– Summer 2010

Keep Going! Ethics and the Political in the Work of Alice Creischer

Ellen Blumenstein

Alice Creischer, Andreas Siekmann, Brukmann factory workers, Eight Suits, 2003. Collection Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Courtesy the artists

Alice Creischer, Andreas Siekmann, Brukmann factory workers, Eight Suits, 2003. Collection Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Courtesy the artists

Alice Creischer's work continuously negotiates the relation between subjects and society (or, more specifically, today's capitalist society), and their ability to act within it. Her central concerns since the mid-1980s have been the examination of political issues by artistic means, and, closely intertwined with this, ethics, which she understands as a moral imperative to strive for enlightenment - for naming, revealing and highlighting the manifold injustices of the world, and for 'having the heart' to be consequent to her unwillingness to accept things as they are.1 Creischer's projects range from individual works - mostly in performance and installation form - to collaborative productions with other artists and cultural practitioners (first and foremost with her partner, Andreas Siekmann), curatorial projects and critical writing. The multidisciplinary character of her production emerged from the Dusseldorf Art Academy and the Dusseldorf and Cologne art scenes in the 1980s, where political (and feminist) engagement was rare. Creischer's work from that period, such as the text- based installations Alle Tage Jericho, Ich Die Posaune (All Days Jericho/Me the Trombone, 1982) or Der Geburtstag (The Birthday, 1986), were experiments with handcrafted machines, which she installed in the exhibition space or took through the city, transforming them into performative tools. All Days Jericho, for instance, was an apparatus on wheels that Creischer pushed through Dusseldorf on foot whilst reciting a text that discussed this very action and which was amplified via a tube with several membranes. A system of mirrors facilitated navigation for the 'driver', and two cones re-directed sound from the environment back to the pilot. These early experiments with DIY technology examined the relation between text and image, and the viewers' apprehension of

  1. As she says, 'I do not agree with the world that surrounds me'. All quotations from Creischer come from a conversation with the author in Berlin on 19 January 2010.

  2. 'Der unendliche Mangel an Sein'. See Alice Creischer, 'Verbrechen aus Leidenschaft' (1987), in Clemens Krümmel (ed.), Alice Creischer: Erpresserbriefe an die Geisteswelt (exh. cat.), Bremen: Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, 2005, p.36. All translation the author's.

  3. See documentation/reader of the project, Messe2ok, Cologne/Berlin: Permanent Press Verlag, 1996, p.1.

  4. See the curators' introduction on the project's homepage, http://www.exargentina.org/_en/_01/mainframe.html (last accessed on 15 March 2010).

  5. Alain Badiou, 'Preface to the English Edition', in Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (trans. Peter Hallward), London and New York: Verso, 2002, p.lv.

  6. Peter Hallward, 'Translator's Introduction', in A. Badiou, Ethics, op. cit., p.xv.

  7. Ibid., p.xxv.

  8. See A. Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (Cultural Memory in the Present) (trans. Ray Brassier), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003, for a discussion of the name or, rather, the 'name above all names'.

  9. A. Badiou, Ethics, op. cit., p.27. 'Rimbaud was certainly not wrong when he said: "I am another." […] There are as many differences, say, between myself and anybody at all, including myself.' Ibid., p.26.

  10. Ibid., p.43. Badiou's concept of truth is closely connected to Jacques Lacan's 'Real' and follows the maxim 'do not give up on your desire'. See Jacques Lacan, Séminaire VII (ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Denis Porter), London: Routledge, 1988, pp.314-19.

  11. A. Badiou, Ethics, op. cit., p.52.

  12. See http://www.kunstaspekte.de/z-creischer-dis/, an interview by Lothar Spangenberg with Alice Creischer on 31 August 2005 in Berlin (last accessed on 15 March 2010).

  13. A. Badiou, Ethics, op. cit., p.43.

  14. 'I propose to say that a world is an artistic one, a situation of art, a world of art, when it proposes to us a relation between chaotic disposition of sensibility and what is acceptable as a form.' Alain Badiou, 'The Subject of Art' (transcription Lydia Kerr), The Symptom, no.6, Spring 2005; also available at http://www.lacan.com/symptom6_articles/badiou.html (last accessed on 18 February 2010).

  15. Ibid., p.96.

  16. A. Creischer, 'Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth', in A. Creischer, Bartomeu Marí, Clara Plasencia (ed.), Alice Creischer: Works and Collaborations (exh. cat.), Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2008, p.85.

  17. Ibid., p.86.

  18. Ibid., pp.93, 97 and 114.

  19. Ibid., p.93.

  20. As Badiou writes, '[artistic experimentation] is not only something else; it is a new manner of thinking of the infinite itself.' A. Badiou, 'The Subject of Art', op. cit.