Die Leidenschaften

By nielsbonde, 7th March 2012

Tin Foil Helmet, 2012.

DHMD – Deutsches Hygiene Museum Dresden



DIE LEIDENSCHAFTEN – ein Drama in fünf Akten
Antrieb oder Störenfried?
Die Ambivalenz der Leidenschaften von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart

Wissenschaftler aller Disziplinen haben in den letzten Jahren versucht, dem Wesen der menschlichen Gefühle und ihrer gesellschaftlichen Relevanz auf den Grund zu gehen. Mit den Leidenschaften nimmt nun eine große Sonderausstellung im Deutschen Hygiene-­Museum die vehementesten unter den Gefühlen unter die Lupe: Im Mittelpunkt stehen Zorn und Angst, Liebe, Freude, Ekel und Begierde, jene Gefühle, die uns zu überwältigen, unsere Integrität, unsere Subjektivität und Selbstbeherrschung zu bedrohen scheinen. Mit fünf Leitessays und einer spannungsreichen Auswahl an zentralen Primärtexten von Seneca bis Schlingensief bietet der reich illustrierte Band eine anschauliche Einführung in das alltägliche Drama der Leidenschaften und ihre turbulente Geschichte von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart.

Absalon, Bataille, 1993 (3. Zorn)
Niels Bonde, I never had hair on my body or head, 2012 (4. Recht und Ordnung)
Thomas Bruns (noch ohne Titel) (1. Verkörperung)
Birgit Dieker, Drei Grazien, 2001 (4. Erotik)
Markus Draper, Vulkan, 2007 (2. Stille und Stille)
Robert Fink, Stardust Barbie, 1994 (3. Begierde)
Chris Gallagher, Mirage, 1983 (3. Begierde)
Chris Gallagher, Seeing in the Rain, 1981 (3. Trauer)
William Hogarth, Marriage à-­la-­Mode, 1745 (4. Ehe)
Carsten Höller, Krokodil, 2003 (3. Begierde)
Victor Kégli, I LOVE UNGARN die Reinwaschung des ungarischen Namens vom Schmutz der Jahrhunderte (1999), 1999 (4. Medizin und Hygiene)
Leonhard Kern, Kain und Abel, um 1645 (3. Neid)
Rachel Kneebone, The distillation of all torments within a single torment, 2010 (1. Wirkung)
Knut Kruppa, waiting for the rain, 2008 (1. Wirkung)
Chris Locke, Scissor Spiders, 2011 (3. Angst)
Susanne Mewing, Platons Kugelmensch, 2007 (3. Liebe)
Bruce Nauman, Five Pink Heads in the Corner, 1992 (4. Erziehung)
Florian Neufeldt, Ungleich Null, 2008 (2. Sturm und Stille)
Florian Neufeldt, Treppe, 2011(3. Angst)
Tony Oursler, We Have No Free Will, 1995 (2. Sturm und Stille)
Manfred Paul, Belle-­Île, 2011 (2. Sturm und Stille)
Manfred Paul, Verena Geburt, 1977 (3. Freude)
Georg Pencz, Collatinus mit der sterbenden Lucretia, um 1546/1547 (3. Scham)
Gerhard Richter, Bild 194/11 (Cloudy Wolkig), 1968 (2. Stille und Stille)
Roman Signer, Wasserstiefel, 1986 (1. Wirkung)
Martin Städeli, ZWerk (Äffchen, grorwe), 2007 / ZWerk (clown, wedrdblorgr, 3H, m/w), 2006 -­ 2007 / ZWerk, (clown, hellblauorangeweiss), 2007 (3. Scham)
Martin Städeli, IchGlon (Aufgehen im All, orgrdbl) (5. Auflösung)
Sam Taylor-­Wood, A little Death, 2002 (3. Ekel)

Herausgegeben von Catherine Nichols und Gisela Staupe für das Deutsche Hygiene-­Museum im Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2012
Mit Beiträgen von Hartmut Böhme, Ute Frevert, Mériam Korichi, Catherine Nichols und Sigrid Weigel.
ca. 224 Seiten mit ca. 300 z. T. farbigen Abbildungen, Klappenbroschur
ISBN: 978-­3-­8353-­1078-­0


For your eyes only
Maia Damianovic, New York, 1999

The incident happened at 5:15 p.m. …the camera recorded it…you have to be aware…anything could happen…you have to watch…precisely at 11:45 p.m….

Surveillance of any kind is inherently ambiguous. By nature it implies a certain stealth and underhandedness. From the banal level of the Linda Tripp-Monica Lewinsky scenario, to the more sophisticated political-economical manipulations and reconnaissances, watchfulness is something culture and everyday life foist on us. Niels Bonde’s work lodges itself in the often annoyingly nebulous interstices between privacy and the intrusion of various forms of surveillance. It evokes an uncomfortable moment between vigilance and angst, when our fear cannot be precisely located, and when we don’t know where the clear and present danger is, although we are prey to latent apprehensions.

Questions of philosophy, science, politics, economics, ethics and morality all play a part in Bonde’s work, yet at no time, does the artist give way to pretensions of clarifying this jumble of concerns, preferring, instead to reveal a story directly, almost neutrally without passing a judgement, as if acknowledging that the rules of the game are always more complicated than we think. In a way, Bonde creates quizzical mind games, more controversial than clear, that address the ever present specter of surveillance in an electronically globalized infotech world, wheeling and dealing in information and spiraling into increasingly ambiguous realities. In our urge to gratify the virtual Vegases of our imagination, to feed our desires and wants, we are increasingly turning into self-centered high-tech voyeurs. After all, despite the potential down sides, we want the convenience of on-line shopping, of data banks with the best information on hand. We want, we want, we want…often overlooking that to possess, to know, to grasp, information or anything else, are symptoms of sheer power. Bonde asks us: are we being radically betrayed by our own needs and desires? And, indeed, surveillance systems, high-tech reconnaissance, genetic mapping, browsing on the web, have spread everywhere, fraying the edges between public good and loss of freedom, individually and categorization, utopia and dystopia…

Total on line shopping sales for 1997 = $ 2.6 billion…Total on line shopping sales for 1998 = $ 5 billion …. 62% of people would like to know, through genetic profiling, what harmful diseases they might suffer from later in life…Our children will be able to choose their children’s trait: to select their personalities, athletic abilities, IQ, gender..Within a decade or two, it may be possible to screen kids almost before conception for an enormous range of attributes, such as how tall they’re likely to be, what body type they will have, their hair and eye color …….. you have to be aware .. a single drop of blood or a snippet of hair or a scrapping of skin can reveal the full lenth of the human DNA….

The loosely grouped series of works cleverly titles The Conversation, in homage to Coppola’s classic film of surveillance and violence, reveals an intimate, auto-biographical side to Bonde’s work that also harbors a strong affection for the fallacy of the human condition and hints of an individual struggling under the burden of societal control. In a three part installation, the artist recounts technologically assisted pranks from high school, so called ”set-ups”, where unpopular kids were lured under various pretexts to bad mouth other other kids while their conversions were surreptitiously taped and subsequently played back on the school’s loud speaker system. Standing theatrically in the exhibition space is an ordinary closet, an actual 1:1 scale copy of the one used by the culprits to tape their classmates, except this time, the inclusion of a four camera closed circuit surveillance system offers more than a hint that something is a foot. As we enter and sink into the darkness of the closet, the cameras give us a guided tour of the exhibition, where real time images of visitors to the exhibit are mixed in with taped footage showing enactments of people in extreme strange situations: naked, sitting on the toilet, or encircling the closet in large numbers. This theatrical set-up, echoing the real-life one from Bonde’s youth, seems to work. Left to their own devices, veiled in the tenebrous privacy of the closet, viewers are transformed into anonymous voyeurs. They enact their own private phantasms and obsessions, leaving behind a wall of scribbled graffit as their personal trace.

In an enlarged, life size, colorful class photograph we get to see all the participants in Bonde’s tale of teenage malaise, all fresh, scrubbed, youthful faces smiling back at us innocently, not a hint of mischief, making us wonder what was the artist’s role in this high-3psycho drama of insincerity and betrayal? Was he betrayed or was he a betrayer? Is The Conversation a reflection of pain or guilt? Bonde, coyly, never provides a clear answer, nor does he pander to the standard moral clichés. Rising above the level of a mere cautionary story teller, he insinuates more questions than he ever intends to answer, leaving the viewer to pick up the emotional left overs and sort them out on their own. The artist provokes us to feel part of a shared complicity: that surveillance records something real, not acted or scripted, and that the players have little or no proof they’re under scrutiny, is highly seductive – something each and every one of us can become hooked on.

Bonde’s multi-faceted portrayal of insidious betrayal allows us to grasp the vulnerability of the individual exposed to violence of social machines of surveillance. It also raises issues about control – the control we exert over ourselves and others, using stratagems of love, hope and fear. The Conversation poignantly speaks of the isolation of the individual from the world around them. Yes, kids are cruel, but so are adults.

The incident happened at 5:15 p.m. …. the camera recorded it … know where the danger is … watch your back … you have to be aware … anything could happen … you have to watch … precisely at 11:45 p.m. … Maybe it’s a dream or maybe it’s a memory … I don’t know which….I’m not getting away from wherever ‘m trying to get away from. They’ve got me … you can’t live wit hthe fear, but you know it’s there … anything could happen … you have to watch … again something unforeseen, unaccounted for in advance, has gone ahead and happened … precisely at 11:45 p.m. ….

For the installation I Never Had Hair on My Body or Head, the exhibition space is made to represent an apartment, complete with furnishings, a baby crib, fluffy stuffed toys, personal toiletries, plants, ordinary everyday items, many of them more or less obviously implanted with some type of high-tech surveillance device. Spy cameras, radio transmitters, monitors are everywhere, yet the setting is so serene and in a certain way spotless, that it becomes disturbing. Bonde’s installation offers a trenchant critique of life under a watchful and dominant eye. Its sensibility, would seem to lie squarely within such dystopian classics as ”We”, ”Brave New World”, or ”1994”, yet what the work evokes is both more ambiguous and metaphorical. Surveillance in Bonde’s work, as in contemporary life, becomes a more unsettling, less clear cut presence. Is it around security and protection, like the ubiquitous technology we are all used to in subways, public buildings, corporate offices, private elevators and intercoms, even on street corners observing potential traffic violators? Does it represent some aberrant form of cyber voyeurism or cyber narcissism, someone spying on private moments, playing God or enacting some other form of self-gratification? Does it provide live veracity based entertainment for a Real Life MTV generation used to 92 channels of opportunity? Who are the players, are they willing or unknowing participants? Is someone directing our lives, are we complicit players in the pursuit of our wants, needs, obsessions, and imaginings? Who is behind the watchful eye, a profit-minded corporation, a cautious health insurer who wants to know what’s in our DNA or cautious parents monitoring the babysitter. Is it some high-tech peeping Tom obsessed with someone else’s daily life, or perhaps, an exhibitionist obsessed with their own (one of the most frequented web sites, mylifeonline., belongs to a Seattle Washington woman who enacts a kind of volontary Truman Story scenario by recording all her daily activities on seventeen cameras strategically places throughout her house, thus, making what is usually considered private excruciatingly public). And, where do the tapes end up? Who will own all this information? Which data bank will it be entered into?

Bonde doesn’t placate the dilemmas. Surveillance, he suggests, is a messy business. Whether as an instrument to access and gather information, to assist or protect, to gratify or entertain, it casts a looming shadow. What are we to believe? This problematic question is posed directly in another piece, Die Freundliche Seele. A door is pierced with fifteen seemingly ordinary peep holes, the kind customarily found in apartments, except in this case, some looking ”in” and some looking ”out”, giving the viewer the opportunity to have multiple points of view, from ”inside” looking out and from the ”outside” looking in. Bonde suggests that the eye of the surveillance is everywhere, watching and being watched, ricocheting the gaze, as if asking who is zooming whom? ..

The incident happened about 5:15 p.m. … Total on line shopping sales for 1997 = $ 2.6 billion … Total on line shopping sales for 1998 = $ 5 billion. …… 62% of people would like to know, … the camera recorded it … you have to be aware …. anything could happen … you have to…

Bonde’s representation of surveillance explores the obsession of watching. It makes us pay attention, but doesn’t attempt to reconcile the many contradictions, suggesting, rather, that surveillance – watching – is a reciprocal relation, that implies to be under watch and to watch, but also to be watchful and to be watched. Under the right circumstances, we can all feel seduced by the surreptitious glimpses offered by surveillance; the seeming promise of a certain tempting proximity, by striping the other – the surveilled, making them transparent, accessible, seemingly closer. To stealthily enter into another person’s life without their knowledge, is seductive. It is empowering. In its darker recesses, it is also violent. Niels Bonde’s work brings us to a deeply contradictory revelation of desire and power that implicates both the watcher and the watched as prisoners of an image, trapped in the charisma of a surface that conceals as it reveals.