– Autumn/Winter 2003

Ich war eine Glocke

Hans-Christian Dany

Tags: Rosemarie Trockel

Rosemary Trockel, Balaklava, series of five woolen hats, ca 30.5cmx20cm, 1986 (edition of 10). © Rosemarie Trockel/DACS London 2011. Courtesy Sprueth Magers Berlin London.

Rosemary Trockel, Balaklava, series of five woolen hats, ca 30.5cmx20cm, 1986 (edition of 10). © Rosemarie Trockel/DACS London 2011. Courtesy Sprueth Magers Berlin London.

Masks can be tools to hide. They disguise a face in order to permit a change of identity, maybe even of personal reality. Sometimes a child will put a bag over her head and whisper, 'I'm not here now, I've disappeared'. Yet there are ways to hide an object and to think about invisibility that, in turn, make visibility possible.

If I enter the labyrinth at a different point in the pattern, I find the end of a thread under a door on which is written 'ninety years ago'. As I open the door, I recall a sentence we learned in school, 'langes Fädchen, faules Mädchen' (long thread, lazy girl). Behind the door, the first serially produced automobiles roll off the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Strangely enough, it is on a long rope that the 'Model T', the first serially produced automobile, is drawn past the workers. Yet this thick thread had little to do with laziness - quite the opposite in fact, as it heralded the age of accelerated production.

Repetition as the Key to Democratic Goods

The inventor of the machine that was used to manufacture the same machine over and over again had a vision of a self-driven car for everyone - 'the car for the great multitude' as Ford called it.2 In order to realise his dream, Ford gathered an elongated ornament of human beings around a rope to the beat of interlocking and consistently uniform movements.

The son of a farmer, Ford got the idea for this method for the division of labour from watching butchers in Chicago. There, a cadaver was

  1. 'Ich war eine Glocke' (I was a bell) is written in a speech bubble in a drawing (Untitled, 1987) by Rosemarie Trockel. This confession of her own past is shot from a pistol by a naked woman wearing only a mask. The drawing was made in conjunction with the work Balaklava (1986), a series of five machine-fabricated woolen hats - such as those also sold as protection from the cold -released in an edition of ten.

  2. The word 'multitude' has recently enjoyed a greater degree of popularity due to the bestseller Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.

  3. The swastika with left-turning bars is a symbol of the cycle of life in Buddhism and has sometimes been identified with the masculine principle. In its right-turning form it was a symbol of the feminine power of reproduction in Mesopotamia. The latter was to be used as a logo for the Volkswagen.

  4. Ferdinand Porsche - an obsessive inventor who held over a thousand patents -had founded a construction office in 1931 and later supervised the establishment of the Volkswagen works. His son Ferdinand, who was later called'Ferry' to better distinguish him from his father, founded the well-known sports-car company after the war. His son Ferdinand took over the company in the 1960s. Although the Porsche sports car was technically based on individual construction parts of the Volkswagen, as a product it primarily made use of a desire to distinguish oneself from the mass on the highway.

  5. The nickname 'Beetle' was given to the VW later, allegedly due to an article in The New York Times.

  6. The one-millionth VW Beetle came into the light of day as early as 1955. The last Beetle left the assembly line in 2003 in Mexico, long after the production of the car had been discontinued in Europe and the USA.

  7. Perhaps because it was just out of fashion or some did not want to believe that it was over, it was popular for a certain period to attach a 'post-' in front of Fordism.

  8. What became one of the central concepts of this movement was the metaphor borrowed by Jean François Lyotard from domestic handiwork, a 'patchwork of minorities'.

  9. The Italian company Prada later used a similar logo strategy.

  10. In the 1970s the group drove ponderous Mercedes limousines, but switched in the 1980s to the VW Golf for ecological reasons.

  11. In the late 1970s the Germans were gripped by a deep fear of computers, a so-called 'census', the idea of the 'transparent man' and nuclear power.

  12. The Kraftwerk song with the familiar lines 'Wir fahr'n, fahr'n, fahr'n auf der Autobahn' was also an ironic play on the assertion, widespread in West Germany, 'not everything Hitler did was bad, the Autobahn, for example…'

  13. In addition to an overly unambiguous adaptation of the aesthetics of Russian constructivism, there was an additional remark on the cover, 'inspired by El Lissizsky'.

  14. The appearance of an ideological vacuum suggested in the 1980s and seemingly affirmed by the collapse of the East Bloc can hardly be so uniformly presumed today.