomé by King Laganfin Glele Joseph and recognized. After Hubert Fichte’s untimely death, Leonore Mau had to return this necklace to Brazil alone.
The photograph by Leonore Mau from the book Petersilie shows a boat heaped and covered with shells, like a freight shipment for Yemanja, sea and love goddess to the Afro-American religions. Gifts were taken into the sea in her honor, pushed into the water on boats. Yet the caption reads: “A souvenir merchant from Boca Chica has constructed a magic ship for the tourists. .“
There is a passage in the book Forschungsbericht where Hubert Fichte describes a failure. They had traveled to Belize and had tried to find stories there, secret recipes for trance drinks. But they were fooled, and not allowed into the rites. Fichte found not a single opportunity for homosexual encounters. They simply could go no further. Then Fichte suggested to Mau that she photograph white eggs against a white wall “for practice”. Mau was insulted and said she didn’t practice. She was not interested in purely formal gimmicks, or proof of craft and skill.
Then in the 1980s, after Fichte’s death, she photographed the white eggs (on a white cloth) after all in her Hamburg apartment and called them Fata Morgana. They appear together with shells that could have come from the “souvenir merchant’s” blue boat. Sitting in a seashell – which resembles a white egg – is a ring.
Even before my trip to Senegal, I had painted a white woman with long, black hair, peering nude into a giant seashell, which is lying in a primeval landscape.
I made it for the Eyland exhibition with Juliane Solmsdorf, where we investigated Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage by Marcel Duchamp . We transposed the events onto the prehistoric landscape around Potsdam, Germany; I took the background of the painting from a painted panorama at the museum of natural history in Berlin. Within Duchamp’s work, both hinges and bullet-holes between different dimensions can be found; the body can have both an inside and an outside that can suddenly appear to be turned inside out.
In Etant Donnés… a three-dimensional wax figure is seen lying in the grass, which connects it to the two-dimensional background as it would in a diorama. She was modeled after one of Duchamp’s lovers. Her genitals look very strange: though presented through a central perspective with a voyeuristic look through the peephole, her sex looks more like a wound, a clumsy cut that maims the casing of her skin. Even Coin de chasteté, which Duchamp gave to his wife Teeny to wear around instead of a wedding ring, is both inside and outside at the same time: a wedge pressing into the wax that does indeed make one think of a female vagina, but is perhaps nothing more than a casing, and the wedge itself would be the inside part of the organ.
I photographed Juliane Solmsdorf in the nude, casting her own knee in plaster. This plaster-cast knee is now lying on a small marble, as hard and white as a bone, but at one time it was actually soft flesh. The “chute d’eau” in the background of Etant donnés … had also been remade as a hollow mold: as the empty spot in a sand basin that Juliane Solmsdorf urinated into – the water that comes out of the body and back into the sand in place of the sea waters that wash over the sand and allow the mussels to live. Alejandro Jodorowsky said later in my interview with him: “The shell, that is memory. The memory of the world. Because that was once a living thing.”
Both the knee and empty hole left by the piss preserve an impression of the artist’s living body; to me, they are similar to the shells and sea snail shells whose hard exoskeleton retains the soft, once living being inside of it, the creature that was once the living mussel.
I had also had many conversations about shells, rituals and religions with Mathilde Rosier. Her shelf full of shoes and shells shows us the empty casings for our feet, our little exoskeletons made from the skin of other animals. They are placed next to the shells on a shelf that could be half museum display case, half the shelf belonging to a shoes and shells “collectioneuse”.
A ritual developed by Mathilde Rosier will be held during the exhibition opening and is open to every guest in attendance. We will wear shell masks painted by her, transforming us into walking, talking chimaeras. We drink our beverages through straws and behave like humans, but we can no longer tell our faces apart.
“The ritual is simply, in its essence, a challenge to logic. Its power lies in its spectacular absurdity.
It rigorously wields the incoherent weapons of dreams in order to break the overly close connection to the visible. When a society becomes utilitarian, this ritual is eradicated.
The mask ritual conceals the face, which itself is the mask of the everyday. It frees us from appearance revealing to oneself a deeper identity.” (Mathilde Rosier) CHANGES TAKEN FROM THE ORIGINAL TRANSLATION
III THE METEORITE
My painting Meteoarises was created for Katrin Vellrath / Arises.. She had invited me and other female friends to make art to her music. My picture shows her in the “table” yoga pose; lying on her body is a heavy, black stone. She resists its weight but it is also on top of her; it remains suspended. For the same exhibition, Juliane Solmsdorf made the installation A Rise is Rise is Rise is: a sandy ground with concentric circles, on top of which sits a golden tennis umpire’s chair and a director’s chair.
She had photographed this ensemble exactly as she had found it in the city of Avignon, as “remarked sculpture”, and had appropriated and reconstructed it for the exhibition. This installation merged with my painting entirely on its own. While the stone on my friend’s belly creates a heavy center, the center of the white sand area stands empty. Something could happen here, someone could play, but the carefully drawn circles in the sand would change with every game.
In 2005, I spent four months in Beijing. Going out onto the beltway for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the functional ugliness of the residential units, commercial units and mobility units regulating the masses of people. Everything was in a bright, tiresome gray, shrouded by smog and dust from the Gobi desert. It was only after a few weeks that I began to understand that there were angles everywhere, within which Beijingers lead a different kind of life: a wild growth that washed around the precisely planned, clearly outlined forms.
We met an American lawyer who knew the old Beijing like a ghost town under the new version; could say, for example, where there had once been a temple, in which street the clothiers had been. He led us to one of the few temple grounds that had an antique- and flea market, not for tourists, but for Chinese. And in almost every booth were things that seemed baffling to me but apparently were very valuable to the Chinese. I bought a meteorite, a teapot in the shape of a human hand and a strange, small, blackish sculpture that for a long time I took for a type of algae or jellyfish – in any case a sea creature. In addition to these, I also found three small, irregularly-shaped stones that were to be placed on little carved pedestals.
The Stone, The Ball, The Eyes. Conversation between El Hadji Sy and Antje Majewski, Dakar
The meteorite is a heavy, magnetic boulder. Scientifically speaking it is not a meteorite, but a magnetite. GUTACHTEN METEORITOddly enough, it was El Hadji Sy who identified it in our conversation: He doubted that it was a meteorite and suggested that it had come from magma, originated in the earth’s interior rather than the cosmos. He related the stone to a conversation he’d had with the filmmaker Mambéty, and “in which the question arose, ‘What has God put into the stones?’” Mambéty’s last film should have been called The Little Stonecutter Girl. After his death, El Hadji Sy looked for a natural, round stone that, in a symbolic sense, “is” Mambéty to him. To him, my “meteorite” was associated with the dead. In one part of the conversation (which was unfortunately very poorly recorded) he tells me that the young people in Senegal go into the forest for initiation. If one of these children dies during this period, then a large stone is placed at the entrance to the village for him. We set stones for our dead, too. Engraved on my father’s tombstone – which resembles my meteorite – is a text by Friedrich Hölderlin. This symbolic setting of gravestones seem so obvious to us that we no longer ask ourselves how the stone bearing the name of the deceased becomes his double: receives gifts of flowers, fire and water.
Friedrich Hölderlin, Hyperion or the Hermit in Greece
Because my meteorite / magnetite contains metal and is highly magnetic, it also stands in relation to tools. El Hadji Sy gave me a strange object as a gift: a metal block that (unlike mine) was not made naturally, but had been left behind by the Chinese workers that had built the stadium in Dakar. Economic relations between China and African countries have to do with more than just China’s need for raw materials; the Chinese have been building stadiums, railroads and government buildings in African countries for a long time. Unlike the Europeans, they have long recognized that Africa is also a market, even when it comes to only very cheap objects.
El Sy did not know what purpose this Chinese block of metal had served, but he had given it a new meaning by painting it gold. The block resembles a gold ingot without taking on its symbolic function (otherwise I would not have been able to get it through customs in my hand luggage). At the beginning of our interview, El Sy had spoken about the cowry shells that had once been used as currency in Africa. Even money is nothing more than a symbolic agreement that works in a similar way to magic. The gold ingot speaks of value but has none. It is nothing more than a found object that can’t even exercise its function as a tool anymore. Nevertheless, it carries within himself the whole of China and the moment of its history, when China struck out in the direction of global capitalism (Issa Samb). Like the distinction El Hadji Sy makes in our conversation: this gold ingot is the same object it once was in China; it is what it was when the Chinese left it behind in Senegal, but it also took on a new meaning with El Hadji Sys’ intervention: that of non-convertible value. And I was allowed to take this value back to Berlin as a gift.
In the spring of 2011 I traveled back to China, but this time to the south – to Guangzhou – to pursue the “history of the country from which the object has came to you, the story of the men of this country, the women of this country” as Issa Samb had requested. The objects actually came from Beijing, but in southern China there were both meteorite fields and plantations with Buddha’s hand citrons – the sculpture that I thought was a jellyfish actually represented a citrus fruit.
Shuxian Xu, Die Antworten
Shuxian Xu – my assistant who became a good friend over the course of my journey and who connected me with the right people for each of my objects – began by putting me in touch with meteorite researcher Lu Ling. Lu Ling explained to me her theory that all life on Earth was created from the shapes of clouds swirled by meteorites striking the primordial landscape. She wanted to take me to a village where they had found many meteorites, and had kept one especially large one, the “Iron Ox”, in front of an ancestral temple.
The village welcomed me with a large dinner, where I listened to the stories of everyone there. If I were an ethnographer it would certainly be called a “field trip”, one in which I was the first tourist from Europe to get to know the village.
Many of the villagers collected meteorites for the researchers. They themselves associated them primarily with luck for the village. One said that he wished that the great meteorite might bring happiness and luck to all mankind. One elderly man, however, said that in his view the meteorite had brought bad luck. In the beginning there was the earth goddess Nüwa. She became involved in a dispute, and a crack appeared in the sky. She mended this crack with stones, but some of them fall down from time to time. They are not good signs. One would only have to go over the mountain to reach the rare earth mine, which said to be is the village’s misfortune. The villagers are caught in a conflict with the government, in which Lu Ling tries to mediate. The mine contaminates their water and pollutes their agriculture. Incidentally, I think it is very likely that the village’s so-called meteorites are actually volcanic in origin, because the first thing they showed was me a pond where bubbles kept bubbling up to the surface. The entire village, a three hundred year-old complex built according to the principles of feng shui, should be resettled. In today’s China – where rapid industrialization is conducted at the expense of the environment – there are countless local-level conflicts like these, which can quickly become life-threatening for the villagers.
On the other hand, it could also be possible that the meteorite could be especially lucky here, because if there were more tourists like me, then they could deal the government differently. It is because of this fact that I was not only entertained, but also very often photographed with various groups. The photos with me were hung in the ancestral temple, along with a nice thank-you note that I composed with Shuxian’s help, and the ecologically-minded mayor was elected to head several villages shortly thereafter. May the meteorite that brought me there bring them luck!
I was also told another story from the earlier days that also had to do with the quality of the water. They had installed a fishpond in the village and placed it where it belonged according to feng shui. But once they put the meteorite in front of the ancestral temple, all of the fish in the water died. The feng shui master had to be brought in to beat a notch into the meteorite, and it was only then that the fish could remain healthy. It was said that it the meteorite might well have been treated too disrespectfully; children used to ride and play around on it, which is why they placed it on a nice pedestal. The children still ride on it, though, and the fish are still dead. The story struck me as odd. Why did they have to put the notch into it, wasn’t that disrespectful, too?
We took a walk that led us into one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. We walked over mountain ridges, through bamboo groves and came to a valley full of orange trees with fruit hanging everywhere. A stream flowed between large, round lumps of rock. Finally we reached the little cottage that belonged to the former village chief, which was behind two enormous, round boulders. He called them Yin and Yang. From them, you could see down into the valley and over to another, smaller boulder: Guan Yin. Standing on Yang, the old man told me another version. They had placed the meteorite at the ancestral temple, but one day it went off by itself and was found by the river the next morning. They brought it back, but it vanished again. It was then believed that it might be a fish god. After the third time this happened, they brought in the feng shui master, who chipped a notch in the god. Finally he stopped walking around and stayed put at the ancestral temple.
On the way back, we passed a temple to the god of the earth. To me, it seemed very appropriate for a village like that one: standing in the center is an ancestral temple, which reinforces the community and where weddings take place; in a field, a modest little temple to the earth god, to whom one brings some of his own fruit.
IV: THE LITTLE POT MADE OF FRAGRANT MOROCCAN ROOT WOOD. CONTAINS A BLACK BALL OR TWO GLASS EYES
The black ball I bought in Warsaw in about 2004; the glass eyes were movie props and had originally come from the practice of a Berlin ophthalmologist who inserted glass eyes; and the container of Moroccan root wood is from a Paris flea market. It is, in other words, the only object that actually consists of several objects of different origin.
In my painting you see only the closed container. “The small black pot with the ball, that’s the magic. You open it, and inside is the mystery.” (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
It turned out that the ball behaved in a similar way to the wandering meteorite; both wanted to go from one place to another, show up here and there and pass through several hands.
SHE or IT? /THE BALL wanted to move or transport times and spaces. IT also wanted to turn into an egg that multiplies.
Soon after my return from Dakar in the spring of 2010, Patrick Komorowski and France Fiction invited me to participate in a “séminaire à la campagne”. They had asked different artists to reanimate the moment captured in photographs by Eustachy Kossakowski in 1964: when, in the countryside near his home in Zalesie, Edward Krasinski let his Lance float through the air. The lance is a blue rod made of wood and consists of several parts held together by a thin string. The string is not visible in the photos. Hanging there in mid-air, it looks like a thing that both hovers and flies at the same time. We were asked to reconstruct or construct something analogous to that moment in the countryside outside of Paris; it was explicitly said that none of this was to be documented, as the photos from 1964 were to be the documentation of our work in 2010. I broke this rule, because for me, my photos are not a documentation but duplication or a projection of that moment in 1964, which expands over several different times and places. It was, in other words, about creating a “bullet hole” (Duchamp).
Antje Majewski, Eine schwarze Kugel und zwei Glasaugen
At Schönefeld airport, I was told that my plane did not fly. Standing in line behind me was Agnieszka Polska, who was also invited to the séminaire. And during our odyssey from Berlin to Basel and a train from there to Paris, I told her that I had already started the seminar by going to Warsaw and doing a kind of drawing on the terrace at Krasinski’s studio-apartment, by letting the ball roll and knock against the terrace floorboards as if I were playing billiards. I also told her that the ball had already been in Senegal. Actually, I would have liked to let it sit in his apartment for a while, among all the other objects, so that they would have a visitor. Krasinski himself had always had lots of visitors there, and so the first idea that his gallery – the Foksal Gallery Foundation – had was to keep his apartment open for other artists. But I was told that that I couldn’t do it because it had now turned into a museum. A museum, however, whose objects were left to decay and that explicitly did not want to preserve anything at all.
Edward Krasinski had spent only some of his life in the country – his happiest, as one Frenchwoman told me. She had been there as a guest as a young woman. A great ball was held there; he was still together with his wife Anka Ptaszkowska, who then moved to Paris with Kossakowski, and he wasn’t drinking. He actually lived in Warsaw, on the top floor of a socialist housing block. Krasinski lived there among his surreal objects and large black-and-white photographs, which doubled the furniture and has allowed his gallerist (as a life-size photograph) to play table tennis with him to this day. (The world appears as a double, or hangs perhaps on a hinge that can rotate…)
At the “séminaire à la campagne”, I presented a text in which I report on my visit to Krasinski’s studio. I also allowed the others to recreate the Warsaw drawing on the grass and aim the ball into the little wooden container, which stood in the middle. When finally someone hit the target, the two glass eyes jumped out ONLY ONCE. I gave one of the eyes to Patrick Komorowski and buried the other in the ground. This anchoring was my “bullet hole”: the space of the studio was drawn on the grass, I could now go through the door and enter the apartment where they had forbade me to lie down the objects as a visitor, and bury something there after all. And in this way, I claimed, it was possible to travel to the countryside, to Zalesie. That is where the ball is right now. There is fruit lying around the tree, dolls and people participate.
Then something very strange happened. For some time, I had been playing a situationist game with Juliane Solmsdorf. We had Mathilde Rosier give us a list of street names in Paris that meant something to her. We went to these streets as though it were a blind date. I had also played it once with Delia Gonzalez; in that case, the game brought us to a street filled with African shops that also sold magical things. Now, there was only one street left: the Rue Campagne Première.
Juliane Solmsdorf, Patrick Komorowski and I drove there the day after the séminaire. It was a small cul de sac, nothing special. And then Patrick said, “This was Anka Ptaszkowska’s gallery, you know that, right?” Of course I did not know that, and I was shocked. The woman that had been with both Krasinski and Kossakowski had run a very interesting gallery for conceptual art – right here in this street, of all the thousands of streets in Paris! And our situationist game, the one that began two years ago with a list of street names, led me there. After that, I was hardly surprised when I learned that Duchamp had often stayed at a hotel just a little bit further down the way. It was in this street that Yves Klein photographed his leap into the void, and here that final scene in Godard’s Au bout du souffle was shot – the one in which in Belmondo dies. It’s really just a small, ordinary street.
When I told Agnieszka about the ball on the flight home, she said, “It reminds me of a Polish conceptual artist from the 60s,” and I said, “Pawe ł Freisler?” We were both astonished because as an artist, Freisler is a legend known only to few. He vanished about 20 years ago, lived “in Norway” and supposedly worked in his garden “with apples”, as I had heard from friends. All this was part of his work, which had long consisted in not showing any material artworks, but circulating legends instead.
In 1968, Freisler had begun working with an egg that he had a precision instruments factory cast in steel on 14 August 1969, for the Laboratorium Sztuki Galerii EL. He initially called it Stalowy wzór jajka kurzego (Standard Chicken Egg Made of Steel). Shortly thereafter, this became Imperialny wzór jajka kurzego (Imperial Standard for a Chicken Egg), and today it is usually called Stalowe jajo (Steel Egg), or Das Ei or The Egg, respectively. Because the story of the egg is still ongoing, its title is still “in the making” (Pawe ł Freisler). The egg was not exhibited, but entrusted to people. Among others, the popular Polish actor Wiesław Gołas carried it around with him from February 1970 to February 1971 and had to show it upon demand; and it was brought to Paris, where Jean-Paul Belmondo took it for a cruise on the hood of his car.
On the flight home, Agnieszka and I realized that we both definitely wanted to visit Freisler. That summer I ran – together with Juliane Solmsdorf, Dirk Peuker and Magdalena Magiera – a large, empty art space at the base of the television tower in Berlin. At “Splace“, we invited artist friends to program a total of 12 exhibitions. DELETED IN ORIGINALI invited Agnieszka to do a Freisler exhibition with me. We tried to get in touch with him, but he did not reply.
Finally, I wrote the text for a performance in which we both travel to Sweden and steal his egg by sending little machines into his garden, where it is buried. The machines burrow into the ground and bring us the egg, which we then take to Berlin and glue underneath one of the tables at the rotating restaurant in the top of the television tower.
What we actually did was water an imaginary garden on the concrete floor at Splace in the middle of Berlin, using water we had brought from a hidden fire hydrant in the ground at Alexanderplatz. I scattered seeds made out of metal, little balls that the visitors could then take with them.
Antje Majewski, Freisler
We also screened Agnieszka’s Film Ogrod. Here you are led into Freislers garden, where amongst the plants also his egg can be found. A voice over, from a man of whom we only see a hand, explains how carefully these rare flowers are cultivated, cites their complicated names and explains to us the sprinkler system and the precautions taken against pests.
A little later on, I asked the Kunsthaus Graz to send a Freisler a formal request for the egg and to our great surprise, he agreed. I wrote him about happy I was about it and sent him my text. Thus began e-mail exchange that also involved many others, extensive enough to be a book on its own, of which we are only able to print excerpts here.
Die schwarze Kugel, Das Ei. Briefwechsel zwischen Pawe _ l Freisler, Łukasz Ronduda, Rasmus Nielsen etc. Oktober 2010-August 2011
As the first photo of the egg, Pawe _ l Freisler – who wrote us from Sweden, not from Norway – sent us a portrait of himself under an egg-shaped lid, which had been taken by his wife.
Then he named Łukasz Ronduda as the one who should tell the story of the egg in the context of my exhibition. He said Ronduda would be The Professor, an artwork that Pawe _ l Freisler had developed long ago. Łukasz Ronduda, The Professor, sent us a photocopy of two pages of the novel he wrote (with Łukasz Gorczyca), in which Ronduda describes his encounter with Freisler and his appointment as Professor – as which he is activated with The World of Gimel for the first time. A photograph showing Ronduda as the The Professor was to be hung next to the photocopied and translated pages of the novel.
Freisler further sent me the picture of a skeleton “that wanders through the world with two pitchers”, writing it was the “reverse side” of the professor, “his hand, dividing, multiplying, inter alia, The Egg”. This multiplication within the Universalmuseum Joanneum had to do with gardens and would be ab ovo usque ad mala, from the egg to the apples. “Apples are the subject, the theme of my work over the past two years. This is actually an attempt to continue a whole new tradition of an end and a beginning of life and death ()”. Freisler then allowed me to assume that he had a garden, under the condition that we would never meet.
So Freisler trusted the telling of his legend to Łukasz Ronduda, but The Egg itself to me, as his deposit in a bank: “Putting The Egg in a safe deposit box at the bank means accepting the system … and vice versa, the system has to accept The Egg, its otherness”. This bank works “in the subconscious”: “One could also start their own bank” using the egg as deposit that could give credit (“credit of trust”).
The credit lending and multiplication of The Egg from the unconscious began in a very unexpected way. Without knowing about Freisler, Simon Starling and Rasmus Nielsen (Superflex) gave Adam Budak a proposal for the jubilee year. They wanted to produce nine different-sized eggs out of steel; the eggs would wander as “aliens” throughout the various departments, where they would come in direct contact with the objects in that department . This would create new stories – one of these was even to be carried around by one of the curators, just like The Egg by Freisler forty years earlier. These eggs were to be called not “Standard” but “Super” eggs and were based on a design by Piet Hein. They are flattened on both sides, so that they can stand by themselves.
I sent Freisler an e-mail telling him about this new development, the nine Super Eggs, that would be keeping his egg company. Freisler did not reply. The following spring, Kunsthaus Graz asked him to send them The Egg because the first Super Eggs were finished and we very much wanted to bring about a meeting of the eggs. After a few more conceptual complications relating to the insured value (the “maximum possible”) and the address for the loan agreement (he gave us two house numbers to choose from on the same street: No. 24b and 23b – we chose the odd number) The Egg finally arrived Graz, wrapped in a thick, gray beard.
There, Super Eggs were “laid” in Zeughaus and in the Schloss Eggenberg Archaeology Museum. The heaviest, which weighed nearly a ton, was taken into the Measuring the World exhibition at Kunsthaus Graz and remains in the same place for The World of Gimel.
Simon Starling und Superflex, e.g.
But how should The Egg be shown in the exhibition? I myself would have preferred to “steal” it and bring with it to the TV tower with Agnieszka Polska. Freisler answered that the loan agreement had been made with the Kunsthaus Graz, but I was welcome to make a copy of the egg. We commissioned the same company that had also cast the Super Eggs, with a copy that received the number 1.
The original is now on view in the exhibition, in a bank deposit box in a high security display case, the same one that is used for the Coin de chastété by Marcel Duchamp. The copy was sent to me in Berlin. Agnieszka Polska and I went to eat at the rotating restaurant in the TV tower (we had pork); and we drove around with The Egg (copy nr.1) a few times so that the city could reflect in it. 
In the fall, I’ll bring it to the country and throw a big celebration in which I name my country house “23b” and The Egg (copy no.1) will be buried in the garden. At the party we’ll eat large loaves of bread that look like children, sing and wear masks, and there will also be fruit, dolls? and other things. We’ll plant an apple tree, a nut tree, a cherry tree, roses and many other plants. My friends will help me set up a small pyramid of stones over The Egg (copy no.1), so I’ll never forget exactly where it is. When the exhibition is over, it will be sent to Graz and exhibited there. How these conditions are elaborated will be left up to the Kunsthaus Graz.
V: THE CLAY TEAPOT IN THE SHAPE OF A HUMAN HAND
In the summer of 2008, Delia Gonzalez and I flew to Paris to witness a tarot reading by Alejandro Jodorowsky in a small bistro. He goes there on Wednesdays, but not always; you have to call the café the same day to find out whether or not he will come. He finally appeared after many hours of waiting, but it seemed that we were not among the ones that had been chosen. Everyone there puts his or her name in a little basket, makes a 5 € donation to the bistro, and the first ten people whose names are drawn are given a reading. Very different people had come – from young comic fans to old South Americans that had come for the tarot. Jodorowsky was very much focused on the people he was speaking to, but all of it could be heard and even commented upon by the others.
I started dreaming about showing him my objects. Somehow I was able to get his phone number in the summer of 2010. He said that he had to do another psychomagical act in Argentina, and I should give him another call in the first week of December. I booked a flight and called him from Paris. I was allowed come over. He lives very close to the cafe where he had been reading tarot cards, in one of the grand, old Parisian apartments. With the exception of to two cats jumping around, he was alone – just working at the computer – and he let me in without knowing anything about me.
Die Hand, die gibt. Gespräch zwischen Alejandro Jodorowsky und Antje Majewski. Paris, 2010
I placed my objects on the table. I had forgotten the Buddha’s Hand in Berlin; the Hedge Apple was only virtual and I had not yet added the White Stone, so there were only four. Jodorowsky wrote their meanings on a Post-It note.
Por el cosmos viajan los meteoritos transportando el gérmen de la consciencia.
The meteorites travel through the cosmos, transporting the seeds of consciousness.
Un coquillage pequeño puede ser el esqueleto de un océano.
A little shell can be the skeleton of an ocean.
Por tu mano abierta puede derramarse todo el amor del universo.
All the love of in the universe can pour from your open hand.
The container with the black ball:
Dentro de cada espiritú anida la vacuidad.
In every spirit nests the void.”
I wanted to know more. Well, he said, the things themselves speak a language that we only feel, but are unable to speak. But it can be translated. My choice of objects is supposedly my way of expressing myself in the world, a reflection of my subconscious. I asked him to imagine the objects as being completely independent of me. Of all of them, it was the teapot hand that spoke to him the most. “I like that very much, it speaks to me. […] The open hand – the whole world can go through the open hand. This hand, which is half open as a teapot, that is the hand that gives. And what I give, I give myself. To receive the world is to give to the world.” I told him that is how he seemed to me when he was doing tarot readings. Yes, but he’s no saint. “Every Wednesday I imitate saintlyness. Saintliness is to serve the other. Without judging him. […] Without anything in return. Simply for the pleasure of doing it.” Giving to people, that was something he assumed that a profane saint would have to do, but it costs him great deal of effort. Everything a person could use to define themselves, such as gender, age and nation, are only imitations, not the essence. Still, he’s been imitating holiness for decades! “And from imitation to imitation, there are moments when it succeeds.”
On his shelf, I had seen three golden blocks of clay – painted – which reminded me of the gold ingot that El Hadji Sy had given me. Jodorowsky told me, “My son has paid me for everything I have done for him. With fake gold. There was lots of it, but there was so much that I kept only four of them.”Like the false gold ingots from Africa, which had actually been left by the Chinese and had now had been brought to Europe as a gift to me; like Freisler’s “personal bank”, these gold ingots also undermine the idea of money or represent another form of currency.
Six months later, I learned that he would be coming to Berlin for a lecture. I wrote him an e-mail asking to borrow his gold ingots for my exhibition. He did not answer. Nevertheless I of course went to the lecture, along with Delia Gonzalez and Mathilde Rosier. The room was very crowded, and Jodorowsky – with his 82 years – had no trouble at all getting us to hold hands and make funny noises… Towards the end, he suddenly shouted into the crowd, “Where is Oscar?” “That’s me!”, I cried, stood up and went to the front. He asked his wife, Marianne Kosta, who was sitting to the side, to pass him a plastic bag over the many people sitting on the floor and handed it to me solemnly in front of the entire audience. In it were the gold ingots.
Shuxian Xu, Die Antworten
There is still a second story about the “giving hand”:
In the spring of 2011 in Guangzhou, I met an expert on teapots, tea and Chinese ink. His name was Jian Huang; he was also a history student at the university. We met at a vegetarian restaurant on campus. I asked him to have a look at my hand teapot.
“This is not a good teapot. It is probably a tourist souvenir; it is possible that many of these were produced around the time of the Olympics. A good teapot must be simple, this is a concept teapot,” he said. “The shape of the teapot should convey the spirit of the person who shaped it, not an idea.”
My feeling was that it had to do with more than just a good shape, and more than just the spirit of the artist.
“What does it feel like to see a good teapot?” I asked.
“I can only describe like this: very close and very distant at the same time”
“And what does it mean to drink tea?”
The cook at the restaurant had joined us. He said:
“Drinking tea is something that you do with friends. It brings joy. This hand is for me the hand of Guan Yin. I think it means: Let go.”
The shape of the hand, with its soft fingers, had actually reminded me of those I had seen on Buddhist sculptures. The tea expert told me that if I wanted to know what it is to drink tea, I would just have to drink tea. We could go to a tea house together, when the restaurant closed, because the restaurant owner, the cook and a few other guests would join us.
In a large group, we walked through the quiet park of the university and then along the shore. At night, the river in Guangzhou is lit with neon-colored lights; the shimmering rainbow colors of the Canton Towers and the opera are reflected in the water; people dance, do tai chi and promenade. Even the tea house was on the ground floor of a modern building. At the front is a tea shop, while a group was already seated around a tea master to the back. Tea drinking is free, anyone can join. The tea master sat in the middle and very quietly brewed a variety of different kinds of teas, the preciousness of which increased as the time wore on: first the young teas, and in the end a very old tea that none of the those present could afford. We were allowed to try a Pu-erh tea from the 1950s, from a very old teapot.
I learned that the amount of Qi in the teas increases with age. Everyone was talking, there was also laughter. In one conversation, I also suddenly heard something that I found very interesting: that the teapot would have to be “be fed good tea.” Because the teapot was alive? Yes, I was told, it is not only the tea that contained Qi, but also the teapot itself. It would depend on its shape and age. A teapot is a living thing, just as we are and just like the tea. To drink tea is to communicate with the Qi of the pot and the tea. And could I kindly stop asking so many questions and just drink the tea.
The tea was very strong. First it was poured into a small container so that it could be smelled, only then was it poured into little porcelain cups for drinking. Many closed their eyes while doing so. The last tea was a very friendly being that flowed through my entire body. I started to feel hot, and I had the feeling that I was very far away and close at the same time.
My teapot hand may not be a good teapot (an opinion shared by the expert in Graz); it carries within it “the moment when China struck out in the direction of global capitalism” (Issa Samb; but the hand’s gesture is beautiful. It gives; and what flows from that hand, be it tea or water, becomes a part of us so that we also become part of the world. This happens with every breath we take, every apple we eat.
In his story, Ingo Niermann leads us out to the forest, to the attempt to merge self with the others. “Why should I be only in bodies and thoughts? I envelope stones and infuse plants with my nerve tracts and thrust them deep into the ground. I feel the pressure of data scurrying along the conduits. I am everything that feels through me. I think the world.”
Ingo Niermann, Warum ich?
In my painting The Gardener of Mechanical Objects, we see a gardener whose right hand is made of clay. Colored, knotted ribbons spill out of it instead of water, connecting him to the ground; with the others, he sows round, metal balls into the landscape in front of my studio, die von Zügen ÜBERQUERT WIRD: OBENDRÜBER!. To me, the gardener is a mix of Jodorowsky and Freisler – even though it was only Agnieszka and me that sowed these metal balls in my performance. This whole city belongs to this gardener’s garden, this gardener of mechanical objects watering them from the teapot hand, from the “hand that gives.”
VI: THE BUDDHA’S HAND
The Buddha’s hand is a “cultural socialized object” (Issa Samb) – so much so that if you don’t come from that culture, you don’t understand what it is. With the teapot hand, we might not know why it was made – but whenever I showed someone the hand and demonstrated how you can remove the little orange cap, whenever I filled it with water and poured from its index finger, then everyone understood the transformation of ‘hand” into “pot”. It was with the Buddha’s hand that the guesswork began. A jellyfish, a root, a creature, a what? It was only when I emailed photos of my objects to Shuxian Xu that I learned the name of the fruit and its history. The “fingered citron” or Buddha’s hand citron comes from southern China. The fruit blooms into slices at one end, all which are enclosed by the fruit’s peel. Thus it resembles a hand with many fingers. Gutachten: Goldfinger-Zitrone
Legend has it that the fragrant fruit was made by the hand of Princess Miao Shan. Her father, the king, did not want her to become a Buddhist and banished her into a garden. He then became very ill. Immortals appeared to Miao Shan in a dream, and told her that she should sacrifice her arms and eyes. She made arm soup out of it and had it brought to her father, who ate it and recovered his health. The rest of the soup was poured into the earth, and from it grew the Buddha’s hand tree. Even Miao Shan sprouted hundreds of new arms and eyes, with which she can help all of the suffering creatures in all worlds. Because there are many worlds and she cannot always be here, she has given our world the peacock, with its eyes that are meant to watch over us. She is an incarnation of the bodhisattva Guan Yin (the listener of the complaints of suffering beings).
Shuxian Xu, Die Antworten
My painting, which was made before I knew the story of Miao Shan, shows a young woman in traditional costume. She is holding the Buddha’s hand sculpture in her outstretched arm, like a giant fish.
The procession that Shuxian describes (paper gifts are brought to the beach from the temple of the monks of the Guan Yin Temple, where they are burned) could symbolize the Buddhist notion of impermanence and the illusory world. But the priests also set up a small table, from which they sacrificed rice and rice wine to the sea by quickly tipping it into the sand – and the temple’s little, female Guan Yin, who concealed herself behind a towering male figure, was turned into a Yemanja-like sea deity with a fish. Together with the lay female Buddhists, we sat at her feet and folded a lotus flower made of paper, which we then sacrificed to the sea.
Back from China, the following spring, I asked my nieces and their friends to walk from my studio and cross the street for my film Procession, carrying abstracted forms of my object that I had put together out of paper: a ball (black ball), a cube (meteorite), a kind of bonbon (Buddha’s hand) and a paper lotus flower. They walk to the canal singing, bringing the objects to place into the water – just as one would make a sacrifice to Yemanja or Guan Yin. n Berlin they simply fly to the water and flow down the Havel, until they are caught in the reeds. The same blue-and-white striped railway pillars are visible in the background as in the “Gardeners of the Mechanical Objects.”
Buddha’s hand citrons grow on large plantations in Jinhua. We were given two small seedlings on a plantation, both of which are now growing – one of them with me in Germany, the other at Shuxian’s in China. We also visited a Taoist temple. A Tao scholar there showed us a small tree, upon which a fruit was still hanging (which he gave me), and he explained how we can use it to make a good tea for a sore throat. Tao scholars are very knowledgeable about plants and their uses , but also about the human body, because Qi can be enhanced by treating the body and mind well.
In Taoism, there is no personalized God that wants something and no constant soul; there is only Qi and Tao, the Way. Where the One (yuán qì) divides, there will be two (yin and yang), and it is from this that the billions of beings were created.
In the Buddha’s hand chapter, I have gathered various works by other artists. All of them share with the Buddha’s hand that they were made by artists in order to transmit or convey something. All contain something like small beads or cell divisions.
Thomas Bayrle’s Madonna consists of a field of small crosses. They are the crosses of Christ, but also the crosses of the many soldiers who died at Verdun. Like Guan Yin, the Madonna is an all-merciful female that soothes the suffering. Bayrle’s Madonna is a work of art, though it could also hang in a church as a devotional image.
A rosary can be “sung” not only by humans, but also by a motor. – In our conversation, Bayerle talks about the first time he heard the singing – mingled with the sounds of a transmission – in his machines back when he was still working in a weaving mill as a young man. Like the Tibetan prayer wheel, a motor is an efficient machine in which all components must work together perfectly. The aim of such tools is to increase the number of prayers. The organs of our body work with the same “merciless efficiency” in which each cell is unique, but also contains a tiny bit of freedom at the same time. – The sum of these little liberties add up, in their great mass, to form the “enormous liberty” that is our body. –
Thomas Bayrle’s “battery” reflects essentially organically or synthetically formed “masses”. Be they masses in “cities with upwards of 10 million inhabitants” or accumulations in nature. As a child he was lying in a meadow, and experienced “such a great, beautiful, atrocious symbiosis. Where there are millions of tiny creatures in an infinitely complex battle of life as a symbiosis … Where millions of little parts have to die so that myriads of little parts can come to life. And just the fragrance there alone …”
On the branches of Vase by Dirk Peuker, little gears grow in place of flowers. His monoprints are exposed directly to photographic paper in a rare procedure. The Vase or the Pagoda of branches are fragile constructions for the moment, one in which it is not possible to rework anything and there is no negative. The Pagoda resembles a temple that has been joined together with a few branches and soon falls apart again.
Delia Gonzalez‘s large drawing looks like a strict, minimalist design from a distance; coming closer, one discovers thousands of tiny circles with a dot in the middle, similar to the sequinsn
on the Elegguá.
“I think and feel in shapes and patterns so making drawings and making music is my way of expressing the feelings I cannot put into words: the visual sound of the unconscious. In a sense they are like cells. They are living, breathing and slowly recomposing themselves: maybe they are my idea of worship. I’ve always drawn maps of my life’s events and have always been obsessed with cells. I felt like one isolated cell alone and removed from the others in the system. With the passing of time, these cells have multiplied and taken a form of their own. Perhaps my drawings are my way of integrating myself into life’s system, life’s biological order. In my drawings circles also refer to the moon and represent birth, death, re birth: the endless cycle of life.”
Elegguá, the little figure by Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom, is covered with sequins (similar to the way they are used for voodoo sculptures and embroidery) and it has a face made of cowrie shells. Like the small sculpture by a craftsman that I had looked at with El Hadji Sy, where little pieces of wood were inserted into a stone, the face is formed with three small elements that are actually natural – but, as he explained, were also used as money. An Elegguá is a god of crossroads, one who establishes a connection to the gods.
Delia Gonzalez comes from a Cuban exile family in Miami, and her work is often influenced by Santeria. Elegguá is a sculpture, but also a little god that in front of whom chocolate and candy should be placed in order to make him merciful. She had given it to me a few years ago, in exchange for a picture of a woman with an afro. He usually lives in my kitchen.
Neal Tait‘s little canvas shows a figure that also has a small face, though it could not be a man. It resembles an “idol” or an organ. It is surrounded by little circles that form a kind of rosary around it. Tait sees the painting itself as a living thing that can take on a will of its own and contains traces of the creative process. This picture was a gift.
Huang Jian, who was also an expert in Chinese ink, gave me an ink block from the 1970s. Ink also contains more Qi the older it gets. The ink is adorned with a cloud pattern. Chinese landscape drawings can evoke the same feeling of “very near and distant” that he had described – good ink on good paper facilitates the flow of the brush. He gave me a little plastic jar with liquid ink to draw with, because the ink block is too valuable. I now owe him an ink drawing.
This bracelet of large fruits was given to me by Shuxian’s uncle, Ma Xiaozhong, a feng shui master. He was wearing when we met on the last day in Guangzhou, and had a similar chain around his neck. He gave me this bracelet even before we started our conversation. The fruits have a casing that looks more like an animal’s skin than part of a plant. Shuxian told me they aren’t really valuable, but they are difficult to find.
Ma Xiaozhong worked for a company that manufactured traditional Chinese medicine and provided consultations. He could also interpret the I Ching. I brought him one of the meteorites that the people in the village had given me. He was delighted, because he saw in it a reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha shows the moment in which the Buddha enters Nirvana – lying on his side and smiling. Of all my objects, he liked the ball the best. It reminded him of an animal-pearl and could be used to heal people.
The ball made of algae was lent to me by Helke Bayrle. It lay on the sofa in her apartment. The sea made these balls with algae. “We have these big, crazy, rolled-up balls at home. They’re made of tons of little hairs. The sea rolled them up for a long time. There are beaches with millions of these kinds of balls. How long would they have had to be rolled? That is very, very beautiful. I am very interested in these processes.”
Helke told me that, on every trip she has taken for decades, she has been collecting stones she finds on the seashore. She brings them to Germany and takes them with her again on the next trip, so that she can throw them into to another sea in another country.
“Every time a person moves an object from one place to another, he participates in an altering of the world. In the order of things. At whatever level, in whatever place. There is no being that does not participate, through in his movement or his daily activities – not to say in the change, that is too connotated – but in the evolution of the world, in the movement, the movement of the world” (Issa Samb)
VII: THE WHITE STONE
My journey probably even started much earlier, in my childhood, in the time in which you find a shell or a stone and start a conversation with them for some unknown reason. They have no value, do not belong to an incipient, systematic collection of shells, and cannot be traded. They are just special things. Shells, rocks and oddly-shaped roots can be found in apartments all over the world – often lying next to small works of art or memorabilia that almost no one remembers anymore. Both of my grandparents’ houses had these window sills full of “worthless” objects. In these households, they lay next to side plates, books, sheet music, telephones, beds and many other things that are fabricated by people, traded for money and are useable. Why would someone take the exoskeletons of dead animals or a large rock and put it in their apartment? My grandmother even had a bleached goat mandible lying there… and a very round, white stone, which I put in my coat pocket after her death. It became the seventh of my objects. You can’t see it in the painting with the glass display case, but I’m sure that it is only hiding.
In China, there are little stones on carved pedestals called “scholar’s rocks” (Qishi or Gongshi ) which were used as objects of contemplation in ancient China. They were collected according to categories that are incomprehensible to me. I thought they were objects that served a representational function – symbols of the world in miniature.
Then I painted one of these stones from a photograph. The picture was good, but painting the stone from the outside wasn’t enough. It had an inside. Previously I had tried to paint the inside between people by asking performers to mime it. But how could I have persuaded a stone to mime for me?
The value of these raw stones, which were exchanged for paintings, horses or gold as early as the Tang Dynasty, consisted in something else. To the Chinese, they contained Qi and brought the viewer to Shen You, a journey of the spirit. A small stone could contain the whole world – and, according to a Chinese idea of the parts of the world – not only South, North, West and East, but also Inside.
I heard of two legends. Stones are the bones, rivers the veins, the earth the flesh. This idea goes back a long way and I encountered it again while looking into similarly “charged” rocks from Papua New Guinea – they were also regarded as “the bones of the ancestors”.
According to the second legend, there is an inside; at the heart of the mountains is a cave in which the milk of satisfaction flows from a stalactite. If you learn to hear the music that the wind plays on the hollows of the mountains, you might find the right entrance.
In the summer of 2011, I prepared an exhibition at neugerriemschneider in Berlin and realized that I had to investigate my first object, the hedge apple, one more time. I knew it only from the internet and had it made it into a mummified Entity. With all the all others, I had gone into the country from which they came. Here, I had only searched the internet for information.
The “hedge apple”, also called the “Osage orange” after its county of origin in Oklahoma, is the fruit of a tree, the wood of which is used to make the best hunting bows in the world. They are also used to plant hedges for the herds, hence the name “hedge apple”. The wood is very resistant, is slow to rot and burns very nicely in the fireplace, where it sprays sparks. The fruit is inedible even for animals. It is presumed that giant sloth – now extinct – liked to eat them.
Living in Osage County were the Osage Indians, who were expelled from their native land and were given a contract for their new land. They became so wealthy when oil was found there at the beginning of the 20th century that whites were trying to marry into Indian families. And so it came to be that the “half blood” Osage Indian John Joseph Mathews (1894-1979) was able to study at Oxford. He became a writer, and after some time in Europe he returned to his homeland and lived in a lonely stone house he had built himself, happy with the hunting and life among nature. He describes this in his book Talking with the Moon (1945): using detailed observations of animals and plants, he follows the course of a year in the oak woods of Osage County and describes the perfect balance of the ecosystem around him.
John Joseph Mathews, Talking with the Moon
In my “fireplace room” I reconstructed Mathews’s home using stones that I painted myself. It is based on a historic photograph that shows John Joseph Mathews at his fireplace. He had a Latin inscription on the mantelpiece:
VENARI LAVARI LUDERE RIDERE OCCAST VIVERE
My fireplace is not a real house; it is only a three-dimensional painting. It also contains no real fire. But you can sit on a chair that is also a painting, but real enough to sit on, and thus maybe begin to feel like “an object among objects,” part of the “community of things” that Marcus Steinweg writes about.
Marcus Steinweg, Was ist ein Objekt?
You can also step out – into the forest or the city – and exist not only next to, but with the other; not only handle it, but establish a connection to it. As if everything, even the “smallest, most breakable thing from China”, is filled with the same, inalienable, unsellable life.
I found the chair in the chicken coop at my house in the countryside. The house is between four lakes in the Havelland region, in a village called Himmelpfort. Freisler’s Egg is buried there in the ground until the end of the exhibition. The plot is large and overgrown, and the neighbors are already complaining about all the weeds crawling under their fence.
Taking the place of the Entity, which was represented by a double – a lemon that had been left to mummify on its own in my studio – is a living fruit. “Morphologically speaking, the ‘fruit’ consists of many interwoven, connate drupes that come form a so-called syncarp, an aggregate fruit.”
I will meet this fruit – which I only know virtually – for the first time during the exhibition in Graz, because it grows in the Graz botanical garden and is ripe in October.
Antje Majewski would like to thank:
Adam Budak for giving me the Aleph, for accompanying me for two years on my travels though the World of Gimel and for making all of this possible.
To the artists, all of the authors, all of the models in all of the paintings: many, many thanks for your wonderful contributions and friendship!
Katia Huemer for her patience, her crucial contribution and her foresight. Peter Pakesch for his trust. Didier Faustino and Isabelle Daëron for the outstanding architecture. Ronald Lind and Michael Posch for the graphic design for this catalogue. Johanna Ortner, Magdalena Reininger, Elisabeth Ganser, Robert Bodlos and everyone at the Kunsthaus Graz, as well as Lena Inken Schaefer, Claire Rose and Jan Salewski for their assistance.
Clémentine Deliss for acquainting me with the Laboratoire Agit Art, for her help with all the translations and support for the film production of La pierre, la boule, les yeux and La coquille through the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt. Shuxian Xu for bringing me to the to right places in southern China.
Ingo Niermann, Markus Miessen, Karin Sander, Vanessa Joan Müller, Patrick Komorowski, France Fiction, Hartmut Solmsdorf, Yusuf Etiman, Katrin Vellrath, Michał Wolinski, Juliane Solmsdorf, Dirk Peuker, Magdalena Magiera, Stephan Koal, Katharina Koppenwallner, Olaf Stüber, Burkhard Riemschneider, Tim Neuger for the invitation and collaboration on exhibitions and publications that became part of The World of Gimel. Clémentine Deliss and Charles Asprey for inviting me to Randolph Cliff, Clémentine Deliss for inviting me to the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, where I found time to think. Foksal Gallery Foundation for allowing me to play on the Krasinski studio terrace with my ball. John Joseph Mathews for his fireplace room. Oliver Helbig for his photograph. Michael Taussig for his books. Marie Bonnet, Sebastian Cichocki, He Cong, Hu Fang, Roberta Gordon, Huang Jian, Lu Ling, Abdoulaye Konaté, Thomas Kilpper, Ma Yingli, Paul Nesbitt, Henry Noltie, Amy Patton, Dr. Eva Raabe, Jim Skuldt, Dr. Mona Suhrbier, Jaro Straub, Gary Webb, Ma Xiaozhong, Hendrik Zimmer and many more for information and conversations. Brigitte Majewski and my family. Helga Liebe and Anne Carl for everything they have given me along the way.
And thank you, my dear little objects; you have led me well!
“If all pleasure were to gradually accumulate and the entire mass were to remain permanently in the human body, or at least its most vital parts, then we would never be able to distinguish between one pleasure and another” – Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, 9
 See Michel Foucault’s beautiful analysis of the “age of similarity” in: The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (Les mots et les choses). London
 The model for the museum guard in the polka-dot shirt was Gerry Bibby.
 Dubai-Düsseldorf, curated by Ingo Niermann and Markus Miessen, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, 2009. For this exhibition, a loosely-connected group of individuals (two architects, a graphic designer, a filmmaker, a fashion designer, a writer and myself) developed various concepts for the future city-state Dubai-Düsseldorf, complete with its own flag, currency, senior citizen care, etc. My job was to develop the art of the future.
 The model for the director was Yusuf Etiman, initiator of the aforementioned basso.
 Scientifically speaking, it is not a shell but a gastropod seashell (shell of a sea snail) See: Appraisal
 Leonore Mau, Hubert Fichte, Psyche. Annäherung an die Geisteskranken in Afrika, Ed. Ronald Kay, Frankfurt a.M. 2005
 Unlike Pierre Verger, Mau and Fichte did not actively participate in ceremonies. Pierre Verger, a French ethnographer and photographer, lived in Brazil and not only researched Cadomblé, he also allowed himself to be initiated as an oracle priest (babalawo), taking the name Fátúmbí. A babalawo can use cowrie shells to predict the future. On this trip, Verger checked the names of the Yoruba gods. In Explosion, Hubert Fichte describes how he tried to get Verger, to give him the recepies for secret trance drinks and his disappointment when he discovered that “The Pope” had been giving him the run-around the entire time (Explosion, Roman der Ethnologie, Frankfurt a. M. 2006).
The artist Maya Deren also researched and filmed Haitian voudou in the 1950s and crossed the line drawn by ethnographers. She allowed herself to be initiated as a voudoun priestess of Erzulie. ERZULIE IS A GOD
 Leonore Mau, Hubert Fichte: Petersilie, Frankfurt a. M. 1987.
Hubert Fichte: Forschungsbericht, Frankfurt a.M. 1989/2005.
 Were she not a German nude model transported into prehistoric Potsdam, she might also be a syncretic African sea goddess: Mami Wata, who is revered in Western and Central Africa and the Caribbean. She is often depicted as a white-skinned woman with long black hair and a snake around her neck; sometimes she has a fish tail, like the mermaids who sailed on the wooden ships of Europeans. While the Mami Wata cult was formed by West African slaves in Suriname and re-imported to West Africa, a very popular image of her goes back to a chromolithograph of a “Samoan snake charmer woman”, which had been taken around 1887 and brought to Nigeria. This “Samoan” was actually a French woman who performed in the Parisian Vaudeville, adorned with a snake around her naked breasts.
 Eyland, with Juliane Solmsdorf, Galerie Töplitz, GER, 2010
 Rave is Over, Exile, Berlin, D
 Even in Europe, meteorites were long thought to bad omens or a sign from God.
 Other visitors to the Hotel Istria included Francis Picabia, Moise Kisling, Man Ray, Kiki de Montparnasse, Erik Satie, Rainer Maria Rilke, Tristan Tzara and Vladimir Majakowski. Yves Klein stayed in Nr. 14; Eugene Atget in Nr. 17b; Aragon in a studio near Nr 17; Man Ray and Pierre Restany in Nr. 31b. Eugene Atget had stayed there as well
 “Ne s’étaint que ce qui brilla… /Lorsque tu descendais de L’hôtel Istria/ Tout était différent Rue Campagne Premíère,/en mil neuf cent vingt neuf, vers l’heure de midi…”
Louis Aragon, Il ne m’est Paris que d’Elsa
 Łukasz Ronduda, Anormale Wirkungsweisen. Die Kunst Paweł Freislers in den 1960er und 1970er Jahren, Springerin 1/09
 Probably through the Rue Campagne Première, as well.
 The photograph of The Egg (copy nr.1) in the television tower explicitly shows not The Egg, but only a copy of it. Freisler had written me that the responsibility was mine as to how The Egg would be photographed. I deferred this responsibility to the Kunsthaus Graz, where it will be exhibited. Photographer Nicolas Lackner succeeded in capturing The Egg “with its unique characteristics” with the help of a light tent.
 Jodorowsky has worked with mimes, developed the “teatro pánico”, made films such as “El Topo” and “Montaña Sacra”, written comics and books; for him, reading tarot is a fine art. For someone who has worked with symbolic images and actions his entire life, the pictures of the tarot are a way to create a space between the reader and consulter in which images speak. He does not predict the future, but tries to bring the advice-seeker closer to what he imagines or what he is missing. When he does give advice, it often consists – like his psychomagical acts – of a set of instructions for an activity that conjures a strong, symbolic image (“masturbate to a picture of your mother”, “put two gold coins in your shoes and walk around with them all day long.”) and is disruptive at the same time. Jodorowsky is influenced by Surrealism; at a very young age in Chile, he began trying things that were similar to the Situationists: creating scenarios within the city itself, or following his own rules (“go to another district in the city and only turn back when an old lady has cooked you tea.”).
 Jodorowsky worked with mimes for a long time, including Marcel Marceau. His idea for “panic theater” allowed prepared images to appear on stage, but these would be but at the same time these would be liess auf der Bühne vorbereitete Bilder entstehen, die aber dennoch gleichzeitig den Akteur Reales durchleben liessen und auch auf die Zuschauer übergriffen. An imitation is in other words not divorced from transformative experiences.
 Cristobal Jodorowsky
 My email address begins with “oskar” – Jodorowsky clearly did not remember my visit, but it did not matter whether a man or a woman stood up or who had asked him for the gold bars.
 Buddhist sculptures include many different ‘mudras’ or hand positions, each of which has a symbolic meaning. Guan Yin: See the chapter on the Buddha’s hand.
 Qi: 氣, 气 central concept of Taoism. Energy flow, breath, air, life force.
 The model was in fact Hartmut Solmsdorf, Juliane Solmsdorf’s father. He is a landscape architect.
 Guan Yin: 观音 . This bodhisattva of compassion is actually from India and is called Avalokitesvara there. He can take many forms, be embodied as a male or female. Merging within the figure of Guan Yin are both Buddhist and more ancient ideas, as was also the case with European saints. More than anything, Guan Yin fused Xīwángmǔ (西王母), the Queen Mother of the West (Taoism).
 The traditional costume is Romanian, not Chinese. Miao Shan is represented by the Romanian artist Marieta Chirulescu.
 Delia Gonzalez, Presseerklärung zu “In Rememberance”, Galleria Fonti, Neapel 2010
 供石Shi – stone; Gong – spirit; Qi – life force
 618-907 A.D.
 Shen You: 神遊journey of the spirit; also: Qi Qi, traveling on the vapors / in the air
 Wood/East, fire/South, metal/West, water/North, earth/Center. But there are also systems with 12, 24 or 48 cardinal directions…
 There, Qi is called “mana”. The stones from Papua New Guinea are part natural rock, part stone artifacts from an unknown, Neolithic culture. Western researchers differentiate between the two varieties: only hand-worked stones are allowed into the museum, where experts extensively discuss how they might have been used as tools. Then again, the most valuable of these are those that resemble animals or people, or in other words were not mortars, though in no way is it possible to establish whether the non-figurative objects were ever intended for use. The insurance value here varies wildly. To the people of Papua New Guinea, however, the found stones and stone artifacts differ only in their magical functions – some serve as fertility charms, other (less valuable) ones might have been used to ward off evil magic. They were amazed that the Western researchers had no interest whatsoever in their strongest stones, which Westerners saw as only natural finds.
 antje majewski: the guardian of all things that are the case, amongst others: a clay teapot in the form of a human hand, a shell, a pot made of fragrant wood, contains one black ball or two glass eyes, a buddha’s hand citron, a hedge apple, also called osage orange, neugerriemschneider, Berlin 2011
 To hunt, to bathe, to play, to laugh, is to live..
[Unbekannt2]AM, The Guardian of all Things that are the case
[Unbekannt3]AM, The Guardian …, Gem舁de. Foto: Jens Ziehe
[Unbekannt5]AM: Entity. Mehrere Abbildungen.
[Unbekannt6]Noffice, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dubai; Pilgerzentrum; Schrein.(genaue Titel suchen)
[Unbekannt8]Die Muschel. Gespräch zwischen Issa Samb und Antje Majewski, Dakar 2010. Filmstills
[Unbekannt10]Der Stein, die Kugel, die Augen. Gespräch zwischen El Hadji Sy und Antje Majewski, Dakar
[Unbekannt12]Leonore Mau, Ein Andenkenhändler aus Boca Chica hat für die Touristen ein Zauberschiff konstruiert, aus: Petersilie,
[Unbekannt13]Leonore Mau, Fata Morgana
[Unbekannt14]Antje Majewski, Mame N’Diaré
[Unbekannt15]Duchamp, Etant donnés…
[Unbekannt16]Marcel Duchamp, Coin de Chastete. Hier m�sen wir das Bild aus Schwerin verwenden. Kann ich das bitte sehen? Vielleicht kann man es so drehen wie meins?
[Unbekannt17]Abbildungen: AM&Juliane Solmsdorf, Juliane Solmsdorf formt ihr Knie ab, 2010
[Unbekannt18]Juliane Solmsdorf, Knie
[Unbekannt19]Juliane Solmsdorf, Brunnen.
[Unbekannt20]Mathilde Rosier, Regal mit Schuhen und Muscheln.
[Unbekannt21]Mathilde Rosier, sea shell video still
[Unbekannt22]AMY: The true ritual is simply, in essence, a challenge.
It is a challenge to logic. Its power comes from its spectacular absurdity.
It rigorously controls the incoherent arms of the dream in order to break the overly close relationship to the visible. When a society becomes utilitarian, this ritual is eradicated.
The ritual mask hides the face which is also the everyday mask. It freeds from the appearance revealing to oneself a deeper identity.
[Unbekannt25]Juliane Solmsdorf, A Rise is a Rise
[Unbekannt26]El Hadji Sy, Lingot d’or, Jahr unbekannt
[Unbekannt27]Der Eiserne Ochse, Foto: Shuxian Xu
[Unbekannt28]Tal der Orangen, Foto: Shuxian Xu
[Unbekannt29]Antje Majewski auf Yang, Foto: Shuxian Xu
[Unbekannt30]Tempel f� den Gott der Erde, Foto: Shuxian Xu
[Unbekannt31]Objekt: Dose mit Kugel (Foto: das mit dem Deckel nach oben); Auge
[Unbekannt32]AM Gem舁de: The Pot made out of fragrant….
[Unbekannt33]Komorowski/France Fiction: Invitation Séminaire à la campagne
[Unbekannt34]Atelierwohnung von Edward Krasinski, Warschau. Fotos: AM
Hier knt ihr aussuchen!
[Unbekannt35]Edward Krasinski, Ball in Zalesie (Fotos aus der Generali Foundation)
[Unbekannt36]Foto Pawel Freisler, Herstellung des Eis in Elblag?
[Unbekannt37]AM&Agniezska Polska, Freisler-Invititation
[Unbekannt38]Agniesza Polska, Ogrod, Film stills
Foto: Magdalena Wittman-Freisler, 2010
Foto: Magdalena Wittman-Freisler, 2010
(Foto auf dem er sich hinter einem Deckel versteckt)
[Unbekannt40]Łukasz Ronduda als „Der Professor“, Foto: Piotr Życieński, 2009
[Unbekannt42]Abbildung der Original-Fotokopie des Buches von Ronduda
[Unbekannt44]Abbildung: Starling /Superflex Super Egg in der Hand der Kuratorin
[Unbekannt45]Freisler’s Standard Ei (Kopie Nr.1) unter dem Tisch im rotierenden Restaurant des Fernsehturms, Berlin
[Unbekannt49]Amy, English translation is there
[Unbekannt50]AM, Die Hand, die gibt. Gespräch mit Jodorowsky Filmstills
[Unbekannt51]AMY It says something to me, that little hand. It’s a generous hand. (….) T
he whole world can pass through an open hand. So that hand, which as a teapot is half-open, it’s the hand that gives. And what I give, I give it to myself. To receive the world is to give to the world.
[Unbekannt52]Cristobal Jodorowsky, Goldbarren
[Unbekannt53]Überreichung der Goldbarren von Jodorowsky an Antje, KW Berlin, 11.5.2011 Fotografie: Oliver Helbig
[Unbekannt54]China Film Filmstill
the gardener of mechanical objects
[Unbekannt57]AM Filmstill China
[Unbekannt58]AM, Miao Shan (Gemälde)
[Unbekannt60]AM China Filmstill
[Unbekannt61]Antje Majewski und Shuxian Xu, Lotusblume
[Unbekannt62]China Film still oder Foto Buddha hand zitrone
[Unbekannt64]Dirk Peuker, Vase und Pagode
[Unbekannt65]Delia Gonzalez, Zeichnung
Vorsicht, dies ist die richtige Schreibweise!
[Unbekannt67]Neal Tait, Ohne Titel
[Unbekannt69]Armband aus Früchten
[Unbekannt70]Helke Bayrle, Algen ball
[Unbekannt71]Objekt: der weisse Stein
[Unbekannt73]AM, Venari lavari ludere ridere occast vivere (mehre Fotos)
[Unbekannt74]Foto Mathews am Kamin; foto Mathews mit Hut