1 Roland Fuhrmann » 2006 Christoph Tannert: Learning from History

Christoph Tannert:
„Learning from History“

Catalogue text to:
‚VALUTA‘, solo exhibition at Museum Goch, 2006

Text as PDF

„Is it permitted to simply turn the federal eagle into a Jumping Jack spreading his wings, as Roland Fuhrmann’s ‚Grosser Hampelmann‘ (Big Jumping Jack) does when put into action? Who wants to carry artistic freedom beyond its limits, out of the basket of fundamental rights? Doesn’t this freedom also always have something to do with responsibility?
The urge to reproach the artist in this way would be a gross misunderstanding of his artistic intention, because the opposite is the case! Fuhrmann’s works of art are not a vehicle for the sensationalist staging of a provocation, but rather a hint at the fears normality can produce. In times when Germany’s federal cabinet has so-called threat analyses drawn up and bases new security doctrines on them, one can express concern, including with artistic means, about the way the threat is to be combated, precisely because German interests ‚in the age of globalization cannot be defined solely geographically‘, as the magazine DER SPIEGEL documents in relation to the new ‚White Paper‘ of Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung (Christian Democratic Union party). [1]
So Roland Fuhrmann sets his work of art in action; citing the motif of the federal eagle and built like the jerky marionette, familiar to every child, with the typical pull-cord between its legs, it blithely rattles a saber.
In this work, as in many others by the artist, we sense a hidden, fundamental burden that the artist seeks to lay down, focused on himself and at the same time representing the community. Conspicuous thereby is that these objects of Fuhrmann’s, laden with ironical fracturing and interpretive barbed hooks, do not sound out the stereotypical admonition to ‚memory work‘ with which the leftist mainstream has dominated the debate about German history and national identity for years, but rather a very personal penchant for enlightenment without providing space for the claims of virtue terrorism.
The guardians of morality argue, with Bakunin, that human stupidity makes bloody revolutions necessary, even if they are evil… and not only in terms of the victims, but also in terms of the purity of the goals in whose name they are carried out. But ‚all generalizing norms, standards of value, and idealizing mental constructions are characterized by their removal from facts and events. Ignoring specific features is already violence. The incomparable concrete thing is sacrificed to the general.‘ [2]
Roland Fuhrmann’s fortification machine (‚Fortification‘) is a symbol of the “permanent barricade” that the self-appointed ‚progressives‘ invoke. Progress toward what?! The bloody revolution, which must exist as the necessary vehicle of the transitional period to paradisiacal conditions, as the comrades of the Red Army Faction also dreamed – when should it end and with how many dead on both sides of the front? And what answer could there have been to Stalin’s camps or the actually existing gerontocracy in East Germany? The RAF/STASI connections one could read about after the fall of East Germany point out the direction. During the East German communist period, the terrorists’ billeting officers were already successful in maintaining quiet on a workers-and-peasants level. If this rogue-state strategy had come to light earlier, the leftist Zeitgeist would have cried out ‚Betrayal!‘ precisely because a private individual in the ‚war to liberate humanity‘ can only be a deserter.
The thinking and struggling templates of the leftist pressure to conform are programmed for conflict to this very day. A climate of fear is consciously stirred up, in order to cement rule. Those who speak of the ‚permanent revolution‘ want ‚crises and enemies‘.
A regime like that in Iran, for example, also consciously orients its foreign policy toward ‚controlled confrontation‘ with the West. It evades rapprochement for fear of interference in its internal affairs. The well-known statement, ‚We didn’t make the revolution in order to get democracy,‘ did not originate with a limousine bolshevist of the past century, but with Iran’s top pro- tector of the revolution, Mahmud Ahmadinedschad.
Fuhrmann’s ‚Fortification‘ reveals that political correctness serves an intellectual consolidation of power and, in the modern history of culture, is thus an extraordinary precedent of censorial manipulation of the process by which people form their political will. Fuhrmann’s art object, which aggressively and absently rolls along, a mirror of the guardians of political correctness, shows how extremist views lastingly immunize themselves from criticism by defending their consciousness of distancing themselves.
Of course, the virtue of belief should imply that par- ticular beliefs should not be decreed. Because none of us has control over belief, whether our own or that of another.
In ‚Fahneneid‘ [oath of allegiance] and the video ‚Die missglückte Jugendzeit‘
[failed youth], Roland Fuhrmann is concerned with issues of traditions passed down in family history or with the transgenerational transfer of experience and with the German culture of remembrance.
In the 1980s, the artist’s grandmother gave him a box with photo negatives. When he recently found and digitalized them, an unsuspected photographic panorama of his family’s daily life in the Nazi period opened up before his eyes, including a few snapshots of children in SA uniforms and a woven portrait of the Führer on the living room wall. Many Germans want to experience the presence of the past solely in an already-overcome and (for them) nontoxic form. Roland Fuhrmann constituted his own world of happenings from the authentic testimonies to the past; it is borne primarily by the emotionality of his presentation. He thereby authorizes a view, not as an interpreting external observer, but as if from the inside, as a bearer of ‚experience‘.
The two works can be regarded as the results of a societally repressed, denied, and marginalized experience. Beyond their sensual presence, they mark the deep-seated shift in the historical-cultural value system in the Western world and above all in Germany since the 1960s, in which the old tales of national heroes were replaced by a victim-centered culture of history. A ‚dealing with the past‘ that seeks to draw a line under it has been replaced by the lasting task of working with the past.“ Christoph Tannert

[1] Schlappe für Jung, in: DER SPIEGEL 42/2006, p. 20.
[2] Werner W. Ernst: Herrschaftsform und Ethik, in: Niemandsland, Zeitschrift zwischen den Kulturen, Galrev Verlag, Berlin, Issue 10/11, 1992, p. 232.