As part of our collaborative installation The Bridge exhibited at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, Tamara Anne Turner and I developed a lexicon to provide a key to the references and images present in the specific work The Bridge and each of our individual projects, The Labyrinth and In the Realm of the Political Wilderness. The text has been reproduced below.
Altalena: In May of 1948, the British Mandate of Palestine expired and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the State of Israel. A provisional government and the Israel Defense Forces was established. During the British Mandate, several factions of Jewish resistance paramilitary groups fought to expel the British from the territory. One such group, the Irgun, refused to join the newly formed IDF. In June of 1948, the Altalena, a cargo ship carrying weapons and fighters for the Irgun was attacked by the Israel Defense Forces. Menachem Begin, then leader of the Irgun had intended to slowly dissolve his forces into the IDF. this shipment threw the negotiations into disarray. While Begin was away from Tel Aviv, the government offered him an ultimatum: hand over the weapons or be met with forceful response. Begin refused to respond, and Brigade Commander Dan Evans moved his forces to Begins location. Violence broke out that evening. Begin ordered the ship to sail to Tel Aviv where Irgun supporters would receive it. The IDF Air Force pursued the boat, shooting at it as it approached Tel Aviv. It ran aground on the busies stretch of shore. A battle erupted between Irgun and IDF forces, mainly centered on the beach but spreading quickly throughout the city. After the ship started on fire, Begin, who was on board, ordered an evacuation. IDF forces directed automatic gun fire at the unarmed survivors fleeing the ship in the water. With nowhere to go, a cease fire was arranged and mass arrests of the Irgun were carried out. While civil war was averted, this created a schism in Israeli politics.
Arno Breker: A German sculptor beloved by Hitler, Arno Breker created neo-classical sculptures that drew out the spirit of National Socialism, representing the Nazi ideal. Breker’s sculptures were publicly displayed across Germany as the conservative revolution sought to change the cultural landscape of Germany, banning modernist revolutionaries such as Otto Dix, Marc Chagall, and Käthe Kollwitz. Breker, like Heidegger, joined the Nazi party, but following the war rejected its values, claiming to merely accept Nazi patronage. Regardless of this rejection, the formal qualities of his sculptures communicate the particular fascism of the Nazi party.
Boy: As a child, Begin watched as his uncle’s home burned down in a Pogram in Poland.
Center: According to Heidegger, to be centered is to connect to a sacred historicity outside of time; that is to connect to a human essence that extends through the past and into the future. This center is the nature of Being, a rootedness, not only to a geographic area, but also to the origin of civilization. Heidegger, like many Germans of the early 20th century, rooted himself in the German landscape. A similar impulse was at the heart of the Nazi party, which lead to fascistic nationalism, and ultimately genocide. Heidegger believed that the German people were the philosophical and intellectuals heirs to Ancient Greece. Thus, his nationalistic rootedness was coupled with a philosophical rootedness, both of which reveal a western bias, despite the similarities in his philosophy to eastern religions and philosophies dating back hundreds of years. This conservative revolution in Germany connected the German people to the primordial origin of civilization and philosophy, dismissing other cultures—especially those without a homeland—as derivative or worse, a bastardization of the human spirit. Heidegger followed this logic to reject decadent modern traditions and any technological advancements that sought to remove us from embedment with the world. However, it also directed him, and other national socialists, to locate sacredness and spiritualism in the landscape, a sentiment espoused by much earlier thinkers such as Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza.
Dwelling: For Heidegger, dwelling means “a staying with things.” To stay with some thing is not passive, but an active blending into the surrounding world. Because we dwell in the world, we build. To build through dwelling is to unite the fourfold; driven by a sense of union with the world, by our aspirations, inspirations, and imaginations, we nurse the earth to grow and we construct that which can’t grow. The carefully built environment that results facilitates a more thorough encounter between Being and thing, thereby bringing both closer together and directing thought towards Worldhood and Center. Heidegger occupied three dwellings: his childhood home in Meßkirch, his home in Freiburg, and a small hut in Todtnauberg on the edge of the Black Forest.
Electrical Tower: Through the first half of the 20th century, the physical landscape of America began to change as roads and electrical towers began to connect cities and towns, drawing new shapes across the landscape. Technological innovation provided hope for a better tomorrow.
Fern: Aside from spruce, beech, various species of moss and lichens, ferns are some of the most common flora found in the black forest. Despite the dark conditions at the forest floor, ferns have found a means to thrive. Fern stems are rhizomes, meaning that a stem can be divided into parts and from those parts new stems and leaves will grow. Rhizomes typically grow in a horizontal, non-aggressive pattern. In contrast, singular root systems, especially those of trees, typically behave aggressively, killing plants that grow too close. These contrasts were poetically reinterpreted by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. The singular root represents a hierarchical structure where a singular head commands and controls all other parts, whereas a rhizome represents a horizontally organized structure where no individual part has direct power over the others. Politically, a dictatorship is a singular root structure, while the ideal democracy is a rhizome.
Fourfold: Heidegger believed that reality divided into four concepts: earth, sky, gods, and mortals. The earth supports us and nourishes us; it becomes the basic building blocks we use to curate our physical environment. The sky calls to mind the rarefied ether that nourishes through air and water opposite the earth, while further representing the breath of life, a spiritual element manifest in the material of the world. Our gods are the stories we tell, the alternate realities we create through the inspiration and imagination we find in the world, idealized representations of the human experience. Finally, it is only though our mortal existence that the scope of reality can be understood; only through grappling with death can we begin to approach the nothingness at the center of reality.
Gates: A trajectory from the gate of an estate to the gates of internment can be located in FDR’s life. FDR was born to an upstate New York Old Wealth family at an estate named Springwood in Hyde Park. The old wealth of the American east were able to weather the Great Depression, establishing a cultural and economic divide between people. During World War Two, as president, FDR authorized the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps for the duration of the war. Gates and soldiers physically separated these American citizens from the rest of the population based solely on race.
The Gulag: A Russian acronym standing for the Main Administration of Camps and Places of Detention, was the government agency which oversaw the Soviet forced labor camp system. In 1940, Menachem Begin was arrested in Eastern Poland by the NKVD Soviet Police force. Suspected of being an agent of British Imperialism due to his Zionist beliefs, Begin was sentenced to 8 years in a gulag labor camp. Begin was released after two years back to Poland as part of an agreement between Poland and the Soviet Union.
Hiding House: While leader of the Irgun, Menachem Begin went into hiding to avoid capture and detention by the British military force in Mandated Palestine. Begin was on the run from various military organization for most of his early adulthood.
Homo naledi: In 2013, a mass of hominin bones were found at the bottom of a shaft in a cave system in South Africa. Ove the next year, 1550 specimens belonging to 15 individuals were removed from the cave. Unlike any previously discovered fossils, these bones bore similarities to both the genus Australopithecus and Homo. After an in-depth analysis, archaeologists described the species as homo. Homo naledi’s brain was slightly larger than Australopithecus, it walked upright on long legs, and had a body mass similar to small-bodied human populations. Dating to 250,000, homo naledi is thought not to be a direct ancestor of homo sapiens, but did exist at the same time as higher evolved homo species. Analysis of the bones suggest that most were broke after an individual had already died. The lack of any evidence of other animals in the cave or interacting with the bones suggests that the bodies of these individuals were dropped down the shaft intentionally after death. This suggests that homo naledi practiced a burial ritual of disposing of their dead deep within the earth, a shocking revelation that upturns previous held beliefs regarding origins of culture and spirituality.
Homo neanderthalensis: Like Homo naledi, various sites have bound found that suggest Homo neanderthalensis also buried their dead. Once thought to be unintelligent, and crude compared to contemporaneous homo sapiens, the archaeological record is transforming this image into one of strength, intelligence, spirituality and aesthetic attunement.
The Irgun: From 1931 to 1948, the Irgun operated as a Zionist paramilitary organization in British Mandated Palestine. Originally formed as an offshoot of the larger Jewish paramilitary organization the Haganah, the Irgun based its policy on Revisionist Zionism which promoted territorial maximalism, or the right for a Jewish state to control the entire territory of Palestine and Transjordan (present day Jordan) by any means necessary. The Irgun regarded Arabs and the British illegal occupiers and carried out terrorist action against both groups in an effort to establish Jewish governmental control. From 1944 to 1947, the Irgun and other Jewish paramilitary organizations increased their attacks against the British, ultimately resulting in British withdrawal from the region at the end of 1947. The Irgun began acting like a standing military, and active recruiting began. Begin began negotiating with the newly formed provisional Jewish government and other paramilitary groups regarding the integration of the groups into a unified Israeli Defense Force. At the start of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Irgun absorbed fully into the IDF.
Iron Lung: A negative pressure ventilator, colloquially called an iron lung, is a mechanical respirator that enables a person to breathe on their own when muscle control is lost. The iron lung creates a sealed, air tight compartment containing a human body up to one’s neck. Pumps periodically decrease and increase the air pressure inside chamber. When the pressure is below that within the lungs, the lungs expand pulling air from outside the chamber in through the patients nose and mouth. When the pressure inside the chamber raises above that of the lungs, the air is expelled. The iron lung mimics the physiological action of breathing and could save the life of people suffering from polio whose muscles lost the ability to contract. While FDR suffered from polio, he didn’t require the use of an iron lung. He did however fund medical research into polio and financially supported the construction and placement of the iron lung in hospitals.
King David Hotel: On July 22nd, 1946, the Irgun carried out a terrorist bombing against the British administrative headquarters for Palestine, which was housed in the Southern Wing of the King David Hotel, killing 91 and injuring 46. One month earlier, the British Mandate had authorized the police and military to raid houses of various Jewish families in the area, looking for weapons and documents proving a relationship between sabotage of the British Mandate and Jewish Organizations. The tactics of the operation restricted the freedom of Jewish settlers and triggered a reminder of Nazi persecution of the Jewish people. In response, members of the Irgun, lead by Menachem Begin, disguised themselves as Arab women and hotel waiters, gaining entry to the building and planting a bomb in its basement. This bombing was one of the most lethal terrorist attacks of the 20th century.
Labyrinth: In ancient Greek mythology, the labyrinth was an elaborate and confusing structure built by Daedalus at Knossos in Crete to contain the Minotaur. King Minos of Crete demanded Athens pay him tribute by sending 14 youths yearly to feed the Minotaur trapped within. After years of watching his people die, Prince Theseus volunteered as tribute intending to kill the Minotaur. In Knossos, he fell in love with Minos’ daughter, who gives him a sword and a ball of twine to use to navigate out of the labyrinth. Theseus slays the Minotaur and navigates out of the cave, before returning home to find his father dead and the throne of Athens in his possession.
New Deal: As soon as FDR became president, he began a rigorous series of programs to save the drowning American economy. This took the form of the New Deal: a series of federal programs intended to provide relief, make reformations, and facilitate recovery. Some of these included the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Civil Works Administration, the Farm Security Administration, the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, and the Social Security Administration. The first iteration of the New Deal was heavily inspired by Frances Perkins, FDR’s choice for secretary of labor and the brain behind the 40-hour work week, setting a minimum wage, workers compensation for injuries on the job, unemployment compensation, the banning of child labor, and social security. Additional regulations sought to protect against future failures of securities and the banking system, as well as protectionist trade policies that worsened the depression. The Second New Deal created more aggressive reforms and administrations, including the Works Progress Administration which was created to return the unemployed to work. Some projects of the WPA included the Federal Writers’ Project, which hired writers of every state to create guidebooks and record the folklore of the region, and the Federal Art Project, which hired trained woman artists to create murals and sculptures in public spaces.
Tank: There is a close relationship between military displays and fascism, often symbolized by the presence of a tank in non-military locations.
The Thorn-Puller: The Thorn-Puller, also called “Spinario” or “Boy with Thorn” is a Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a nude boy withdrawing a thorn from his foot. This theme pervaded ancient Greece and Rome. It is a beautiful meditation on thought, focus and consciousness, becoming a kind of allegory or surrogate for the focus and concentration of an artist. This sculpture remained in public view since its creation, but is not without controversy. Some historians suggest that the head on the Thorn-Puller was meant for a different sculpture. This is indicated by the awkward scaling of the head and the fact that the boy’s hair does not conform to the rules of gravity. One art historian suggested that the surviving bronze sculpture was actually a pun on the theme of a thorn-puller: the head alludes to another pervasive theme in ancient Greece but is meant for this form. Thus, it is as if a sculpture sat down to withdraw a thorn from his foot.
Wheel Chair: Towards the end of his life, FDR was overcome by declining health. He spent most of his private life in a wheel chair, but as often as possible hid this from the public. He and his administration were able to hide this so thoroughly that the public was somewhat unaware of just how sick Roosevelt was in the last three years of his life. After returning from the Yalta conference, Roosevelt was unable to stand to address congress, revealing more fully his frailty to the Congress and the American people more generally. At only 63, Roosevelt died while president.
Worldhood: According to Heidegger, worldhood is an ontologico-existential concept designating the abstract network that organizes the totality of interactions between things in the world. Put another way, the worldhood of the world is the Being of the world, the set of entities that make up the world and the web of relationships connecting all of them together. Each entity, including man, is existentially tied to its surrounding environment.