Pain of the Archivists


The Pain of the Archivist, Installation, 350 Soaps, 280 x 160 x 5cm, Gallery Berlin-Weekly, Berlin, 2011

In a small gallery space, 750 soaps hang from the ceiling in a pyramid-like figure. The viewer enters the room and is overwhelmed by the overall smell, as well as the multitude of shapes and colors. These soaps date from different eras and areas of Europe, the oldest from about 1900, the most recent from about 2000. Many bear stamps of the brand. On some it says: Pure, on others: White. Cultural customs of earlier times come to mind. When visitors began to read the soaps and the smells began to stimulate them, they told stories. Everyone had a story. So it is with tangible objects that lie in collections, which one recognizes, or which stimulate the imagination. The most amazing story, however, was one in which American visitors began discussing how the Nazis had made soap out of Jews in concentration camps. Other visitors heard this, and an animated discussion began about the reliability of such sources. The Americans responded to the accusation that these were unverifiable myths by saying that they had learned this in school.

The true collector, so Walter Benjamin, must lift the subject of its contexts of meaning, to reach an incomparable view of the subject matter - the view of the grand physiognomist. And so, it is in each of its objects the world present. But it fades the hope of a completeness of things. Therefore, the collector is also an allegorist, no longer considered on an uncanny entirety, but only to the mystery of many interconnected things. For the German writer Ernst J√ľnger the disaster is a condition of collecting: in the loss of cultural heritage the sense is refining for this, the disappearance is sharpening the perception of their inherent order. Through debris and fires holds exercise an illuminating principle. Where not destruction, there is no collection.