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MEET ­GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN AND THE LAST CHILD

Photography & Interview ~ Stefan Jermann My stomach churns; I’m feeling excited – not exactly nervous, but psyched. I’m driving along narrow lanes, through a bleak and lonely area, looking for a grand castle. Suddenly, just like in a fairy tale, there it is, looming majestically in front of me. I go through my questions one more time and imagine how Gottfried Helnwein might react to them. What shall I make of this man, who is deemed to be a huge fan of Donald Duck and yet creates such sombre images? Has he made his own Duckburg here, Helnweinburg, his own unique world – I am somewhat curious. Will he throw me in a dungeon until my questions ripen, or will he set the castle ghost on me – the one that has already flirted with Dita von Teese? I try to concentrate on the moment at hand, breathe – breathe slowly in and out, somehow it will turn out all right. Mein Magen rumort, ich bin ziemlich aufgeregt, nicht nervös, einfach aufgeregt. Ich fahre durch die rauhe, einsame Gegend. Die zu kleine Strasse soll zu einem herrschaftlichen Schloss führen, das, wie in einem Märchen, plötzlich und majestätisch vor mir auftaucht. Ein letztes Mal gehe ich meine Fragen durch und mache mir bereits aus, wie Gottfried Helnwein darauf reagieren könnte. Wer ist dieser Mensch, der als grosser Fan von Donald Duck gilt und doch so düstere Bilder kreiert? Hat er sich auch sein eigenes Entenhausen geschaffen, Helnwein-Hausen, seine ganz eigene Welt – ich bin sowas von neugierig. Wird er mich mit meiner Fragerei in ein Kellerverlies sperren, bis diese gereift sind, oder wird er sein Schlossgespenst auf mich hetzen, jenes welches schon mit Dita von Teese liebäugelte? Ich versuche mich auf den bevorstehenden Moment zu konzentrieren, atmen – ganz ruhig ­atmen, denn irgendwie kommt alles gut.

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It’s a foggy, cloud-streaked afternoon in Waterford County, Ireland. I’m meeting a man who has spent a large part of his life on this island that is famously steeped in tradition. He’s called this place home for some while. Ireland has a long history of treating its artists, literary figures and musicians well. This Austrian, with his distinctive appearance, is an ambivalent character. Helnwein’s main theme was, and mostly continues to be, violence and abuse. It wasn’t simply a case of deciding one day to explore this dark realm – no – as they say: the theme chose him. Many of Gottfried Helnwein’s works convey something disturbing. They often have something about them that won’t leave you alone. At the same time his images radiate a sacrosanct beauty that at times is breathtaking. His good friend and collector of his work, Sean Penn, once put it in a nutshell: « Well, the world is a haunted house and Heln­ wein, at times, is our tour guide through it.» And yes, despite all my qualms: I wasn’t locked in a dungeon and the castle’s ghost had no interest in me. After a few hours visiting this mystical castle, Gottfried and Renate Helnwein said a friendly goodbye. For a moment I imagined what it would be like to be lord of a castle myself. I step on the gas pedal and realise that I’m in my little hire car, and not a Rolls Royce. Pulled back into reality I drive away from the estate, glancing back for a moment and thinking to myself: what a world he lives in, what a man, what an inspiration!

Es ist ein nebliger, von Wolken durchzogener Nachmittag im Waterford County in Irland. Ich treffe einen Mann, der einen grossen Teil seines Lebens auf der traditionsreichen Insel verbracht hat. Schon lange nennt Helnwein diesen Ort sein Zuhause. Irland hat eine lange Tradition, seine Künstler, Literaten und Musiker gut zu behandeln. Der Österreicher mit seinem ganz markanten Auftreten ist eine schillernde Figur. Helnwein’s Hauptthema war und ist meistens das der Gewalt und des Missbrauchs. Er hat sich nicht etwa eines Tages einfach so dafür entschieden, in diese düsteren Gefilde einzutreten, nein, diese Themen haben ihn sprichwörtlich dazu auserwählt. Viele von Gottfried Helnwein’s Arbeiten transportieren etwas störendes, haben oft etwas sehr irritierendes. Gleichzeitg versprühen seine Bilder eine unantastbare Schönheit, die zuweilen fast die Engelsglocken läuten lassen. Der gute Freund und Sammler, Sean Penn, hat es einmal sehr trefflich formuliert: « Die Welt ist ein Geisterschloss und Helnwein ist manchmal unser Reiseführer. » Und ja, trotz all meiner Bedenken: ich wurde nicht ins Kellervlies gesperrt und das Schlossgespenst fand überhaupt kein Interesse an mir. Nach einigen Stunden zu Besuch in diesem mystischen Schloss, verabschiedeten sich Gottfried und Renate Helnwein in herzlicher Manier. Einen Moment lang stellte ich mir vor, wie es wohl wäre, selbst Schlossherr zu sein. Ich trete aufs Gaspedal und anstelle eines Rolls Royce, realisiere ich, dass es nur mein kompakt Mietauto ist. Eingeholt von der Realität, verlasse ich das Anwesen und schaue noch einmal kurz zurück und denke mir: was für eine eigene Welt, was für ein Mensch, was für eine Inspiration!

« Well, the world is a haunted house, and Helnwein at times is our tour guide through it. In his work he is willing to take on the sadness, the irony, the ugliness and the beauty. But not all of Gottfried’s work is on a canvas. A lot of it is the way he’s approached life. And it doesn’t take someone knowing him to know that. You take one look at the paintings and you say ‹ this guy has been around.› You can’t sit in a closet – and create this. This level of work is earned » Sean Penn

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Stefan Jermann: I’ve just come from Waterford, where the over-sized Helnwein billboards that are all over the city blew me away. The young girls all look similar – are these different faces or are they all one and the same girl? Gottfried Helnwein: No, they are different children. The installation is called « The Last Child », and it is spread over the whole of the city of Waterford. The biggest picture hangs on the Old Flour Mill. A white, 24 × 35 meter large, child’s face, with her eyes stretched wide open. You’ve been involved with the theme of abuse, pain and violence for a long time now – though at first sight these pictures are gentle, even dreamlike; the pain isn’t always consciously perceived the first time you see them and it’s very subtly conveyed – what exactly is the message that you want to put across to the viewer? Essentially, this is the central theme that has run through my work since 1970. I believe that all the work an artist does, revolves around a single central concern or motif. Every work is like a new attempt, which may be more or less successful, to get closer to the central theme, to make it visible, to grasp it, to formulate it. In principle though, it is intangible, so it cannot be grasped and has no form. I became involved with the theme of violence very early on, especially violence towards children.

Stefan Jermann: Gerade aus Waterford kommend, wurde ich spontan von überdimensionalen Helnwein-Billboards, welche über die ganze Stadt verstreut sind, überrascht. Die Mädchen sehen alle sehr ähnlich aus, sind dies verschiedene Gesichter, oder handelt es sich hier um ein und dasselbe Mädchen? Gottfried Helnwein: Nein, das sind verschiedene Kinder. Die Installation heisst « The Last Child », und erstreckt sich über ganz Waterford City. Das grösste Bild ist auf der « Old Flour Mill » platziert. Ein weisses, 24 × 35 Meter grosses Kindergesicht, mit weit aufgerissenen Augen.

Sie beschäftigen sich ja schon lange mit dem Thema Missbrauch, Schmerz und Gewalt – trotzdem wirken diese Bilder auf den ersten Blick sanft, teilweise auch verträumt; der Schmerz wurde mir beim erstmaligen Anschauen nicht direkt bewusst und es wird sehr subtil transportiert – was ist eigentlich die Message, die Sie ver­ suchen dem Betrachter zu vermitteln? Im Grunde ist dies der rote Faden, der sich seit 1970 durch mein Werk zieht. Ich glaube, dass alle Arbeiten eines Künstlers im Grunde immer nur um ein einziges zentrales Anliegen oder Motiv krei-

In the course of my research I have seen forensic photographs of children who were beaten or tortured to death – mostly by close relatives. The number of children, who die every year in this way, is very high. You don’t easily forget those pictures. In the 60s and 70s the media didn’t generally take up this theme. Back then, my first pale watercolours of bandaged and wounded children caused an uproar in Austria, people put stickers on the pictures declaring them to be ‹ degenerate art ›, exhibitions were cancelled and once my work was confiscated from a gallery by the police under the Mayor’s orders.

« Mir wurde plötzlich bewusst, dass all diese biederen Spiesser um mich herum noch vor ein paar Jahren am grössten Massenmord der Geschichte beteiligt waren » sen. Und jedes Werk so etwas wie ein neuer, mehr oder weniger erfolgreicher Versuch ist, sich diesem Grundthema zu nähern, es sichtbar zu machen, zu fassen, zu formulieren, obwohl es im Prinzip immateriell, und daher nicht fassbar ist und keine Form hat. Ich habe mich sehr früh mit dem Thema Gewalt beschäftigt, vor allem mit der Gewalt gegen Kinder. Im Zuge meiner Recherchen habe ich gerichtsmedizinische Fotos von Kindern gesehen, die erschlagen oder zu Tode gefoltert wurden, – meistens von nahen Angehörigen. Die Zahl der Kinder, die jährlich  so aus dem Leben scheiden, ist sehr hoch. Das sind Bilder die man nicht so leicht vergisst.

In den 60er und 70er Jahren wurde dieses Thema von den Medien überhaupt nicht thematisiert. Meine ersten blassen Aquarelle von bandagierten und verwundeten Kindern haben damals in Österreich für grosse Aufregung gesorgt, Bilder wurden mit Stickers beklebt, auf denen ‹ Entartete Kunst › stand, Ausstellungen wurden abgebrochen, und einmal wurden meine Arbeiten im Auftrag ­eines Bürgermeisters in einer Galerie durch die Polizei beschlagnahmt. Wieso wurden diese Kinder denn von ihren eigenen Eltern getötet, war dies eine Nachkriegserscheinung …?

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« Ich habe mich sehr früh mit dem Thema ­Gewalt beschäftigt. vor allem mit der ­Gewalt gegen Kinder » 8 TRUCE  – Helnwein –


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Gewalt gegen Schwächere und Wehrlose ist so alt wie die Menschheit. Es gibt im Moment weltweit wahrscheinlich mehr Sklaven als zu der Zeit, als Sklaverei noch legal war. Als Österreich durch den ‹ Fall Fritzl › plötzlich wieder zum WeltThema wurde, haben ausländische Medien über die ‹ dunkle Seite › Österreichs spekuliert, und einige haben sich plötzlich daran erinnert, dass dieser Aspekt in der österreichischen Kunst schon lange ein Thema ist. In der Literatur wie in der Bildenden Kunst. Und es waren vor allem meine Bilder gewesen, die den Leuten dabei eingefallen sind. Das holzschnittartige Bild, das die internationalen Medien von Österreich zeichnen, sofern sie es

überhaupt wahrnehmen, nervt manchmal. Als ich z. B. in Amerika vor Jahren auf meine Herkunft ­angesprochen werde, fiel den Leuten sofort ein: ‹ Ah – Waldheim! ›, später: ‹ Ah – Haider! ›, dann war es ‹ Fritzl! › und jetzt wieder ‹ Haider! ›. Wenn es nicht Arnold Schwar­zenegger gäbe, wäre Österreich PR-mässig nur in der Scheissgasse. Aber wieso hatten Sie sich zu ­einer Zeit, als dieses Thema noch tabu war, damit so intensiv zu beschäftigen begonnen. Wahrscheinlich leide ich an einer Art Gerechtigkeitswahn. Ich kann einfach nicht nachvollziehen, wie jemand Spass daran haben kann, Gewalt gegen ein Lebewesen aus-

« It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows. Helnwein is a master of surprised recognition » William Burroughs

zuüben, das völlig wehrlos ist. Die ersten, damals noch spärlichen Informationen über den Holocaust waren der Auslöser. Ich habe alles in mich aufgesogen, was ich darüber erfahren konnte, und als ich sah, wie sadistische KZ-Wärter und Mörder freigesprochen wurden, da blieb die Zeit für mich stehen. Mir wurde plötzlich bewusst, dass all diese biederen Spiesser um mich herum noch vor ein paar Jahren am grössten Massenmord der Geschichte beteiligt waren. Ich fühlte mich plötzlich nicht mehr als Teil dieser Gesellschaft. Ich glaube, niemals in der Geschichte gab es einen so radikalen Bruch zwischen zwei Generationen. In den Sechziger Jahren rebellierte die Jugend überall auf der Welt ge-

gen ihre Eltern Generation, mit der sie sich nicht mehr identifizieren wollte. Damals habe ich auch begonnen, mich mit der Geschichte der katholischen Kirche zu beschäftigen Wurden Sie streng katholisch erzogen? Ich habe einen grossen Teil meiner Kindheit im Weihrauchnebel kalter Kirchenschiffe verbracht, umgeben von sich in Ektase windenden, blutüberströmten Märtyrern. Flammenden und Dornen umwundenen Herzen, Kreuzen, Folterwerkzeugen, heiligen Wundmalen und sterbenden, verzückt gen Himmel blickenden Jungfrauen. Dieser « Biblia pauperum-­Comic », die gespenstisch zuckenden roten

Why were these children killed by their own parents – was this a post-war phenomenon …? Violence against the weak and defenceless is as old as the human race. Worldwide, there are probably more slaves now than there were in the time when slavery was legal. Since Austria suddenly came to the world’s attention again recently as a result of the Fritzl case, the foreign media have been speculating about Austria’s ‹ dark side ›, and some have promptly been reminded that this aspect has long been a theme in Austrian art. In literature as well as in visual art. And it was my pictures, above all, that invaded people’s consciousness. The sort of woodcut picture that the international media uses to illustrate Austria, when they notice it at all, is annoying sometimes. A few years ago when I was in America and my ­nationality was brought up, people would immediately say: ‹ Ah – Waldheim! ›, later: ‹ Ah, Haider! ›, then it was ‹ Fritzl! › and now ‹ Haider! › again. If it weren’t for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austria would be in a bad way, PR-wise. But how did you begin to be so intensively involved in this theme at a time when it was still taboo? Maybe I suffer from some kind of delusion about justice. I just can’t comprehend how anyone can enjoy being violent towards another person who is totally defenceless. The first revelations

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about the holocaust, although limited, were the trigger. I soaked up every detail that I could discover, and as I saw how sadistic concentration camp guards and murderers were being acquitted, time stopped for me. I suddenly became aware that all the worthy bourgeois around me had taken part in the biggest mass murder in history just a few years earlier. Instantly I felt that I wasn’t part of that society. I don’t think history has ever seen such a radical schism between two generations. In

« Christianity has influenced the history, art and culture of the last 2000 years like no other ideology. But very early on I came across a totally different, huge, new culture, which resulted in a culture shock to me: I came across Donald Duck » Lämpchen, das lateinische Gemurmel der Priester und das mono­ tone Raunen von Litaneien und Rosenkränzen, die mumifizierten Leichname in verblichenem Brokat hinter halbblinden Scheiben und die, von Glockengeläut begleiteten, Hochämter und Prozessio­ nen, haben sich tief in meine kindliche Seele eingegraben! Das Christentum ist die erste Religion, die den Schmerz, das Bluten und das Sterben ins Zentrum ihrer Spiritualität gestellt hat. Zum ersten Mal wird hier das Göttliche nicht nur mit Triumph und kosmischer Allmacht verbunden, sondern mit menschlicher Erbärmlichkeit, Qual, Angst, Erniedrigung, Leid, Versagen, dem ausgeliefert sein und Sterben. Das Christentum hat die Geschichte,

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the 60s, young people all over the world rebelled against their parents’ generation, as they no longer wanted to be identified with it. At about the same time I also began to get involved with the history of the Catholic Church. Did you have a strict Catholic upbringing? I spent a large part of my childhood in a fog of incense in the naves of cold churches, surrounded by martyrs writhing in ecstasy and covered in blood, flaming hearts wreathed in thorns, crosses, instruments of torture, mystical stigmata and dying virgins gazing in rapture towards heaven. The ‹ bible picture book-comic › the ghostly flickering red lamp, the Latin murmurings of the priest and the monotonous whispering of litanies and rosaries, the mummified corpse in faded brocade behind semi-opaque windows, the High Mass and processions accompanied by the ringing of bells – all this dug its way deep into my childhood soul! Christianity is the first religion to have put pain, bleeding and death at the centre of its spirituality. For the first time, the Godly is not only associated with triumph and cosmic might, but with human wretchedness, agony, fear, indignity, suffering, failure, being cast out and death. Christianity has influenced the history, art and culture of the last 2000 years like no other ideology. But very early on I came across a totally different, huge, new culture, which resulted in a culture shock to me: I came across Donald Duck.

Wie alt waren Sie, als Donald Duck Sie quasi von diesem ­düsteren Weltbild erlöste?

scher, der auf einem fremden Planeten ausgesetzt worden war. Das Wien der Nachkriegsjahre war aber auch ein dunkler und trauriger Ort. Die Erwachsenen erschienen mir hässlich, schwerfällig und grantig. Meine Eltern waren eigentlich liebenswerte Menschen, aber scheu und geduckt, eingezwängt in die Welt des Kleinbürgertums.

Ich war ungefähr fünf Jahre alt, als ich zum erstem mal ‹ Entenhausener Boden betrat ›.

Sie konnten sich nicht entfalten, weil Sie dieser Welt entfliehen wollten!

Wie war denn Ihre Beziehung zu Ihren Eltern als Kind?

Es war eine Welt nach zwei Weltuntergängen: Der ­Zusammenbruch der Monarchie, Aufstieg und Fall der Naziherrschaft, – zwei ver­ lorene Weltkriege. Vom Öster­ reichisch-ungarischen Empire der

Kunst und Kultur der letzten 2000 Jahre geprägt, wie keine andere Ideologie. Ich bin aber schon sehr früh auf eine völlig andere, neue, grosse Kultur gestossen, die bei mir einen Kulturshock ausgelöst hat: ich begegnete Donald Duck.

Ich hatte immer das Gefühl, am falschen Ort gelandet zu sein. Ich kam mir vor wie ein Ausserirdi-

Habsburger war nur die Hauptstadt übrig geblieben, mit ein bisschen Land rundherum, vom Rest der Welt durch den eisernen ­Vorhang teilweise abgeschnitten. Zwar waren wir nun offiziell ein freies demokratisches Land, aber der Geist der Vergangenheit liess sich nicht so leicht abschütteln. Natürlich waren die Regierung, das Justizsystem und die Bürokratie voll mit alten Nazis. Und das spürte man. Ich möchte nochmals Ihre aktuelle Ausstellung in Waterford ansprechen: Ich habe mich ein wenig gefragt, wieso die Kinder die sie einsetzen lediglich ­Mädchen sind, wieso setzen sie keine Jungs für Ihre Motivwahl ein?


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« Gewalt gegen Schwächere und Wehrlose ist so alt wie die Menschheit. Es gibt im Moment weltweit wahrscheinlich mehr Sklaven als zu der Zeit, als Sklaverei noch legal war» 14 TRUCE  – Helnwein –


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Eigentlich meine ich immer einfach nur Kinder. Den Menschen als androgynes Wesen. Mich interessiert die kurze Phase der Kindheit, wo der Mensch noch nicht ­gebrochen ist durch den Erziehungsprozess. Wo die Geschlechterproblematik noch nicht so eine grosse Rolle spielt, wo Kreation und Imagination grenzenlos scheinen, und die Welt der eigenen Phantasie realer ist als die sogenannte Realität. Ich beschäftige mich mit der Verletzlichkeit und der sogenannten Unschuld. Ich bin immer auf der Suche nach dem idealen Modell, wobei das Aussehen nicht so eine grosse Rolle spielt, es ist diese schwer zu beschreibende immaterielle Qualität, den Ausdruck, den man früher als «unirdisch» bezeichnet hat, die

Ausstrahlung oder Aura die man nur mehr bei ganz wenigen Kindern findet. Und meistens sind es Mädchen in einem bestimmten Alter, die so wirken als seien sie nicht aus Fleisch und Blut sondern Erscheinungen aus einer anderen feinstofflicheren Welt. Was denken Sie ist die Wahrnehmung der Passanten in ­Waterford, welche die zum Teil blutüberströmten Portraits zu sehen bekommen: was denken Sie geht in diesen Köpfen vor? Ich glaube es herrscht grosse Aufregung in dieser kleinen Stadt. Viele rufen im Rathaus an oder beim Rundfunk. Einige sind begeistert von der Installation, andere regen sich auf, aber ich bin er-

How old were you when Donald Duck rescued you, as it were, from this sombre view of the world? I was about five years old when I first entered the land of Duckburg. What was your relationship with your parents like when you were a child? I always had the feeling I had landed in the wrong place. I was like an extraterrestrial being who had been abandoned on a foreign planet. Post-war Vienna was a dark and tragic place. The grown-ups seemed to me to be ugly, ponderous and badtempered. My parents were actually lovely people, but were shy and timid, and trapped in their lower middle class world. You couldn’t develop, because you wanted to escape from this world! It was a world that had experienced Armageddon twice: the collapse of the monarchy, the rise and fall of Nazi rule, two World wars lost. From the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs, all that remained was the capital city with a bit of land around it, largely cut off from the world by the iron curtain. Although we were officially a free democratic country, the ghosts of the past weren’t easy to shake off. Of course, the government, the justice system and the bureaucracy were full of ex-Nazis. And you could feel it.

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staunt, wie respektvoll und fair die Kritiken sind. Aber so kenne ich Irland, seit ich hier lebe: Es ist das toleranteste Land das ich kenne. Aber die Iren verfügen auch über eine gewisse Portion Patriotismus oder hat dies vorwiegend mit der ‹ Kulturerhaltung › zu tun? Die Iren haben in ihrer Geschichte niemals einen Angriffskrieg geführt, sind aber immer wieder von Invasoren überrannt worden. 700 Jahre war Irland von den Engländern besetzt, und die Menschen wurden wie Sklaven behandelt. Sie durften kein Land besitzen, man hat ihnen ihre eigene Sprache verboten und im 19. Jahrhundert wurde die Bevölkerung in den gro-

ssen Hungersnöten auf die Hälfte reduziert. Trotzdem ist es nie gelungen, die Iren zu brechen. Durch ihre Musik und Dichtung hat sich die irische Identität durch alle Zeiten erhalten. Diese grossformatigen Bildtafeln mit meinen Kinderdarstellungen, die über die ganze Stadt verstreut sind, sind vielleicht auch eine Art Invasion, die eine gewisse Herausforderung für die Menschen hier darstellt. Haben Sie vielleicht nicht einen kleinen Skandal erwartet – auch in Bezug, dass jetzt ein Fremder, ein Österreicher den Iren zeigen will wie die Welt funktioniert? Irland ist das einzige Land, das ich kenne, wo es keinen Fremdenhass

« I always had the feeling I had landed in the wrong place. I was like an extrater­ restrial being who had been abandoned on a foreign planet »


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Could we talk some more about your current installation in Waterford: I’ve been asking myself why the children you portray are all girls – why don’t you include boys as your subject? Actually I always just refer to children. Man as an androgynous being. I’m interested in the short phase of childhood when one is not yet ‹ broken › by the process of being brought up. When the gender issue doesn’t yet play much of a role, when creation and imagination appear to be endless and the world of one’s own fantasy is more real than alleged reality. I’m preoccupied with vulnerability and presumed innocence. I’m always looking for the ideal model, though appearance as such doesn’t play such a large role. It’s this hard to define, intangible quality that used to be called ethereal, a radiance or aura that you only see in very few children. And mostly it is girls of a parti­ cular age who have this quality, like apparitions from another world rather than flesh and blood.

« Helnwein’s subject matter is the human condition. The metaphor for his art is dominated by the image of the child, but not the carefree innocent child of popular imagination. Helnwein instead creates the profoundly disturbing yet compellingly provocative image of the wounded child. The child scarred physically and the child scarred emotionally from within » Robert Flynn Johnson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

What do you think passers-by in Waterford make of the portraits, some of which are bathed in blood: what do you think goes through their heads? I think it’s caused quite a stir in this small city. There have been lots of calls made to the town hall or the radio station. Some are enthralled by the installation and others get workedup about it. But I’m amazed how respectful and fair the ­remarks have been. But this is the Ireland I’ve come to know ever since I’ve lived here. It’s the most tolerant country there is. But the Irish also have quite a sense of patriotism, or has this more to do with the preservation of culture? The Irish have never started a war of aggression in their entire history, though invaders have marched in time and again. The English occupied Ireland for 700 years and they treated the people like slaves. They were not allowed to own any land, were forbidden to use their own language and in the 19th century the population was halved as a result of the great famine. Despite all this, no one has succeeded in breaking the Irish. The Irish identity has been maintained through the years by their music and literature. These large-format billboards all over the city with my images of children might be like another invasion: representing something of a challenge to the people here.

gibt. In den letzten Jahren sind viele Fremde hierher gezogen – aus Asien und Afrika und allein aus Polen etwa 150 000 Menschen, die hier Arbeit suchen. Ich habe bis jetzt nie gehört, dass irgendjemand ein Problem damit gehabt hätte. Als wir vor ca. 12 Jahren hierher kamen, hatte ich das erste mal in meinem Leben das Gefühl von Heimat. Ihre Billboards sind in der ­ganzen Stadt zerstreut und sie haben praktisch schon fast eine werberische Aesthetik – man weiss nicht genau was es bedeuten soll, da auch kein Text beigefügt ist. Nun, Werber wollen verkaufen – was ist Ihre Absicht, wollen Sie Denkanstösse ­geben …? Das ist genau der Punkt. Die Leute wissen vorerst nicht was diese Bilder sollen. Es werden keine Erklä-

rungen und Lösungen angeboten, wie wir sie durch Werbung gewohnt sind. Die Leute müssen Ihre eigenen Antworten auf diese Bilder finden. Für mich ist Kunst ein Dialog. Und wie Marcel Duchamp in seiner Definition von Kunst sagt, sind diese beiden Pole – Künstler und Betrachter, notwendig, um so etwas wie Elektrizität zu erzeugen. Genau dies passiert jetzt hier in Waterford, die Leute sind emotional betroffen, sie reden, sind begeistert oder regen sich auf und protestieren. Ist das nicht genau, was Kunst soll? Wie würden Sie sich denn selber beschreiben. Sie machen mir nicht gerade einen düsteren Eindruck, im Gegenteil. Braucht es eine gute Prise Humor, damit man sich überhaupt auf solch ‹ dunkle › Themen einlassen kann?

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20 TRUCE 2005, – Helnwein Untitled, mixed –media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 192 × 250 cm


« Violence against the weak and defenceless is as old as the human race. Worldwide, there are probably more slaves now than there were in the time when slavery was legal »

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« I believe that all the work an artist does, revolves around a single central concern or motif. Every work is like a new attempt, which may be more or less successful »

22   – Age, Helnwein TheTRUCE Golden 2003,–photography


I Walk Alone, (Detail) 2003, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 122 × 173 cm

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« Gottfried Helnwein is my mentor. His fight for expression and stance against oppression are reasons why I chose him as an artistic partner. An artist that doesn’t provoke will be invisible. Art that doesn’t cause strong emotions has no meaning. Helnwein has that internalized » Marilyn Manson

Maybe you expected a little bit of scandal – also because here’s this foreigner, an Austrian, who wants to show the Irish how the world works? Ireland is the only country I know where there’s no xenophobia. A lot of foreigners have moved here in the last few years, looking for work – from Asia and Africa and about 150,000 people from Poland alone. Until now I haven’t heard that anyone has a problem with that. When we arrived, 12 years ago, I had the feeling of being at home for the first time in my life. Your billboards are all over the city and they have almost the same aesthetic as advertising – but we don’t really know what they mean because there’s no text to go with them. Now, advertisers want to sell – but what is your agenda? Are you aiming to provide food for thought? That’s exactly the point. At first, people have no idea what these pictures are about. No explanation or solution is offered, like we’re used to with advertising. People have to find their own answers to these pictures. For me art is a dialogue. And as Marcel Duchamp said when he defined art, these two poles, artist and observer are necessary, in order to make something like electricity. This is exactly what’s happening here in Waterford. The people are affected emotionally, they talk about it, they are enthralled or they are outraged and protest. Isn’t that exactly what art should do?

24 TRUCE  – Helnwein –

Ich hatte gar keine Wahl, ich habe mir meine Themen nicht ausgesucht, ich war von Anfang an mitten drin. Sie wurden mir durch meine Umwelt diktiert und die Kunst war für mich einfach der Versuch eines Befreiungsschlages. Sie ist eine Überlebensnotwendigkeit. Auf Themen wie Schmerz, Verletzung und Tod in der Kunst reagieren die Menschen im Allgemeinen sehr empfindlich, aber als Unterhaltung wie zum Beispiel im Film oder in Videogames – können sie gar nicht genug davon kriegen.

pirierend. Ich lasse ihnen die grösstmögliche Freiheit und erkläre nicht viel. Ich verlasse mich auf die Intuition des jeweiligen ­Kindes. So eine Fotosession läuft meistens ab wie ein Spiel und was da entsteht, entwickle ich mit dem Kind gemeinsam. Einige Male hatte ich das Glück, Modelle zu finden, die über eine grosse Ausstrahlung und Reinheit verfügen, mit denen ich dann über mehrere Jahre zusammengearbeitet habe. Eben habe ich wieder so ein Kind gefunden, hier in Waterford. Ihr Name ist Molly, sie ist das 34 Meter hohe « Waterford-Child » auf der Mill. Ihr habe ich das Projekt « The Last Child » gewidmet.

Kommen wir nochmals zurück zu Ihren Modellen. Wie funk­ tioniert das genau wenn Sie eine ‚Session’ durchführen. Haben Sie vorher schon eine genaue V ­ ision wie das Bild aussehen sollte und streckt sich dies über eine längere Zeit hin?

Gehen Sie selber auf die Strasse und fragen die Leute, resp. Die Kinder ob sie gerne Modell stehen möchten?

Das ist meistens ein Prozess über eine längere Zeit. Ich arbeite in der Regel in Zyklen. Mit Kindern zu arbeiten, ist für mich sehr ins-

Ich schaue mich um, im Bekanntenkreis oder auf der Strasse, und dann kommen die Eltern mit ihren Kindern zu mir ins Atelier.

How would you describe yourself. You don’t make a sombre impression on me, in fact the opposite. Does it actually take a good dose of humour to even be able to deal with such dark themes? I had absolutely no choice. I didn’t go looking for my theme; I was in the middle of it right from the beginning. It was ordained by my environment and art was simply my way of trying to break free. It’s necessary for my survival. In general people are very sensitive to themes such as pain, injury and death in art, but when it comes to entertainment, like film or video games, they can’t get enough of it. Let’s come back to the subject of your models. How does it actually work when you conduct a ‹ session ›? Do you have an exact vision in mind of how the picture should look before you start and does it stretch out over a long period of time? It’s usually a process that’s spread out over a longer time. As a rule I work in cycles. For me, working with children is very inspiring. I give them as much freedom as possible and don’t explain a lot. I leave it up to the intuition of the individual child. A photo session usually runs like a game, and the child and I develop what takes place together. Sometimes I’ve had the good luck to find models that have an enormous radiance and purity and I’ve worked together with them over several years.


Modern Sleep 8, 2004, photography 25


TheTRUCE Golden 2, (Marilyn Manson), 2003, photography 26   – Age Helnwein –


Sleep 10, 2004, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 152 × 112 cm 27


« Kunst ist für mich eine Waffe, mit der ich zurückschlagen kann »

Epiphany 28 TRUCEI  (Adoration – Helnwein –of the Magi), 1996, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 210 × 333 cm


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LosTRUCE Caprichos 7, 2006, –mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 100 × 107 cm 30   – Helnwein


« Kunst ist für mich eine Waffe, mit der ich zurückschlagen kann »

I found just such a child here in Waterford. Her name is Molly, she’s the 34-metre high « Waterford Child » on the Mill. I dedicated « The Last Child » project to her.

Do you go out on the streets yourself to ask people, or the children if they would like to model for you?

I look around, among the people I know, or on the streets and then the parents come to my atelier with their children. I do a test session to find out whether it works or not.

With particular regard to your series « The Last Child », the girls all have something androgynous about them. To some extent it is impossible to say whether it’s a girl or a boy … It’s actually completely irrelevant. When my own children were still small I often used them as models, as long as they wanted to do it. My son Ali was the ideal model. He had an unbelievable beauty and because of his long hair was often mistaken for a girl. He looked like an angel made of alabaster. He also had endless patience. My youngest son Amadeus refused to be photographed, but my daughter Mercedes was a very good and interesting model, with a huge talent for drama and pathos. H. C. Artmann once said that she looked like a little Rococo figurine. She had something about her – she was born a noble lady. One day she demanded « I want to live on a planet where only fine ladies live! » When she was asked what should happen to the men she retorted « They should all go to the dirty planet and I want a plane to circle round and round the planet throwing more and more dirt on them! » All four of your children are artists themselves now. To what extent did you encourage them?

In a way I’ve made them my campaign of revenge. I wanted to avenge my own childhood, which was so undignified, uninter-

In einer Probesession kann ich dann herausfinden, ob es funktioniert, oder nicht. Speziell auf Ihre Serie ‹ The Last Child › angesprochen, finde ich, dass diese Mädchen alle ­etwas androgynes besitzen. Man kann teilweise nicht sagen, ob dies ein Junge oder ein Mädchen ist … Das ist ja auch ganz unwesentlich. Als meine eigenen Kinder noch klein waren, habe ich sie häufig als Modelle verwendet, sofern sie Lust dazu hatten. Mein Sohn Ali war das ideale Modell. Er war von einer unglaublichen Schönheit und wurde, auch wegen seiner langen

Haare, oft für ein Mädchen gehalten. Er sah aus wie ein Engel aus Alabaster. Und seine Geduld war unendlich. Mein jüngster Sohn Amadeus hat sich geweigert, fotografiert zu werden, aber meine Tochter Mercedes war ein sehr gutes und interessantes Modell, mit einem grossen Talent für Drama und Pathos. H. C. Artmann hat einmal gesagt, sie sähe aus wie ein Rokoko-Figurinchen. Da war etwas dran, denn Sie war schon eine noble Dame als sie geboren wurde. Eines Tages verlangte sie: « Ich will auf einem Planeten leben, wo nur feine Damen wohnen! » Auf die Frage, was denn mit den Männern geschehen sollte, erwiderte sie: « Die sollen alle auf dem Schmutz-

esting and wretched – and above all plagued by idiotic rules, taboos and feelings of guilt. When I was a child I swore that I would give my own children complete freedom to make their own decisions. Including whether they wanted to go to school or not.

So did you bring your children up in a completely anti-­ authoritarian way?

No – free. The term ‹ anti-authoritarian › comes form the neoMarxist scene and the hippie movement of the 60s. I never saw myself as authority but as an ally. To raise children you don’t need any ideology or psychology, just love and respect. Simply give a child his dignity and strike up a partnership. It’s really very simple. I always imagined roaming through the country with my children in a lawless, conspiratorial sort of band. That’s about what happened. We’ve lived in different parts of the world, all my children have become artists, have different nationalities and although they have children of their own now, we all still live together, like a Sicilian extended family.

« I’m interested in the short phase of childhood when one is not yet ‹ broken › by the process of being brought up» Planeten sein, und ich will, dass ständig ein Flugzeug um diesen Planeten kreist und immer noch mehr Schmutz auf sie abwirft! » Alle Ihre vier Kinder sind heute ebenfalls Künstler, ­inwiefern haben sie das ge­ fördert? Ich habe sie zum Teil meines Rachefeldzuges gemacht. Ich wollte mich für meine eigene Kindheit rächen, die so würdelos, langweilig und erbärmlich war – und vor allem aus schwachsinnigen Regeln, Verboten und Schuldgefühlen bestand. Ich habe mir schon als Kind geschworen, meinen Kindern die vollkommene Freiheit zu geben,

sie selbst entscheiden zu lassen. Auch ob sie in die Schule gehen wollten oder nicht. Haben Sie denn Ihre Kinder ­völlig anti autoritär erzogen? Nein – frei. Der Begriff ‹ antiautoritär › stammt aus der neo-marxistischen Szene und der Hippiebewegung der 60er Jahre. Ich habe mich ja nie als Autorität gesehen, sondern als Verbündeter. Um Kinder aufzuziehen, brauchen sie weder irgendeine Ideologie noch Psychologie, nur Liebe und Respekt. Lassen Sie dem Kind einfach seine Würde und gehen Sie eine Partnerschaft ein. Es ist wirklich ganz einfach.

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« Simply give a child his dignity and strike up a partnership »

Epiphany at the Temple), 1998, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 210 × 310 cm 32 TRUCEIII   – (Presentation Helnwein –


« It’s really very simple. I always imagined roaming through the country with my children in a lawless, conspiratorial sort of band »

Untitled, (Triptychon, Detail) 1995, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 153 × 380 cm 33


« Maybe I suffer from some kind of delusion about justice. I just can’t comprehend how anyone can enjoy being violent towards another person who is totally defenceless » 34 TRUCE  – Helnwein –


In the Heat of the Night, 2000, mixed media (oil & acrylic on canvas), 213 × 305 cm 35


Untitled Disasters 36 TRUCE(The   – Helnwein – of War 13), 2007, mixed media (oil and acrylic) on canvas, 180 × 128 cm


Ich habe mir immer vorgestellt, ich würde zusammen mit meinen Kindern als gesetzlose, verschworene Bande durch die Lande ziehen. ­Ungefähr so ist es dann ja auch gekommen. Wir haben in den verschiedensten Teilen der Welt gelebt, alle meine Kinder sind Künstler ­geworden, haben unterschiedliche Staatsbürgerschaften und obwohl sie nun schon selbst Kinder haben, leben wir immer noch zusammen, wie eine sizilianische Grossfamilie. Gut, aber ich nehme schon an, dass Ihre Kinder die Schule besuchen mussten …? Ich habe ihnen die Entscheidung selbst überlassen. Zu meiner Verblüffung sind sie aber sehr gerne zur Schule gegangen. Es gibt zahlreiche Berühmt­hei­ ten, welche Ihre Kunst intensiv sammeln. Ein sehr begeisterter

Sammler ist Sean Penn, welcher ja auch einen Film über Sie gedreht hat. Inwiefern sind gute Beziehungen zu ‹ Celebrities › in dieser Branche von Vorteil? Es sind meistens Künstler, mit denen ich befreundet bin. Vor allem Künstler, deren Werk mich interessiert. Eigenartiger Weise sind es vor allem Schriftsteller, Leute die mit dem Theater zu tun haben, oder Musiker, wo ich eine bestimmte Nähe und Vertrautheit empfinde, wo sich Freundschaften entwickelt haben. Maler kenne ich nicht so viele. Wie lange sind denn die Wartezeiten für einen Helnwein? Es dauert eigentlich immer länger als geplant. Ich habe eine lange Liste mit Leuten, die ‹ Gott sei Dank ›, ausreichend über die Tugend der Geduld verfügen.

But I assume your children did have to go to school …? I left the decision up to them. To my amazement they all enjoyed going to school. Numerous famous people are intensive collectors of your work. One very enthusiastic collector is Sean Penn, who has also made a film about you. To what extent are good relationships with ‹ celebrities › an advantage in this field? Mostly my friends are other artists – particularly artists whose work interests me. Strangely, it’s mostly with writers, people in the theatre or musicians that I sense this particular closeness and trust and have developed friendships. I don’t know many painters. How long is the wait for a Helnwein? Actually it’s always longer than planned. I have a long list of people, who, thank goodness, are blessed with the virtue of patience.

« Helnwein is one of the few exciting painters we have today » Norman Mailer

About the Artist Gottfried Helnwein was born in Vienna and ranks among the best-known, but also most disputed German-speaking artists after World War II. He studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien). He was awarded the Master-class prize (Meisterschulpreis) of the University of Visual Art, Vienna, the Kardinal-König prize and the Theodor-Körner prize. He has worked as a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, installation- and performance artist, using a wide variety of techniques and media. His early work consists mainly of hyper-realistic watercolors, depicting wounded children, as well as performances – often with children – in public spaces. Helnwein is a conceptual artist, concerned primarily with psychological and sociological anxiety, historical issues and political topics. As a result of this, his work is often considered provocative and controversial.

Gottfried Helnwein is part of a tradition going back to the 18th century, to which Messerschmidt’s grimacing sculptures belong. One sees, too, the common ground of his works with those of Hermann Nitsch and ­Rudolf Schwarzkogler, two other Viennese, who display their own bodies in the frame of reference of injury, pain, and death. One can also see this fascination for body language goes back to the expressive gesture in the work of Egon Schiele. Helnwein’s subject matter involves the complexities of the human condition. His disturbing yet provocative images of physically and emotionally wounded children have been seen as metaphors for larger global issues. He portrays the innocence of adolescence against the backdrop of historical events like the Holocaust to highlight the fragility of humanity in an unstable world.

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38 TRUCE  – Helnwein –


TRUCE Volume V Darkness – absence of light Dear reader

Liebe Leserin, lieber Leser

Et voilà – TRUCE is back with Volume number five. We’re taking a journey into darkness; penetrating the absence   of light – a powerful realm, for which there is no guidebook or map. My own exploration of darkness has had me navi­ gating my apartment with the lights turned off, feeling   my way with outstretched hands like a ghost. What happens to the abundance we are used to in our society when we withdraw into a dark room? What happens as you listen to the sound of your own breathing, eliminate the unimportant, let all diversions fade away and start to concentrate on   what is essential? What does darkness mean to you? Is it an attempt to see something where there is nothing? Is it the deep black hole into which we are catapulted by the loss of   a loved one? Or can the absence of light be enriching?

Et voilà – TRUCE meldet sich mit seinem fünften Volume zu-rück und begibt sich in dunkle Gefilde, wir befassen uns mit der Abwesenheit des Lichts. Ein mächtiges Thema,   für welches es keine Anleitung oder generelle Beschreibung gibt. Ich persönlich geisterte oft in meiner Wohnung herum, schaltete das Licht aus und versuchte zu sehen, zu fühlen,   die Dunkelheit zu spüren. Denn was passiert, wenn man sich in dieser Ueberflussgesellschaft in einen dunklen Raum zurückzieht und nur seinem Atem horcht, alles unwesentliche ausblendet, jegliche Ablenkung eliminiert, sich nur noch   aufs Wesentliche konzentriert? Was bedeutet Dunkelheit für Sie? Ist es der Versuch zu sehen, wo nichts ist. Ist es der Verlust eines geliebten Menschen, der einem in ein Loch der Dunkelheit katapultiert oder kann die Abwesenheit des Lichts gar eine Bereicherung sein?

TRUCE travelled to Ireland and discussed darkness, abuse and violence with Gottfried Helnwein. There is probably   no other artist of his stature whose career has been so pre­ occupied with this topic. On the dark subject of war, the number of US military personnel killed in Iraq amounts to over 4,000 men and women. Of those returning safely home, many suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder – there are definitely no winners in this deadly game. Elisabeth Real,   a young and courageous photojournalist, has spent time among American soldiers and reports back with thoughtprovoking interviews and impressive portraits. In addition to TRUCE Volume V, we’re launching our second book in the TRUCE DIARIES series. This time, our subject   is the legendary Dutch cult band, The Nits. The limited edition hardcover book is available at www.truce.ch or from select-  ­ed good bookstores.

Sincerely,

TRUCE reiste nach Irland und sprach mit Gottfried Helnwein über die Dunkelheit, über Missbrauch und Gewalt. Es gibt wohl kaum einen anderen Künstler von Weltformat, der sich während seiner ganzen Karriere so intensiv mit diesem Thema beschäftigt hat. Die Ziffer der im Irak getöteten US Soldaten beträgt über 4000. Diejenigen, die es einigermassen heil zurückschaffen, leiden meist an posttraumatischen Störungen und sind   bei weitem keine Gewinner in diesem Spiel. Elisabeth Real, eine junge und ambitionierte Fotojournalistin, hat einige   Zeit mit amerikanischen Soldaten verbracht und bringt uns nachdenkliche Interviews sowie beeindruckende Portrai­t­ bilder zurück. Zudem lancieren wir bereits unser zweites Tagebuch   aus der Reihe TRUCE DIARIES. Diesmal mit der legendären holl­ändischen Kultband The Nits. Erwerben Sie diese ­limitierte Edition direkt auf www.truce.ch, oder in guten Buchhandlungen.

Herzlichst,

Stefan Jermann

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TRUCE Volume V

Darkness – absence of light

HELNWEIN AND THE LAST CHILD Interview & Photography ~ Stefan Jermann

William Burroughs said about Helnwein that he is a master of surprised recognition . TRUCE went to Ireland and met up with the Austrian artist at his castle that he calls his home. William Burroughs sagte über Helnwein einmal, er sei ein Meister der überraschenden Wahrnehmung. TRUCE machte sich auf den Weg nach Irland und traf den österreichischen Künstler in seinem Schloss, welches er schon lange sein Eigen nennt.

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AMERICAN DREAMTIME

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FLKR is based on a mood regulator that accesses and manipulates the Pineal Gland-modulating its access to light and creating specific rhythms that regulate your reality. Text ~ Onome Ekeh Illustration ~ Ryan Sanchez

Dunkelheit Darkness

Was ist Dunkelheit? Nach der Logik der Physik meint sie die Abwesenheit von Licht. In der menschlichen Kulturgeschichte aber bedeutet Dunkelheit weitaus mehr. What is darknes? According to the laws of physics , it is the absence of light. But in ­human cultural history, darknes means much more. Text ~ Matthias Fiechter  Art ~ Martin Skauen

_48 WEG ZUM LICHT Willkommen in der Dunkelheit. In diesem unbekannten Universum, voller Lichter, Sterne, völliger Einsamkeit. Willkommen wo alles begann, und wo wir das versteckte Uns erst kennen lernen, jenes, welches still schlummert und beinahe unmerklich seine Stösse von Freude, Liebe, Schmerz und Dunkelheit austeilt, denn Licht blendet uns. Text ~ Reto Bloesch  Art ~ Florian Grimm

40 TRUCE  – Content –

_48


TABLE OF CONTENTS

DES TAGES MÜDE

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Wieso soll denn einer vor dem Tag in die Nacht fliehen? Weil er meint, ihm sei zuviel gegeben worden im Leben. Ein Liebling des Schicksals ist Leander Kish, ob gutes Aussehen, Glück in der Liebe – alles wird ihm in die Wiege gelegt.

MESSENGER FROM THE LAND OF BLACK GOLD Nneka speaks the language of her tribe, talks about sorrow, ­misery and the destruction of life in the pursuit of black gold. Interview ~ Reto Bloesch  Photography ~ Stefan Jermann

Text & Art ~ Flavian Kurth

Guns, A ­drenaline & Beer

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Interview & Photography ~ Elisabeth Real

Behind every soldiers face, there is a human being. What is going on in the minds of those young soldiers who are sent off to the killing fields – and how does their life look like, when they are back home again? The bold and raw truth was captured on tape and film by a very courageous photojournalist.

FEMME FATALE

At once playful, hypersexual and erotic, there is also something darkly engaging in Viveros’s images. While he’ll play up the demon aspects of the Femme Fatale, or the depravity lurking just beneath the surface of the innocent girl, he does so with a sense of awe. Art ~ Brian M. Viveros

_74 L’HEURE BLEUE

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Cet instant «entre chien et loup» où le paysage est plat, exempt de point de fuite, sans aspérités? La nature devient peinture, réduite à deux dimensions. Twilight en plein jour pour une fois de plus déjouer les pièges de l’interpré-tation. Photography ~ Yann Mingard

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This American  Dreamtime is  brought to  TM you by FLKR  I. – Have you done this before?  – You keep asking. What’s it to you?  – Just doing my job. – Whatever.  – So you know this can last up to 16 hours. And it can go horribly, painfully wrong …  – Will you stop! What do we have here? He spreads out an array of small neat translucent envelopes with miniature labels–illustrated to advertise their contents–  a few Neo-noirs (Gotham on Ice, Redlight Soho) stuff you’d do if you were doing the bar pick-up scene for the night … the Blade­runner-esque ones pique my interest (Electric Sheep, Mole­cular Tango) – too edgy; an underwater fantasia (Psyche: ­Seahorse) I’d heard of the series, but maybe too Discovery Channel … A werewolf scenario – scary, I bristle at the thought … – What’s this? – This? This is something I usually don’t have – it’s kind of a bestseller, or so they say … – Really? This?  The label is literally a fairy tale scene: a lit up forest clearing, a thatched cottage made of rosy light interiors cobbled in river brushed stones and winter creepers: a calm blanket of snow plays rhapsody with pine trees and curious fauns peeking into the rose-lit dream of domesticity … Behind and above it all, an insane whirl of sunset. All it was missing was the Christmas card glitter and it pulsated with– – Not something I’d recommend.  – Why? – A) It’s kind of perverse for a beginner and B) It’s kind of perverse, period. – The « Bestseller »? – Also, you know about McKenna’s law of Opiates, Dreams and Hallucinogens? – No. 

42 TRUCE  – American Dreamtime –

Text ~ Onome Ekeh Illustration ~ Ryan Sanchez

– Do the appropriate drug for your surroundings. Go Neo-Noir, Sci-Fi or Light Goth. This stuff is bucolic–and probably not in a good way–not if you’re in an urban environment. – Sounds crazy. I’ll take it.   – Are you sure? It doesn’t seem that compatible. – Oh please,  I peruse the label again, the title is enough to dissuade me from backing off: « Home With the Kinkade’s For Christmas? » That is perverse! Thanks Doc, I’ll take one.

II.

A Brief History

« Cinema is truth at 24 frames per second » At the end of the last millennium, CINEMAX a cable TV entertainment company, went pharmaceutical with a new discovery that single-handedly dismantled the future of the entertainment industry. The pheromonal patch, FLKRTM was first introduced as a group therapy tool for schizophrenics, but gained widespread recreational use when the FDA, in some bizarre and probably unmonitored instance, approved it for over-thecounter use. FLKRTM is based on a mood regulator that accesses and manipulates the Pineal Gland–modulating its access to light and creating specific rhythms that regulate your reality. FLKRTM is an internal magic lantern generating the speed of life.  You may recall, Original Sin was velocity based: mankind fell, and thus ever since, it is speed that has determined the tenor of life – speed things up and we have the early comedy of Chaplin and Keaton becomes apparent, slow the same sequence down and discover the tragedy in things … An unexpected cocktail of fast and slow makes for dramedy, and so on. Human perception is always a matter of speed. Consider FLKRTM as the DJ who remixes your neo-cortex, thanks to nano-cocktails, FLKRTM gets specific on pheromonal levels. Better still,


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each FLKRTM experience is like a snowflake, one of a kind, ­never to be replicated. Herein lies the genius: FLKRTM access those parts of the cortex that traffic in childhood memories and associations. With FLKRTM, it was all in your head to begin with.

III. I lied, This was my first time on the patch. The first time I was able to afford it. My curiosity quickly dwindles into anxiety as the room begins to pulsate gently, then aggressively. My companion fluctuates in a sensory swirl of black wipes, white-outs: there/not there … – You all right, kid? I witness him morph into a kindly wizard, a Wonderful Wizard of Oz …  BLACK / WIPE / HERE / NOT / THERE  A blow to the head and the scene pulsates with … COLOR. LIGHT. PASTEL. PEPPERMINT. LAVENDER. Snowflake intersect … The wizard is static, of course – only a painting! – Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid awwwwwwwwwwwwwrrriiight????????  I’m fine. Scent of warm cinnamon wafts through, an electric phase signal on my tongue tells me mother is in the kitchen baking. In another room strains of The Little Drummer Boy escape into the swirl of color, it is almost slowed down by the color saturation. Not so much the way I remember it. It must be Christmas. Elsewhere, a conversation continues with the wizard. Elsewhere I note I have opened the gateway to schizophrenia, but who cares? Snowflakes intersect and tickle. The waft of Christmas cookies swirling into a world of neon brights, softening into saturated pastels. The Mystical Letter N levitates before me, then disappears into a camouflage of surprise wood panelling. N is for NAUSEA. Everything from my stomach, comes up to my head. In other realities, the Wizard speaks in splinters, they aggregate into: « Rough Patch. » But you didn’t hear that from me. 

IV.

The Best Seller At Home With the Kinkade’s for Christmas, released in 2001, became one of FLKR’s best selling holiday patches – it by far out trumped the Norman Rockwell series – which became surprise Art House favorites, perhaps because in their Frank Capra-ness, they invoked Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy – but really Jimmy Stewart, figure-head of right thinking American

44 TRUCE  – American Dreamtime –

Masculinity – who smoked Marlboros and slyly did double duty in the shadow worlds of European directors like Hitchcock and Preminger. Thus the « Rockwells » became Hitchcock-ian by default. On the other hand, the Kinkade series, licensed by FLKRTM, based on the works of late 20th century American artist, Thomas Kinkade, a self-proclaimed « painter of light », were immediately dismissed by the intelligentsia as kitsch, but were instant mainstream hits. What no one predicted was the series underground appeal: the Kinkade’s with their play on American Fantasia, in some distant time outside of time, were exactly what some philosopher had termed « machines that suppressed time ». This was the « Once Upon A Time » of fairytales. This was America’s own custom-fitted dreamtime.

V. The Shrink asks me to lie down: Tell me about your obsession with Snow White. – How did I get here? – I was hoping you might tell me. What is it about Snow White that appeals to you?  – It doesn’t. – Then why are you here?  – Are you part of my hallucination? With this sliver of awareness the faux-shrink disintegrates, leaving me in Snow White’s Cottage. (But isn’t this my living room?). The walls are giving way to saturated pastels pulsating light. I remember what fascinated me about Snow White – she was like Goldilocks, but with dark hair, wandering into a cosy cottage, but never to wander out. Never to wander out. Never to wander out. I begin to spasm as the Mysterious Letter N hangs in the air, flashing then disappearing into the cosy ambiance. Then flashes again. N is for NEVER. 

VI.

Label Warning Label Warning: FLKRTM and PERSPEKTV may cause any of and all of the following symptoms – epilepsy, convulsions, heart attacks – temporary blindness, insomnia, synaesthesia, loss of balance, temporary deafness, temporary schizophrenia, nausea, vomiting, amnesia, drowsiness, rash, dementia and may irritate eyes. FLKRTM IS NOT RECOMMENDED for pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with a history of depression, epileptics, asthmatics, people with stress related disorders, people with a history of violence, lack of self control and diabetics. IT IS NOT ADVISABLE to mix FLKRTM or PERSPEKTV with any medications, narcotics, opiates or alcohol. FLKRTM and PERSPEKTV SHOULD NOT TO BE USED while driving or operating heavy machinery. Maybe harmful if swallowed.


KEEP OUT of reach of children and household pets. FLKRTM is for entertainment purposes only. Please consult your physician before use.

VII. NEVERREVENNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E RV N E V E RVVV N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER  NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEV ER EV ER N E VE R N E V E R VER NE V E N EVE N E V ER N E R V E N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R N E V E R R N E V E  R NEVERREVEN REVENEVENEVER E V E R N E R V E V E N E E R   EVEVEEREVENR N E V E R

VIII.

American Dreamtime – How Does FLKRTM Work?

IX. Something/someone enters the room. A small bundle of malevolence. Dwarves are here? They find Snow White sprawled on the floor. They suspect she is a victim of American Dreamtime and/or the Mysterious Letter N. N can be for NIGHTMARE. Either way, there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s a Bad Patch and she has to ride it out.

X.

Product Placement It wasn’t too long after the advent of PERSPEKTV and FLKRTM that the world of advertising attempted to insert itself into this new internal mode of communication. It’s intrusion was subtle: real world advertising began to focus on archetypal images absorbed unconsciously, but triggered into meaningful experience withe the help of FLKRTM. The FDA proposition to regulate advertising in FLKRTM was mostly brought on, not unsurprisingly, by Thomas Kinkade’s blatant Disney product placements in his « patchworks. » Disney had commissioned Kinkade to commemorate it’s 50th anniversary with a Snow White scenario of the fairytale heroine happening upon the dwarves cottage in the forest. To boost sales, this Snow White Scenario imposed itself in all Kinkade related patchworks regardless of theme.

(From the FLKRpedia) From the cave drawings of ancient Lascaux to the latest strides in pharmaceuticals, light modulation has played a role in the animation of human perception. The so-called « Third Eye » or the the human pineal gland is operated on an available light basis and thus regulates our dream sequences – awake or asleep. FLKRTM often referred to as American Dreamtime, especially since it functions as a waking trance, is an alchemy of light regulating neurotransmitters and customized circadian beats. This circadian rhythm is programmed with the use of a morse code sequence of light and darkness which for significant stretches of time can overtake the users own in-house bio-rhythms and superimpose a subjective sensory experience alien to the user’s psyche. This can last from a few hours to almost 20 – depending on a myriad of factors such as affinity, resistance, openness …

This was just the tip of the iceberg: more unsettling were the appearances of Jesus in the Kinkade schema. Many claimed  to have met the Christ while under the influence of FLKRTM, some even went as far as experiencing religious conversions thanks to meeting Jesus in Kinkadia. It was this part that drew fire from Evangelical communities across the USA. At first ­there was nation-wide euphoria at the prospect of meeting their Lord and Saviour, then the more circumspect views kicked in: not only were the these Jesus sightings encouraging drug use: the main charge leveled against Kinkade was that  his faux religious confections could only be in service of now fallen Angel of Light–Lucifer: for he was producing exactly  the sort of « false Christ », that Christ himself had warned of in the bible.

Originally developed for psychotherapy sessions, the patch fell out of use within medical communities. It was suspected (but never proven) to provide potential gateways to dementia and schizophrenia. Indeed when this American Dreamtime oft times operates as a nightmare: in cases where there is intrinsic ideological resistance in which several hours of a subjects’ experience can be characterized as a « bad patch » or a « rough patch ».

In the controversial « The Church vs. FLKRTM » case, the FDA and the Supreme Court were forced to confront the manufacture of religious experience as product placement. Their rulings would have caused disruptions in realtime and altered religious institutions status as not-for-profit entities. In the end it was pressure from various Christian communities and not the courts (the case was suspended indefinitely) or the FDA that forced Kinkade to take Jesus off the table.

45


XI. It’s a Bad Patch. I have to ride it out. 

XII.

Personal Appearances If advertising and product placement in FLKRTM were now under control, there were no restrictions on « personal appearances. » In fact Kinkade (and a few others) argued it was their right as artists to insert themselves into their work. Most disturbing is Kinkade’s « how » of insertion, it is unproven, but rumor has it that his propensity in realtime for « territorial pissing » spilled over into his patchworks: traces of his bodily waste fluids are supposedly mixed into the patchworks – to give a personal flavor. Naturally the FDA would never approve such methods. Kinkade is known to appear mostly as a benign jolly psychopomp in Kinkadia, the friendly postman, the kindly uncle, the pipe smoking psychotherapist … However there were increasing reports of « rough patches » in which he would manifest as gaggle of foul-mouthed cigar smoking imps; a randy dwarf; a horny devil – always lurking in the crevices of the shadows that made the light so surreal … More esoteric was the Mysterious Letter N – often interpreted as N for Netherworld. Negativity. Nightmare … The presence of the Letter N is the underbelly of American Dreamtime, it’s darkside. It’s horror is said to be palpable, but its appearances cannot be described without further descent into psychoses. Kinkade categorically denies any sinister function of the Mysterious Letter N. The N exists, he claims, as a tribute to his wife, Nanette.

XIII. – Tell me about your fascination with Snow White. – I told you: I’m not!  – Then why are you here?  – Are you supposed to be my shrink? I wait, this time the hallucination lingers, not falling for the same trick as before. It was like a self-improving virus, eventually the antibiotics stopped working. I employ another tack: – The Black Civil Rights mantra, « I am Black and Beautiful », is a latter day translation of the Bible’s Song of Solomon, where his love interest, the Shulamite states: « I am dark, but ­comely ». There is no response, a strong sensation hits my nose: ammonia.

46 TRUCE  – American Dreamtime –

I am lying in a stinking crevice of darkness, a blackhole. Far off are the unattainable swirls of light ominous light curtain, hiding in their folds the Mysterious Letter N. I recall Anselm Kiefer’s painting, Shulamite a vast holocaust memorial of dark oven bricks and gold straws like golden hairs like goldilocks … Dark brooding with glimmers of salvation lodged in speckles of paint. HEY! The psycho therapist(?) interrupts my train of thought – Hey! You’re losing the picture. This is KINKADIA. Ditch the Shulamite. – All of this spelled out in smoke.

XIV.

The Mysterious Letter N In the Book of Esther, in the Old Testament, the Hebrews are saved from a holocaust thanks to the interventions of a former beauty queen turned wife and concubine of the ruler. With all the near-death swipes and misses and the miraculous denouement, not once is God mentioned in this book. Or so it seems. The letters YHWH are not readily apparent, unless one reads the Hebrew verses like an acrostic–diagonally, with the first letter of each line – then the hidden name of G_d appears. It would seem Thomas Kinkade had something similar in mind with his work: N is for Nanette, but also for Netherworld, Nothingness and No.

XV.

« This is the right picture. This is Kinkadia. This is built from my own sweat (and piss). This is American Dreamtime »

The darkness pixilates, fluctuates.  Blink and N is for NASTY. Why can’t it be for NICE? I understand immediately the meaning of painting light: darkness is required, and things or people to shove into it. Sensory assault: cinnamon cookies baking in the oven; the Shulamite baking in the oven; the hidden name of K_NK_D hanging over head; shock ammonia wafting above. A rough patch. How many hours, years, aeons till the NIGHTMARE ends. N is for so many things, sit here with me and we will reverse its mysteries.  

 Onome Ekeh lives in Brooklyn, NYC and has been known to do her own dental work. She is currently working on her film script «The Curiously Dressed Gentleman».  Ryan Sanchez currently lives in Savannah, Georgia USA with his lovely wife, Heidi; their English bulldog, Abbey; and their 2 rabbits, Portia and Sebastian. He has been painting for clients and galleries for 9 years. A better part of his day is spent planning to take over the world.


Art|Basel|Miami Beach 4–7|Dec|08 Art Galleries | A | 303 Gallery New York | Acquavella New York | Adler & Conkright New York | Air de Paris Paris | Aizpuru Madrid | Alexander New York | Alexander and Bonin New York | de Alvear Madrid | Ameringer & Yohe New York | The Approach London | Arndt & Partner Berlin, Zürich | B | Benzacar Buenos Aires | Berggruen San Francisco | Bernier/Eliades Athens | Blum & Poe Los Angeles | Bonakdar New York | Boone New York | Borch Jensen Berlin, Copenhagen | Brito Cimino São Paulo | Brown New York | Buchholz Köln | C | c/o – Gerhardsen Berlin, Oslo | Campaña Köln, Berlin | Capitain Köln | Carberry Chicago | carlier gebauer Berlin | Cheim & Read New York | Cohan New York | Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin | Continua San Gimignano, Beijing, Le Moulin | Cooper New York | CRG New York | Crousel Paris | D | D’Amelio Terras New York | Dane London | De Carlo Milano | Deitch New York | E | Eigen + Art Berlin, Leipzig | Fischer Düsseldor f, Berlin | F | Foksal Warsaw | Fontana Milano, Pasadena | Fortes Vilaça São Paulo | Fraenkel San Francisco | Freeman New York | Friedman London | G | Gagosian New York, Beverly Hills, London, Rome | Gemini Los Angeles | Gladstone New York | Gmurzynska Zürich, Zug, St. Moritz | González Madrid | Goodman Marian New York, Paris | Grässlin Frankfurt/Main | Gray Chicago, New York | Greenberg Howard New York | Greenberg van Doren New York | Greene Naftali New York | Greve St. Moritz, Köln, Paris | Guerra Lisboa | H | Haas & Fuchs Berlin | Hauser & Wirth Zürich, London | Hetzler Berlin | Hopkins Custot Paris | Houk New York | Hufkens Bruxelles | J | Jablonka Köln, Berlin | Juda London | K | Kaplan New York | Kasmin New York | Kaufmann Milano | Kelly New York | Kern New York | Kewenig Köln, Palma de Mallorca | Kicken Berlin Berlin | Kilchmann Zürich | Klosterfelde Berlin | Knoedler New York | König Johann Berlin | Koroneou Athens | Koyama Tokyo | Krinzinger Wien | Krugier Genève, New York | Kukje Seoul, New York | kurimanzutto México D.F. | L | L & M New York | Lambert Paris, New York | Landau Montreal | Leavin Los Angeles | Lehmann Maupin New York | Lelong Paris, New York, Zürich | Lisson London | Luhring Augustine New York | M | Mai 36 Zürich | Marconi Milano | Marks New York | Marlborough New York, London, Madrid, Monte Carlo | Martin New York | Mathes New York | Mayer Düsseldorf | McKee New York | Meier San Francisco | Metro Pictures New York | Meyer Riegger Karlsruhe | Millan São Paulo | Miller Robert New York | Miro London | Mitchell-Innes & Nash New York | Modern Art London | Modern Institute Glasgow | Moeller New York | Munro Hamburg | N | nächst St. Stephan Wien | Nagel Köln, Berlin | Nahmad Helly New York | Naumann New York | Nelson-Freeman Paris | Neu Berlin | neugerriemschneider Berlin | Nitsch New York | Noero Torino | Nolan New York | Nordenhake Berlin, Stockholm | O | OMR México D.F. | P | PaceWildenstein New York | Painter Santa Monica | Paley London | Paragon London | Parkett Zürich, New York | Perrotin Paris, Miami | Petzel New York | Polígrafa Barcelona | Presenhuber Zürich | The Project New York | R | Rech Paris, Bruxelles | Regen Projects Los Angeles | Reynolds London | Roberts & Tilton Los Angeles | Ropac Salzburg, Paris | Rosen New York | Rosenfeld Michael New York | S | Scheibler Berlin | Schipper Berlin | Shainman New York | ShanghArt Beijing, Shanghai | Sikkema Jenkins New York | Skarstedt New York | Snitzer Miami | Sonnabend New York | Sperone Westwater New York | Sprüth Magers Köln, München, London | Stein Milano | Stone New York | Strina São Paulo | T | Team New York | Thomas München | Tilton New York | Two Palms New York | V | Van de Weghe New York | van Orsouw Zürich | W | Waddington London | Washburn New York | Weber Jamileh Zürich | Werner New York, Köln, Berlin | White Cube London | Y | Young Chicago | Z | Zeno X Antwerpen | Zwirner New York | Zwirner & Wirth New York Art Nova | A Gentil Carioca Rio de Janeiro | Alcuadrado Bogotá | Baudach Berlin | Bortolami New York | BQ Köln | Bruk Miami | Casa Triãngulo São Paulo | Cera Lisboa | China Art Objects Los Angeles | Cobo Madrid | Corvi-Mora London | Engholm Engelhorn Wien | Feuer New York | Freedman Carl London | Galerist Istanbul | gb agency Paris | Gelink Amsterdam | Gray Alexander New York | Guenther Hamburg | Guerrero México D.F. | Harris Lieberman New York | Herald St London | Hotel London | Janda Wien | Kerlin Dublin | Kordansky Los Angeles | Kreps New York | Krobath Wimmer Wien | MacGarry London | Meile Luzern, Beijing | mennour Paris | Mezzanin Wien | Nature Morte/Bose Pacia New Delhi, New York | Nourbakhsch Berlin | Peres Projects Los Angeles, Berlin | Podnar Ljubljana, Berlin | Projectesd Barcelona | Razuk São Paulo | Reena Spaulings New York | Roesler São Paulo | Salon 94 New York | Senn Wien | Sfeir-Semler Hamburg, Beirut | Shugoarts Tokyo | Sies + Höke Düsseldorf | Sommer Tel Aviv | Taka Ishii Tokyo | Taxter & Spengemann New York | Thumm Berlin | Vermelho São Paulo | Vielmetter Los Angeles/Culver City, Berlin | Vilma Gold London | Vitamin Guangzhou | Wallner Copenhagen | Wiesehöfer Köln | Wolff Paris | XL Moscow | Zero Milano Art Supernova | Abreu New York | Art : Concept Paris | Breeder Athens | de Bruijne Amsterdam | Casas Riegner Bogota | Chemould Mumbai | Cherry and Martin Los Angeles | Connelly New York | Gavlak West Palm Beach | Kamm Berlin | Lawrence Vancouver | Nogueras Blanchard Barcelona | Pérez de Albéniz Pamplona | Raster Warszawa | Regina Moscow | Ske Bangalore | Staerk Copenhagen | Sutton Lane London | Third Line Dubai | Wien Berlin Art Positions | Andersen_S Copenhagen | Blow 111 London | Broadway 1602 New York | Castillo Miami | Dallas Glasgow | Díaz Madrid | Huber Wien | Kadel Karlsruhe | Mary Mary Glasgow | Monclova México D.F. | Newman Popiashvili New York | Redling Los Angeles | Reich New York | Renwick New York | Rivington Arms New York | Soffiantino Torino | Standard (Oslo) Oslo | T293 Napoli | Turner Los Angeles | Winkeler Frankfurt/Main | Index July 2008 Art Kabinett | Art Projects | Art Video Lounge | Art Sound Lounge | Art Perform | Art Basel Conversations every morning Vernissage | December 3, 2008 | by invitation only Catalog order: Phone +49/711-44 05 204, Fax +49/711-44 05 220, www.artbook.com The International Art Show – La Exposición Internacional de Arte Art Basel Miami Beach, MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., Messeplatz 10, CH-4058 Basel Fax +41/58-206 31 32, miamibeach@artbasel.com, www.artbasel.com

m

u


Der Weg zum Licht beginnt in der ­Dunkelheit – vom Mensch, der Schlange und anderen Wundern Text ~ Reto Bloesch  Illustration ~ Florian Grimm

48 TRUCE  – Weg zum Licht –


Erst die Dunkelheit hat Licht in meine Welt gebracht, hat mir einen Weg gezeigt. Zu schnell gelebt, zu schnell geglaubt und verführt, lauten Worten gehorcht, falschen Versprechen gefolgt, mit Schmerzen abgestürzt. Dies alles brachte mich zurück zu mir, abgetaucht in Ruhe und Dunkelheit, den Ängsten getrotzt, wirren Stimmen entflohen, Gedanken abgestellt, mein Ich wieder gefunden. Es ist viel mehr sehen als wir sehen nennen, sehen kennen. Es ist sehen wo es kein Licht gibt, sehen durch diese unheimlichen Lichtkugeln welche schweben durch Gedanken, durch Träume und diesen unendlichen freien Raum, wie Schneefall, vom Boden gegen Himmel, farbige Flocken, anders sehen, irgendwie. Denn sehen ist nicht gleich Auge, hinter dem Sehen stecken vielmehr ganze Welten, versteckte, rätselhafte Welten. Immer weiter entfernen sich diese von unserer Wahrnehmung, weil der Mensch, abgelenkt durch Lärm und Leben und Licht nicht mehr den Willen, die Energie und die Ruhe findet um wirklich zu sehen, mit dem inneren, dem dritten oder ohne Augen. Willkommen also in der Dunkelheit. In diesem unbekannten Universum, voller Lichter, Sterne, völliger Einsamkeit. Willkommen wo alles begann, und wo wir das versteckte Uns erst kennen lernen, jenes, welches still schlummert und beinahe unmerklich seine Stösse von Freude, Liebe, Schmerz und Dunkelheit austeilt, denn Licht blendet uns. Was ist schlussendlich der stärkere Verführer, das Auge oder der Gedanke. Es sind beide, die uns ständig eine Welt vorsetzen, an die wir so fest glauben wollen. Das Auge, klar, durch all die Reize, welche uns diese Welt und die Menschen bieten, und welche das Auge mit Freude aufsaugt und zu farbigen, leichten Bildern verarbeitet. Ein Leichtes ist es für das Hirn und überhaupt den Menschen, durch das Auge zu funktionieren, es wird ihm eine Welt geboten, er muss nichts dafür tun. Der Gedanken auch, verführt uns ganz dezent in eine Welt, die wir uns selbst einreden. In einem einsamen Moment ist es einfacher, sich in Selbstgespräche zu vertiefen als sich dem Unbekannten, stillen, dunklen zu öffnen und Neues zu erfahren, zu fühlen. Der ständige Gedanke führt uns fort von der Wirklichkeit, fort von der Realität in unsere so geordnete Welt, an die wir glauben wollen. In der Dunkelheit versagt das menschliche Auge, in der Einkehr versagt der Gedanke, weil er abgestellt wird. Meditation.

Dunkelheit, für andere Lebewesen der Moment um aktiv zu werden. Wenn die Welt ruht, der Mensch schläft, der Mond über die Welt herrscht und Licht schenkt. Dies ist jener Moment, in welchem die Schlange und auch Fledermäuse sich auf den Weg machen, getrieben und verzaubert von der Ruhe der Nacht. Und Spinnen natürlich. Denn diese Lebewesen sind in der Dunkelheit zuhause. Wohl auch deshalb reagiert der Mensch sehr speziell und, je nach Kultur, sehr verschieden auf diese Tiere – mit Angst, Vergötterung und Mystifizierung. Der Unterschied zum Menschen ist einfach: Schlangen sehen Infrarot, beeindruckend schräg, Fledermäuse funktionieren mit Ultraschallortung, will heissen voll kontrollierte Flugbahn auf der nächtlichen Jagd. Die Spinne hat Ultraviolett-Rezeptoren, manche jedenfalls, und was haben wir …? Fotorezeptoren natürlich, auch das nicht schlecht, und darum sehen wir vor allem bei Sonnenlicht. So unterscheidet man in der Netzhaut des menschlichen Auges zwischen zwei Typen von Fotorezeptoren: Stäbchen und Zapfen. Die menschliche Netzhaut enthält etwa 120–130 Millionen Stäbchen. Sie ermöglichen das Hell-Dunkel-Sehen. Die etwa 6 Millionen Zapfen dienen dem Sehen bei Tageslicht und der Farberkennung. Daher, Licht beruhigt extrem, natürlich, es nimmt diese Angst vor dem Unbekannten, welches so nicht in den Alltag des Menschen passt. Doch der Alltag ist eine andere Geschichte. Darum zurück zum Anfang, wo irgendwie erst alles begann für mich, das Ende der Realität, des Alltags, dieses menschlichen Irrtums. Es gab in dieser hektischen Zeit nur noch diese unglaublich langen, ermüdenden Tage, durchzogen von Lügen und Kälte. Ich wusste es ist das Ende, betäubte mich, ohne jegliche Vernunft, ohne jegliche Wahrheit. Meine Welt drehte sich zu schnell, zu viele Leute mit zu grossen Erwartungen, eine kleine Nummer im Rad der Zeit, am rennen, schwitzen, der Rhythmus der modernen Welt, laute Worte, kein Schlaf, Tabletten, Alkohol, immer wieder, immer mehr. Die Nächte mit den Jungs, verloren, verrückt versoffen, die Bahnen im Hirn leiteten um, viel zu weit. Es musste irgendwann das Ende kommen. Es gab zwei Möglichkeiten, Flucht oder Leiden. Ich entschied mich für den Weg des grössten Widerstandes, den Weg den niemand mehr sich getraut zu gehen. Ich musste dem Lärm einer sehr lauten Welt entfliehen, den Lichtern der modernen Welt, all den Worten dieser Menschen, dem Schein.

49


Wie auch immer, ich war raus. Dieser Schritt bedingt die Aufgabe des momentanen Selbst, das Einstellen der Sinne, die Abschottung gegen die Aussenwelt, das Verlassen der Vernunft. Es bedingt die Einkehr, die Heimkehr, das Auslöschen des Alltages, das Entdecken der Wirklichkeit, zurückgestuft auf das Wesentliche, erst die Dunkelheit, den Gedanken, dann die Angst, dann die Ruhe, dann den Atem, dann die Leere, dann das innere Licht, dann das Selbst. Denn was ist Sehen für uns Menschen geworden. Ist es tatsächlich nur noch das eindimensionale Sehen mit dem Auge, das Wahrnehmen dieser Welt, wie sie uns gelehrt wurde, wie sie sich uns täglich bei bestem Licht präsentiert. Oder versteckt sich irgendwo in uns immer noch das Sehen, wie es alte Völker interpretiert haben. Das Sehen durch den Geist, den Willen, das Fühlen. Sehen was wirklich existiert, in der Dunkelheit, hinter dem Licht, versteckt hinter der Fassade unserer logischen Welt. So dass wir auch am Tage blind sind und erst dann beginnen zu sehen, wenn uns die Träume entführen und die Nacht beleuchten. Wenn Schlangen und Spinnen und alle anderen Nachttiere durch unsere Welt schleichen und krabbeln und uns die Geschichten der Unterwelt, der anderen Realität zuflüstern. Ich war also weg. Geflüchtet in die Einsamkeit, die Dunkelheit. Plötzlich, von gestern auf heute, habe ich der bekannten Welt den Rücken gekehrt. Die Bilder und der Lärm mussten gelöscht werden, mussten etwas anderem Platz machen, diesem Besonderen das ich bisher nicht kannte. Ich zog mich also zurück, verdunkelte, blieb mit mir und der Welt alleine. Für einmal steckte nicht, wie allzu oft, die geliebte Liebe dahinter. Die Liebe, welche plötzlich, durch eine ungeahnte Explosion das schwarze Loch entstehen lassen kann, welches uns unerbittlich anzieht und aufsaugt und wieder rausschmeisst, wo das nächste schwarze Loch mit Freude auf Selbstzweifel und farbige Erinnerungen wartet, dich wieder aufsaugt, durchwirbelt, Tage, Jahre, und wieder rausschmeisst, die Liebe eben. Nein, es war ganz anders und seltsam schwierig, den Ausstieg zu finden. Es ist, dass unsere Welt verloren ins Nichts steuert. Der Alltag wurde immer schneller, das Müssen und Sollen, die Befehle und Anforderungen und Erwartungen, das seltsam drehende Rad unserer Gesellschaft. Natürlich, man kann mit-

50 TRUCE  – Weg zum Licht –

spielen, eine Zeit lang, Seele und Sehnsüchte und Träume ausblenden. Man kann machen und liefern und produzieren, kann alle zufrieden stellen, den Chef, den zweiten Chef, den Experten, den Studierten, den Direktor, den Präsidenten, alle so wichtigen Leute. Bestimmt, man kann zuhören wie schön, wichtig und mächtig diese Person ist, wie wichtig der Besitz von diesem oder jenem, wer wen kennt und wer mit wem was macht und wer hinter dem Rücken von wem und überhaupt … Man kann mitspielen, denn mehr als ein Spiel ist es nie. Und doch, irgendwann funktionierst du nur noch, damit du die Übersicht behältst, damit das Rad dich nicht auswirft und  sie sich alle auf dich stürzen und dich zerfleischen. Irgendwann ist der Geist weg, die Seele schmutzig, die Gedanken ein kranker Patient. Irgendwann war es ein langer Tag, eine verrückte Nacht zuviel. Irgendwann spuckte mich diese so schnelle Welt aus. Zurück in meine abgedunkelte Hütte, wo sich ein Verlorener finden will. Sitzen und die Ruhe leben, die einzige Möglichkeit, akzeptieren, sein und atmen. Sinne erleben, leben. Dunkelheit, Einsamkeit, Ruhe. Irgendwann ist die Zeit nichts mehr, kein Inhalt, keine Realität, nichts. Irgendwann wird Fühlen alles, die Sinne, der Instinkt. Irgendwann ist all dies nichts mehr, laute Worte, die Welt, die Menschen, irgendwann bist nur noch du und du selbst und alle Welten welche dieses Du umschliesst und zulässt, leben und erzählen lässt, irgendwann. «Die das Dunkel nicht fühlen, werden das Licht nie sehen» habe ich mal gelesen, und natürlich war dieser Satz überhaupt alle Motivation. Ich will ja doch leben und erleben und erfahren und zwar alle Welten und Farben, Gefühle und Gewitter. Deshalb also der Weg aus dem Licht in das Nichts, das wundervolle Nichts, wie sich später herausstellte, wundervoll. «Ich bin leicht wie eine Feder, bin Nacht, bin ich? Unglaublich, all die Welten wir missen, warum nur. Dies ist die absolute Ruhe. Plötzlich wird alles ganz anders. Plötzlich ist alles nah, was nie war. Plötzlich stellt das Licht keine Herausforderung mehr dar», hab ich damals auf einen Zettel geschrieben. Es brannten natürlich Kerzen, viele Kerzen, so muss es doch sein. Ihr könntet nun eigentlich denken ich sei verrückt, und habt wohl nicht ganz unrecht. Oder noch besser, ich sei auf Drogen und verliere mich auf farbigen Flügen.


Doch dem ist fast keineswegs so, es ist nur die Aussenwelt, welche ich ausschliesse, und dies alleine hat solche Auswirkungen, na also, wie verrückt ist vielleicht diese Welt. Doch Verrücktheit ist ein anderes Thema, Drogen vielleicht auch. «Ich bin angekommen im Nichts. Was ich auch mache, es hat keine Bedeutung, es sei denn ich kümmere mich um meinen Geist. Nur dieser lebt alle Welten, nur dieser führt mich direkt in die Tiefe oder die Höhe des Seins, dieser lässt mich lachen und zeigt Bilder, unaufhörlich. Ich bin nackt und nichts. Nur die Spinnen sehen im Dunkeln …» Nicht nur die Spinnen, wie wir inzwischen wissen, aber wie auch immer, dies war ein zweiter Zettel. Grundlage der Dunkelheit ist für die meisten Menschen ­natürlich die Nacht. Dann, wenn beim Menschen das skoto­ pische Sehen eintritt, mit anderen Worten das Schwarz-Weiss sehen. Dann, wenn sich die Welt für den Menschen ein bisschen ruhiger zu drehen beginnt. Denn früher ging man mit  der untergehenden Sonne schlafen. Heute sieht man von lauter Lichtern die Sterne nicht mehr. Aber auch dies ist eine Geschichte für sich. Irgendwann bist du reduziert auf deine Wahrheit, das innere Auge, all die Welten die nicht mehr existieren dürfen und sich plötzlich gross und leuchtend entfalten. Irgendwann in dieser Dunkelheit und völligen Ruhe wirst du erfahren, dass vieles eine Lüge war, dass das Auge täuscht, der Gedanke das Wahre verstümmelt, die Welt zu laut und zu schnell geworden ist.

­Irgendwann ist alles reduziert auf dein Vertrauen in dich, dass alles Leben in dir existiert, alle Welten und Wunder. Irgendwann wird diese Suche dir Recht geben, denn wie sonst können wir das Leben erfüllen, wie sonst den Geist reparieren, wie sonst dem grossen und finalen Schmerz entgehen, wenn die Einsicht der Wahrheit dich einholt, eines Tages, vielleicht viel zu spät, vielleicht zu schmerzhaft, vielleicht nie. «Ich glaube, ich habe nun das Schweben erreicht, diese Leere, diese fernen Stimmen und Klänge und Farben. Bewegung ist Nichts, sprechen ist Nichts, essen ist Nichts, die Zeit ist schon lange Nichts mehr. Ist dies der Zeitpunkt des Verrücktwerdens, treibe ich nun in seltsamen Bildern, oder ist dies einfach der Moment, diesen Moment den ich suche, weil ich bin … ganz und gar leicht … warum das alles da draussen … warum sprechen alle dauernd und laut und alle gleichzeitig … warum wollen alle Schein sein … warum sollte jemand mein sein … es ist alles nur wenn man wirklich ist … es gibt nichts ausser dein Sein … dein Geist, Freiheit, frei sein.»

Reto «Zhege» Bloesch verschlägts in dieser Welt zwar manchmal die Sprache, was bleibt ist das stille Wort. Wichtig ist der Blick dorthin wo kein Licht herrscht, diejenigen sprechen lassen die vergessen werden, an das glauben, was niemand mehr glauben will. Das Wort ist rein, ehrlich und mein. Florian Grimm ist Grafiker und visueller Künstler aus Biel/Schweiz. Abstrakte Linien formen seine Bilder-Welten, seine Figuren sind Spiegelbild der modernen Verrücktheit. Das Design ist seine Leidenschaft.

« Und in den dunklen Nächten fällt die ­schwere Erde aus ­allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit » Rainer Maria Rilke

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Spurensuche in der Dunkelheit

Was ist Dunkelheit? Nach der Logik der Physik meint sie die Abwesenheit von Licht. In der menschlichen Kulturgeschichte aber bedeutet Dunkelheit weitaus mehr. Sie steht am Anfang unserer grossen Schöpfungsmythen lichtlos als Metapher für das Nichts, sie ist als Nacht die Mutter und Gegenspielerin des Tages; repräsentiert das Ungreifbare, ­Unverständliche und oft das Fürchterliche, das ­unsere Existenz stets begleitet. Truce nimmt die Spur einer grossen Unbekannten auf und folgt ihr auf einigen der zahllosen ­Etappen ihres Weges durch das menschliche Denken und ­Schaffen.

Text ~ Matthias Fiechter  Art ~ Martin Skauen

Looking for tracks in the darkness

What is darkness? According to the laws of physics, it is the absence of light. But in human cultural history, darkness means much more. It is there at the beginning of our great myths of creation: darkness as a metaphor for nothingness.  As the night, it is the mother and the contrary of day; representing something impalpable, unfathomable, and often fear-some, that is always a companion to our existence. Truce picks up the tracks of this great ­unknown and follows it on some of the countless steps on its way through human thought and endeavor. 54 TRUCE  – Darkness –


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W

ie beschreibt man, was man nicht sehen kann? Wie erkundet man die Finsternis, ohne sich hoffnungslos darin zu verirren? Wer versucht, der Dunkelheit etwas Erhellendes abzugewinnen, muss sich zuerst einmal auf den Tastsinn verlassen, blindlings die Hände in die Finsternis strecken und den Boden unter den Füssen mit vorsichtigen Schritten suchen. Vertrauen ist gefragt, in die eigenen Sinne oder die höheren Mächte. Es werde Licht! Manchmal helfen höhere Mächte auf ganz direkte Weise. Gott sei Dank! Ein erster Fixpunkt zeichnet sich in der Finsternis ab: « Im Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde; die Erde aber war wüst und wirr, Finsternis lag über der Urflut und Gottes Geist schwebte über dem Wasser. Gott sprach: Es werde Licht. Und es wurde Licht. Gott sah, dass das Licht gut war. Gott schied das Licht von der Finsternis und Gott nannte das Licht Tag und die Finsternis nannte er Nacht. Es wurde Abend und es wurde Morgen: erster Tag. » Die Bibel, 1. Buch Mose.

Die ganze Erde also lag anfangs in völliger Dunkelheit. Glaubt man der Bibel, so wäre die Erde ohne die göttliche Erleuchtung wohl ein wenig lebenswerter Ort geblieben; wüst und wirr, das sprichwörtliche Tohuwabohu. Die ordnende Hand Gottes aber, trotz der Finsternis zielsicher, liess ein Licht aufgehen und schuf so Tag und Nacht. Gut so. Der ewigen Frage nach dem, was war und sein wird, bevor und nachdem alles was wir kennen entstand und vergeht, weicht die Bibel allerdings aus. Im Anfang erschuf Gott Himmel und Erde. Aber woher kam denn eigentlich Gott? Wo war

H

ow can you describe what you can’t see? How do you explore the darkness without becoming hopelessly lost in it? Anyone who wants to shed a little light on darkness must rely on their sense of touch for once, stretch their hands blindly into the gloom and, with careful steps, test the ground underfoot. Trust is required, in ones own sense or in a higher power. Let there be light! Sometimes higher powers help in a very ­direct way. Thank God! A first fixed point looms in the dark:

« In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. » The Bible, Genesis 1.

So, at the beginning, the whole earth lay in complete darkness. If you believe the Bible, without the light of God, the earth would have remained an unwelcoming sort of

56 TRUCE  – Darkness –

er? War er ganz allein, mitten im Nichts, bevor er unsere Welt kreierte? Woraus erschuf er sie? Und wird er mit ihr vergehen, wenn sie eines fernen Tages untergeht? Auf diese Fragen liefert das Buch der Antworten nicht nur keinen Hinweis, es will uns auch davon abhalten, sie zu stellen. Die Geschichte beginnt mit Gott als nicht zu hinterfragendes Faktum. Nicht nur seine Existenz, sondern auch sein Schalten und Walten seien als Gegebenheiten hinzunehmen, will uns der Text damit klar machen. Das Licht – und damit der Tag – sind als erste bewusste, zielgerichtete Schöpfung Gottes der Inbegriff des « Guten », und sie sind es bis heute geblieben. Implizit könnte damit auch angedeutet sein, dass die Nacht als Gegensatz zum Tag das Schlechte darstelle. Liest man aber in der Genesis weiter, ergibt sich ein differenzierteres Bild: Indem Gott der Nacht später (am vierten Tag) durch den Mond und die Sterne ebenfalls ein « kleines Licht » verlieh, grenzte er auch sie von der allumfassenden, « wüsten und wirren » Finsternis des Urzustandes ab – und gab ihr damit ihren festen Platz in seiner Schöpfung. Für den Gläubigen mag die Suche nach dem Wesen der Dunkelheit damit schon beendet sein. Der Zweifelnde aber muss versuchen, tiefer in die Finsternis einzudringen, ihrem Wesen näher zu kommen. Seine kulturellen Wurzeln sind verzweigt, also muss es auch seine Suche sein. Auch im antiken Griechenland war die Nacht ein fester Teil der Weltordnung. Ein allmächtiger Schöpfergott als Impuls­ geber fehlt allerdings. An den Ursprung seiner Schöpfungs­ geschichte stellt Hesiod, der Autor der ersten überlieferten ­Erzählung vom Ursprung der antiken griechischen Welt, stattdessen das Chaos. Auch das Chaos muss man sich wohl als wüsten Zustand der Verwirrung vorstellen. Dessen Gegenteil, der geordnete Kosmos, geht auch bei Hesiod daraus hervor – jedoch im Unterschied zur Genesis nicht als göttliche Schöpfung,

place: without form and void, in proverbial chaos. The organizing hand of God, however, accurate even in the dark, made a light rise up and thus created day and night. Nicely done. However, the bible dodges the eternal question: what was and will be, before and after everything we know began and will end. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. But where did God come from? Where was he? Was he alone, in the middle of nothingness, before he created our world? What did he use to make it? And will he come to an end too if the world perishes at some ­distant point in time? The Book doesn’t just fail to give any clues to all these questions; it wants to prevent us from asking them. The story begins with God as an unquestionable fact. The text aims to

make it clear that not only his existence, but his free reign, too, are to be taken as given. The light – and therefore the  day – were God’s first intentio-  nal creations, the incarnation of « good », and they have always been that way. This implies that night, as the opposite of day, represents the bad. But if you read the book of Genesis further, the picture ­becomes more complex, as, on the fourth day, when God granted a « lesser light » to the night in the shape of the moon and the stars, he differentiated the night from the all-encompassing « formless void » darkness that existed  at the beginning – and so gave it a fixed place in his creation. For believers the search for the nature of darkness may already be over. Doubters, however, must try to penetrate deeper into the dark-


ness, to get closer to its character. Their cultural roots are branched, and the search must do the same. In ancient Greece, night had a fixed place in the world order. An almighty creator as instigator was absent, however. Hesiod, author of the first version of the story of the origins of the ancient Greek world, puts chaos at the origin of his creation story instead. We may also imagine chaos as a void state of blankness. According to Hesiod, its opposite, the orderly cosmos, is also derived from it – though in contrast with Genesis, not as a Godly creation, but by evolution – as a natural development. Hesiod described the origin of the world in the same way that he witnessed the creation of human life: resulting from the sexual union of two lovers. At the beginning of a long and fruitful line, are darkness and the night:

« From Chaos came forth Erebus (the darkness) and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day (Hemera), whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. » Hesiod, Theogony

According to Hesiod, Chaos brought forth darkness and the night first of all. Then the union of the dark siblings gave rise to Aether, the pure air of the Gods, and Hemera, the personification of the day. Both myths, the biblical and the Greek, agree that the darkness came before the light, and that it is not just the opposite: at the same time it  is elevated to a precondition. The light of day only exists in relation to the dark of night. This duality of light and darkness, of night and day, is found in the creation mythology of numer-

sondern eigentlich evolutionär – als natürliche Entwicklung: Hesiod beschrieb die Entstehung der Welt so, wie er die Entstehung menschlichen Lebens beobachtete, durch die sexuelle Vereinigung zweier Liebender. Am Anfang der langen und fruchtbaren Kette stehen die Dunkelheit und die Nacht: « Erebos (die Dunkelheit) ward aus dem Chaos, es ward die dunkele Nacht (Nyx) auch. Dann aus der Nacht ward Äther und Hemera (der Tag), Göttin des Lichtes, Welche sie beide gebar von des Erebos trauter ­Empfängnis. » Hesiod, Theogonie

Nach Hesiod gebiert das Chaos also erst die Dunkelheit und die Nacht. Aus der Vereinigung der finsteren Geschwister entstehen dann Aether, die reine Luft der Götter; und Hemera, die Personifikation des Tages. Gemeinsam ist beiden Mythen, dem biblischen und dem griechischen, dass sie die Dunkelheit dem Licht voranstellen und sie damit nicht nur zu dessen ­Gegenpart, sondern gleichzeitig auch zu seiner Voraussetzung erheben. Der helle Tag existiert also nur in Bezug auf die dunkle Nacht. Diese Dualität von Licht und Dunkelheit, von Nacht und Tag findet sich in den Schöpfungsmythen zahlreicher Weltreligionen und Hochkulturen; nicht nur bei den alten Griechen oder im Christentum, sondern auch im Islam, im Hinduismus und, besonders ausgeprägt, bei den Manichäern, nach deren Weltbild sich das göttliche Lichtreich und das Reich der Finsternis in einem unversöhnlichen Kampf gegenüber stehen. Physikalisch mag die Dunkelheit nur die Abwesenheit der sichtbaren elektromagnetischen Strahlung sein. Psychologisch aber ist sie weit mehr, und das ist vielleicht das einzig Eindeutige an ihr. Sie steht für das Fehlen von Ordnung, von Orientierung – und,

ous world religions and advanced civilizations; not just in that of  the ancient Greeks or in Christendom, but also in Islam, in Hinduism and especially in that of the Manichists, according to whose world view the divine kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness are locked in a never ending battle against each other. According to physics, darkness may only be the absence of the visible electromagnetic spectrum. Psychologically, it is far more however, and that may be the only thing that is certain about it. It stands for a dearth of order and of orientation – and ­especially in ancient times – of security. In all these cultures, darkness always represents the threatening, the unexplainable, the ill defined and the incomprehensible. People have always sought to ease their dread through the power 

of myths, such as Genesis and Hesiod’s Theogony. For Hesiod, the night was not just the origin of the day, but also the mother of all the world’s evils: death, corruption and disaster belong to her illustrious brood of children. Horror comes, literally arises, from the night. On the other hand, in Genesis, death, corruption and disaster are not creatures of the night, but are enacted by God himself, by means of the creator’s single-handed placement of the fateful tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. So, as it were, the Bible exorcises the night, as the horrors of existence do not spring from it in the form of a mythical Goddess, rather they come from the human betrayal of God’s trust. At the same time, the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent – and, first and foremost – the fault of the

zumal in archaischen Zeiten – von Sicherheit. In all diesen Kulturen repräsentierte die Dunkelheit immer für das Bedroh­ liche, das Unerklärliche, Unbestimmte und Unfassbare. Durch die erklärende Kraft von Mythen – wie etwa der Theogonie Hesiods oder der Genesis – haben die Menschen darum versucht, ihr das Grauen zu nehmen. Bei Hesiod ist die Nacht nicht nur der Ursprung des Tages, sondern auch Mutter aller Übel der Welt: Zu ihrer illustren Kinderschar gehören auch der Tod, das Verderben oder das Verhängnis. Das Grauen entspringt förmlich der Nacht. In der Genesis dagegen sind Tod, Verderben und Verhängnis keine Geschöpfe der Nacht, sondern von Gott selbst verfügt, stellt der Schöpfer doch den verhängnisvollen Baum der Erkenntnis eigenhändig in den Garten Eden. Damit wird die Nacht der Bibel gleichsam entdämonisiert, da nicht ihr als mythischer Göttin, sondern dem menschlichen Bruch von Gottes Vertrauen die Schrecken der Existenz entspringen. Gleichzeitig – und wohl in erster Linie – rückt die Erzählung von der Verführung Evas durch die Schlange aber die Schuld des Menschen von allem Anfang an deutlich ins Blickfeld. Es ist eine Schuld, die letztlich darin besteht, nach Erkenntnis zu streben, statt sich mit vorgegebenen Wahrheiten zufrieden zu geben. Sie ist es, die den Menschen das Paradies kostet. Angriff auf die Nacht Der alte Volksglaube von der Nacht als bedrohliches Reich der Finsternis hielt sich trotz – und wegen – all der Mythen über Jahrhunderte, die Dunkelheit blieb eine bedrohliche und geheimnisvolle Unbekannte. Gleichzeitig war sie aber stets auch die natürliche Grenze, die menschlicher Aktivität gesetzt war. Mit dem Eindunkeln brach die Zeit der Vampire und Werwölfe an, deren Augen  im Schimmer des Mondlichts blitzten; die Zeit der Toten und

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des Todes. Wer sich in der Nacht noch draussen herumtrieb, der musste entweder lebensmüde sein oder Böses im Schilde ­führen, vielleicht gar mit den Mächten der Finsternis im Bund ­stehen. Im Laufe der Zeit hat der Mensch deshalb oft versucht, die Finsternis um ihn herum zu überlisten; hat Fackeln und Lampen konstruiert, die es ihm erlaubten, ein wenig Licht ins Dunkel zu bringen. Dennoch blieb die Nacht bedrohlich, wer nichts Düsteres im Schilde führte, schloss sich in seinem Haus ein und schlief einen unruhigen Schlaf, der mit dem Hahnenschrei endete. Erst im Laufe des späten 18. und vor allem im 19. Jahrhundert emanzipierte sich der Mensch von der Naturgegebenheit der Nacht – dank findigen Männern wie James Lindsay, Frederick de Moleyns, oder Thomas Edison (und sicherlich einigen ebenso findigen Frauen, die keinen Eintrag in die Geschichtsbücher fanden). Sie alle suchten und fanden Wege, durch Strom einen Leiter zum Glühen zu bringen und so elektrisches Licht zu erzeugen. Wer der eigentliche Erfinder der Glühlampe war, bleibt wohl im Dunkel der Geschichte. Edison wird die Ehre meistens zugeschrieben, sein grosser Verdienst war aber wohl eher die erfolgreiche Verbreitung seiner Version der Glühlampe – wobei ihm zugute kam, dass er sie in den 1880er Jahren patentieren liess, als in den USA grosse Versorgungsnetze für elektrische Energie entstanden. Langsam aber unaufhaltsam brachte er so die wohl grösste Revolution seit der Erfindung des Rads mit ins Rollen. Der amerikanische Autor A. Roger Ekirch, der die Geschichte der Nacht untersucht hat, spricht im Zusammenhang mit dem Siegeszug der künstlichen Beleuchtung von einem « sustained assault on the nocturnal empire », einem nie zuvor da gewesenen Angriff auf die Nacht. In der Tat: Das überall verfügbare elektrische Licht erlaubte es, die Nacht zum Tag zu machen und ihr so einen grossen Teil ihrer physischen Macht

zu nehmen. Das Licht, das spätestens seit der Aufklärung als Symbol der Zivilisation verstanden wurde, war nun zu deren weithin sichtbarem Botschafter geworden. Wo am menschlichen Fortschritt gearbeitet wurde, dort glühten die Lichter bis spät in die Nacht. Wo hingegen Finsternis herrschte, musste es auch in den Köpfen – und den Herzen – der Menschen düster aussehen. Die Rhetorik vom elektrischen Licht als zivilisatorischer Leuchtturm in der barbarischen Finsternis mag heute überholt sein. Dass sie für die Visualisierung politischer Botschaften aber mitunter immer noch taugt, weiss man seit Donald Rumsfelds Worten angesichts einer nächtlichen Satellitenaufnahme der koreanischen Halbinsel: « If you look at a picture from the sky of the Korean Peninsula at night, South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark. » Rumsfelds allzu simple Pointe lässt nicht nur Rückschlüsse auf das Weltbild des ehemaligen, angriffslustigen Verteidigungsministers George W. Bushs zu, sondern illustriert auch, welche Karriere der metaphysische Schrecken der Dunkelheit in unserer Zivilisation gemacht hat; welch tiefe Wurzeln er in unseren Köpfen geschlagen hat: Was uns Angst macht, uns fremd ist, liegt im Dunkeln. Unsere Sprachen und unser Kulturschaffen sind durchdrungen von Bildern und Metaphern, in denen die Dunkelheit das Bedrohliche und Furchtbare repräsentiert: Dunkle Machenschaften spielen sich ab, Dunkelziffern verbergen unangenehme Wahrheiten, dunkle Wolken ziehen herauf und versetzen uns in düstere Stimmung. Dunkel war die Welt, bevor die Aufklärung sie zur Vernunft brachte, trotzdem kann sich auch der hellste Geist verdunkeln, umnachtet werden. Und natürlich ist der Tod ein dunkler Geselle, schwarz gewandet, schwarz betrauert.

human race right from the beginning, moves clearly into focus. The fault, which has always existed, is to strive for knowledge instead of being content with predefined truth. This is what cost us paradise.

glow and thus to create electric light. Indeed, the identity of the true inventor of the light bulb remains lost in the darkness of history. The credit is usually awarded to Edison, though his greatest contribution was probably the successful distribution of his version of the light bulb – whereby he be­ nefited from the patent he registered in the 1880s, just as the USA was installing extensive public mains for electrical energy. Slowly, but relentlessly, he set in motion arguably the greatest revolution since the invention of the wheel. The American author, A. Roger Ekirch, who investigated the history of the night, wrote about the triumphant procession of artificial lighting as a « sustained assault on the nocturnal empire », an attack on the night that had never happened before. Indeed, the wide-

An attack on the night The old popular belief about the night as the menacing kingdom of darkness has survived through  the centuries despite – and because of – the many myths. The darkness remains a threatening and sinister unknown. At the same time it has always provided a natural boundary a­round human activity. With the dusk came the hours of the vampire and werewolf, whose eyes flashed in the gleaming moonlight, the time of the dead and of death. Anyone who was still out and about at night must either be suicidal or up to no

58 TRUCE  – Darkness –

good, perhaps in league with the powers of darkness. In the course of time therefore, man has often tried to cheat the darkness around him, constructing torches and lamps that allowed a little light into the darkness. All the same, the night remained menacing, and those who were not up to mischief locked themselves indoors and slept an uneasy sleep, ending with the cock’s crow. Only in the course of the late 18th century, but more so in the 19th,  was man emancipated from the natural fact of the night. This was thanks to inventive men like James Lindsay, Frederick de Moleyns  or Thomas Edison (and no doubt  a few just as inventive women, whose contributions were never recorded in the history books). They all sought and found ways to use electricity to make conductors

spread availability of electric light meant that night could be transformed into day, resulting in the loss of a large part of night’s physical power. At least since the Enlightenment, light had been a symbol of civilization, and now, to a great extent, it had become its ­visible ambassador. Where human advance is being pursued, the lights burn until late in the night. In contrast, where darkness reigns, it must surely be dismal in the minds – and the hearts – of the people there. The rhetoric of electric light as a civilizing beacon in the barbaric dark may be outdated today. But now and then we are reminded of its usefulness for the illustration of political messages, as with Donald Rumsfeld’s words about a night time satellite picture of the Korean peninsula: « If you look at a picture


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60 TRUCE  – Darkness –


from the sky of the Korean peninsula at night, South Korea is filled with light and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark. » Rumsfeld’s all too simple point doesn’t just allow a glimpse of the world view of George W. Bush’s aggressive former Secretary of Defense, but also illustrates the career that darkness has made of creating metaphysical terror in our civilization, and what deep roots it has put down in our minds. What frightens us, is foreign to us, lurks in the dark. Metaphors and pictures in which darkness represents the threatening and the fearsome pervade our language and our creative culture: dark deeds take place, dark secrets hide uncomfortable truths, dark clouds gather and put us in a black mood.

The world was dark before the Enlightenment brought it to reason, though even the lightest spirit can darken and go mad. And of course, death is a dark companion, clad in black, grieved for in black. « Where id was, there ego shall be » – In the dark depths of the mind Maybe darkness is also a child of our own imaginations, formed by the patterns of our culture. At the very least, it has no fixed dimensions, but is an ephemeral phenomenon, appearing in everchanging guises. Everyone knows their own darkness, and fears or greets it as a part of themselves. Maybe we need it, in order to understand ourselves. There is hardly an area of our lives that is more foreign and puzzling than

« Wo es war, soll Ich werden » – In den dunklen Tiefen des Geistes Vielleicht ist die Dunkelheit also auch ein Kind unserer ­eigenen Gedanken, geformt nach den Mustern unserer Kultur. Zumindest ist sie keine feste Grösse, sondern ein flüchtiges, immer wieder anders auftretendes Phänomen. Jeder kennt seine eigene Dunkelheit, fürchtet oder begrüsst sie als Teil seiner selbst. Möglicherweise brauchen wir sie auch, um uns selbst zu begreifen. Kaum ein Bereich unseres Lebens ist uns fremder und rätselhafter als unsere eigene Psyche. Sie bestimmt, wer wir sind und wie wir unser Leben gestalten. Dennoch ist uns ihre Logik noch immer nicht vollständig bekannt. Wie werden aus elektronischen Impulsen in einem Netz von Neuronen Gedanken? Wie können Gedanken und Erlebnisse diese Impulse umleiten, verstärken oder abschwächen? Und wie kann der einzelne Mensch die Kontrolle über ein derart komplexes System behalten? Und welche Gedanken verbergen sich im dunklen Bereich unseres Bewusstseins? Vor allem letzterer Frage hat sich Sigmund Freud, der Begründer der Psychoanalyse, ein Leben lang gewidmet. Freud wollte die terra incognita, den unbewussten Bereich der menschlichen Psyche kartographieren und so dem Verstand zugänglich machen. Als Arzt ging es ihm dabei aber nicht nur um das reine Verstehen. Freud wollte seine Patienten, die an psychischen Erkrankungen litten, heilen – indem er ihnen mit Psychoanalyse half, durch Selbsterkenntnis Herr über die eigene Psyche zu werden. « Wo es war, soll Ich werden », postulierte Freud. In der Psychoanalyse, meinte er, scheide sich das erhellte Bewusstsein (das « Ich ») von dem im Dunklen liegenden Unbewussten (dem « Es »), den Affekten und Trieben. Die Bedürfnisse des « Es », des Unbewussten, hielt Freud für somatisch, also körperlich bedingt. Nicht zuletzt sprach er damit den Sexualtrieb an, den Freud als Basis des Seelenlebens verstand.

our own psyche. It determines who we are and how we live our lives. Even so, we don’t fully understand its logic. How do thoughts arise from electrical impulses in a network of neurons? How can thoughts and experiences change the paths of these impulses, strengthen or weaken them? How can an individual keep control over such a complex system? And what thoughts are hiding in the dark recesses of our consciousness? Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, devoted a lifetime to this last question. Freud wanted to chart the terra incognita, the unconscious part of the human psyche, in order to make it accesssible to the mind. As a doctor, pure understanding was not his only interest. Freud hoped to heal his patients, who were suffer-

ing from physical illnesses, by helping them to take control of their own psyche through selfawareness, helped by psychoanalysis. Freud postulated: « Where id was, there ego shall be ». He believed that in psychoanalysis, the illuminated conscious (the « ego ») is separated from the unconscious – the emotions and instintcs – which lie in darkness. The needs of the « id », of the unconscious, Freud took to be somatic, or physical. Not least, he addressed libido in this respect, and described it as being the basis of psychic energy. If the needs of the unconscious, especially the sexual needs, were suppressed due to past moral constraints or trauma suffered by the « conscience » of the psyche – the super-ego – there is the potential for it to take a toll later in the form

Seien die Bedürfnisse des Unbewussten, also insbesondere der Sexualtrieb, in der Vergangenheit aufgrund sittlicher Zwänge oder erlittener Traumata durch die « Kontrollinstanz » der Psyche, das Über-Ich, unterdrückt worden, forderten sie später unter Umständen ihren Tribut in Form neurotischer oder psychotischer Erkrankungen. Diese zeigten dem Ich die Grenzen seiner Macht im eigenen Haus, der Seele auf: « Es tauchen plötzlich Gedanken auf, von denen man nicht weiss, woher sie kommen; man kann auch nichts dazu tun, sie zu vertreiben » Da sie vom Ich unter dem Eindruck der vom Über-Ich eingegebenen Normen und Regeln zurückgewiesen, ignoriert worden seien, « haben sie sich ihr Recht geschaffen, auf eine Weise, die dir nicht mehr recht sein kann. » Freuds Psychoanalyse verfolgte darum das Ziel, das Verdrängte aus den Tiefen des Geistes an die Oberfläche zu holen, um so dem bewussten Teil der Psyche, dem Ich, die Kontrolle zurück zu geben. Herz und Seele der Finsternis Freud hatte erkannt, dass in jedem Menschen ein Stück Dunkelheit verborgen liegt, in seinem Unbewussten, dem Verdrängten, dem Erlebten. Vielleicht versteckt sich dort auch der Schlüssel zum Verständnis des Bösen, zu dem der Mensch fähig ist, und für das wir die Dunkelheit seit ewigen Zeiten als Symbol kennen. Es bringt Kriege, Unterdrückung, Massenmorde und Sklaverei; es steht für systematischen Terror wie für irrsinnige Raserei. Stellvertretend für die zahllosen stillen Toten und Leidenden haben Künstler dem Grauen dieser menschgemachten Dunkelheit Ausdruck gegeben – aus der Perspektive von ­Opfern,

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Tätern oder reinen Beobachtern. Einige von ihnen schufen so Werke, die anhand des konkreten Bösen den absolut menschlichen Charakter des Inhumanen, die abstrakte Möglichkeit des Bösen in jedem Einzelnen entlarven. In besonders dichter Weise gelang dies Joseph Conrad. In seinem Meisterwerk « Heart of Darkness » (1902) schickt der polnisch-britische Autor seinen Erzähler, Marlow, auf der Suche nach dem mysteriösen Elfenbeinhändler Kurtz auf eine Reise ins tiefe Herz der Finsternis, irgendwo entlang des Flusses Kongo, im tiefen Dschungel eines namenlosen BelgischKongo. Einige Jahre bevor er sein Manuskript niederschrieb, hatte Conrad selber ein halbes Jahr im Dienst einer Handelsfirma am Kongo verbracht – und den ersten Genozid der modernen Geschichte aus nächster Nähe gesehen. Seine Erlebnisse verarbeitete er in seinem Buch. Der Dschungel dient ihm als Symbol für die undurchdringliche Finsternis, die das Kongobecken und den Rest Afrikas unter den europäischen Kolonialherren erfasst hatte – und die im Text aus dem Dschungel zurück in die Seelen jener Ausbeuter zu kriechen scheint. Je tiefer Marlow in diese Finsternis eindringt, desto beklemmender die Stimmung, desto deutlicher spürbar der Verfall der Moral, der sich an seinem Höhepunkt in der Person von Kurtz als allzu menschliches Phänomen zeigt. Kurtz wird als Mensch charakterisiert, der vor seinem Engagement im Kongo « kultiviert » und « edel » war – und durch die Möglichkeit zur absoluten Macht in seinem abgelegenen Handelsposten zu einem amoralischen, brutalen Tyrannen geworden ist. Hier lässt auch Conrad anklingen, dass das Dunkle, Böse in der Persönlichkeit eines Jeden schlummert – und aus ihm hervorbrechen kann. « All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz », lässt er Marlow bemerken – nicht nur eine Anspielung auf Kurtz’ Her-

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kunft, sondern vor allem auf die potentielle Allgemeinheit seines Charakters. Im Moment seines Todes, so eine mögliche Interpretation, ­erkennt Kurtz, was aus ihm – vielleicht stellvertretend für die europäischen Kolonisatoren – geworden ist: « He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath – « The horror! The ­horror! » Gut vierzig Jahre nach der Veröffentlichung von Conrads Meisterstück sollte sich das unmenschliche Potential des Menschen in bisher ungeahntem, systematischem Horror entfalten. Die Verbrechen der Nationalsozialisten in den Konzentrationslagern, für welche die Mittel der Sprache keine Worte mehr hat, stellten in ihrer absoluten Verachtung menschlicher Werte alles bisher da Gewesene in den Schatten. Millionen Jüdinnen und Juden wurden ermordet, Hunderttausende Sinti und Roma teilten ihr Schicksal. Wer den Grauen der Konzentrationslager überlebte, trug ein Stück absoluter Dunkelheit für immer in sich. Diesen Horror künstlerisch zu bewältigen, für viele Überlebende der einzige Weg der Bewältigung, war – und ist bis heute – ein schwieriges Unterfangen. Wie wird man dem Holocaust gerecht? Wie kann man dieses Ausmass an Gewalt ästhetisch umsetzen? Darf man es überhaupt versuchen? Theodor W. Adorno war überzeugt, dass die Kunst vor dem Grauen kapitulieren müsse: Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben sei « barbarisch », hielt er 1951 in « Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft » fest. Seine Meinung musste er später allerdings angesichts des Gegenbeweises revidieren: Eines Gedichts über den Grauen des Holocaust, welches mit seiner schieren Kraft die alles verschlingende Finsternis seiner Zeit für immer in Worte fassen sollte:


Todesfuge

– Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts wir trinken und trinken wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng – Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei er pfeift seine Juden hervor lässt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz – Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends wir trinken und trinken Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng – Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singet und spielt er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind blau stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf – Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends wir trinken und trinken ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen Er ruft spielt süSSer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng – Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete er hetzt seine Rüden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft er spielt mit den Schlangen und träumet der Tod ist   ein Meister aus Deutschland – dein goldenes Haar Margarete dein aschenes Haar Sulamith – Paul Celan 63


of neurotic or psychotic illness. These [illnesses] reveal to the ego the limits of its powers in its own house, the mind: « Suddenly ideas occur, and one has no idea from whence they have come; but there is nothing one can do to dispel them » As they are ignored by the ego, denied under the imposition of the norms and rules given by the super-ego, « they have achieved their due, in a way that can never again be right to you ». The aim of Freud’s psychoanalysis therefore, was to bring repressed thoughts out of the depths of the mind and up to the surface, so that control could be restored to the conscious part of the psyche, the ego. Heart and soul of the darkness Freud perceived that some darkness lies hidden in everyone, deep within the unconscious: things that have been experienced and that have been repressed. Perhaps the key to understanding the evil of which man is capable, and for which darkness has been the recognized symbol since time began, lies hidden in the same place. It leads to wars, oppression, mass murder and slavery; it stands for syste­

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matic terror and for insane rage. Artists have given expression to the horror of this man-made darkness, representing the countless silent dead and the suffering – from the perspective of victims, perpetrators and pure observers. Some artists have created works that, through concrete evil, reveal the basic human character of the inhuman, the abstract possibility of evil in every individual.. Joseph Conrad succeeded in doing this in an especially concrete manner. In his masterpiece « Heart of Darkness » (1902), the PolishBritish author sent his narrator, Marlow, on the trail of the mysterious ivory trader, Kurtz, on a journey way into the heart of darkness, somewhere along the Congo river, deep in the jungle of a nameless Belgian-Congo. A few years before he wrote his manuscript, Conrad himself spent half a year in the service of a trading company in the Congo – and witnessed the first genocide in modern history at close quarters. He worked through his experiences in his book. The jungle served him as a symbol for the impenetrable darkness that seized the Congo basin and the rest of Africa under European colonial rule – and which seems to creep out of the jungle and back

into the soul of every exploiter in the story. The deeper Marlow penetrates into this darkness, the more oppressive the atmosphere, the more noticeable the moral decay, which at its high point is shown as an all too human phenomenon in the character of Kurtz. Kurtz is characterized as a man who had been « cultivated » and « noble » before his involvement with the Congo, and who has become an amoral, brutal tyrant as a consequence of the opportunity for absolute power at his remote trading post. Here, Conrad also makes the observation that dark evil sleeps in everyone’s character – and can break out. He allows Marlow to remark that: « All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz » – not just an allusion to Kurtz’s origins, but above all a comment on the potential universality of his character. At the moment of his death, according to one possible interpretation, Kurtz recognizes what has become of him – possibly in place of the European colonizers: « He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath – « The horror! The horror! » A good forty years after the publication of Conrad’s masterpiece,

the inhuman potential of the human race unfolded in a hitherto unimagined, methodical horror. The Nazi crimes in the concentration camps, for which the medium of speech could not find words to describe, put in the shade anything that had gone before, in their absolute contempt for the value of human life. Millions of Jews and Jewesses were murdered; hundreds of thousands of Sinti and Roma shared their fate. Anyone who escaped the horror of the concentration camps carried a piece of absolute darkness in him forever. Coping with the horror in an artistic way, which was the only way many survivors could, was – and still is – a difficult proposition. How to « do justice » to the Holocaust? How to portray the extent of violence aesthetically? Should one even try? Theodor W. Adorno was convinced that art must give way to the horror: in 1951, he stated in « Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft » that, after Auschwitz, to write a poem would be « barbaric ». However, he had to revise his opinion later in the face of evidence to the contrary: a poem about the horrors of the Holocaust, which, with its sheer power, captures the alldevouring darkness of his time forever in words:


Death Fugue

– Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night we drink and we drink we shovel a grave in the air where you won’t lie too cramped – A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling he whistles his hounds to stay close he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground – he orders us strike up and play for the dance Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening we drink and we drink A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite Your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air where you   won’t lie too cramped – He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing – Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening we drink and we drink A man lives in the house your golden hair Marguerite Your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with his vipers He shouts play death more sweetly death is a master from Deutschland he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise then in smoke to the sky you’ll have a grave then in the clouds where you won’t lie too cramped – Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you at midday death is a master from Deutschland we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink death is a master from Deutschland his eye it is blue he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true a man lives in the house your golden hair Marguerite he sets loose his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air he plays with his vipers and daydreams death is a master from Deutschland – your golden hair Marguerite your ashen hair Shulamith – Paul Celan 65


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Under protection of darkness? This journey cannot go any further than this bottomless pit of what is humanly possible. It has been left to the Conrads and the Celans to look over the precipice, and even to fall into the heart of the darkness. The time has come to emerge from the darkness and to pursue light once more. The long journey has sharpened our eyes. Now we see things that lay hidden in supposed blackness at the beginning. Along the way that is now more clearly visible, back to the light, you suddenly recognize shadowy shapes that shun the glare of daylight and thrive here in the twilight, at the border between light and dark. Were they even there at the beginning of the journey? These are the secret lovers, the gamblers, whores and drunks, but also political activists, dissidents and revolutionaries. They are the other face of the night, its lively

spirit. Were the nighttime vampires and werewolves that people saw simply caricatures of these beings? The night has always provided opportunities: offering refuge for lovers and protection for fugitives. For dreamers it opens new worlds that appear impossible by day. In A. Roger Ekirch’s opinion, social order was turned on its head at night and class distinctions disappear. As night slowly extinguishes day, as shadows grow longer and contours soften, the time comes for those whose way of life diverges from the bourgeois ideal. This is a time that is not yet clearly defined, which offers a transition to a new day, that openness and that protection in which new ideas can mature and forbidden tendencies can be lived out. And what does the real night hold today for those who are not afraid of it? At first sight it seems sometimes that it has not just lost

Im Schutze der Dunkelheit? Weiter kann diese Reise nicht führen, als bis zu diesem Abgrund des Menschenmöglichen. Es sei den Conrads und Celans überlassen, über den Abgrund hinaus zu blicken, sich sogar hinunter ins Herz der Finsternis zu stürzen. Es wird Zeit, aus der Dunkelheit wieder ans Licht zu streben. Die lange Reise hat die Augen geschärft. Sie sehen nun einiges, was anfangs in vermeintlicher Schwärze verborgen lag. Auf dem nun deutlicher sichtbaren Weg zurück ins Helle erkennen sie plötzlich schemenhafte Gestalten, die das grelle Tageslicht scheuen und hier, am Übergang zwischen Licht und Dunkel im Dämmerlicht, gedeihen. Ob sie wohl schon am Anfang der Reise da gewesen sind? Es sind verbotene Liebende, Glücksspieler, Huren und Trinker, aber auch politische Umstürzler, Dissidenten und Revolutionäre. Sie sind das andere Gesicht der Nacht, ihre lebendige Seele. Waren es vielleicht ihre Zerrbilder, in denen die Menschen nachts Vampire und Werwölfe sahen? Immer schon schuf die Nacht auch Chancen, bot Liebenden Zuflucht und Fliehenden Schutz. Träumenden eröffnete sie mögliche Welten, die bei Tag besehen unmöglich schienen.  A. Roger Ekirch meint sogar, in der Nacht seien die Gesellschaftsordnung auf den Kopf gestellt und Standesunterschiede verwischt worden. Wenn die Nacht langsam den Tag ablöste, die Schatten länger und die Konturen weicher wurden, brach die Zeit all jener an, deren Lebensentwürfe vom bürgerlichen Ideal abwichen¸ eine noch nicht klar definierte Zeit, die als Übergang zu einem neuen Tag jene Offenheit und jenen Schutz

bot, in denen neue Ideen zur Reife gelangen und verbotene Neigungen ausgelebt werden konnten. Und was hält die ganz reale Nacht heute für denjenigen bereit, der sie nicht scheut? Auf den ersten Blick scheint es manchmal, sie habe nicht nur das Bedrohliche, sondern auch einen guten Teil ihres Reizes eingebüsst. Kameras überwachen jeden Winkel der schlafenden Stadt, Sicherheitsleute patroullieren pausenlos. Die Nachtlokale gleichen denen des Tages, die Geschäftigkeit der Menschen ist um Mitternacht oft die gleiche wie am Nachmittag. Dennoch bietet die Nacht abseits der hell erleuchteten Vergnügen den Sinnen noch immer ihre ganz eigenen Reize, ihre einzigartige Mixtur aus Angst und Erregung. Wer selbst einmal eine der letzten heute noch möglichen Entdeckungsreisen unternimmt und nachts – ohne klares Ziel – durch die schlafenden Quartiere einer fremden Stadt streift, wird vielleicht eine « jener glückhaften Stimmungen, welche so gänzlich das Gegenteil von ennui sind », empfinden, in welcher der Erzähler in Edgar Allan Poes « Massenmensch » seine Reise durch das nächtliche London unternahm. Die Sinne sind hellwach, das Feld der Gedanken weit offen – und vielleicht genau deshalb verwischen die Grenzen von Realität und Einbildung. Eine unbestimmbare Furcht mischt sich mit einem ebenso unergründlichen Gefühl grenzenloser Möglichkeiten, das sich in der nächtlichen Einsamkeit einstellt. Wenn die Gewissheiten des Tages während des langsamen Erwachens der Stadt schrittweise zurückkehren, bleibt vielleicht eine gewisse Frische zurück; und mit ihr die Gewissheit,

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its terrors but has also lost a good part of its allure. Cameras survey every corner of the sleeping city; security people patrol constantly. Nightspots don’t look any different from the haunts of daytime; the bustle of humanity is often the same at midnight as it is in the afternoon. Nevertheless, next to brightly  lit sensual enjoyment, the night still offers its very own allure, its unique mixture of fear and excitement. Anyone who takes one of the few journeys of discovery that are still possible today, and wanders at night through a foreign city as it sleeps – with no clear plan – may

perhaps discover « one of those happy moods, which are so precisely the converse of ennui », in which the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s « The Man of the Crowd » ­undertook his journey through night-time London. The senses are wide-awake, the mind is wide open – and maybe that is exactly why the boundaries of reality and imagination merge. A nondescript fear mixes with an equally unfounded feeling of boundless possibilities that switches on in the loneliness of the night. As the certainty of the day returns bit by bit while the city slowly wakes, perhaps a certain chilliness

in der Dunkelheit ein kleines Stück Freiheit erobert zu haben. Für einen unterdrückten Menschen kann ein solches Geschenk der Nacht möglicherweise der Samen sein, aus dem eines Tages die Kraft erwächst, sich gegen die Unfreiheit aufzulehnen und ein nächtliches Licht in sein persönliches Dunkel zu bringen. Ursprung des Grauens und der Angst, Sinnbild der Unfassbarkeit, Zeit des Verbrechens und des Todes, aber auch Bühne für gesellschaftliche Umstürze und Zufluchtsort für Liebende, Verfolgte und Dissidenten – die Dunkelheit und ihre Schwester, die Nacht, haben sich immer ihren ambivalenten Charakter und ihre Geheimnise bewahrt, blieben terrae incognitae, unbekannte Länder, aber auch terrae possibilae, Länder der Möglichkeiten. Vielleicht liegt darin der Reiz der Dunkelheit. Sie bietet uns die Chance, in ihr einen Teil von uns selbst zu erahnen, und die Herausforderung, uns an ihn herantasten zu müssen. Diese Einleitung, eine kurze Reise an den Rand des dunklen Abgrunds zurück ins Dämmerlicht, will keine leuchtende Fackel sein, die die Dunkelheit zu erhellen versucht. Ihre Wirkung soll vielmehr der eines Streichholzes gleichen, das weitab von jedem künstlichen Licht für einen Moment aufflackert und einen kurzen, schemenhaften Blick auf die sonst verborgene Umgebung erlaubt.

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remains, and with it the knowledge that a little piece of freedom was captured in the darkness. For a downtrodden man, such a gift from the night could be the seed from which one day the strength grows for him to rebel against oppression and to bring a nightlight into his personal darkness. Origin of terror and fear, symbol of the intangible, time of crime and of death, but also the setting for society subversions and sanctuary for lovers, fugitives and dissidents – the darkness and its sister, the night, have always kept their ambivalent characters and their secrets, remained terrae incognitae,

unknown lands but also terrae possibilae, lands of opportunity. Perhaps this is where the allure  of darkness lies. It offers us the chance to perceive something about ourselves while we are in it, and the challenge of groping our way through it. This introduction, a short trip around the edge of the dark bottomless pit and back into the twilight, does not pretend to be a lighted torch that tries to enlighten the darkness. Its effect should be more like that of a match, that, far away from any artificial light, flickers for a moment allowing a short, shadowy view of the otherwise hidden surroundings.

Matthias Fiechter (28) lives and works as a freelance journalist and as head of communications for an NPO in Bern. Although he is a night person, he stumbled over many invisible obstacles in dead-end streets while on the trail of darkness, until at last he was able to feel his way and get close. Martin Skauen creates stories where mysticism, history and personal mythology colide. His work could be described as narrative constructed realities, which can possibly work as a mirror for the subconscious in and around us. Skauen is based in Fredrikstad, Norway and is especially inspired by David Byrne’s lyrics: I’m working real steady – I’m working real hard – I’m building a monster – in my backyard. Literature/Sources The Bible: The Book of Moses called Genesis, Chapter 1, Verses 1–5.   The King James Version, 2000 The Theogony of Hesiod. Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914 Projekt Gutenberg. Elisabeth Bronfen: Tiefer als der Tag gedacht. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Nacht. Hanser, 2008. A. Roger Ekirch: At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. Norton, 2005. Paul Celan: Death Fugue Theodor W. Adorno: Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft. Suhrkamp, 1976 and   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adorno United States Defense Department: Briefing Transcript, 23. December 2002. Edgar Allan Poe: The Man of the Crowd from Tales of the Grotesque and ­Arabesque, 1840.


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« Alle Befreiung, oder was man ­gemeinhin Glück nennt, ist e ­ igentlich und ­wesentlich immer nur negativ und durchaus nie positiv » Arthur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung

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The Art Of Brian M. Viveros The erotic artwork of Brian M. Viveros is a satisfying cross ­between the Varga Girls and the surrealist renderings of Hans Bellmer.   At once playful, hypersexual and erotic, there is also ­something darkly engaging in Viveros’s images. While he’ll play up the   demon aspects of the Femme Fatale, or the depravity lurking just beneath the ­­surface of the innocent girl, he does so with a sense   of awe – as if honoring what’s ‹ dangerous › in the erotic female form, not fearing it or degrading it.

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76 TRUCE  – Viveros –

« Things that inspire me are everyday happenings, finds and observations of life. Like a crazy fucking helmet from a swap meet that you found and you say to yourself ‹ what a great ­element for a painting ›. It’s like you are constantly collecting visual   ­information to translate and to bring it to life. Sometimes, words can also make for a good painting – or people you see on the streets smoking their cigarettes at the bus stop.   It all feeds the addiction and ­inspires you to want to do and create more and more. These are all pieces to the puzzle that are building up in my head »


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78 TRUCE  – Viveros –


« Painting these girls feeds my ­addiction. Like a vampire out for blood or my bad smoking habit that I just can’t seem to quit. The ­female form takes on many shapes and ­sizes and I dig on   changing and distorting it just a bit, which excites me and it reminds me that nothing is perfect »

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80 TRUCE  – Viveros –

« The Smoking Army began in the year 2000. I hadn’t yet really honed in on a particular   signature style but I knew that ­painting sexy girls smoking cigarettes is what I wanted   to do. Since then, the ­‹Arm-Me › has grown and ­taken over my studio. They hold me hostage at night and I like it. They whisper in my head and say ‹ create more, bring me to life ›.   Like a mad ­fucking scientist in his ­laboratory I’m always ­trying to come up with new ideas and elements to decorate these Smoking Temptresses »


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i di f//di oof oo foof f sjtjfo bsj qbs /qbsjtjfoof x/q xxx x xx

Rauchen fügt Ihnen und den Menschen in Ihrer Umgebung erheblichen Schaden zu. Fumer nuit gravement à votre santé et à celle de votre entourage. 82 TRUCE  – Viveros – Il fumo danneggia gravemente te e chi ti sta intorno.


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84 TRUCE  – Viveros –


« I don’t know why all these girls are smoking. I have tried to get them to quit, but they refuse to wear the patch or chew that special gum which is supposed to help you to quit. Just kidding, the Smokin thing is a piece of ­myself. I enjoy smoking and drinking a lot so I just thought it would be a cool element to add to this ARM-ME of Smoking Girls. I ­always found it sexy as a kid – like   in the ­silent black and white films, when these ­women would be smoking on the screen. They were these rebellious bad ass chicks that didn’t give a fuck »

Brian M. Viveros, born and raised in California, currently lives in Riverside. ­Never went to Art school due to lack of time and money, but was always drawing just to get through the day.The rough sound of pencil to paper became music   to his ears. Brian learned a lot from comics, vintage magazines, classic monster films and studying from the masters.

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86 TRUCE  – Nneka –


messenger from the land of black gold She is fascinating to talk to and nothing less than astonishing when she performs. She makes a lasting impression with her strong features, her exuberant Afro mane, her powerful voice and everything she stands for. She fights for truth, for justice and for her brothers and sisters. She battles against the exploitation of man, nature and the land in Africa. Nneka Egbuna – one love.

Text ~ Reto Bloesch Photography ~ Stefan Jermann Nneka is Nigerian, born and raised in the city of Warri, whose native people and lands have been destroyed by the oil industry. She speaks the language of her tribe, talks about sorrow, misery and the destruction of life in the pursuit of black gold. The inhabitants of the Niger Delta do not benefit from their natural resources. The profits go to the oblivious oil companies and the corrupt politicians who leave poverty, pollution, poison and misery to the people. Nneka came to Germany, her mother’s country, at the age of 18 – for reasons of despair rather than choice. Arriving in Europe, she brought all that she had seen and experienced and suffered in her father’s land. Today, her life straddles the two worlds of Hamburg and Warri and is dedicated to spreading the message of the injustice she knows so well. When she’s on stage, her grace, her voice and her words can’t fail to thrill your heart and soul. She is talented, beautiful and true to herself. TRUCE talked with Nneka, a woman filled with light, energy and honesty.

Reto Bloesch: You are on tour right now, performing every second night live on stage. What’s the magic of being on stage? Nnkea: The magic? There is no magic (laughs). Ey, I’m myself, every day and give what I can give, trying to give one hundred percent, in honesty and in realness. So, basically I don’t slip into a character, I don’t try to be somebody else on stage. So it’s easy, it’s just that it takes a lot of physical strength.

What is your message, Nneka? Basically, I’m talking about being honest to yourself, I’m talking about love, I’m talking about injustice. I intend to speak  for people who are not able to stand up for themselves, who don’t have the opportunity to express themselves. I am the voice for those people. Because through my music, I know that many people will get to hear me sing or speak. But most of the time it is not me who speaks, I am just being used like a messenger. When did you decide to make music or did the music choose you? I never chose music untill today. It’s still very bizarre to do what I am doing, because it was never my intention. This is something that I started all of a sudden and now I am where I am and you are here because of me and, you know, I just have to try to understand why everything is happening. I am still trying to understand – asking questions to my creator, trying to find answers. Basically I have realised that I not only stand on stage and entertain and do things superficially, it is something that I have learned to love. And as long as I love it, I have to give it a hundred percent. In that very moment, when I notice that I start hating that thing that I once loved, it will be better for me to stop or to take a time out. To me, it is a very passionate and personal matter. How do you feel like when you are on tour?

You are not just a musician, you are a person with a message. Do you think that your fans are getting your message or even come to your concerts because of that.

It’s okay, you know, it’s not about me, it’s about what has to  be said, and as long as I can stand and speak, I will continue  to do so.

Only ten or five percent really understand the message, the rest comes to the show, because they think I’m going to entertain. This is reality! You can’t expect more and I am satisified with the five percent that will listen. That’s okay for me.

You were born and raised in Africa, in Nigeria, the Niger Delta. There are a lot of problems with the oil industry, a lot of suffering. What are the consequences for the people living there?

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« God is us, god is everything, god is movement, god is music, god is air, god is love, god is real love, god can speak through everybody, even George Bush. I believe there is a god. Man is created in gods image, that’s what is written in the bible. So we are gods and this supreme being knows why he put us into this spot. We can think, unlike animals, we know how to distinguish good from bad. Therefore, we all are gods »

88 TRUCE  – Nneka –


The fact ist that the people of the Niger Delta do not have any advantage of owning ressources of oil. They are not getting anything in return, they work hard, and on the other hand you see corrupt political leaders and corrupt owners who work together. At the end of the day, the money that has been made is not invested in the society or the region. So bascially all that  is left is pollution of the farmland and of the water. And the people of the Niger Delta are dependend on fishing and farming, so it is a very delicate issue there. Plus the process of oil extraction – you have gas flames that lead to the pollution of the atmosphere and that causes sicknesses and illnesses on  the other hand. Health institutions are not that developed and people do not even have money to pay when they are sick. At the end of the day, it’s all very chaotic. How do people deal with that issue in order to survive and to keep on smiling, to keep on believing? I think for the fact that it has always been like this, people  are just used to it. I grew up like that, I was born in the chaos and you look forward living in the chaos. Basically, you try to find your piece of mind in the chaos so people just live their lifes. They just know: no matter which president will come,  no matter which governor will be crowned, no matter what – it will remain the same. This is all about survival and trying to have a better life. You try to find peace for yourself and your family. And, you know, there are a lot of churches in Africa. For the fact that people suffer so much, it is sort of contradictive, because you have this plenty churches and on the other hand you have corruption, the whole situation is very contradictive. Now that you live in Europe with people not really caring about poverty as opposed to the situation in your hometown in Africa. How do you handle this situation? I mean, when you live in this world, you know mankind ist destined to be bad. We are born in sin, we live in sin, and we

die in sin. So at the end of the day, we can only try to be better people and try to make the world a better place. But I am not trying to be negative. There must always be good and bad. I don’t want to point the finger at anybody, because we are all responsible, even Africa itself is responsible for its present state of mind. Basically, we all have a conscience. I don’t know if we can ever change it, we can try. I think total peace is when all of mankind is eliminated. Did you choose to come to live in Europe or did you have to escape from Africa? I still live in Nigeria, I live there. When there is not much work in Europe, then I go back. It was never my intention to come to Europe, never. But, the wind blows and pushes you in certain directions and at the end of the day you find yourself planting a seed and growing a tree and planting another one, you know. Yeah, I would say – god wanted it this way. What does ‹god› mean to you? God is us, god is everything, god is movement, god is music, god is air, god is love, god is real love, god can speak through everybody, even George Bush. I believe there is a god. Man is created in gods image, that’s what is written in the bible. So we are gods and this supreme being knows why he put us into this spot. We can think, unlike animals, we know how to distinguish good from bad. Therefore, we all are gods. Don’t you think that people are loosing their roots, their spirits and what’s inside us? People recognize that they are gods, therefore they try to overestimate their credibility. What we have created is what is ­going to destroy us, we are going too far. And as far as we do not know the limits of doing things, then the supreme being  is going to be laughing at us, or crying – probably more crying.

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« Nneka means: the mother is supreme, the mother is holy. And my name Egbuna means: don’t kill »

From where do you take your energy and power ? I am just being myself, that’s the thing. The way you see me now, that’s how I perform on stage. So, I know that god has a reason for everything, therefore that gives me strength, because it is not only my own power, it is also his will, all of us should come together to do something that we love. That alone is a sign that there is an energy, a connection to bring us all together and that gives me strength as well. To find passion in

Ken Saro-Wiwa hanged in the name of black gold Kenule «Ken» Beeson Saro-Wiwa, television producer and environmentalist. He was one of the earliest members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). In 1992, Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned for several months, without trial, by the nigerian military government. In January 1993, the movement organized peaceful marches of around 300 000 Ogoni people – more than half of the Ogoni population, through four Ogoni centers, drawing international attention to his people’s plight. The same year, Shell ceased operations in the Ogoni region, while the nigerian government occupied the region militarily. In May 1994, he was arrested and accused of incitement to murder following the deaths of four Ogoni elders. Saro-Wiwa denied the charges, but was imprisoned for over a year before being found guilty and sentenced to death by a specially convened tribunal, during which nearly all of the defendants’ lawyers resigned. The resignation of the legal teams left the defendants to their own means against the tribunal, which continued to bring witnesses to testify against Saro-Wiwa and his peers, only for many of these supposed witnesses to later admit they had been bribed by the nigerian government to support the criminal allegations. The trial was widely criticised by human rights organisations and half a year later, Ken Saro-Wiwa received the Right Livelihood Award for his courage as well as the Goldman Environmental Prize Few observers were surprised when the tribunal declared a «guilty» verdict, but most were shocked that the penalty would be death by hanging for all nine defendants. On 10 November 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders (the «Ogoni Nine») were executed by hanging at the hands of military personnel. www.remembersarowiwa.com

90 TRUCE  – Nneka –

what I am doing, to find peace in what I am doing, to find trust because a melody can never misguide you. I mean, what I bring forward will not let me down. I can talk through my creator and everything is fine. I can talk through the music and everything is fine, but as soon as you bring a human being into the game, the matter changes. Today man can say yes, tomorrow it means no! Do you feel lonely sometimes? Oh, yeah! Of course, sometimes I have to wake myself up. This is life. We are born alone. I try not to think too much, I try not to dig too deep. If you don’t take drugs or alcohol, then it is even more difficult, because it is easy to get rid of your situation when you take drugs, but then you also have to come back to reality. It is better to deal with it straight up. Yeah, you know, I read, I sing, I paint, I want to learn a lot, not just musically but also new subjects like mathematics: This is good stuff for your mind, keeps you away from going too far, you know. If you are lonely, you think you could do this and do that, but I am not a saint, I am a sinner, I have my demons, too. Are you frightened of these lonely moments? I have been there before, man – I have fallen already. If you have too much time, you think too much. In Nigeria, for example, you are confronted with other problems in life. So this is a problem that is a western thing: people have mental problems, go to psychologists and people become schizophrenic. Is there a spezial meaning to your name Nneka? Nneka means: the mother is supreme, the mother is holy. And my name Egbuna means: don’t kill.

To learn more about Nneka’s message and to listen   to her music, go visit: www.nnekaworld.com


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94 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –


Guns, Adrenaline & Beer

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 Two years ago, I started working on a story about my brotherin-law, Timmy, who works as a US Army infantry soldier, has been to Iraq twice and now suffers from severe PTSD. I would usually interview and photograph him when my ­husband and I went to America on vacation but I was also ­curious about his life away from his family on the Army base where he is stationed. So in May 2008, I traveled to Killeen / Ft. Hood to spend time with him and met his friends (they call him Nike because he got yelled at in basic training once for wearing socks with a swoosh). I started talking to his friends. I wanted to know about their lives before the Army and how their tours in Iraq affected them. Are their views and experiences in any way similar to my brother-in-law’s? Do they have mental problems following their deployment or are they healthy? Are they proud to be s­ oldiers or did they enlist because they’d hoped to escape a depressing lower class life and see the world?   When I arrive, it strikes me right away how young these kids are and how hard it is to guess their age. Most of them look significantly older than they are. The youngest soldier I’ve talked to is just nineteen years old and the oldest one eight days younger than me.  

Interviews With Infantry Soldiers

96 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –


 Killeen is a depressing, run-down Army town in the heart of Texas. Timmy and his friends who are stationed here come from all over the United States and miss their families, their friends and their hometowns. They’re lonely – drinking seems to be the only amusement that passes the time. Most of them already have a serious addiction to alcohol when they join the Army and are used to taking pretty much any drug they can find – the more, the merrier. Their moods turn somber when they’re drunk and high: They start talking about the war, their fallen friends, their hate for the muslims who killed them, the muslims that they have killed. It’s the only time that they ever voluntarily talk about Iraq and the only time they let on how much it actually affected them.   Yet their everyday lives seem typically American: They play videogames, they eat mostly fast food, they listen to loud music in their cars and hardly ever wear seat belts, they are constantly on the phone, compare their tattooes and bullshit all day long. Happy relationships with girls are rare. Divorces or marital problems are not. Many of the soldiers come from disrupted families or have been sort of abandoned as teenagers by their parents. Only one of the nine guys I interviewed grew up with both his parents. Timmy once told me that the camaraderie they share is a feeling of love that many of his friends are not used to. They will probably all agree that that just sounded totally gay, yet they call themselves a family. The sappy Army expression ‹ brothers in arms › rings true for many of them.  

 When I asked them whom they’re gonna vote for in the upcoming election, I was surprised to learn that most of them won’t use their right to vote. How can you – as an infantry soldier at the bottom of the food chain – be indifferent ­towards the candidates when their future political decisions will influence your life? One soldier’s answer was that unless you’re like a super square guy who doesn’t have a social life, you’re just worried about having fun before you go back to war and get – possibly – killed.   I felt very welcome in Killleen right away and want to thank the guys for their trust and their willingness to share their thoughts. Many of them said that they were honored to be interviewed and photographed; they urged me to publish their stories, to ‹ tell the world how crazy the Army really is. › I’d also like to thank my brother-in-law: This project would never have been possible without him. Timmy’s been gracious enough to share his whole life with me and answer my innumerable questions in detail and with patience.  

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Coury Stevens is a slim, short boy with a handsome smile and a nice Southern accent that he says helps him with the ladies. Even though he’s openly racist and homophobic, he has a sweet and almost painfully innocent side that he tries to hide by acting though and badass. His jokes and remarks about black people are sometimes shocking and sometimes plain laughable. His friends usually don’t take his racist slurs seriously but admit that he gets a bit extreme sometimes. Stevens calls himself a drunk. He doesn’t want to call himself an alcoholic since that would imply his wanting to quit. He likes drinking and he likes to be drunk. When he went home on leave over the 4th of July weekend, his parents apparently were very shocked with the way he had changed. They said he’s not the same person he was before he went to Iraq, that he’s an alcoholic and constantly looking for fights. They had an intervention and told him they don’t want to have anything to do with him anymore unless he seeks counseling. He didn’t tell them that he’s already seeing a psychiatrist. When I asked him why he felt he needed help he said: ‹ Because I’m fucked up in the head. ›

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I turned 21 last week. I grew up in West Virginia. I lived there a little bit and then I moved to Ohio. Then every summer after school I’d go to West Virginia and stay with my grandparents. I did that until I graduated. My dad’s a cop, a vice detective, so he busts prostitution and drugs and stuff like that; my mom’s a doctor. She used to do open heart surgery. A lot of people’s parents aren’t together anymore, but mine are. I have one sister, I think she’s a sophomore in college. She plays softball for Appalachian State University. I have a brother that’s twenty-six, he’s the head security of all the J. C. Penneys in Ohio.   I grew up out in the woods and around guns and stuff – my dad’s a cop, so I always knew that I wanted to get in law enforcement, and my brother’s, like, head security or whatever, so I knew I was gonna do something like that. I played Army when I was a kid all my life so I decided to join the military. I actually joined the Army when I was a junior in high school. I got into high school, I was pretty much set on the Army. That’s why my parents signed for me when I was seventeen because I knew what I was gonna do, so they were like, whatever, we might as well let him do it now. After that I went to Army things – I had to check in with my recruiter and do stuff for him on the weekends. As soon as I graduated high school, I left for basic training.   I was hoping I was gonna go to Iraq. That’s why I joined. I joined to kill people. I joined to go over there and kill people. It’s terrorists! They blew up our Trade Center! They killed how many hundreds of people on them planes? So someone’s gotta do it. Why not me? I grew up in the woods out in the country shooting rifles. I’d rather be me that knows how to shoot rifles and everything to go out there and do it than some city boy that’s never held a gun before in his life. I think everybody should have to serve our country. I think everybody should have to do at least three years. Because I’ve matured so much through the military, through going to Iraq … – I used to be a

98 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –

little dickhead. I was an asshole. Then I got into the military. Now I’m an asshole but just in different ways. I was kind of disrespectful – not towards my parents or anybody, but towards other people, towards girls. But then the military gets your mind right. People blame the military for a lot of stuff, but the military definitely matures people. Everybody should definitely do it.   I liked basic training, I thought it was a good time. If you do something wrong, you get yelled at, that’s how I grew up. You did something wrong, you get yelled at. The people that think basic training is horrible are people who had no discipline growing up. Their parents let them go out to all hours at night and everything. I was a senior in high school and I had to be home at midnight. I’ve always had a curfew, I’ve always had to check in with my parents, let them know where I’m going. When they said, clean your room, I went upstairs and I cleaned my room. When they told me to vacuum the house, I’d get up and vacuum the house. So when a drill sergeant is yelling at you, telling you to do something, you do it. If you don’t do it right you get punished. It’s not a big deal. I liked it. I enjoyed it.   From basic training, I came to Ft. Hood. I was here for six months, I think, and then I went to Iraq. I loved Iraq. I loved it. I loved just going out and shooting and getting shot at. There’s nothing like getting shot at and getting stuff blown up around you. I was with Elmo. Me and Elmo were in the same group. We worked with the Iraqi Army. And what would happen was: We had a whole battalion of Iraqi Army, so we had a couple hundred Iraqi soldiers or whatever, and whenever any of  them would get into a fire fight, they’d call us and we’d have to go out and help them. So pretty much everyday we were in a firefight. Or getting shot at. I loved it. It was definitely a good time.   Going to Iraq makes you grow up, realizing that life’s short. I


got shot twice when I was over there, and so you don’t take stuff for granted. You realize any second your life can end. You’ll be driving down the road, and all of a sudden the road will blow up underneath you. So you definitely don’t take life for granted.   I killed quite a few people. I don’t have a count. It’s not necessarily confirmed kills … – A confirmed kill is when someone will see it and then put it down on paper. But when you’re in a fire fight, there’s so much crazy stuff going on, that it’s just, like, you’ll be shooting … – I had a grenade launcher on the bottom of my rifle, so when we got shot at, I’d shoot a grenade inside a house. You don’t know how many people you’ve killed this way because you don’t go in and check. I had a rocket launcher too. It’s called an AT-4. You shoot an AT-4: It’s a rocket that blows up. You don’t know how many people you killed that way. And then it’s like, you shoot somebody, you know you shoot them, but they might not die right away, and then they run off. But you know they’re gonna die. I do have confirmed kills. I think I have four.   Killing people didn’t affect me. They’re terrorists! We don’t go in and just start shooting people. We wait till people shot at us. I don’t care if this guy has a family. If his family is letting him go out and plant roadside bombs on us … They should have talked him out of it. I don’t care. I kill him and his family. If your family is OK with a family member going out and blowing shit up, blowing coalition up or shooting at coalition, I don’t care! You wanna fight against the government? I don’t care, I kill you and your family!   I’m not gonna vote for anybody. Because I won’t put a woman in office and I won’t put a black man in office. If anybody got my vote it’d be McCain just because he’s Republican. I hope Obama wins because I’ll be alive when there’s an assassination, and then Hillary will get in office, and then I’ll be alive for two assassinations, and then McCain will win. That’s how I feel, personally. I like Bush. I just like his view. He should have bombed Iraq more, I think. And then we should have wiped them all out. I mean, you can’t shoot anybody, like a civilian or whatever, but I think we should wipe them all out. They’re all harbouring terrorists. I don’t give a fuck.   My mom tells me I have a love / hate relationship with the Army. It changes like my mood changes. So one day, I love the Army, and then the other day, we have to do something stupid, like, go to the field for a week, go live out in the woods for a week, but we only do two days worth of work. Why are we still out there? The training we did only took two days, but why are we out there for a week? When we do stuff like that, I’m like, well, this is gay! Why am I still in it? But then other days we do cool stuff and you can’t do this anywhere else, so I like it.   I’m gonna re-enlist. I want to go back to Iraq. I tried going back to Iraq, to get deployed next month. But that fell through, it didn’t happen for me. They think I need a little bit more time here in the US. It’s alright, though. I can do it.  

What I don’t like about the Army is that we don’t get told what we’re gonna do. Everything’s a mystery until it needs to be done. And then they’re like, you gotta hurry up and do this! And I’m like, you’ve known this for three days now, why didn’t you tell us so we could actually prepare for it? In Iraq, you know if you’re gonna roll out to a village and do a mission or whatever. So you can prepare for it. But, when we’re in the States, if something needs to be done, they wait until the last minute and then: OK, we gotta do this really quick! Wow, we’ve known this for a week now, we could have done it throughout the week. But now you wait to the last minute to where we have to do it all at once.   I’m real close to my family, so I missed them when I was in Iraq, but I’d still definitely go back. The most I missed over there was my nephews. My brother has two kids, and I’ve only seen them a couple times and so I really missed them. My nephew, when I’d call home, he’d get on the phone and he just learned how to talk and he’d tell me to come over and play. That really sucked. You just get homesick. That’s all it is. You go away from home for a while, you get homesick and you miss your family, that’s all it is. But the Army’s like a whole different family. So you definitely have people you can turn to and look to. Everybody knows what kind of mood you’re in. You always have someone to talk to. So if you miss your family, you’re like, man, this sucks, I want to go home. And then another day, you’ll be like, man, I love this, let’s go kill hadj. Let’s go kill some insurgents.   Right now, in the infantry, I’m trying to switch my job to scuba diver. You do underwater demolitions or underwater welding on ships and stuff. The reason why I want to do that is because you get so much money in the civilian world doing that. I’m gonna get out of the Army eventually – I’m not one of the guys that’s gonna stay in the Army for twenty years and retire. But an underwater welder makes so much money. Ungodly amounts of money! I was just talking to my grandpa yesterday. I told him that I was doing that, and his exact words were: Damn, boy, you’re gonna be a millionaire in two months! That’s how much money they make. It’s really dangerous, too, you often get electrocuted. But how cool would it be to go down under water and blow shit up? Besides that, I need to be looking towards a future of my civilian life. In the infantry, once you get out, what do you have? You have the skill of killing people. That’s what the infantry is. You go out and you kill people. So now I have the skill to become a cop, a security guard, or a personal security, you know, like, a bodyguard for somebody. OK. That’s not very many options. Underwater demolitions, underwater salvage recovery, like if a car goes in a river, you dive down in there for the city, and pull the car up out of the water. And then there’s underwater welding. There’s twelve major ports in the United States. So you have twelve different areas in the United States that you can go work at, and that’s just along the ocean. And then you got places like … You know, something needs be welded under a lake or something. You go down there. I know a guy who does it, he goes to Australia and does welding for them. Or you can go out to oil rigs. You can pretty much do anything.

»

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100 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –


« It seems like when you first kill ­somebody it would be a huge thing, but it’s really not. ­ Everybody tells you, you did a good job »

101


Levi Rollings is very tall, very handsome and sometimes reminds me of a young horse. His biggest dream is to tame a wild mustang, back in his home town in Indiana. He’s always totally immersed in whatever he’s doing which makes him seem very innocent. Rollings is constantly in motion, hardly ever wears a shirt, eats a hot dog in about two bites and is ­inseparable from his friend Aaron Sonberg. When all the guys go chill by the river or the lake, he tries to catch fish with his bare hands, tracks down all sorts of animals and gene­ rally is not afraid of anything. He won the Fear Factor Iraq contest when he was deployed. Not surprisingly, his Army nickname is Wild Bill. Everybody loves Rollings. He is happy and good-natured and seems content with his life and himself. When drinking at the bar, he walks up to total strangers and just starts talking to them – but never to girls because he thinks they’re annoying, especially when they want to date him. He is a little bit shy but loosens up when he drinks and will start telling you ­entertaining back country stories that involve transporting little ducks while smoking pot and being pulled over by the cops, all at the same time.

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I grew up in Toad Hop. I was born in Terre Haute and my mom and dad got divorced when I was two. I lived with my mom for a while, she wouldn’t let me live with my dad. They had joint custody or whatever, so I’d just see my dad on the weekends. And then, whenever I turned twelve, she let me move, and I went to live with my dad. I don’t know why I didn’t wanna live with my mom anymore. I just wanted to live with my dad. He had horses and stuff like that, and my mom didn’t. I have one real sister, and then I have three step sisters on my mom’s side, and two step brothers, and two step sister’s on my dad’s side and one step brother. We had a lot of animals.   My dad got cancer and died when I was fifteen. He was really hard on me and my step brother. My step brother wrestled in high school and played football a lot. My dad was always real hard on him about that stuff. I think he was probably harder on my step brother than he was on me.   My dad was in the Army – he was a tanker, over in Germany. So joining the Army was like a family thing. Everybody in my family has been in the military, all my uncles, my grandpa, and my dad. I just grew up around it. I always figured I would. I just wanted to do it. Because of the experience, I guess. I joined in 2005, when I was eighteen. I dropped out of high school. I was in a lot of trouble in school, just for stupid stuff, not drugs. I always got in trouble for not showing up in school, or leaving school early, and then they said that the drug dog smelled

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something on my locker one day. My dean was really cool, I told him, you know I don’t bring that stuff to school. I said, you know I smoke weed but I don’t bring it to school. He started talking about getting me kicked out so I just quit when I was seventeen and got a job. Well, before I quit, I had a job already, I worked at a warehouse, at a furniture store that my aunt owns, and then I quit there when I dropped out and I worked for a landscaping business until I joined the Army.   I didn’t really think about what job I was gonna do in the Army before I joined, I just went there and you have to take a test and they show you all the jobs you can get. They showed me the infantry, and I was like, I’ll do that. It’s the funnest. It looked the funnest.   I’m from a place that’s as big as somebody’s family. It’s like a neighbourhood that is actually almost like a family. Everybody literally knows everybody. No joke! You don’t pass by their house on your bicycle without saying hi to them. When I went home on R+R from Iraq, I still had my ACUs on, it was the day I got home and I was driving around with my sister, just to see what everybody’s doing. And people were yelling: Levi! I pulled up and they’re like, oh my God, you’re home! OK, we’re throwing a keg party tomorrow night! Like that, ain’t no question about it. And I said, alright, I’ll be here! So the next day we had a fucking huge ass keg party and everybody in Toad Hop came and visited me. There’s not even sixty people in Toad Hop. So


all those people were there and everybody else who heard I was back home, from West Terre Haute, and Terre Haute, everybody showed up, it was ridiculous. In Toad Hop, I know everybody. No question. Honestly, if a car goes through Toad Hop, you will hear about it. Let’s say somebody drives through with a new Escalade – people talk about that in Toad Hop. It’s ridiculously small.   We had a confederate flag in the window of our trailer, and my recruiter, when he came to pick me up, thought I was, like, really racist. He was a black guy and he wanted to talk to me about that. I would, I guess, call myself a racist. I don’t know, I’m not really that racist, but I was grown up in a really racist area, so I am kind of racist.   West Terre Haute – no black people. Toad Hop – no black people. Terre Haute – there’s a shitload. I don’t like being around a lot of black people. If I see a crowd of five black people, I won’t go up and talk to them. I don’t have a problem with black people, but black people who are about black people … – There’s different kinds of every race, you know what I’m saying, there’s definitely the races of white, black, Mexican, everybody’s got their own racist people. And every race has their own fucking shitheads. That’s just the way I see it. Everybody sees that shit different. Like Stevens, he hates every black person. I don’t hate every black person, but if a black person is a typical black person, like a fucking rapper or that shit … But there’s also white people like that, or Mexicans like that. Like I’m a white stereotype, for sure. A lot of black people I get along with because I think most black people are really, really funny. Like they will make you laugh because of the way they talk. The shit that they say and how they say it. It’s just fucking hilarious. Because you can’t talk to a white person, like, yeah, nigga this, nigga that … Everybody would be like, what the fuck are you talking about? If a black dude says it, it’s funny. Black people are really funny.   We don’t really hang out with black soldiers because honestly, we just don’t have that many in our company. I give a dude a ride home everyday – he’s black. The other day I helped Sgt. N. move all day – he’s a black guy. Me and him are really cool. He doesn’t trust that many people. But for some reason, he trusts me. I’ve never met anybody who just hated me.   Basic training sucks. The first two weeks is red phase, I think that’s what it is, and that’s the real hard part. They don’t let you do anything, you can’t go anywhere, you’re locked down, that’s the hardest part. But then after the first two weeks, they

lighten up a little bit, they let you use the phone, like, once a week or so. It was the first time I was away from home, but it was alright. Before I joined the Army, after I dropped out of high school and I had that landscaping job, I lived by myself, so I was kind of used to living without my family.   After basic training I came here to Ft. Hood, for about a year. I did all the training, and then we went to Iraq. I did one tour. I was nineteen when I was over there. Iraq is not that bad. You have missions, and then after your mission, you’re off work. Sometimes you do missions that are more than a day long, and you’re stuck out there, but it’s better than Ft. Hood. Here we just do stupid training, I mean, it’s not stupid, we gotta do training. In Iraq you don’t train. You just go out and do your job and then come back.   It’s a really quick year. Fifteen months go by really fast. We got over there, and they said our tour was twelve months. And we were there for five or six months, and then you’re like, yeah, I’m halfway through! Then they’re like, OK, it’s fifteen months now. And you’re like, oh, fuck! For Nike … He went home in December, after one month. Way too soon. I can understand that it sucked for him. But I went home, like, seven months into the tour. so it was alright. – Everytime you go home on leave, everything’s weird. Everybody changes. You know, people get married, you go home and you’re like, hey, what’s so-and-so been up to? And they’re like, we haven’t seen him since last time you were home. Everybody goes their different ways.   I don’t think Iraq really affected me that much. I myself didn’t kill many people, but the bradleys, they get a lot of kills. Because if you’re in the middle of the night, like on a patrol, you take the people on the ground with you, just in case they need to do something. And you just shoot with the vehicle. I’ve only killed a couple of people, nothing big. I don’t know, honestly, because we never go and check the bodies afterwards, but I’ve shot people. It’s just your job, pretty much, you don’t really think about it that much. It seems like when you first kill somebody it would be a huge thing, but it’s really not. Everybody tells you, you did a good job. Nobody’s like, dude, you killed somebody! Before I went to Iraq, of course I was around a lot of guys that have already been there. So you always hear people talking about it, you’re like, man, it sounds like it would be crazy, but it’s really not. I wasn’t anxious to do it, like, it wasn’t on my list of things to do but I do it if I have to.   After Sgt. M. died, we went on blackout: no phones, no internet. It’s the worst thing because you lose somebody and you

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can’t even talk to anybody about it. That’s hard. They had us sit down in a class, and we had a talk about how our feelings were and all that stupid shit. There’s a bunch of people that weren’t in the convoy, that weren’t with us, like the POGs, you know, and they were all crying and all that stupid shit. I cried too. I think everybody did. I didn’t think, this could have been me, but I did when Cummings died because he was only one day older than me. He’d just turned twenty when he died. So I was like, damn, that’s pretty fucked up.   I was kind of anxious before I went to Iraq. I was a little bit excited and nervous, but mostly because I didn’t really know what to expect. Once you actually start doing stuff, every fire fight you get in, your adrenaline is pumped, and it’s kind of like being scared but not really, it’s just a really weird feeling. Afterwards, you’re like, yeah, that was kind of fun! But scary at the same time.   What I like about the Army are the people. You meet a lot of different people. Like Elmo and Nike. Just funny guys that you go hang out with. People in the Army party pretty hard. I’ve never been outside the US until then. And I’ve really only been to a few states before I joined the Army. I’ve been to Georgia for basic training, here in Texas, I’ve been to Alabama, I’ve seen New York when we were on our way out. Not New York City, just New York state, somewhere by the water. I went to Buffalo NY to visit Elmo one time, and we went up to Canada, stuff like that, so that’s pretty cool.   What I don’t like about the Army is waking up at four-thirty in the morning to go to work and running everyday. I don’t like running. A bunch of the guys who have been to Iraq, they know all that stuff, then we come back and we get a bunch of new soldiers, so you have to train all these guys to do stuff, so you have to re-train on how to do it. Everything’s repetitive. You just have to always do the same thing over and over again. That’s just boring, pretty much.   I’m not re-enlisting and am supposed to get out in September. Either that or I’m getting stop-lossed. Stop-loss is when you’re about to get out of the Army, but like three months before they deploy, everything’s stop-lossed, so you can’t get out even if your contract’s over. They make you stay in and do the tour and after you do the tour, then you can get out when you come back. I think it’s just because they need a certain amount of people to be deployable status, and if people are getting out that means they have to try to keep new guys in, I don’t know if it’s hard or whatever. Your unit can’t deploy if it doesn’t

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have so many people. I guess that’s why, but I don’t know, honestly. There is a chance that I might get stop-lossed because our unit is going back in December. I’d be pissed off. I really don’t want to get stop-lossed. I mean, it’s OK, kind of, because, like I said, Iraq isn’t that bad, I don’t mind going there, but I just want to get out of the Army.   When I get out, I will just go back home and get a job. My stepmom is gonna sell me the house I grew up in, from my dad, she still owns it but she lives somewhere else. So I’ll buy the house and move back home. I don’t know if I want to have a family. I might have a kid right now, actually. When I went home on R+R from Iraq – mid-tour leave – I met with one of my ex-girlfriends, because before I got home, she broke up with her boyfriend. So, you know, I was with her for two weeks and then I went back to Iraq and she went back with her boyfriend and she ended up pregnant. So I have no clue if it’s my kid. I haven’t seen it yet but her sister sent pictures but they’re all blurry and stuff so you can’t really tell. The baby’s got blond hair and blue eyes and the baby’s mom has blond hair and blue eyes, so it doesn’t really proof anything. I don’t know. I have no clue. But now she’s just being a bitch. She won’t get a test done. She just wants her boyfriend to be the dad. I would definitely take care of the kid if she got it tested and I turned out to be the dad. I would not get married to her, though. Because we’re probably just gonna end up being divorced anyway.   I would join all over again. Because before the Army, I was – well, you know, I still do, I smoke weed and stuff, still – but before that, it was all I did. I lived in a trailer, and just me and a bunch of my buddies lived there and we partied all the time and got in a lot of trouble. When I enlisted for the Army, I had two weeks until I had to leave for basic training, so the weekend before I went to basic training we threw a really big party. We got busted and I was supposed to do six months in jail, but then when I went to court I was like, hey, I’m leaving for basic training, like, tomorrow. So they took away everything except for one ticket, it was like $ 400, I had to pay that, that’s it. But there’s pretty much nothing to do in Toad Hop. The Army is definitely a way out. When I go home, I see a lot of my old friends, but they’re all meth heads now, so I just say what’s up to them pretty much. There’s a lot of friends I still hang out with when I go home, though.   I don’t vote. I never have. Because if you vote, then you complain. Everybody complains about Bush – I don’t complain about Bush because the US chose who the President is, right? The majority wins. Honestly, I don’t listen to Hillary, Obama or


McCain. I don’t pay attention what’s going on in the election, so I don’t think I have the right to vote. If I watched them and listened to what everybody had to say, and I would really be interested and shit, then I would vote. But I’m not really interested in what they have to say because honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what the fuck happens. The way it sounds, it’s either Hillary or Obama. Everybody knows that. I hear that they both pretty much got the same perspectives on everything, they want the same for everything. So, I’ve never voted before, but even if I was to vote now, I won’t even know who to choose from because it doesn’t make a difference. Honestly, the only way I’ve looked at it, is: a woman and a black guy. That’s the only thing I’ve gotten out of it. And then there’s McCain, who’s not gonna win, pretty much. But whatever. It’s always been a white male, in the entire history of the presidency, now it’s finally gonna change this year! It don’t matter to me because I have no clue what the President does. Like whatever he does on a day to day basis. Hillary – I’m sure she knows what to do because her husband was President so she’s got a lot of experience and stuff. You know how some people are saying, oh, we can’t let a woman run this country? It don’t matter to me. As long as she doesn’t fuck over the country.   A lot of people hate Bush, but I honestly don’t know why. I mean, we got fucked up, we got bombed by terrorists … I don’t know what everybody calls it, war for gas or war for oil – I call it payback! If fucking terrorists are fucking with your country, and you run the country, do you either just say, OK, that sucked, or do you say, alright, fuck you assholes, I’m gonna whoop your ass? That’s the way I see it. Bush just seems like some country-ass motherfucker, he’s just a regular guy, a little bit of a hick maybe. But he’s like, you know, fuck that! You ain’t gonna blow up my fucking buildings in my country and get away with it! So yeah, I agree with what he did. A lot of people hate him because we’re going to war, but whatever … who cares.   Iraq is honestly the best part of the Army I’ve had, the best experience. Being back here, it just fucking blows. And we do a bunch of stupid shit that doesn’t make sense half the time and you’re like, why am I doing this? And they say, I honestly don’t have an answer. And then I think, OK, that’s fucking retarded. We go to work. Sometimes before lunch, we do shit. Then we get back from lunch and we don’t have anything to do, we just sit around and they have to come up with stuff for us to do, for no reason, which, in my eyes, is stupid. I don’t know what’s going on on a higher level because they don’t let us know that stuff. Training I understand, I don’t complain about going out.

I’d go out to the field for a month, I understand, you gotta train to go to Iraq and fight. But doing stupid shit like that, there’s no reason for it. In Iraq, you wake up, you go on your mission, you come back, you do what the fuck you want. You go eat, you go to the gym or whatever you do that day, you come back and chill and watch movies in your room and go to sleep. Yeah, it sucks because you ain’t got bars to go to so you can’t drink or nothing, but they’re not making you do stupid shit on your fucking free time.   I don’t feel the urge to kill, just for no reason, but in Iraq, whenever somebody’s shooting at you … – Like, when Sgt. M. died, I really wanted to kill somebody that day because I was there and I watched him get blown up. That day, I felt the urge to kill somebody over that shit. But I don’t just feel the urge to kill every hadji. If I was told to, I would do it without a problem, but I don’t feel the urge to. If it’s a known terrorist, that you know has blown up your buddies or you know he’s gonna try to do that shit, yeah, I want to kill him. There’s no question about that. I wouldn’t have a problem killing somebody who is fucking with my family or fucking with my friends, or something like that but it’s not like I’m fiending for it. I don’t have withdrawals. Whenever you’re in a fire fight, it’s such an adrenaline rush, it’s ridiculous. It’s ten times better than riding a roller coaster. It’s better than hunting – anything. It really gets you pumped up. You watch war movies and you’re like, oh my God, this is crazy! So I understand what people say when they say, man, I haven’t killed somebody in a long time and I’m getting the urge because they’re, like, fiending for it, the adrenaline rush that you will never have again. In a fire fight, I could really fucking die right now. If somebody tells me to do something, I gotta do it, like, NOW! There ain’t no fucking uh and oh. It was fun, but I don’t wanna do it no more. I had my fair share.   A lot of people in the company think that I should be a leader because I look out for my friends. They look at me as a person that kind of knows a little more than them – but as a friend, you know, not somebody who’s telling them what to do, more like somebody who’s just giving them advice on what to do. For example, if somebody’s looking down while we’re doing a patrol, I won’t say shit, like, dude, get your fucking head up! But after we do it, after training, I’ll say, hey dude, you had your head down, you gotta look up! I just like to try and help people out. Because I don’t think I’m going back to Iraq. But, you know, a lot of these guys I like and I would fucking hate  for something bad to happen to them. Over something stupid like that.

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« When I initially ­enlisted, I was all, hey, we just got attacked, we all need to do our duty, and throughout the years, it’s become more like, OK, some of these things that we’re doing now are wrong »

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Luis Tristan is a quiet and serious person. He stands out among the group of friends as the oldest, most sensible soldier. Timmy and Tristan share an apartment and while Timmy’s room mostly looks like a pigsty, Tristan’s always looks immaculate. He shades are always drawn because he can’t stand daylight. He likes to travel and is very open to foreign cuisine but eats fast food most of the time and usually comes home with a bag of take out from Taco Bell’s or Wendy’s. Whenever he has more than two days off, he drives seven hours south to Brownsville to see his wife and his family. Tristan doesn’t drink very often but when he does, he drinks until he passes out. When he’s drunk, he talks about very personal, dark things in a matter-of-fact voice that lacks any kind of emotion. It sounds to me as if he’s talking about somebody else’s life, not his – as if he was watching all these feelings happening to him without really being able to feel them.

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I grew up in Brownsville TX which is the very south tip of Texas right at the border of Mexico, in the countryside. I wasn’t really into the whole city life. Both my parents were born in Mexico but they moved up here to the States. They now have a mutual agreement: They’re divorced but they’re still living together for the kids’ sake, because the kids don’t know. But the divorce is final. I’m the oldest of five, and I’m the only one who knows. So I got all that to deal with, too.   During high school, I stayed away from drugs – I was your typical jock, I played football, I ran track. I socialized with everybody. There wasn’t anybody that I didn’t get along with growing up.   Initially, my plan was: Join the military, kind of get a feel of what I want to do later on, and now it’s been five years, and I’m pretty positive I want out. Our opinions have changed since I joined. When I initially enlisted, I was all, hey, we just got attacked, we all need to do our duty, and throughout the years, it’s become more like, OK, some of these things that we’re doing now are wrong. When I joined I felt patriotic.   I’m gonna vote for Obama in the upcoming election, because I don’t think this country is ready for a female President. Hillary doesn’t have the experience, you know, she claims she’s about the experience because she’s lived in the White House and her husband was a President, but that doesn’t mean she knows jack about running a country. Obama pretty much seems like he’s heading on the right track. He’s got some good plans for the economy. It’ll be interesting! I’ve always voted democratic and my decision to vote for Obama has nothing to do with my war experiences or being in the Army. Plus, I would definitely not vote for McCain. He might be a war veteran and all that but he’s planning on keeping us in Iraq for a while. So fuck McCain.   After I graduated from basic training, I went to Korea. That was my first duty station. I chose to go there, because the whole, you know, ‹ go to the Army, go see the world › and stuff,

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so I was like, hey, they gave me an option to go to Korea and I took it. I had a blast in Korea. I had a blast! I didn’t stay around the post like a lot of the other guys did, because around the post you have your bars and clubs and stuff, it’s pretty much like an American town and that’s where everybody used to get in trouble. So what I did, I’d actually go down to Seoul, the actual big city part, and see everything else. We were told to stay away from the universities and certain areas, but I broke those rules, and I hung out at a lot at universities and met a lot of cool people. I was in Korea for a year, right out of basic training. If I could have extended, I would have extended it to have more time, that’s how much fun it was.   When I came back, I got sent to Ft. Hood and I was only in Ft. Hood for two weeks before deploying to Iraq. That was a shocker because I was actually supposed to be given six months stability time to get all of my things together, but they were like, no, you’re infantry, we need you to go to Iraq with 1st CAV di­ vision. And I was like, wow. I was pretty … well, not upset, just a little shocked that it happened so fast. But, you know, I was ready, all that training I was doing in Korea, to actually start applying it and doing my job … So it turned out well.   I can’t remember if I was scared to go to Iraq. I mean I had the butterflies in my stomach, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but eventually you just learn as you go. That’s all there really is. There’s no set training out there that will prepare you for it. When you go to Iraq, that’s where you’re learning. Learning by doing.   The second time I was in Iraq was completely different – of course we’ve been fighting with them for the past four years. In four years, they’re gonna learn how to fight us and they’re picking up a lot of things, a lot of new techniques, they’re learning just like we’re learning. And they’re building bigger bombs, they know how to hide better now. We’re each evolving to eachother’s tactics.   Iraq has definitely changed me so much. Everybody has no-


ticed the change in me since I’ve come back: my wife, my family … – After the first deployment, I had my typical symptoms, you know, PTSD, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, I had anxiety attacks, I became claustrophobic. I became claustrophobic because we were in a bradley, and one of the tracks broke. Next thing you know it’s swinging left and right and all of a sudden: BOOM – it flips on its side and we’re stuck inside there for, like, a good thirty minutes in the dark, it’s hot, everybody’s all crammed up, I got stuff all over me, and I’m beginning to freak out. And ever since that accident, I can’t be inside enclosed areas. That’s why for about two years, they had me as the company armor – I had a desk job basically. I was a liability – which is OK, hey, I have no problem with it. But now they’re putting me back on the ground again and it’s causing problems.   The PTSD symptoms also include wanting to hurt yourself or other people. There’s no way I’m gonna hurt myself, but there’s possibilities of me hurting other people if they push the wrong buttons. That’s there and that’s always been there. I control it, but you know, if somebody really tempted me, yeah, things could get bad. I premeditate attacks on people that piss me off and it’s scary! Sometimes I really feel the itch to kill again. I’m pretty positive a lot of guys feel the same way too, they don’t say it unless they’re in a confined area, because, it’s kind of, you know, serious and a private kind of conversation. A lot of guys have that itch. They need to feel that rush of taking somebody’s life. It’s like a high. It wasn’t my first kill, but it must have been like my third or my fourth … – It wasn’t with a weapon, it was with a knife. I was actually enjoying it when I stabbed him – watching the life exit his body. It’s just something that you gotta experience. It has something to do with the way that we are trained. Always ‹ Kill, kill, kill. › One of the mottoes that we yell out when we are in training: ‹ What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood! › There’s actually a mosque here somewhere in Killeen. There’s a few of us guys that are thinking about blowing it up. During prayer time.   You can’t come back and lead a normal life. After two deployments, it’s like, we can’t shut off. I’m holding back a lot of things, like hurting people, and after constantly being out on alert, you gotta be aware of all your surroundings, you can’t just shut it off. The wife sees that, everybody else sees that, they notice it from eachother, and they just can’t relax. Any little sound that sounds like a gun fire, or a mortar, you will jump. It’ll never go away. They can give us as much meds as possible, they still haven’t figured it out. They probably will never have a cure for PTSD.   After my first tour, I didn’t talk to anybody, any counselors, about the PTSD, because our leadership was like, oh, give it some time, it’ll go away. It never really did go away from me, so all I did was bottle it up. I just kept it to myself. After the first tour. The second tour, I really didn’t have a problem with it because of course I had a desk job and then eventually they said, it’s time to go back down to the line. That’s when I was like, OK, I need to start facing my little fears again, the claustrophobia etc., that’s when I had to start taking medication and

went to see a psychologist. And they said, yeah, you got the symptoms of PTSD, we’re gonna go ahead and start the paperwork for you and diagnose you with it.   The company will automatically start casting you aside, once they see that, oh, you’re going crazy, you’re not tough enough … It happens. Every single guy that I’ve seen, seeking help, he’ll get cast out. Just kind of brushed off. I guess now it’s improving a little bit. The company is actually doing their part of helping you out. That’s why I decided to finally ask for help. Plus the wife, she’s the one who was like, hey, you need to get help, so … – I don’t want to be crazy for the rest of my life. Medication helps, though. It does. I’m on Zoloft and Klonopin. The Klonopin is helping, the Zoloft isn’t. The Klonopin mellows me out.   The bradley incident was one thing that helped cause the PTSD, being enclosed in that little small compartment for a long time. Oh my God … – Some of the accidents that we got into involved innocent people and other vehicles. We were in a vehicle in the back seat, one of our bradleys accidently hit a van full of women and children and when we got out to survey the area there were body parts everywhere. Pieces were just torn apart. Another incident involved a shooting, a car, that we thought was implanting an IED, but really, somebody made a mistake, and we ended up shooting this guy’s brother, and it was pretty bad. It was pretty bad.   I kind of lost count of how many people I’ve killed. You know, you count to the first five and stuff like that, but after a while, it’s just like, OK, there’s no reason to be keeping count at all … I didn’t really feel bad about killing because that person  was either gonna kill me or I was killing him, so it was self defense. I don’t have nightmares about that. What I do have nightmares about, though, is some of the guys we lost, some of the scenarios that they were in. I have dreams, like, oh, I need to get to them, save them. Those are recurring dreams, constantly. At least twice a week. I don’t wake up screaming or sweating, but I get up in a jolt, looking around trying to see where I am at.   My psychologists asked me exactly what kind of symptoms have been reccuring. One of them is, I had to write little notes down, because I’ve got short term memory loss. I can’t concentrate, you tell me something, five minutes later, I’ll be like, I can’t remember you saying that. Anxiety – I don’t like being within a group of people that are just crowding me, like a lot of people, that starts freaking me out. If I eat at restaurants, I don’t like my back to the door so I can see people coming in constantly. Road rage – I got a lot of anger.   My wife and I recently just started talking about PTSD because I told her that I’m seeking counseling now, that I got medication and stuff. She didn’t really know the extent, you know, the seriousness of it, until I started telling her some of the things that happened down there, and now she’s actually scared, of me. Like me possibly hurting her. We’ve only been married for two years, but we’ve known eachother for ten years. Our rela-

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« The PTSD symptoms also include wanting to hurt yourself or other people. There’s no way I’m gonna hurt myself, but there’s possibilities of me hurting other ­people if they push the wrong buttons »

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tionship is stable, but she fears that any little incident might cause a divorce. She doesn’t wanna be there when I flip out. I haven’t snapped in a long time. I’ve been able to control it. But like I said, it’s all being bottled up. I don’t know when I’m gonna explode.   I would like to continue my career in the military, continue getting help, I want to change my MOS into something less stressful, a desk job, that I can do. But as far as deployments go, there’s no way I can do another deployment. Not even as a fobbit. Mentally, I’m done. I wouldn’t go AWOL if they sent me back, but they would not get me on that plane. I mean, I’ll still be reporting to work – they can’t consider you AWOL if you’re still reporting to work – but you’re not gonna get me on that plane.   What I like about the Army is the group of guys that I met along the way. There’s some really good guys that I met along the way, who support you, who got your back constantly, and that, I would never trade. That’s one thing I love about the Army. One thing I hate about it is how there is so much red tape, so many obstacles you gotta go through to get certain things done. Our job, as an infantry soldier, is go out there, destroy the enemy, and leave it at that. When we’re out there in Iraq, we gotta get special permission now before we actually kill somebody. A certain kind of routine we gotta take, like, oh, he’s got a weapon, if he’s got a weapon, he’s gotta be pointing it at you, if he’s pointing at you, you gotta shout at him. You gotta give him a warning, you know, shout at him: ‹ Put it down! › If he doesn’t, then you give him a warning shot, you don’t shoot him, just a warning shot. If that doesn’t work, then you can take him out. But there’s like three different things you gotta do before you can take him out. That makes it more dangerous for us. All these rules of engagement that they make us follow, you know, the Geneva convention rules: The insurgents don’t follow those rules at all. Why should we?   Right now, I’m disappointed in the Army. Yes, I am. The way the leadership is going … – They’re not promoting people that

should be getting promoted. They’re just filling in the gaps. A lot of people are leaving, so they have no choice but to promote people that are not competent enough to lead these brand-new soldiers. Another thing: Our supplies, you know, we go to war, we don’t have the right equipment out there, proper gear that we need to fight the enemy. I guess it’s budget cuts or something so it’s like way out of our control, but that’s another thing that I don’t like. The times that we spend away from our families – I’ve been in the military for five years. Out of those five years, I’ve been deployed three times, Korea and twice to Iraq, so I’ve only really been home for two years, and then of course that one year was in basic training. So I’m hardly ever home. The longest I have seen my wife, at one period of time, was a month. That was when I came back from Iraq in January 2008. That was the longest – one month straight.   If I don’t finish off the military, as a career, I’m gonna go back to school. My wife is gonna get her master’s degree. She wants to go back to school also. I want to study business and accounting, open up my own firm, go that route. I’m planning on living in San Antonio TX, because that is where we used to live for a couple of years. The wife and I just love it there. No plans on kids yet. Tops may be one child. But that’s not gonna happen until our mid-thirties.   A few days after our conversation, Tristan went to triage and talked to a counselor about his symptoms because he felt more depressed and anxious and didn’t think that the medication was helping him at all.   My whole plan right now is to get into WTU. I’m not really too sure exactly what’s involved with the WTU, but I guess that’s the path that I’m going right now. I’m not getting any better. All the symptoms are just getting worse. The counselor I just spoke to right now really didn’t give me much advice to work with. It’s not what I expected. I need help, you know? He just recommended, oh, hey, you can do these little exercises here and there and then we’ll take it from there on. I was like, that’s it? And now I’m just disappointed.

»

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112 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –


« I was like, I need to get the hell out of Arizona. I ran to the nearest ­recruiting ­station and signed my life away »

113


Aaron Sonberg is a shy, tall, tattooed kid. He is very soft-spoken and has a stoic, quiet presence. His friends call him a loner and he mostly just hangs out with his best friend Rollings. They are inseparable and share a truck and a cell phone. Like pretty much all infantry men, Aaron loves guns and says that he knew how to shoot before he knew how to walk. There are skin cancer scars on his back like gun shot wounds. When he gets drunk, he gets even more quiet and calls his friends and family back home, often in the middle of the night. He misses Arizona a lot and seems sad and uprooted sometimes. His older brother died of AIDS when Aaron was very young and he said that that made him grow up faster. Aaron admits that he is angry a lot of the time and thinks about taking classes in anger management to help cope with his rage that he often feels for no reason at all. Johnny Cash is his biggest idol – falling down and getting up on the horse again is something he can relate to. Aaron is worried about going to Iraq without any of his good friends since they are all getting out before his deployment. But he says that his book has been ­written a long time ago and if he’ll die, he’ll die and that there’s nothing he can do about it.

«

I grew up with my mom and my sister. My dad wasn’t around too much. When he was, it was cool. When he wasn’t, it was awful. I don’t have a dad, so all the dudes that I made friends with came really close. I didn’t go to high school for very long. I went all the way through freshman year, and then I was like, fuck this! This sucks. I dropped out like twice. But I was fully dropped out in my supposed junior year, my third year. I thought that my teachers were book-smart, but I had more common sense than most of them. I don’t like being talked down by people that are dumber than me. It pisses me off. So I was like, fuck it, I’ll go get a job and make money. I’ve done everything: mostly construction, washing dishes, beekeeper, carpenter, tile layer … I’ve done it all.   I used to take a lot of drugs – a lot. Pretty much everything except for heroin and PCP (embalming fluid), I think. I probably would have done PCP if I could have gotten a hold of it. I also sold drugs, mostly pills, because it was good money profit. We took drugs because it was fun breaking the law. We always did shit you weren’t supposed to. My and my friend just never got caught for anything because we were smart about it. I don’t know. I tried drugs once, and I was like, man, this is cool, and just kept doing it. I’ve never thought about why I did it. At the time, I was doing a lot of cocaine, and I figured I was either

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gonna die from selling it or getting in a bad deal or end up in prison. So I was like, I need to get the hell out of Arizona. I ran to the nearest recruiting station and signed my life away. My dad was in the Army, during Vietnam, my grandfather was in the Navy during World War II. I guess I’ve always wanted to do it when I was a little kid, but I just kind of used it as a last resort.   Basic training was hell. It sucked. It wasn’t physically hard – it was mentally hard. I’m a mama’s boy and that was the first time I was really away from home for a long time. I couldn’t talk to anyone and that sucked. Besides that, it was a walk in the park. I thought it was too easy. When my dad went through it, the drill sergeants could beat you up and punch you in the face. Now, they can barely yell at you. My drill sergeants did but you can make fun of them and they don’t really do anything. I thought it was gonna be harder. When I graduated, I walked around with my head a little higher. I was proud of myself. I’ve never actually completed anything in my life. I always quit everything and that was the first thing I stuck through. I definitely walked around with my head high.   What I like about the Army are the people you meet. For sure. That’s probably about it, right now, though. I was never really


gung-ho about the Army. Like lots of other guys say, when they first get in, the first six months, ‹ I’m gonna be the best soldier! › Not me. I’m just doing my part but I’m not all about it. I think some of the shit we do is stupid, but it’s our job. Everybody does something they don’t like sometimes.   What I don’t like is that our unit is fucking unorganized, you never know what’s going on. I think some people are in charge that shouldn’t be in charge. I don’t like to be told what to do 24 / 7. I mostly don’t like the people that are in charge, I guess. I think they’re stupid.   I’ve never been to Iraq and I’m supposed to go … – The date keeps changing. I heard December 2008, January and February 2009. I’m kind of paranoid about it. I mean whoever tells you they’re not afraid to go to Iraq is full of shit. So there’s definitely fear, but I’ve been training for it so I’m kind of excited to go in the same way.   I have no idea what I’m gonna do when I get out. I’m just worried about getting out. I’ll probably be a construction worker. I like manual labor. You can tell you did something at the end of the day.  

Somedays, I think, damn, I wish I would have never done this, but most of the time I think my choice was a good one. I would definitely be in prison or dead right now if I wouldn’t have joined. My friend got busted two months after I joined so I would have been right there with him. I guess I’m happy I joined. I have a huge problem with authority but I understand you need some sort of authority. They put me in place. I’d never thought I could have been able to handle a drill sergeant screaming in my face, but you know, I bit my lip and I did it. That’s one thing I think the Army taught me that I really needed. Just keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told sometimes. I still don’t like it though. I wish I could tell people to fuck off all the time.

»

115


Tom Edwards is twenty-four years old but looks like 35. He is very polite and helpful and treats me like a friend with utmost respect and kindness from the first day on. He and Timmy are both on the waiting list for WTU. Meanwhile, they pull guard at the motor pool which only takes a couple of hours everyday. After work, they usually hang out at Timmy’s house. If Edwards finishes early, he goes to the bar around the corner of his apartment and drinks. He tells me that his hands start shaking if he doesn’t drink. He loves his parents very much and calls them all the time. His wife just recently sent him divorce papers and he acts as if it’s some kind of achievement even though he’s still in love with her. He gets extremely irritated about other drivers in traffic and curses at them constantly. Edwards cares about things a lot and always ends up being in charge of people or schedules. Even though he hasn’t been working his regular Army job for a while now, he still wakes up every morning at six. He seems older in comparison to all the guys he hangs out with. Tom is gentle, sincere and reliable.

«

I grew up in a high middle class family. I dropped out of regular high school, went to night school, dropped out of night school, so I started working: I had two jobs. I was a manager at Popeye’s Chicken during the night and I worked at a body shop during the day, fixing cars, and I never went back to school. I dropped out of school because my parents moved away. I was on my own, so I was like ‹ Fuck school! › – I think I was like seventeen. Well, the first time I dropped out was regular high school, I was sixteen, then I went back, and I dropped out again when I was seventeen. And I was working, I was making money, and money was like, wow, this is money! Fuck school. I’ve got two jobs, I’m making money, I got a car, I got everything … I got my GED later so I could join the Army.   My grandfather was in the military. My father was not. My parents moved away, and I actually lived with one of my teachers from high school. We were walking through the mall one day, and he goes ‹ You should join the Army! › ‹ Maybe. › So I walked in there, I got the pamphlets, but I didn’t even read them. I went in the next day, like, ‹ Fuck it, I’m joining the Army! › I signed the papers, and I was gone. As a kid, you play G. I. Joe and all that shit, but I never really thought … – Because my parents, when I was sixteen, they pushed it on me: ‹ Why don’t you go join the Army, you should do this, you should do that … › I was like ‹ Fuck that! › But then one day, I was like ‹ I’m gonna do it! › I was nineteen.   After basic training, I went home to Arizona for a week, then I reported to Ft. Hood, and two weeks later, I was in Iraq – in Baghdad. I was pretty excited to go, just the adrenaline, ‹ holy shit, I’m going to Iraq! › And they packed our shit so quick, gave us everything we needed to go, and then they were like ‹ OK, get on the plane! › So you didn’t really have time to be worried. Our drill sergeant told us when we were in basic training: ‹ You will be in Iraq within ninety days. › I was like ‹ Damn. › It wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t scared because it really hadn’t hit me yet, you know? Because I didn’t see any combat until – well, it was actually my birthday, November 18th, I haven’t seen a bullet, I hadn’t heard a gun shot or nothing. It was just cool, we’re driving around in the dirt in our humvees, you know, the whole Army guy shit, and then actually seeing BOOM – ‹ Holy shit,

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something just blew up! › Then you’re like ‹ Hey mom, hey dad, I love you! I’m in Iraq, shit’s real now, I’ll call you when I can. › It really didn’t hit me until the first thing exploded, and then you’re like ‹ Goddamn! I’m really here! This is real bullets, real fire, real bombs, holy shit! ›   When your friends die, at the time, it’s like, man, that sucks, and it really doesn’t register until you get back and you’re at the bar drinking a beer and then somebody says something and you’re like ‹ Motherfucker! He’s not here anymore. › He can’t be here because he died in Iraq, because he was doing what he had to do. The deaths of my friends do affect me, but I’ll be, like, at the house, watching a movie or something or a certain song will come on, and it just triggers it. Then I’m all crying and shit, like a little girl.   Going to Iraq changed me a lot. Like stupid little things … For example, I came home from Iraq, after my first tour, I got married, and I took my wife to meet my sister and her husband. We were at the restaurant, my sister ordered salad and it had cheese on it. She threw the biggest fit in the world because there was cheese on her salad! And I’m thinking, you know, I just got back from getting blown up, from getting shot at, from everything, and you’re bitching because there’s cheese on your salad. It could be a lot worse! Stupid shit doesn’t bother me anymore. If it’s not gonna kill me, I don’t care. That’s pretty much how it’s changed me. Petty shit doesn’t bother me. It made me extremely more mature. I was such a kid.   I’m in psychiatric counseling because, about a month ago, I left a bar, I pulled into the parking lot of my fourplex, and it’s extremely in the ghetto, and I will not park … – My truck is my life, and I will not park my truck in the street because either it will get hit by a drunk driver because I live right by the clubs, or it’ll get stolen. I pulled into the parking lot, the neighbor downstairs was having a party, and somebody was in my spot. I remember, I rolled down my window, I pulled in between  the three parking spots: ‹ Hey, can somebody move this car, so I can park my truck? › They told me to fuck off. So I was like ‹ OK, › I parked my truck in the street, walked upstairs, got  my .45 pistol, walked downstairs, and shot the car that was in


my parking spot. And that’s what put me … – Well, now, this time. I went to see a psychologist for the first time when I was in Iraq, because my wife left me when I was on mid-tour leave, and my Captain found out about it and thought I was gonna  go crazy, so they made me go see a shrink in Iraq for that. I wasn’t going crazy, though. She told me she wanted a divorce the day I got home from Iraq. The next morning, I packed all my shit and I was gone. It didn’t really hit me. I put the block up. I was like ‹ Fuck this, I’m outta here. › And I just left. After a couple of days, I was like ‹ Damn! My wife just left me! What the fuck? › It sucks. It sucks real bad. She calls me everyday. And I’m like ‹ What do you want me to tell you? If you would come back ­tomorrow, I’d take you back! › She cheated on me, all kinds of shit, I wouldn’t care, I’d take her back. But she’s not at the maturity level yet. She’s the same age I am, but she’s extremely less mature. Her life is ‹ I’m gonna go to work, I’m gonna go to the bar, I’m gonna get high. › That’s how I am now, which is kinda funny, but that’s where she’s at in her life. So it really didn’t hit me until a couple days later, when I was at home.   And then, they made me go see a shrink again in Iraq. Well, I was already going because of my wife leaving me, and then I got hit by an IED in Iraq, and my best friend was driving, I was gunning, and my other best friend was BC in a bradley. We hit a road side bomb and it blew all the road wheels off. I got out of the turret, and I looked – it’s called the hellhole, you can look from the back of the bradley to the front of the bradley to the driver’s hatch – and I looked, and all I see is the hatch open, the sun shining in, and the fire extinguisher stuff, this white cloud is just coming out, so I thought my best friend had just got blown to shit! I was fucking shaking, freaking out, shooting whatever I could see … And I get out and he’s on the side of the bradley, just sitting there. ‹ What the fuck, dude? › And he was like ‹ I was on fire! › It burnt his fucking eyebrows off, it burnt his arm’s hair off, it burnt the side of his hair off on his head, and they made me go see a psychiatrist because of that. We also had to go see a doctor, they made us do all these tests to see if we could still hear etc. and they made me go back to counseling for the traumatic experience. When I first came back from Iraq, they made me continue going, and then my doctor’s like ‹ Well, you got PTSD! › And I was like ‹ Yeah, you’re full of shit! › So I just quit going. And when I shot the car they made me go back.   I wouldn’t be able to tell if I’ve got PTSD. Do I get angry and depressed at stupid shit sometimes? And when I think about the war? Yeah. And if that’s one of the signs, OK, I might have some of the signs. Am I gonna go crazy and kill a shit ton of people? No. I will never do that. A car is not a person, it’s an inanimate object. There were fifteen people right there, if I had wanted to I could have walked down the stairs and popped eight rounds off because that’s all I had, and killed eight people. But I didn’t, I walked past them to the inanimate object, and shot it. But, I guess, I’m sure I do have PTSD. I’m sure I’m pretty fucked up, but what’s to be expected? With all the shit that we’ve been through? You could be a fobbit in Iraq and all you see is maybe a mortar round go off. Yeah, it might fuck you

up a little if you’re right next to it, but if you’re not, you go back to playing your fucking video game. But the guys that leave the wire, and actually see the shit that we see and do the shit that we do, yeah, you’re gonna be fucked up. Especially if you’re in a bad town, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. It’s to be expected.   After I shot the car, everybody ran inside. I casually walked upstairs and put my gun on the refrigerator. They called the cops, like, four hours later. They didn’t come knock on my door or talk to me or anything. My neighbors were scared shitless, they thought I was gonna kill ‚em all. I went to sleep that night, I woke up the next day and I looked out the window because my mind was like ‹ You fucking shot a car last night! › I looked out the window, there’s no cars in the parking lot except the one I shot and there’s glass everywhere, and I was like ‹ Oh, fuck! › So I drove to the police station … – Well, first, I went to drop my gun off somewhere else, I dropped it off at a buddy’s house, then I drove to the police station, slid my ID under the glass: ‹ I’m pretty sure you have a warrant for my arrest, › and they looked my information up and were like ‹ No, we don’t have a warrant, but did you shoot a car last night? › ‹ Yeah, that was me. › ‹ OK. We’ll be in contact. › They gave me my ID back and I left. And then I called my boss at work, and I was like ‹ Hey man, I shot a car last night, › he was like ‹ You did what? › ‹ Shot a car. › So he called First Sergeant, they made me come into work, it was a Saturday, made me turn my gun in, and then they yelled at me a little bit. Monday morning, I came to work, I had to go see the Sergeant Major, because I was intoxicated while I was driving. He told me he would have done  the same thing about shooting the car, but he would not have been drinking. So it’s OK that I shot the car, just that I was drinking and driving was the horrible thing! That’s pretty much what they told me. And then the next day, BAM, I’m gone. I get kicked out. I’m on motor pool guard now. That’s pretty shitty.   I was a team leader in the Army, so I had three guys under me, and they knew nothing, they were straight from basic training. I liked taking them out and actually showing them something and then watching them do it, for example, showing them how to clear a room. And I can tell them all day, but when I actually get to show them, and then watch them, and they do it just right, that’s like: I did something that day, you know? These guys now know what they’re doing. They can go through a room in Iraq and actually do it right and not get fucking killed. I love combat. I love it to death. I’d go back to Iraq tomorrow, I would. But they won’t let me. It’s just the camaraderie, once you’re over there and you start going to houses, and shit starts blowing up, the guy to your left, you could hate him back in the States, but when I get to Iraq, and we’re actually bobbing and weaving and doing the shit, he’s an alright guy, you know? All personal shit aside: He can save my ass, I can save his. I love the adrenaline. It’s the best drug in the world. You get shot at, you shoot back, it’s just a rush, I love that shit. I love guns, I carry a gun everyday, I do what I want. Where else in the world can I go to any house I want, kick the front door in and put everybody on the ground in the front, and just say: ‹ Hey, shut

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118 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –


« They’re afraid I’m ­gonna freak out. I told a lot of people yesterday I’m gonna shoot them. Which was probably not a good idea because they take me very ­seriously when I say shit like that »

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the fuck up, stay there! › and tear their house to pieces? Where else in the world can you do that? Nowhere. I love every aspect of it, except getting blown up, that sucks. But you get through that, as long as you don’t die, hopefully. I’ve been blown up numerous times, most of the bombs were small, so it was like BAM! ‹ Ha, ha, they didn’t get us this time! ›   I was a humvee gunner when I was in Iraq the first time and I gunned for the Lieutenant, and then they made me a dismount, I loved that. They’re walking everywhere doing your shit. Then they put me on the ground. Which was good because my BC at the time would not let me shoot anybody. We had a guy on the rooftop, and we had guys on the ground, but there’s an Iraqi on the rooftop, and an RPG came in, and this is a blown-up fucking building that this guy is hanging out on. There’s a guy downstairs in the window too and I can see him clear as day through the sights. I asked my BC: ‹ Hey, these guys aren’t up to any good, can I shoot them? › He’s like ‹ No, you can’t. › And then the guys pulled up an actual rifle and started shooting, and then he let me shoot the guy at the bottom, but the guy on the roof – we couldn’t see a rifle on him. If there’s two guys on a blown-up fucking building together, one guy shooting, the other guy – he is no good. He does not need to fucking be there. I know I killed the guy, though. Because he got his head poked over the edge, the BC told me to put the rounds right on top of the rooftop. With the bradley, it’s pretty near-sighted and you’re not gonna miss. I aimed right for the guy and killed him anyways. I got fucking chewed out for that. ‹ Why did you kill him? › ‹ He’s a bad guy, don’t worry about it, dude. › But my BC is a people-lovin’, everybody-deserves-this kinda guy. Which – to each their own.   I didn’t really kill a lot of people in Iraq. Not me personally, I didn’t. Did WE kill a lot of people? Yeah, we killed a fuckton. Me, I couldn’t even tell you. I’m sure it’s not many at all. I know for a fact that I killed two people, this tour. Last tour, I killed one person. But, as an accumulated group, we killed a fuck ton of people. But I don’t really see them as people. I see it as an object that is trying to destroy me. They’re trying to kill me just like I’m trying to kill them. It doesn’t bother me at all. Once you get shot at, there comes the survival instinct: ‹ Fuck that guy, he’s shooting at me, I’m gonna kill him first! Hopefully I’ll get him first. › It’s not like it’s close, though, either. This guy is a hundred meters down the road. You can’t see his face, it’s not like you’re shooting him point blank. It’s not a person, it’s an object. He’s running, he’s got a gun, BAM BAM BAM, and that’s it, he drops to the ground, you see him skid on the ground. I didn’t see his face, I don’t know his family, he had a gun, he was gonna kill me if I didn’t kill him, so fuck him. It’s no big deal. I’m sure if I saw a guy face to face, like if I kicked a door in, there’s a guy right there, looking me in the eyes, and POW! I’m sure that would fuck me up for a little bit. I’m sure I’d see his face in dreams and shit. But I’ve never been that close up to killing somebody … No, it doesn’t matter. It’s kinda like hunting. In a different perspective. But it is hunting.   A lot of my friends got more affected by killing people. I got a buddy, his name is Sgt. A., he’s all fucked up. He was in Fal-

120 TRUCE  – Guns, Adrenaline & Beer –

ludja – I was outside of Falludja – but he actually went in. And they were killing people the distance that you and I are apart right now. They were kicking in doors, shooting people in the face, and moving on. His whole squad almost got killed in five minutes. He took grenade frags in the leg. He’s all fucked up. Just mentally … – Like, we’ll go to a bar and drink, he’ll have one fucking beer and he’ll be drunk. And then it’s just tears, and crying and hugging … One of his friends died. And it just fucked him all up. He’s all coocoo. I love him to death, I’d never think anything bad about him, but he’s emotionally and mentally fucked up because of the shit that he’s seen. And he even told us that in Iraq – he was my boss for a little bit this time when I was there – he’s like ‹ None of y’all fuckers are dying. It’s gonna be me before y’all. › And I was like ‹ Dude, shut the fuck up! › You know, you never wanna hear that kind of shit. We get new guys in, they wouldn’t listen to him, and he would flip the fuck out. He’d be like ‹ I’ve had buddies die, I’ve been here twice, I’ve seen this and this, you better listen to me or I’m gonna beat your fucking ass! › And then they would finally realize: ‹ Wow, this guy, he means this shit! › He knows combat like the back of his hand. But you get him back here and we start talking about it, drinking beer, he’s all fucked up. He can’t handle it anymore.   A lot of marriages end in divorces because of Iraq. Because we come home and the wife is like ‹ Do this, do that! › ‹ Calm the fuck down, I just got back from Iraq, now relax! › It’s hard for anybody to understand who hasn’t been there and done the shit that we’ve done to realize: Maybe he needs to go easy on this part, but he can do this.   What I don’t like about the Army? I hope you’ve got enough tape on this recorder! What I don’t like about the Army is if you can’t run fast, and you can’t do push-ups, you’re a shitty soldier. What I don’t like about the Army is if you don’t know the right people, you won’t get promoted. Like in Iraq, my boss was like: ‹ You need to get promoted! › All my peers said ‹ Hey, you need to get fucking promoted! Why aren’t you promoted yet? › Why do I have to go stand in front of these First Sergeants that don’t know me, have never seen me in combat, they just know what I look like, and if I know the answers to ‹ What’s the regulation for the PT uniform? › That’s all they know. If they would come out with me on a day in combat, and see me running through the streets, directing my guys, killing the bad guys, you know … – What the fuck do I know about PT? Who gives a shit? Promote me on my job, not on what I know. I know combat, I know how to effectively maneuver on the enemy. That promotion shit sucks. If you know the right person, you get promoted like that. Like my old platoon sergeant was like 250 pounds, big fat black guy. Worthless piece of shit. Didn’t do anything combat-wise. Didn’t know shit about combat. Gets a brown star with Valor because he’s an E7, leading a platoon. He didn’t lead shit. He stayed back, ate his fucking ice cream and his chow hall food, while we were out, getting him phone cards. What else? There’s so many damn things. When we first got there, before we could shoot at the bad guy, we had to call it up and say, ‹ hey, there’s a bad guy here, › by the time we called it up he’s gone. Why can’t we just kill the


guy, we call you up, take some pictures and show you later? You know, yeah, I smoked some pot this past week, no fucking big deal, I’m not gonna go crazy. A guy got busted at work two times for cocaine and still got promoted to E5. I shoot a car, I’m gone. They kick me out. From going to a great soldier one day, twenty-four hours later you’re a fucking dirtbag, get the fuck outta here. They shit-canned me so quick. I was a great soldier, all my guys were like ‹ I will not go back to Iraq without you. › So what if I shoot a car! In the civilian world I might go to jail. But I didn’t get a ticket, I didn’t go to jail, I didn’t kill anybody … I’d rather go back to Iraq with a guy that shoots a fucking car than a guy that’s fucking doing coke. I do not wish harm on anybody. I was fucking intoxicated, not a good excuse, but I was. I think I’d had just so much bullshit at work that I was like, you know what: Fuck this.   I’m extremely disappointed that I got shit-canned so quick. I mean, seriously, a week ago I was a fucking team leader. My boss tells me what to do and I get it done. My guys report to work, my guys are on time, my guys always look good, everything, you know. I get compliments at work: ‹ Hey, you’re doing fucking good! Why aren’t you promoted yet? › And then I fucking shoot a car and the next day, they’re like ‹ Get outta here, you’re garbage, can’t use you anymore. › You know? I’m not fucked up. I’m not physically inable to do anything. But I do one fucking bad thing, it’s a bad thing, yes, but it’s not the end of the fucking world, you can work through shooting a car. I paid to get the car fixed. And now I sit in a shack all day in the rain, like today, it’s fucking depressing as shit, and everyone walks by and looks at me, and they’re like ‹ Ah, that sucks to be in there, › and I’m like ‹ You don’t even fucking know, dude. › I had everything going for me. And then they just fucking dump me, twenty-four hours later, what the fuck? So I’m extremely disappointed in the Army. Extremely. All the guys that get DUIs, that’s supposed to be the biggest, worst thing in the Army is a DUI. If you get a DUI in the Army you’re supposedly fucked. You’ll get in huge trouble. Certain people get DWIs or DUIs and nothing happens. It’s on who you know. There’s guys that are getting DUIs that aren’t losing rank, aren’t losing position. I shoot a fucking car and I’m gone. I don’t even work with the guys I used to work for anymore. It’s extremely disappointing. It pisses me off everyday, makes me mad as shit. Because I know I can take my guys back to Iraq, do my job, get them home safe, and destroy the enemy, that’s my fucking job. I know my job inside and out, when it comes to combat and training.   After this car incident, Friday night I shot the car, Monday morning I went to work, I went to see the Sergeant Major, I did PT, and then – to cover my own ass – I went to mental health to see the doctor that I was seeing before I quit going. That was just to cover my own base. And I went in there, and this lady – they made me go talk to his lady because my doctor wasn’t available – so I told her what happened. She fucking went nuts! She’s like ‹ What do you mean, ‹ shot a car ›? › ‹ Well, I don’t know how to be anymore obvious about it, I shot the fucking car! › ‹ Uh … so you gotta go see this person. › So they made me sit down with this other lady and they prescribed me Prozac

and Ambien, because I can’t sleep for shit. And I thought that was it, you know, I was like ‹ Cool. OK. I’ll come back and see you in four weeks just like you said, no problem. › Well, I get back to work and my First Sergeant’s like ‹ Where is your fucking profile? › ‹ What are you talking about, First Sergeant? › He says: ‹ You got a fucking PTSD profile! › – ‹ Naw, I just left the doctor, I ain’t got shit. › – ‹ No, they just called me, you do. You better go get a copy of it. ›   So I go back: ‹ You gave me a fucking profile? › She’s like ‹ Sit down for a second. › I was like ‹ What did you give me a profile for? › ‹ PTSD. › I said ‹ Why? › ‹ Well, you shot a car! › I said: ‹ I’m very fucking aware of that! › And she’s like ‹ Well, this medication you’re taking, you shouldn’t be handling weapons with. › – You just neutered me, you took away my bread and butter! My bread and butter is fucking guns, and bullets, and combat. And now I can’t go back to combat, I can’t handle a gun, I can’t train. You just castrated a bull, you know, he is fucked, he can’t do anything. I left there, I told my First Sergeant: ‹ I’m out of here, I can’t fucking do this, I’m gonna kill somebody. › And I went to the bar. I was just so pissed that all of a sudden, I’m garbage. ‹ Worthless. › That’s exactly what our First Sergeant told me, Nike, Elmo, and some other guys, ‹ you are no use to me anymore, time to go. ›   I don’t have any plans for my future. I have no idea what I’m gonna do. I was gonna re-enlist, do my twenty years and retire. I was fixing to get promoted, I was gonna be a Sergeant, and now it’s not gonna happen because of my incident. So: Fuck the Army. I could get out and work for a private security corporation that goes to Iraq, and does the same shit I do but has a lot less rules and a lot better fucking gear and guns. It’d be a life long dream to work for Blackwater! To just go out and start mercenary? If somebody does something you don’t like: BOOM! What do you think they could do? Put it on the news? They’re not gonna do shit! Like, they got in trouble a while ago for killing some fucking people in a car. They’re still back in Iraq. They’re still fucking doing crazy shit. But if I get out for PTSD, I don’t think they would take me. So, I’ll probably get a job, be a mall security guard, and beat the shit out of some guy for shoplifting, stealing a pack of gum or some shit.   Something I wanted to do since I was a kid was to have my own reptile store. I actually wrote a business plan for it when  I was seventeen. They found me three guys that were gonna ­invest in it, and then I joined the Army, like two years later, and it never got started. So I would wanna do something like that. Just be low key. I don’t need money, I’d live in a fucking trailer. I don’t give a shit. I’ll figure it out when the time  comes.   All of a sudden, about two weeks after our conversation, Tom Edwards disappeared and stopped answering his phone. Nobody knew where he was but everybody suspected that he really did go AWOL just like he said he would. A few weeks later, he came back – I was curious to hear about his adventures.  

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« And I’m thinking, you know, I just got back from getting blown up, from getting shot at, from everything, and you’re bitching because there’s cheese on your salad »

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The night before I went AWOL, I went out to dinner with ­Sonberg. I was actually not planning on going AWOL that night, we just went out to dinner. I get back to my house, and I was stuck on motor pool detail before that with Nike, but Alpha Company called me that night and said: ‹ Hey, you need to come to work tomorrow, 0630 for PT, you’re back in Alpha Company. › I was like ‹ Fuck no, I’m not! I’m supposed to be going to WTU! › And they’re like ‹ No, you’re coming back to Alpha Company. › So I was like, OK, I got off the phone, I went to the bar, stayed there for ten minutes, did a bunch of shots and jumped in my truck and left. Before that, I stuck a note on my front door, it said ‹ Dear Sgt. B. and all you guys in First Platoon, you taught me everything I know, I love you, good luck in Iraq. Your cocksucker. › And I stuck it on the outside of my door because I knew the next day they would come look for me.   And then I drove … – I got to Lampasas and I was like, I’m fucking drunk. So I stayed in a hotel and just drove to Arizona the next day. I hung out in Arizona – my sister knows a lot of people because she’s a teacher, her husband’s a professor and they know some high-ranking Air Force people. They talked  to them and they told me that pretty much I’m fucked. They told me: ‹ You might as well stay thirty days if you’re already gone › – because thirty days is the limit: from thirty to thirtyone, you’re a deserter. You might as well just hang out for thirty days and then go back. And then my sister was freaking out and she made me find a lawyer so I found a lawyer. In my opinion, he’s a piece of shit. He hasn’t done anything for the money that we’re paying him. My sister pays him. My dad’s doing more by himself than the lawyer is doing. I think it’s a waste of money.   My superiors called my parents. They called my mom: ‹ Do you know where your son’s at? › And she was like ‹ No, I have no idea. › Of course she knew exactly where I was. I called my commander three days after being AWOL and I was like ‹ Hey, I’m AWOL, Sir. › He’s like ‹ Where you at? › I was like ‹ Washington state. › I just pulled something from the top of my head. He was like ‹ What are you doing in Washington? › ‹ Uh … I’m going to Canada. › And he was like ‹ No, don’t do that, that’s not a good idea! › So I asked him: ‹ What if I come back on Monday? › He said: ‹ You won’t get in trouble at all, we’ll pretend it never happened. › Which was BULLSHIT. I told my dad ‹ Hey, he’s bullshitting, I’m not going back. › My dad was disappointed that I went AWOL, but he tells me all the time: ‹ Look, I can tell you what to do, but you’re gonna live your own life and do what you think is right. I have no idea what you’ve been through, so at least take my advice. If you don’t, oh well, do what you do. ›   I just hung out in Arizona for thirty days. I hung out with my friends but they’re all idiots now, we have nothing in common anymore. I did drink – not as much, though. I think I drank three times the whole thirty days just because my sister was hounding me all day, driving me nuts. I did smoke some pot – I smoked a decent amount of pot. Then my sister – finally – was like ‹ When are you going back? › She had the days counted out and everything, she knew how long I’d been gone, what time I

left and all this shit. She rented a car because my lawyer said that if I turned myself in at Fort Sill, Oklahoma – that’s where the AWOL processing center is at – there’s a good chance that they would kick me out there, which again, was bullshit.   The reason I finally did go AWOL is because if the Army tells me I have medical issues they should give me the treatment for it. Put me in WTU. Quit jerking me around. It’s not that hard to get people in there and they haven’t done it. So I was like, fuck it, I’m out of here. It was just to get my point across, like, hey, I’m really fucking serious, I’m not playing around! It took that for them to realize. But now I’m gonna lose all my fucking rank, I still haven’t been paid and I’m gonna be on extra duty for forty-five fucking days which means I’m gonna have to work till midnight. Restriction, for 45 days – I’m supposed to stay in the barracks for 45 days. Yeah, right. Bullshit. They can kiss my ass. Extra duty – ain’t happening. And they made me move back in the barracks. So it’s pretty shitty. The barracks lifestyle is awesome, though, I love this shit. It’s like a giant frat house.   So I turned myself in at Fort Sill. My sister and her friend came with which was quite an interesting travel. My sister is 25, I think, and her friend’s about the same age. They’re both elementary school teachers and extremely snooty. They think they’re better than everybody.   I turned myself in in Ft. Sill on midnight on a Friday. We went to a police station, they filled out a police report, handcuffed me and shackled me and shit. My sister was acting like I’m going to jail for the rest of my life, she was freaking out and crying. I said ‹ You need to get the fuck out of here right now. › ‹ I can’t. › ‹ You need to get out of here now because they’re gonna put me in handcuffs and you’re gonna get all freaked out, I know that’s gonna happen. › ‹ I’ll be fine. › ‹ Get out of the building NOW! › So I made her and her friend get out of the little area that we’re sitting in. They took me out back, put me in a police car and drove me to another building, and there’s my fucking sister at the building already. She’s just standing there: ‹ Can I say goodbye to him? › I mean, I love her to death, but it wasn’t a huge deal.   Then I go in there, and there’s a bunch of civilians who think they’re hard-asses because they’re ex-military, like, ‹ You will call me Sir! You will call her Ma’am! Do you understand? › ‹ Yes, motherfucker, I’ve been in the Army four years, I’m not one of these basic training guys you got in here! › So they go: ‹ Lights out! › It was already past lights out. ‹ You take a shower here, › so I took a shower, I went into my room and it’s got four bunks in it and all the other guys were already sleeping.   The next morning, we all get woken up – it’s like basic training, you get woken up, you gotta make your bed, you gotta mop the floors, you gotta scrub the toilets and all kinds of shit like that, so I was like ‹ What the fuck is this place? › And then you sit outside, there’s a bench separated by a big ass tree, and there’s another fucking bench, and this is the girls’ and this is the guys’ and you’re not allowed to look at females or talk to them.

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This is the place where they take all the kids that go AWOL from basic training. It’s called Personnel Control Facility – PCF, because everything in the Army has a fucking acronym. So I wake up, I start cleaning all that shit and you gotta ask permission to go outside, you gotta say ‹ Returnee Edwards, request permission to go outside. › But you have to be outside because you’re not allowed to be inside. Everytime you go and have to take a piss: ‹ Returnee Edwards, request permission to use latrine, either Ma’am or Sir. › And it’s these fucking ex-Army people sitting in their chairs with their dicks all hard because they get to tell people what to do. Whatever. So I’m out there and these guys are thinking that I’m from basic training so I started asking them: ‹ Why did you go AWOL? › ‹ Oh, I just can’t handle getting yelled at like that! It’s hard! › I’m like ‹ Are you fucking serious? Are you kidding me? You were in basic training and went AWOL? › ‹ Yeah, didn’t you? › ‹ No, motherfucker, I’ve been in the Army for four fucking years! I’ve been to Iraq twice! › Then I started asking ‹ What’s your job? › ‹ Oh, I’m a cook. › Oh my God, I got so fucking mad! I just don’t even understand …   There was this one guy there that was on prescribed Xanax. He’s only supposed to take one at a time, but they don’t watch you take your pills so he would just keep it in his hand, stuff it in his cigarette pack and then around lunch time he would take two and get all fucked up and sleep on the bench. I was like ‹ Hey, dude, you can’t be sleeping, you’re gonna get us in trouble! Wake the fuck up! ›   I hung out there for a couple of days, and they were like ‹ OK, we’re either gonna in-process you here and kick you out or we’re gonna send you back to your unit. › Well, they started inprocessing me, so I was like, sweet, I’m gonna be out of the fucking Army!   Then they told me: ‹ Go get your civilian clothes back on! › I changed into what I arrived in – my BDU cut-offs, a white tshirt and flip flops – and they’re like ‹ Get your bag! › and there was a police officer standing there when I came back. I already knew what to do: I turned around, put my hands on the wall, he searched me, he handcuffed me, and he walked out to the car. He was like ‹ I’m taking you to the airport. › There’s a bunch of us in there, so we get to the airport, they unhandcuffed me but they leave these other guys handcuffed. That was weird. ‹ Here’s your plane ticket! Go back to Ft. Hood. › All the other guys are sitting there, handcuffed in the airport with these guards on them while I’m drinking beer in the little fucking restaurant, waiting for my airplane.   I flew back here to Killeen and they found out that I had a civilian lawyer. They were like ‹ Oh, shit. › – It was really like I never left. I mean, there’s punishment pending right now, but I don’t care. I went back to work, then I went out to the field and here I am.   While we were out in the field, I called my dad from there on somebody’s cell phone, and he was like ‹ I wrote an email to the White House. › And I was like ‹ OK. › You know, because you

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never think shit like that is gonna get answered. About an hour and a half after that, my First Sergeant comes flying up in a humvee: ‹ Edwards! Get over here! › I go over there and they’re like ‹ We have a congressional investigation going on. Do you know what that is? › ‹ Negative, Sir, what is that? › ‹ It’s an investigation usually done by a congressman. But this one’s being done by the White House. Do you know anything about what your father might have written? › ‹ No, I don’t, but I’ll call him! › I walked away and started calling my dad, laughing my ass off: ‹ Dad, do you know your shit got answered? › He’s like ‹ Really? › ‹ Yeah! They’re under investigation right now! And they’re not happy! › ‹ Well, good! – I’m really shocked it got answered! ›   One night, I was out there sleeping and the CO came to wake me up: ‹ Do you need anything? Are you OK? You got any problems? › ‹ No, I’m good, Sir, I would just like to be paid. › And they’ve been telling me, for the past fucking month: ‹ Oh, you’ll have money when you get back from the field. There will be a paycheck in your bank account when you get back from the field, blah blah blah … › So I was compliant, I did whatever they told me to do in the field, except I didn’t pull radio guard, I told them that I won’t stay up all night, listening to the radio. I just won’t do it. And they were like ‹ OK, that’s fine. › ‹ Yes it is. I’m not gonna fucking do it. ›   They’re afraid I’m gonna freak out. I told a lot of people yesterday I’m gonna shoot them. Which was probably not a good idea because they take me very seriously when I say shit like that. And now they’re saying that I should be in WTU which – why wouldn’t they do that whenever they were supposed to do that? Like three months ago. So now they’re like ‹ We’ll get you in there. › My dad said ‹ You got thirty fucking days or I’m drafting this letter › – which he already typed up – ‹ and I’ll send it to the one hundred largest newspapers in the United States. › They don’t know that yet. I just told them they got thirty days. And they keep asking me ‹ How’s your dad? Is he happy with the situation? › I’m like ‹ No. I’m still not fucking getting paid. › ‹ Alright, alright. We’re working on it. › So that’s where we are today.   Coming back to Ft. Hood was such a relief, to actually get here … – Yeah, there’s certain people who call me shitbag, but everybody knows those people are idiots and nobody cares. And everybody’s like ‹ Hey, we’re going out tonight and party! › ‹ I didn’t get paid. › ‹ Don’t worry about it, we got you. Come on out with us! › So it’s been really awesome coming back. My dad asked me how I was surviving. I told him I got lots of good friends. It’s been awesome to come back and see everybody again. Because that AWOL place they stuck me in, those little kids that had no idea what the fuck the Army was about and they were crying because the basic training was too hard. And the civilian people there were yelling and screaming. I’m like ‹ What the fuck? › It’s really unnecessary. But that’s all these kids know from basic training so they figure that will keep them in line.

»


Glossary ACU – Army Combat Uniform, the new uniform with the ‹ digital › pattern. The ACU uses a new military camouflage pattern which blends green, tan, and gray to work effectively in desert and urban environments. See also: BDU.

Leave the wire – the FOB’s wire. Soldiers who leave the wire leave the Army post and go on missions in Iraq. MOS – Military Occupational Specialty: the soldier’s job.

AIT – Advanced Individual Training. Where a new soldier learns the skill he will use when he arrives at his first unit.

NCO – Non-Commissioned Officer

AK – a Russion assault rifle

POG – People Other than Grunts, in other words: fobbits. Pronounced like ‹pogue. ›

Ambien – a prescription drug for patients who suffer from insomnia

Prozac – an antidepressant

AWOL – Absent Without Official Leave. Being absent from one’s post or duty ­without official permission, but without intending to desert.

PSYOP – Psychological Operations. Techniques used by the military and police to influence a target audience’s emotions, motives, reasoning and behavior.

BDU – Battle Dress Uniform, the old-school uniform with the green, brown and black pattern.

PT – Physical Training

BC – Bradley Commander Blackwater – one of the many private military companies that employ mercenaries. Blackwater Worldwide has played a substantial role during the Iraq War as a contractor for the United States government. Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $ 320 million out of a $ 1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones. Going mercenary as a private security contractor in Iraq is a lucrative job for infantry soldiers after their Army discharge, especially because they earn up to $ 200,000 a year – five times what a regular soldier in Iraq makes.

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more terrifying events that threatened or caused grave physical harm. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma.This stressor may involve someone’s actual death, a threat to the patient’s or someone else’s life, serious physical injury, or threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, overwhelming usual psychological defenses coping. In some cases it can also be from profound psychological and emotional trauma, apart from any actual physical harm. Often, however, the two are combined. PTSD has also been recognized in the past as shell shock, traumatic war neurosis, or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS).

Bradley – the US Army’s current light armored vehicle

Purple Heart – The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.

Dismount – the infantry men on foot who accompany the armored vehicles on a mission

R+R – Rest and Relaxation (military slang). Usually used to describe the two week leave during which the deployed soldier gets to go home.

DUI/DWI – Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or an illicit substance / Driving While Impaired by alcohol

RPG – Rocket-Propelled Grenade

E4, E5, E6, E7 – synonyms for the Army ranks of Specialist, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant First Class ETS – Estimated Time of Separation FOB – Forward Operating Base: American Army posts in Iraq Fobbit – a derogatory term for soldiers who are deployed but only stay on the FOB and pull guard on cafeterias or gyms etc. Grunts who go out the wire look down on fobbits because they have never seen combat. GED – General Educational Development (or GED) tests are a group of five tests which (when passed) certifies that the taker has American high school-level academic skills. Grunt – a grunt is a soldier who does the dirty work, who leaves the wire, i. e. an infantry man. The opposite of a fobbit.

Stop-loss – the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service date. In other words: If your ETS is too close to the deployment of your unit, the Army forces you to do one more term in Iraq, even though according to your contract you’re supposed to be clearing. WTU – Warrior Transition Unit. A special unit for soldiers with PTSD and other war-related injuries. From an Army-related website:  «We are an Army at war. The Army Medical Department supports the war effort by providing the highest quality and most advanced medical care for Soldiers on the battlefield – saving more lives of Soldiers wounded in combat than ever before. Army leaders and medical professionals know that some wounds lie beneath the surface and are not always visible upon first assessment.» Xanax – an antidepressant Zoloft – an antidepressant

Hadji – a derogatory term used by soldiers to describe Iraqis IED – Improvised Explosive Device, a.k.a. a roadside bomb. In the Iraq war, IEDs have been used extensively against coalition forces and by the end of 2007 they have been responsible for approximately at least 40 % of coalition deaths in Iraq. JRTC – Joint Readiness Training Center in Ft. Polk, Louisiana. The Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) is focused on improving unit readiness by providing highly realistic, stressful, joint and combined arms training across the full spectrum of conflict. Klonopin or Clonazepam – a prescription drug which helps relieve anxiety, seizures and panic disorder. It is also a muscle relaxant.

Elisabeth Real, 1979, lives and works as a freelance photographer in Zurich, Switzerland. In her personal work, she is very interested in the longterm consequences of armed conflicts and usually focuses on individuals who have in one way or another been touched by war. One of her older projects is set in Kosovo, for example. She plans to travel to Rwanda next year.

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« Entre chien et loup » L’histoire de l’art abonde en couchers de soleil et en aubes naissantes. Symbolique, spirituel, narratif, le passage du jour à la nuit et son corollaire a donné l’occasion aux artistes de cueillir un paysage mis en scène naturellement par des effets de lumière contrastés et rapides.Qu’en est-il dans l’histoire de la représentation de l’heure bleue – cetinstant «entre chien et loup» où le paysage est plat, exempt de point de fuite, sans aspérités? on se prendrait à passer samain du haut du ciel jusqu’au moëlleux de l’herbe dans un même geste; la nature devient peinture, réduite à deux dimensions. Cette quête artistique, peut-être en trouve-t-on la trace dans certaines Crucifixions: à l’instant où le temps bascule, le ciel du Golgotha se déchire alors que le Christ expire. Cet intérêt, peut-être le lit-on dans une version diurne: Léonard de Vinci privilégiait la lumière neutre des jours blancs, où l’ombre et la lumière se fondent dans une légère opacité. Toute expressivité ainsi désamorcée, il s’avère possible d’envisager la ­nature dans une objectivité qui semble se déposer, comme une empreinte du réel, sur la tavola de l’artiste. Twilighten plein jour pour une fois de plus déjouer les pièges de l’interprétation La tâche est difficile, les exemples sont rares. Une rareté dont on aimerait lire le pourquoi en filigrane des mots de W. B. Yeats,

« I’m looking for the face I had, before the world was made » mais ça c’est encore une autre histoire.

photography ~ Yann Mingard


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Yann Mingard, born in 1973, lives near Lausanne, Switzerland. After being a landscape gardener and studying shortly at ESBA in Geneva, Yann turned his ­attention on to photography in 2001. He has been working since then as a photographer sharing his time ­between personal and commissioned work. Text ~ Florence Grivel, Historienne de l’art

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IMPRESSUM

CONTRIBUTORS

TRUCE Volume V  (2008/2009) Publisher TRUCE (Productions) www.truce.ch – Founder, Producer Stefan Jermann – Art Director Adrian Goepel – Founder, Sr. Art Director Walter Stähli – Editorial Office TRUCE Grubenstrasse 37 8045 Zürich Switzerland Office +41 (0) 43 818 55 06 Mobile +41 (0) 78 806 90 30 – Advertising / PR Stefan Jermann stefan@jermann.com – Translations / Proof read Bridget Wilkin  www.strategicenglish.com – Paper Heaven42 softgloss, 200 g / m2 Superset Snow, 150 g / m2 – Print Stämpfli AG 3001 Bern – Lithography TRUCE CREATIVE – Cover credits Front: by Gottfried Helnwein, untitled

Art & Illustrations Gottfried Helnwein Brian M. Viveros Ryan Sanchez Florian Grimm Flavian Kurth Martin Skauen – Photography Gottfried Helnwein Elisabeth Real Yann Mingard Stefan Jermann – Text Matthias Fiechter Reto Bloesch Elisabeth Real Onome Ekeh Flavian Kurth Stefan Jermann – Links to our artists www.helnwein.de  Gottfried Helnwein www.brianmviveros.com  Brian M. Viveros www.ryansanchez.com  Ryan Sanchez www.elisabethreal.ch  Elisabeth Real www.worx-design.com  Florian Grimm www.flaviankurth.com  Flavian Kurth www.yannmingard.ch  Yann Mingard www.martinskauen.com  Martin Skauen www.wortkunst.ch  Reto Bloesch www.thememorexe.com  Onome Ekeh www.jermann.com  Stefan Jermann – Special thanks Claudia Froelich, Julian Salinas, Martina Rychen, Fabienne Meyer, Nathalie Bissig for photo assistance and research and everybody who helped making this possible

(detail)

mixed media, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2005

Inside: by Gottfried Helnwein, American Prayer

R.I.P. Reto Schenkel (1972–2007) This Volume is dedicated to you, we miss you

mixed media, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2000

Back: by Stefan Jermann, South Irish Coast Inside: by Martin Skauen, untitlted

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Buy TRUCE at selected bookstores and newssstands or order online at www.truce.ch – Made in Switzerland with labour of love


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