... später baut sie Atomschiffe.

Industrie- und Militärgerätedarstellungen aus Muttermilch.
(PhD in Art and Design, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, 2015)

"...später baut sie Atomschiffe."

 

 

Männerklubs beraten sich (link)

Excerpt, from the piece "Fucked", Haus am Horn, Weimar.

Part of the exhibition "Selected!" (Ausgewählt!)

Exhibition featuring a selection of work by grant-recipients, through Aug. 8, 2015.

 

 

 

 

human milk, milkpowder, on paper, burnt

120 x 100 cm

 

 

 

In „Unser Lenin“, published as children’s book in 1973, the following is told:

When Lenin was in jail, he was prevented from writing, and thus, communicating with his constituency. However, he knew a trick. If one wrote with milk, it would look invisible until heated. So he had his wife bring books for him to read and asked the jailer for milk and bread, shaped an inkwell from the bread, poured milk into it and wrote secretly between the lines of the book. Whenever the jailer came to see what he was doing, he quickly ate the bread. Lenin’s wife took the books, held the pages up to a lamp so the milk would burn and thus become visible. This allowed Lenin to continue to communicate with his followers while in jail.

 

 

 

 

The story is told by Lenin's wife, Krupskaja, Lenin’s wife, after his death.

 

 

Experiments in re-producing (distorted) technical drawings of nuclear power plants, warships and competitive propaganda images - based on historic sources from the GDR and FRG and contemporary ones in milk, using „white ink“ (Cixious) on white paper, as invisible ink and to burning it so that it darkens and becomes visible. In this way, seeing the mark, the effect of drawing is somewhat divorced from its visibility, its “becoming visible”, suggesting that recognition of meaning, the significance of what is being drawn occurs separately from its production.

 

WITH EGFK at OKK, Berlin

 

 

From the Series: "...later she will build nuclear warships."

Haus am Horn, Weimar.

Excerpt, right panel, 3 layered images in lightbox.

Layers are more or less visible depending on light conditions

 

 

 

Research into historical images of technological material, especially images magazines focusing on explaining and promoting technological inventions aimed at teens and young adults from the GDR and the FRG (Hobby - Magazin der Technik and Jugend und Technik) shows: In the 60s, the general belief that technological advancement would solve all social problems is apparent in the articles of these magazines. Terminology used in relation to engineering speaks of harnessing, submitting natural forces for the good of humankind; nature is discussed as a resource that can and must be controlled, that is to be dominated and exploited, for energy and individual mobility. The language changes in the Seventies. The texts are interspersed with terminology related to traditional concepts of masculinities and by implication, corresponding images of femininity. The "progressive and capable Eastern European (Russian) female engineer" is absent in the Western version: there are no female engineers in the Western version at all. The production of ever more affordable and more functional cars (re)formed German national identity after World War II, while successful engineers became the new national heroes. As of 1960,authors of both magazines, the West and the Eastern German versions, begin to venture abroad, to learn and to export their technology, often with an undertone of providing progressive, pernicious "foreign aid". The "foreign aid" later often turned out to create massive environmental and social damage.

Both magazines sported the newest and best car on their covers for over 10 years, while featuring everything from science fiction stories, to internal workings of nuclear power plants, visions of individual nuclear power plants in ones back yards providing electricity for suburban homes, manipulating the weather, paper models, kitchen sinks and/or helmets for outer space travel, to how to build your own boat in an interesting way inside. The images and narratives are both seductive and repulsive. Similar to Popular Mechanics in the United States, the magazines both promoted engineering and educated a broader public about it, while forging modern (national) identities around the use and mass production of constantly improved automotive vehicles and othertechnological devices. In addition, there was evidently room for play, for developing (fascinating) scenarios, for engaging with (seductive) ideas of how the world may develop in the (engagingly written) science fiction stories, though they are clearly at the same time shaped by cold war ideologies. These are fairly easy to decipher from a contemporary perspective looking back 40-50 years, but pose the question about less visible ideological underpinnings of technological developments promoted, exported and discussed today.

 

The work explores possibilities for alternative narrative historical trajectories by writing and drawing in human milk, burning them to visibility in interaction with the public.

 

 

Engineering and Science (Fiction, Utopias) in historical Childrens Books as a foil for considering new technological developments

 

 

Different subject formation processes underfed by teaching materials and propaganda aimed at children in historical and technological magazines from the former GDR and the Federal Republic in Germany especially around nuclear power are taken and translated into images made with human and animal milk. It is fairly easy to decode the crude propaganda present in children’s books from the Seventies in the German Democratic Republic from a contemporary position. Very striking is the different position women and children are given in the respective publications “Hobby” from the Federal Republic (West) and “Jugend und Technik” from the German Democratic Republic (East). An important image for the development of my paintings of nuclear power plants and contemporary warships and weapons in milk is a black and white photo of a very young girl making paper boats at the edge of a large body of water.

The caption reads: Wolgamädchen. Später baut sie Atomschiffe. (“Wolgagirl. Later she will build nuclear war ships”). Through today, there are more women in the engineering fields in the former GDR. Some of them working at the Department of Engineering at the Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar were happy to be shown this image, sparking discussions about the unresolved cultural differences among women from both sides of the former wall in Germany, and irritation at embarrassingly demeaning efforts of the ministry of education to "pinkify" engineering studies to make them more attractive for girls. During the 60-80s, the GDR produced comparatively effective teaching material that made engineering studies appear cool to girls, too - and is partially so well written, designed and illustrated, when the propaganda is left by the wayside, that I, and artist and translator, feel like I might have been interested in this field.

Nuclear power was visibly hyped as the technological solution to all social problems in the historical examples. Positivistic ideations of future scenarios eerily prefigure current imaginations of the future artists are called upon to create for the city of Berlin, for future museums, for buildings.... Utopian ideas about what was imagined might be possible are evident in the archival images, and may serve to review some of the contemporary hype around contemporary developments and hype.

A key reference for my presentation is the story of Lenin writing in milk as invisible ink while in jail, as told by his wife after his death according to the text in the book. (see: http://www.marxists.org/archive/krupskaya/works/rol/rol01.htm)

 

 

On the one hand, I decided to interpret this as a narrative designed to give texts actually written by Krupskaja herself, Lenin’s wife and companion, a more illustrious paternity. She tells the story after his death: she writes herself into his story. I am wilfully forcing this “creative” reversal of authoritative roles inreference/deference to the famed GDR author Christa Wolfs stomach turning reversal of perspectives in her retelling of the story “Medea” (1996).

On the other hand, a more important subplot of subversive potential seems lie in the story about Lenin writing in invisible ink. The story intended for children in the GDR literally describes the tools and methods for subverting an existing power structure in the construction of the myth of Lenin as hero as he overcomes unjust and dire circumstances. Thereby, besides reinstating his traditional authorship via the female fluid milk and the traditionally female function of serving of transmitter of truths rather than possessor, original author, a second narrative emerges.In the more traditional line of interpretation, European myths represented, for example, by Caritas Romana figures (by the 16th century printmaker Hans Sebald Beham, for example, and many others) as well as allegorical images depicting the Origin of the Milky Way (Rubens, 1663) as well as from the late middle ages, early renaissance and Baroque inform, stabilize and feed these images.

But paradoxically, in the construction of a narrative stabilizing the totalitarian regime of the GDR by reaching far back into art history, children in this story are presented with the use of “invisible ink” as a tool for, like Lenin, cleverly overcoming an illegitimate existing regime through a mode of subversive communication that can only be deciphered by those who know it exists.

Process in Practice

In practice, images from these sources are painted in milk and subsequently ironed, so that the milk burns and the images become visible. This brings with it a performative aspect: the process can be seen as a low tech powerpoint presentation. It also emphasizes the physical corporeal presence of those witnessing the processes.

Presence during the performance leads to an experience that differs fundamentally from a transmission via digital image: the burning milk smells strongly, producing an ambivalent, sweetly claustrophobic atmosphere.