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of Das Beckwerk –
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& the Death of Identity
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when the movement of people across borders is greater than ever before in history, the concept of identity – personal, national, cultural, religious, ethnic etc. – has become more and more problematic. For this reason the corporation Das Beckwerk in the year mounted a utopian project with the aim of seeking out new forms for human existence beyond identity and citizenship. In the author, artist, performer, musician and human being etc. Claus Beck-Nielsen was declared dead. In the enterprise Das Beckwerk was established in his name. ¢e nameless body le£ behind by the death of Claus Beck-Nielsen was engaged as the director of, and subject for experiments in, the company. In the years – Das Beckwerk conducted a long series of experiments with this nameless body, attempts to bring human life beyond identities and open to a whole new way of being a human being.
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only six days a£er the burial representatives of the Centre for Cemeteries dug up from consecrated ground the coffin with the dead body of Claus Beck-Nielsen. In Beijing the Chinese authorities withheld the case with the plaster effigy in customs for several months a£er the deathbed was to have taken place; and in Cairo the Egyptian national security service intervened, and the story developed into a new Mohammed Crisis.
* ¢e book Beyond Identity is an attempt to bring together once and for all the entire story – from the declaration of death in through the ten-year-long series of experiments with identity leading up to Funus Imaginarium – in one epic sequence in which pictures, documents, essays, dra£s and diary entries will be of equal importance. ¢e book will offer a hitherto unseen overview of the work of the company and will give access to a great deal of material which has not previously been presented to the public, from private records to the most recent pictures and reports from the struggle with the state powers. ¢e book is divided into three parts: . – –: Examples of Das Beckwerk’s many attempts to create new forms of human existence beyond identity and citizenship. . : What is required – what common ritual is necessary – to transform the death of the individual into an experience which is shared by the entire society and, in principle, all of humanity? And the solution which history offers us: funus imaginarium, the figurative burial. . -, : ¢e transformation of a Roman ritual into a global event anno with its centre in Copenhagen and satellites worldwide in Cairo, Beijing and Herning. ¢e story about a radical event and the intervention of the state powers in Denmark, China and Egypt.
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Beyond Identity attempts –
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¢e Anonymous Man with the Famous Face Hannover / Niedersachsen (–) was in reality not the first doppelgänger in Claus Beck-Nielsen’s life. Already from µ he had led another hitherto relatively unknown dual existence: a quite ordinary life as an author with a wife and later a child in Denmark and at the same time a completely different one in Germany
with a completely different face, now that of a deceased man. As “the man with the famous face” he showed up in the years leading up to, and culminating in, Expo with all the most important people in the German state of Niedersachsen and had himself photographed with them.
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Borrowing a Foreign Identity c/o Per Aage Brandt (–)
Information (daily newspaper), March
P. Aa. Brandt in his home in Copenhagen, February
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-’ death the now nameless body took over Professor and Semiotician, Per Aage Brandt’s life. While Brandt himself was visiting professor at Stanford University in California, the
nameless one lived in Per Aage Brandt’s apartment, wore his clothes, opened his post, answered his mails, ate his food, breathed his air, dreamed his dreams and even cast Professor Brandt’s vote in the local council elections.
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¢e Return of the Evil One as Goodness Itself www.binnielsen.com (–)
suddenly appeared a homepage on the Internet with the domain name of binnielsen.com. ¢e homepage was simple, almost primitive. It consisted of a picture and nine videos of varying duration. ¢e videos all showed the same static image: On an
oriental-looking cushion on the floor in what resembles a cave or a cellar underneath a concrete complex on the outskirts of a metropolis, a thin man in a long white tunic and black military boots is sitting. He is unshaven and long-haired and sits in a relaxed pose, staring
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steadily into the camera with an intense gaze while he addresses the world. His name is probably bin Nielsen, and he appears as the other side of bin Laden, his white twin, a kind of saviour figure of Democracy or, “¢e Return of the Evil One as Goodness Itself,” as it says across the opening page. ¢e speeches he delivers are close to being actual bin Laden speeches, translated from Arabic into Danish. But through small alterations in the text the speaker is transformed from being the “so-called democratic” world’s enemy number one to being its prophet, though, it is worth noting, a radical prophet who speaks uncompromisingly for the radical, “the total democracy”. “We does not accept halfway democracy. We wants to go the whole way. And we will not let ourselves be represent by anybodies, we wants to go all the way ourselves. We declares the total democracy. We desires the total, real, true democracy, where everybody take responsibilities, where everyone speak their own minds, where every human being think, vote and act uncorrupted and with full responsibilities.” ¢us bin Nielsen speaks on “¢e bin-Nielsen Tapes No. ”. And on Tape we hear as follows: “You believes you has democracy just because you has the right to say what you wants. But democracy are not the right to speak and the right to vote and the right to apply for a job and live where you wants. Democracy are to speak, to vote, to act. Democracy are not a principle, democracy are not a right, democracy are a way of life.” Bin Nielsen is not speaking on his own behalf, he never says I, but always we. And it is not “we Danes”, or “we Muslims”, or “we democrats”, but simply “we down here”, i.e. the lowest, those who, in utterly concrete terms, find themselves beneath the society of the world, in the cellar or the cave. Bin Nielsen never achieved his breakthrough in the old media, such as newspapers or television, but in the space of a short time he acquired a broad spectrum of young people who followed him, among them the socalled ‘second generation immigrants’ in the Internet cafés in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen where they were o£en to be seen lumped together in front of the screens in wonder and jubilation.
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¢e Future World Citizen
Nielsen in Iraq, USA, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere …
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III. Funus Imaginarium
of Claus Beck-Nielsen, Identity & the State Citizen
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, and Ç days following, Das Beckwerk transformed the Roman ritual into a global event anno with its centre in Copenhagen: the death of the identity and the state citizen. ¢is piece of world history should, according to plan, be played out in five acts: . In the building erected on Dante’s Square outside the Glyptotek ursday th September-ursday th October, . . ¢rough the streets of Copenhagen Saturday th October,
. Assistens Cemetery Saturday th October,
. days when the world would have time to reflect on the consequences of taking leave of the state citizen and personal identity. th October, –th January,
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. Synchronized deathbeds in other parts of the globe September – ∞ As Claus Beck-Nielsen’s death should not be regarded as something unique, but, on the contrary, as the farewell of humanity and the world community to identity and state citizenship, the seven-day deathbed should not only take place in Copenhagen, but simultaneously in other cities around the whole world. ¢ree plaster copies of the original effigy were sent as cargo to Cairo, Beijing and Herning. In these cities the effigies should lie on public deathbeds, synchronized with the deathbed in Copenhagen. And on computers and mobile telephones around the globe people would be able to follow the events in Copenhagen, via live-streaming: the deathbed, funeral cortège and burial.
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.¢e Burial arrived at Assistens Cemetery. ¢e six pallbearers removed the coffin from the hearse and carried it the remaining few hundred metres to the grave. ¢e coffin was lowered into the grave, and Pastor Erik Bock performed the burial ritual: the blessing, the Lord’s Prayer and the casting of earth.
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Das Beckwerk (–) the Danish state citizen, author, artist, performer, musician and human being etc., Claus Beck-Nielsen was declared dead. In the corporation Das Beckwerk was established in his name. Das Beckwerk (–) was a transnational enterprise which had the globalised world-stage as its target and audience. ¢rough the staging of world politics, public spaces and media, Das Beckwerk attempted to create an active connection between the individual world citizen and contemporary world history. ¢us Das Beckwerk created stories concerning the hopeless, but necessary, attempt to intervene daily in world history. ¢ese stories took the form of walks, serial photography, video sequences, novels, performances, operas, installations, revolutions and other historical events. Stories about the common man and his heroic attempt to influence the creation of world history. On Çth January, – at the end of the days of mourning following the burial of Claus Beck-Nielsen, identity and the state citizen – the board of directors announced the closure of Das Beckwerk.
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Published on Jan 30, 2012