Friday 9 October 2009

Olaf Arndt: ‘Labyrinth and Camp’

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition El Dorado: On the Promise of Human Rights, which recently opened at the Kunsthalle Nürnberg, includes a new essay by BBM’s Olaf Arndt in which he extends the metaphor of the labyrinth into areas of military training. The essay, reproduced in both English and German versions, is a boldly extended examination of primal images as they apply to notions of art and security in times of crisis, the original Labyrinth being so secure that it nearly trapped its own creator within it. In the sequence below he builds upon some of the remarks I made during my lecture at the Akademie der Kunste earlier this year as part of the Embedded Art show:

Network. At this point Ken Hollings suggest an astonishing shortcut to the present: from the labyrinth to the Net, from the ancient tomb and symbolic prison directly to the utilitarian planned cities of the industrial era, from mythology directly to the political and military history of the 20th and 21st centuries.

A warning should be given here not only to the myth researchers but also to the academic labyrinth experts: for this tiger’s leap through history, Hollings presupposes the admissibility of a largely metaphorical interpretation of the concept of the labyrinth.

I would like to adopt that reading, as this text is not about repeating facts established by art history. Other authors, like Hermann Kern, have already provided comprehensive and unsurpassed descriptions of the labyrinth and all its socio-historical aspects. Moreover, this is not the place for an incontrovertible interpretation of the myth. In many of his books Robert Ranke-Graves showed how complex the sources are. So the following questions put to the myth are not to be understood as contributing to a clarification of philological lacunae, but serve to examine the relevance of such myth-stories today; they are approaches to determining the presence of a primal image.

A more detailed study establishing the connections between the labyrinth and the digital regime of the 21st century will form a part of my book The Bright Labyrinth: Death, Sex and Design in the Digital Regime, which is currently in preparation.

Pictured above: figures at the base of the Siegessäule, the Berlin Victory Column, March 2009

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