Last week I finished “Er ist wieder da” by German writer Timur Vermes (Eichborn Verlag, 2012). Intriguing premise: in 2011, Adolf Hitler wakes up on a deserted playground somewhere in the middle of contemporary Berlin. It doesn’t take him very long to get back in the demagogue’s seat, pointing out all that is wrong in today’s Germany and rallying the peoples to wage war against today’s enemies of the state. It’s a hilarious story.
Also last week, Van Oorschot publishers in the Netherlands announced a new translation by Arthur Langeveld of F.M. Dostoevski’s master piece The Idiot. (A new translation of a story you love is a terrific event – you get to behold a loved one with new eyes). Anyway, embedded in another magnificent Dostoevski novel, The Brothers Karamazov, is a small parable, The Grand Inquisitor (read it online here), describing the second coming of Jesus Christ, in 17th century Spain (surely the wrong place and the wrong time for a second coming – you my fellow marketers know that timing is of essence for any launch). Dostoevski’s Jesus ends up a condemned heretic and is burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition. Brilliant novel.
Whether it is Hitler, Jesus or a Volkswagen New Beetle; introducing somebody or something old into the here and now without too much modification is – merely by itself – enough to get our imagination going.
In that sense, the procedure resembles that of the “objet trouvé” or Readymade – where the artist exhibits randomly selected objects (like Marcel Duchamp’s toilet bowl and bicycle wheel) as works of art, without any modification.
Just by changing its context (in time or space), objects can be turned into works of art.