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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
On pole-sitting

Germans are known for their love of the environment. Trash is to be thoroughly separated (at best, packages are affectionately cleaned before doing so), empty deposit bottles and cans are to be collected and transported to where they have been bought with theological zeal and religious perspiration (in German), and now, we have a new form of symbolic urban reafforestation, an excellent revised dimension of tree-hugging - pole-sitting against fear.

As Deutsche Welle notes,
The Church of Fear, a project by German gadfly Christoph Schlingensief, has reached Germany and it's hard to know what to make of it. Maybe that's the point. From Monday until Saturday, people strolling along Frankfurt pedestrian zone in the city's center will be treated to a group of people perched on top of tree trunks. It is the latest performance art project from one of Germany's most famous agents provocateur, theater director Christoph Schlingensief, and his Church of Fear (CoF). [...] Church of Fear, described on its website as an international association of sects and religious communities, is Schilingensief's latest vehicle. The well-known German gadfly loves to take aim at politicians and major corporations as well as cultural issues. [...] The website somewhat cryptically proclaims: "We are made to fear. Our beliefs are destroyed. That's why Church of Fear says fight the terror monopoly of politics... Sabotage the media machinery that produces fear... Our beliefs have been taken from us, our fear will not be!"
On the homepage of Church of Fear, we find statements like (own translation)
CHURCH of FEAR says:

FEAR IS POWER!
FEAR IS OUR EXPLOSIVE!
NO LEADER, NO GOD WILL GUIDE YOU!
YOU ARE THE DEED!

CHURCH of FEAR says:

BE AFRAID!
FEAR IS THE MOTOR IN YOUR TERROR MACHINE!
The DECAPITATION BATTLE against the MONOPOLISTS OF FEAR in PARLIAMENT and PRESS, in MARKET and MANEGE has begun.

[...]

Could you imagine to answer terror with COUNTER-TERROR?
ARE YOU PLANNING A TERRORIST DEED?
When, where, against whom?
(This appears to be intended as a satire, it is seen as "art" by some here to ironically encourage "terror" against those "monopolists" manipulating our "fears".)
Schlingensief has always been a strange fellow to say the least, an agent provocateur and an eternal pubescent, somehow desperately stuck in a permanent revolution against - well, something. Even though he rightly accused Möllemann of anti-semitism and has been fighting xenophobia in some teutonic-radical installations, his "art" has been disgusting and disturbing more often. As thresholds states:
When Schlingensief started proclaiming "Kill Helmut Kohl" ("Tötet Helmut Kohl") around the thirty-sixth hour of his performance, he was arrested by the German police. Another version of the events was that Schlingensief was arrested because he had started singing about the death of Lady Diana to the melody of "Staying Alive." Schlingensief published his own account: suspecting that the police were called by the owner of a cafe next door, he had used the speaker-system to warn the visitors of the cafe. He had announced: "I'm urging all guests of the cafe next door, to leave this ugliest cafe in Kassel; the waitress has AIDS and only a few more days to live."
Schlingensief in a way excellently embodies the German dualism of aggressive pacifism, of violent benevolence, a rebel Gutmensch obsessed with permeating his environment with brutal agreeableness. His additional statement, that beliefs abound in areas where they should be non-existent - "in parliaments, stock exchanges and television stations" - misses the point entirely, it's not "beliefs" that need to be replaced with "fear" as the new idol, and collective group-therapy revolving around "fear" certainly appears to be enriching paranoia. Believing in one's own fear might appear sophisticated but it's utter crap. Beliefs in values like freedom, justice and democracy are essential and vital, in contrast to what Islamists and other enemies of freedom desire; again equidistance is not morally superior, it's dumb and self-defeating. Schlingensief fails to recognize that the wars of the future can be subsumed under the label "progress against regress" - why else do Neo-Nazis (the NPD in Germany) share identical ideas with Attac and so-called "left" anti-globalizationers concerning the evils of the obscure globalization? Why do Islamists and Neo-Nazis exchange very similar views? Why does Old Europe - together with ME tyrants and regimes - cynically prefer "stability" within the framework of a brutal dictatorship slaughtering its own people over freedom and democracy; why does Old Europe struggle with implementing economic and other reforms that deserve their name? Why do anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism permeate all strata of German and European society and political orientation? Because all mentioned groups share backward-oriented and not progress-oriented values. A non-partisan position is not only impossible, though several European writers see impartiality as the highest achievement, as if mental pole-sitting, group therapy and negation of an enemy were the solution; no, this sophisticated equidistance is also very detrimental because it neglects and thus tolerates the destructive potential of the backward-oriented groups and additionally blocks all progress.

The Frankfurt pole-sitting that has been staged in the framework of the "Church of Fear" is also fabulous in its merciless compassion. Not only are several unemployed encouraged to "express their fears" (it was difficult enough to assemble enough volunteers), they also have a kind of an occupation for a week, and are literally sitting in the pole position; this surreal image, published on Indymedia Germany, shows it all:

Pole positions

Isn't it a brilliant idea to sit on a wooden pole to fight the terror monopoly of current politics; to defend your fear from being "instrumentalized"? You know, all this feeling of being threatened is just an illusion, instilled on us by a hostile environment - al-Qaeda, 9-11, Islamism, terror groups operating in Europe - all paranoid inventions of "them", politics, economy, those "uppish" ones, to keep the ducks in line! MY FEAR IS MY OWN, one wants to intonate, in a woody way. That the epistemological strife of Schlingensief critically approaches the delusional attitudes of the conspiracy morons is obviously not disturbing anybody (Schlingensief repeatedly intonated "Sharon, leave Arafat alone!" while standing at the microphone - whatever that has to do with "exploring one's fears"); this is German "art", and somehow it's similar in tastelessness to the comparisons of the WTC with a phallus symbol, as introduced by our sophisticated Adrienne Goehler (Berlin senator of culture) (in German) on 9-13-01. In a meandering cognitive sweep of admirable broadness, Schlingensief integrates environmentalism, anti-ism, fatalism and epistemologial laziness into a medley that excellently captures the current German approach to most problems - sitting angrily but idle in a haughty position. Germans are very good angry sitters, probably the best world-wide; further, we love self-referential soul-searching for FEAR and other soul-related stuff and indulge in telling anybody interested our whole story in excessive detail. Insofar, and only insofar, this pole-sitting distantly makes sense, though I doubt the "artist" intended it to be thus comprehended... it's often more revealing what an artist does not say, or want to say.

That's it. I'm going to angrily relax now...

P.S.: I've changed the current poll, results for the old poll (US-EU relations in 20 years) can be found here.

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