concepts, sculpture, performative interventions, interactive sculptures
My sculptural approach is about the development of spatial concepts. I understand creative work as an ongoing process that involves working on materials and intellectual questioning. Spatial gestures or expressions, occurring in any form or disposition, are also part of this perspective.
I change media and materials depending on the content and the intention of my idea. This implies a broad spectrum of different presentations: Installations, interactive sculpture, the staging of performances and interventions. Sometimes these include video, photographical works or sound. I often design a piece for a particular place or event.
I am interested in the confrontation between the conception of an ideal, for example the wish for a better life, and the existing reality of life in a society. Diplomatic agreements or social conventions express this contrast, which is also reflected by definitions of concepts such as freedom, homeland, the people, nations, borders, etc.
My invented countries serve as a backdrop for orientation. I use symbols of identification and certain signs which are removed from their political and social context. By changing them slightly I want to open new perspectives for interpretation.
In founding my own countries, I confront the position of the individual with the group (society as a form of team work).
I examine the preconditions that allow improved (creative) working and living conditions.
Text from the Catalogue "Waveland : Continental Drift"
The Alterity of Identity : Welcome in Utopia
"And in the formation of those worlds I take more delight and glory than ever Alexander or Cesar did in conquering the terrestrial world, and though I have made my Blazing World a peaceable world, allowing it but one religion, one language and one government, yet could I make another world as full of fractions, divisions and wars as this is of peace and tranquillity, and the rational figures of my mind might express as much courage to fight as Hector and Achilles had, and be as wise as Nestor, as eloquent as Ulysses and as beautiful as Helen"
This is how, in the year 1666, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, dramatist and natural philosopher, described the project of a Blazing World –,a world in which –floating free between Utopia and voyage imaginaire –bear–humans act as experimental philosophers and fox–humans embody politicians, while speakers turn into parrot-humans and "ordinary" humans, depending on their function, are sometimes sky blue, deep purple or grass green.
"We founded seven utopian nations and want to import them into reality", is the official slogan with which the United Nations of Utopia (UNU) alias Beatrice & Benzina alias Beatrice Jugert since the year 2000 has been inviting to travels and life (but not to dreaming) at www.unitednationsutopia.org. An invitation, then, to set off to the fragmented world of Utopia, where nations are comprised of such exotic countries as Arché, Absolute Ego, Pole Away and Narvaland. In contrast to Cavendish, however, Jugert exceeds with her artistic interventions the marked out frame of a purely imaginary invention of a world and, thus, the fantasy world of "monsters and chimeras" that until today inhabit the fantastically designed counter-worlds in art.
So even if the countries of Utopia could at first glance also be read as phantasms, the artist opens up the social and political, in short, the apparently real dimension of her world by highlighting its national-federal conception. Certificates and visas are issued, positions as ambassadors are advertised and espionage trips are offered. Embassies are set up in public buildings (town hall of Berlin-Neukölln, 2002 / HfbK Dresden, 2002) and flags are raised during official parades (Columbia University, New York, 2003). And what takes place from the very onset within a archaeology of Utopian thought is the examination of the earth in regard to its historical "waste" (Dresden spring, 2002).
By splitting Utopia up into limited, sovereign states whose national identity is revealed precisely by the exclusivity of a single facet (of life), be it Constant Beginning Always at the beginning, – a Country All to Yourself Land for you alone, Travelling in Permanent Variation Underway in constant change, or Homeland on call Home to Order, reference is made to the definition of nation as a "spiritual principle". As a "soul", as Ernest Renan writes in 1882, which is constituted on the one hand by the common possession of memories, and on the other by the desire to live together. Freeing the concept of nation from its spatial and territorial implications and instead interpreting it in a postmodern way as an "invented community" additionally turns the question pertaining to the composition of the world as such into a question as to how the world functions.
In Beatrice Jugert′s artistic actions and installations, as well, imagining a specific, static picture of the world is not given priority, but instead the visualisation of those mechanisms through which nations are founded – the cultural systems and actions, then, that form the basis for creating national identities. The images she then develops for depicting the respective nations in public reflect the dynamism but also the fragility of political and social representations. The attempt to appropriate the grand gestures of national self-representation, whether in a parade of flags, by playing national anthems, or through the large-scale public proclamation of Utopian ways of life, always also ironises the symbolic content inherent to these things and exposes the concept of nation as a playing field of ambivalent narrations that keep the production machine called culture running.
According to Benedict Anderson, "communities are to be distinguished not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined." Jugert′s style is that of Utopia: not congruent with being, but dynamic and – in contrast to ideology – intent on breaking apart or transforming existing orders. With Jugert, Utopia is an "unredeemed promise", a big bang with an unclear ending. Her explorations of the self inevitably lead her to the borders of the other, to that intermediate realm, then, where private and public, plans and life, hopes and disillusionment, Utopia and reality clash. Like for instance when Hans within the frame of an Identity Swap Station and under the patronage of Utopia offers his life "for a second chance" (HinterConti, Hamburg, 2003), or when Beatrice & Benzina within the frame of the Embassy of the United Nations of Utopia provide empty stages for national configurations (town hall of Berlin-Neukölln, 2002).
By questioning the legitimacy of parallel worlds, something which repeatedly marks the starting-point of her works, the artist creates a zone of permeability precisely by superimposing fictitious and factual systems, a sense–field of abundance in which coffee cups flow over, puddles spread, and the sugar castle is ultimately immersed in milk. The doubling of systems opens up an uncanny difference of the same, that which Homi Bhabha describes as the "alterity of identity". It is the occupying gesture of new formulations or reformulations through which Jugert reconnoitres that "third space of absence" lying exactly between the assertion and questioning of identity.
It is therefore logically consistent that Beatrice Jugert, within the framework of the Philip Morris travel scholarship, has closely examined her own phantasms of places using a pair of scissors. The places, the defined outlines of which she sets in motion like ghosts by means of a fan, rewrite themselves on a temporarily stretched out sheet. The artist takes on the role of an ambassador under the icon of the United Nations at the borders of her own conception of the world, staging herself here as both a researcher and preserver of what is yet unknown.
The British cultural critic Stuart Hall writes that each form of identity has to go through the ′eye of the needle′ of the other. It is an open, sensuous offer that the artist Beatrice Jugert makes to her visitors in the name of Utopia, by visualising behind the ideological occupation of the globe the uncharted regions of a Utopian fabric of the world. It is a mode of thought that builds a bridge back to the 17th century, as it were, back to the phantasms of the Duchess of Newcastle with which this text began and will now end:
"And if any should like the world I have made, and be willing to be my subjects, they may imagine themselves such, and they are such – I mean in their minds, fancies and imaginations. But if they cannot endure to be subjects, they may create worlds of their own, and govern themselves as they please."
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London, 1983.
Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture. London, 1994.
Margaret Cavendish, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World. London, .
Stuart Hall, Rassismus und kulturelle Identität. Hamburg, 1994.
Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia. An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge. London, 1991.
Ernest Renan, What is a Nation?, in: Geoff Eley/Ronald Suny (ed.), Becoming National: A Reader. New York and Oxford, 1996.