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Gedankenraum

In Regeln für den Menschenpark (‘Rules for the people’s park’, 1999), Peter Sloterdijk states that the current state of biotechnology should lead to bio-politics. With the genetic experiments of the nazi’s in mind, it goes without saying his lecture raised a storm of protest, especially in Germany. I don’t want to argue – the idea of creating a bio-genetic system controlled by scientists also frightens me –, but I embrace the discussion Sloterdijk wishes. Gene-technology and society are developing rapidly. It is appropriate to question the continuation of a morality system, which might not be a match for modern technology. Modern technology necessitates another perception of freedom.
Sloterdijk says: “These days, Habermas’ humanism has become a social-liberal version of a dictatorship of virtues. It cannot offer any resistance anymore. (…) The time of hyper-moral sons of national-socialist fathers is coming to an end. A new generation with another idea of freedom is coming into existence”.
I have been thinking a long time about an artwork that anticipates this new generation – but how? Until, last week, in Moscow the scull of Hitler, which was kept secret until now, was publicly shown together with other remains of the war. You probably couldn’t miss it in the German media as well.
This scull can be used as a Mahnmal (warning monument), an awesome reminder of the space where Hitler’s thinking took place. An enlarged copy of this scull in bronze, the size of a small building, will allow people to get inside. It must be a formidable experience, being on the same spot where ideas developed that had such an impact on the world. Nazism started here.
Standing here, our own brain is located where Hitler’s brain has disappeared. Therefore I called it Gedankenraum (room for thought). Related to history and future, people in here will be compelled to think about freedom themselves, possibly redefining it like Sloterdijk suggests. To enter, the scull is positioned over a road. You just walk in, like we tend to just ‘walk’ into a way of thinking – or choose to by-pass it!
I think it is appropriate to permanently exhibit this scull in Munich. After all, Munich is the city that witnessed the first manifestations of nazism. This work will also show its death in Munich. Hitler’s brain is dead and his thoughts are gone. The bullet hole, which caused his death, clearly shows the sky.
I realise this proposal will provoke a lot of protests, but maybe that is something the Petuelproject could use. It is a work with a great moral, political, and cultural potential and will surpass the general appearance and expectation of art. As an artist, it will be a challenge for me to face the critique. I am aware of – in Sloterdijk’s words – the dictatorship of virtues. But in my opinion it is a strong concept and the right moment to realise it. If the next generation will develop a new morality, a controversial artwork like this can become a great monument.
Please let me know what you think of it.
Greetings, Hans



Source: Hans van Houwelingen, letter to Stephan Huber, curator of the Petuelpark art project, München, 2000