terça-feira, 12 de junho de 2012

The Area 51 of Art (1) Myth Haunebu: Interview with Hurbert Czerepok

The following interview with the Polish artist Hubert Czerepok on the Haunebu´s mythology and its implications in our imaginary during the Classic Space Age, which ended last year with the Shuttle Era, opens a series I call “Area 51 of Art”. As I already stated in a recent post about the Australian film director Rosie Jones, one of the goals of my blog was to promote a bridge between the real historic developments and the technological imagination of the objects and nothing more anomalous in the militarized hierarchy of space around us than a UFO (http://urania-josegalisifilho.blogspot.com/2012/04/westall-66-surreal-suburban-history-by.html). Since I have been working my themes within a phenomenological tradition, its very first task consists always in deconstructing that Eye at the basis of our perception. Unlike Science and Philosophy, that is, the heirs to the ancient tradition of metaphysics before Kant's new transcendental point of view in the Critique as “Copernican Turn”, the function of art is to emphasize the materiality and the "gravity” of the objects as a semantic field. In the preface to his “Critique of Pure Reason”, Kant frees our imagination with a "virtual dove" as a perfect and extraordinary beautiful metaphor for the empowering effect of the bodily and mental limitations that nature has imposed upon us, and the futility of trying to escape them: 

Misled by such a proof of the power of reason, the demand for the extension of knowledge recognises no limits. The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would be still easier in empty space. It was thus that Plato left the world of the senses, as setting too narrow limits to the understanding, and ventured out beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of the pure understanding. He did not observe that with all his efforts he made no advance -- meeting no resistance that might, as it were, serve as a support upon which he could take a stand, to which he could apply his powers, and so set his understanding in motion. It is, indeed, the common fate of human reason to complete its speculative structures as speedily as may be, and only afterwards to enquire whether the foundations are reliable.

With this Farewell to the last metaphysical illusions, Kant opens the doors to a new form of knowledge in this virtual space and art has been since then the “infinite reflective” task to create its own path in Self reflexion. To quote Franz Kafka: "Literature is always an expedition to the truth”. But, unlike the philosopher, the artist seeks to embody his ideas in the surface of the present. The Area 51 of art is thus the line where Utopian objects meet real history. The Nazis were at least 15 years ahead of the allies in ballistic technology and it seems also already on the way to a new quantum leap of magnetic propulsion as suggested by the so called “Trap”ruins,   in the  facility known as "Der Riese" ("The Giant"), near the Wenceslaus mine and close to the Czech border, according to the Polish journalist Igor Witkowski´s account on a device named "Die Glocke" ("The Truth About The Wonder Weapon"). If "Die Glocke" ever existed is still a controversy which fuels by decades also a infamous ans revisionist historiography, but even before von Braun and his team had reached White Sands and the Roswell Army Air Field public information officer Walter Haut  issued that infamous press release that the 509th  Bomb Group had recovered a crashed "flying disk" Haunebus have been haunting the skies. The myth of a secret Nazi technology is exactly what Hubert Czerepok tries to exorcise in his last installation in Peenemünde, where von Braun`s first V2s reached at first time not only the Heaven`s Doors toward an human space future with slave work, but also London and the virtuality of an atomic Armagedon. And the best place for all those erratic Haunebus is the museum.  
Last but not least: one of the peculiarities of the of Czerepok`s extraordinary work is also the fact that it is rooted in a historical tradition of the Eastern European avant-garde that developed between Berlin and Moscow between the twenties and thirties, when a new perception of the present started to emerge in cities and almost simultaneously in Prague, Warsaw, Łódź,  Riga, Bucharest, Budapest and other major cities. Before the classic Space Age, German Dada, The Bauhaus and the Russian Constructivism were the epicenter of a radical culture that Urânia believes to be the source of a genuine Central and Eastern European landscape of imagination, an authentic "European Astrofuturism".  Czerepok `s Work cops with this tradition, when Poland and other Eastern European countries seek to assert a new role in the space.

1. In your recent exhibition in Peenemünde you offered us a Haunebu model almost as an “Bauhasian object” that is, purged from that revisionist historiography waste on the "Bell" myth in which it still haunts the skies. Since the artistic task is point to the materiality of the objects, what means this operation for you between utopia and the real History? We all have the desire as a child to have a Haunebu on the desktop as lamp and your art offers us, finally, a safe and politically correct Haunebu, clean as Goddard´s “Alphaville” or “451” locations. Do you agree with this interpretation?

  The Haunebu object has been ,recreated‘ from ,archival and original‘ blueprints and was meant to look like a scientific-construction model. Therefore it doesn’t have any military signing or colors on it. I like its ,Bauhausian‘ aesthetics – it might be perceived as a subversive tool to smuggle some "politically incorrect" meanings of course. I was hoping that this ‚reconstruction‘ of a myth and materialization of the ‚original‘ Haunebu sketches could infect real history.  The result went beyond my expectations because the project was prepared for the Berlin based contemporary art gallery Zak | Branicka and then exhibited there for two months. It received reviews in newspapers and it was very well attended. Maybe because of media attention (there was an article in „Bild“) after the Berlin exhibition it went to Peenemunde/i. It was presented at the historical and technical museum where it could be seen amongst Werner von Braun’s work… It was something for me to see art piece together with artifacts of Nazi Germany rocket program… Somehow both: the place where it was exhibited and the its Bauhausian aesthetic made it ‚innocent‘.

2. However the Haunebu Myth seems to survive generations. Dr. Herman Oberth, a Nazi rocket engineer who was taken to the US after the war and became one of the fathers of modern spaceflight and also worked with Fritz Lang on “Die Frau im Mond”, said: "It is my thesis that flying saucers are real and that they are spaceships from another solar system. There is no doubt in my mind that these objects are interplanetary craft of some sort. I and my colleagues are confident that they do not originate in our solar system."  We could ask ourselves with Thomas Pynchon in “Gravity`s Rainbow”: “Is the rocket the real text”, since technological history, progress and mythology are so intertwined that we cannot tell one from another anymore. Looking at Pynchon’s randomic odyssey as underground and counter image of the future utopian dreams of the classic Space Age: what is the real text and how UFOs as "anomalous visual objects" find their place in this text

I think that it’s difficult to disconnect the UFO’s phenomenon in culture from our current dreams about going to Mars and conquering Universe… I think that phantasies are a drive of technological progress. What recently has surprised me a lot is a kind of return to rhetoric of the Cold War period – for an example Poland truly wants to develop its own space program and establish something like the NASA agency. It sees its chance in cleaning up Earth orbits and bringing down space rubbish. Besides that politicians talk about exploiting asteroids minerals and bringing up to the Earth orbit small satellites, etc. When we get back to 1964, to the World Expo in New York – there were at least three promises given at the occasion of that event. First was that in year 2000 we will be able to spend our holidays on the moon, the second that we will have free electric energy everywhere and the third that we will be witnessing an artificial intelligence existence… It looks a bit funny from today's perspective but we are still dreaming about those things. Therefore I think that UFO anomalous object is really needed in the text and has its very vital task – allows us to focus on ‚out of there‘…

3. In a recent Australian director Rosie Jones´s documentary, “Westall '66 : A Surreal Suburban Tale”, there is a crucial observation about the dialectic of the human eye and its constructed nature: “UFOs do not exist by definition”. In other words, there is no official word denoting this “visual anomaly”. However, if a group of children sights a flying saucer on the school´s backyard then we have a big problem. The eye is always built on the repression mechanisms, the words.   The beautiful Lee Whitmore`s illustrations remind us the nightmare atmosphere from Hitchcock`s “The Birds”. In opposition to your Haunebu, the director gives us the experience of childhood horror as Spielberg once immortalized this look which loses his naiveté in “The Empire of the Sun”, for example, the black light, and the black of the atomic mushroom cloud which blinds us. How do you see this dialectic?

As you remember the Haunebu flying saucer was constructed by Nazis. Of course there are plenty of rumors about other civilizations involvement in the Nazi UFO project. There many possible explanations trying to figure about how they could get in possession of such a technology. But still we talk about something what comes from people who faces we can recognize on photographs. Of course, they connections with unknown worlds are subject of kinds of conspiracy theories or gossips. I wanted the Haunebu project look cool. Yes. When we look at the design of the Nazis uniforms and compare them for an example with Russian from the same time we could easily say which one we are more attracted to… Of course, there is a story of Hugo Boss involvement in production of SS uniform during the II World War. I think that a danger of the Haunebu project is in its coolness, in its ambiguity. I didn’t want to point a direction for an interpretation for the viewer. Everyone would have to find out own perspective to see it as ‚visual anomaly‘ or not. Somehow Lee Whitmore’s illustrations remind me the Grzegorz Rosinski comic strip about the Emilcin encounter but I will get to it back later.

4. Recently I tried to illustrate as a virtual narrative a text by Hans Magnus Enzensberger on the fascinating and revolutionary history of tourism introducing as ironic commentary a Haunebu formation over imaginary underground bases in Antarctica (http://urania-josegalisifilho.blogspot.com/2011/11/hans-magnus-enzensberger-theory-of.html). As Enzensberger points out, the dialectics of tourism is based on the journey that returns always to the same place, almost a quote from Voltaire's “Candide”. It is an extraordinary essay. When we follow the alien tourists in the past 60 years, we realize that their shapes have been rapidly changing in history. We no longer have those Bauhasian anatomic and comfortable, anatomical ships from the fifties, but instead super triangular stealth disks. We no longer meet that nice and noble Adamski`s visitors, but only abnormal greys. When printing was invented by Guttenberg, thousands people were burned for witchcraft all over Europe by anonymous denunciations.  Today we have the hoaxes and memes. The internet is the most radical tourism of the soul. The question is not quite easy since I believe, and that was always my task as literature teacher, how could we restore that so called “ingenuity of the Eye”, as a first time experience, since this first eye is already a myth that lies on the underground our experience and art attempts to reconstruct what this look once was, as it was not yet repressed, our fears from angels and demons. How can we maintain the balance between reason and madness on this conspiracy world? If we debunk ufology as pure superstition and their knowledge, we lose the chance to reconciliate our imagination with its ghost and they will always come back. How art can helps us in this process

Indeed, it’s a difficult question. For sure we can talk about a design evolution of aliens spacecrafts over past 60 years. I’ve been thinking about locality of those flying objects according to places where they have been seen. Of course evolution of alien ships in cinema and popularity of science fiction films made a lot harm to purity of those local appearances. A very good example would be the Emilcin case. A man who seen the flying saucer there in 1978 was a very old guy, Jan Wolski was a peasant who never went to any cinema and never read a science fiction book. He described the UFO as a kind of levitating bus. So for him only associations which was possible to make was a bus which was stopping in his village twice a day. The idea of tourism is quite important in this case as well – Rosinski‘s comic strips which depicts this event is titled „Strange Tourists“. For Jan Wolski, the witness aliens whom he had contact with were a kind of Chinese people – the most remote nation for a Polish villager. He said so while being interrogated. The Internet has changed a lot. Instead of reading the Evangelia we see lots of apocryphias which are giving us all kinds of possible of explanations. I think that those mutations and repetitions are very interesting values for an artist. Each individual story could be fantastic script either for a film or an art project. I would like to quote a Joker sentence from the Nolan’s film: ‚Madness is like gravity. All it takes is a little push‘.

5. Could you tell us about your artistic experience on the Emilcin incident?

As I mentioned before I was very attracted by this story. I could remember the comic strip „Strange Tourist“ from my childhood. Poland at that time was rather alienated and grey country and we did not have access to popular culture like other countries in Western Europe. I went to Emilcin with couple of friends and we tried to make a kind of re-enactment of aliens landing at the very meadow where that happened in 1978. I had the comic strip with me and a book which describes precisely all circumstances of the encounter. In that book there is an interview with Jan Wolski who tells all the details of that event. A friend of mine took two sons of her who where 10 and 12 years old and who where almost the same height as aliens described by Wolski. I took pictures of them plying and going around at the place of landing in woods. I used the Hasselblad camera because of its use during moon landing – it looked for me that it could be only kind of camera which can be use in such a circumstances. Next step was making a wooden model of that flying saucer – it reminds me a typical countryside small house. It’s strange that for Wolski it looked like a bus but eventually it does look like houses in his village.

6. What do you think really happened on Bentwaters and Woodbridge “Twin Bases” on December 1980, since the incident has become a myth? Would you like to translate in an aesthetic language what Sgt. Jim Penniston saw that night on the surface of a triangular disk shape anomalous object?

I am not interested in proving or neglecting such cases. I like the drawings of Sgt. Jim Penniston a lot so probably there is no need to make them more aesthetically attractive. They strength is in their authenticity – I would be more attracted to investigate all circumstances of building up a myth. What does create a myth? I am more interested in this thin line between fiction/projection and experience/memory. What makes us to believe or disbelieve in such incidents?

Rosinski‘s comic strip


„Strange Tourists“

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