The reunification of Germany at the fall of the Berlin Wall did not automatically accomplish the goal of reuniting the German people, who had five decades of differences in post-World War II government, education, and culture to overcome. Artist/novelist Ingo Niermann suggests ten provokingly simple ideas to reunite his homeland, including a new grammar, a new political party, and assigning allotment gardens to unemployed people and retirees. He also proposes building a Great Pyramid in a derelict region of eastern Germany, meant to be the tallest building in the world, which would be a tourist attraction and economic engine for the region.
The Book of Scotlands
In the spirit of Italo Calvino, Bruno Schulz, and French animation series Les Shadoks (using any language, that is, except the “wooden tongue” of official discourse), The Book of Scotlands will outline, in a numerical sequence, one hundred and fifty-six Scotlands which currently do not exist anywhere. At a time when functional independence seems to be a real possibility for Scotland—and yet no one is quite sure what that means – a delirium of visions, realistic and absurd, is necessary.
Published in the Solution series edited by Ingo Niermann, The Book of Scotlands will provide one answer—and a few more—to this appeal for focused dreaming about potential parallel world Scotlands. The author, Momus, is a Scottish artist who has lived in Paris, New York, Tokyo and now Berlin. Paradoxically, of course, there is nothing more Scottish than leaving Scotland. And the further a Scot travels from Scotland, the more vivid and lurid his “inner Scotlands” become—and the more tellingly they differ from the real place. 2009 will also see the publication of Momus’ first novel, The Book of Jokes.
The first publication in the Solution series of books that will present visionary projects in different countries goes to Germany. The Great Pyramid is the brainchild of writer Ingo Niermann, who envisioned using a derelict site in eastern German to build a democratic tomb for people from all ethnic, ethical, and religious backgrounds – which would function as a tourist attraction and spark an economic revitalization for the financially struggling region. Includes contributions by Rem Koolhaas, Christian Kracht, and Chus Martinez and projects by Atelier Bow-Wow (Tokyo), Fake/ Ai Weiwei (Beijing), Nikolaus Hirsch/Wolfgang Lorch/Markus Miessen (Frankfurt am Main), and MADA s.p.a.m. (Shanghai).
Solution 168–185: America is the fourth book in the Solution series. Opting for the United States of America, “still the most proficiently colonial place I know,” Zolghadr provides a compilation of highly entertaining “solutions,” where the objective is not the education of America so much as the pleasure of a text that purports to be just that. Tirdad Zolghadr is a writer/curator based in Berlin. He is editor-at-large for Cabinet magazine. He organized the United Arab Emirates pavilion, Venice Biennale 2009, and the long-term project Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie (with Nav Haq). Zolghadr teaches at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.
Using Dubai as a sort of modernist blank slate for urban and social renewal, author Ingo Niermann – a relentlessly creative artist whose tongue is firmly jammed into his cheek – confronts today’s most relevant cultural and technological developments with elixirs that are as pertinent as they are unbelievable. In the fifth book in the Solution series, Niermann sees Dubai, a sparsely populated piece of desert, become specialized as housing the global center for treating diabetes, called Sugar World. And the Gulf state will be Kumbaya-style universal, too, offering non-confrontational public spaces where both a state of total advertising and compulsive kindness, or what he calls a “personal humaneness account,” co-exist.
The Book of Japans
Yet another archly funny fantasy in Ingo Niermann’s endlessly inventive Solution Series, this nippophile tale is written by Scottish-born, Japan-based creative genius Momus, otherwise known as songwriter Nick Currie. Following the success of the pair’s The Book of Scotlands (shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Council’s First Book prize), this book makes a case for the rehabilitation of the idea of the “far.” We live in a time when difference and distance have been eroded and eradicated by globalization, the Internet, and cheap jet travel. The Book of Japans restores a sense of wonder – along with a plethora of imagination-triggering inaccuracies – by taking the reader on a trip not just through space but also time.
United States of Palestine – Israel
Is there a region of the world where it’s harder to imagine a solution for anything than the Middle East? Solution 196-213: United States of Palestine-Israel plunges in, each contributor offering one solution that would make life better and proposes ways to do it. Since it seemed absurb to present a one-person master plan for the region, this collection departed from the previous books in the Solution series and invited several writers from the region to take a shot at something specific and doable. The idea is to rethink the different antagonisms that structure our ways of resistance and compliance: to rethink Semitism and 1948, identity and territory, resistance and memory, democracy and state, Zionism and decolonization, refugee and property, religion and solution. Contributors include Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Joshua Simon, and Eyal Weizman.
Finland: The Welfare Game
Welcome to Finland, a young land experiencing a rapidly aging consciousness, where newly founded institutions are already outmoded and geographic impediments are a constant crippling agent. The latest addition to international prankster/deep thinker Ingo Niermann’s Solution series, this wryly entertaining book addresses the Nordic country’s numerous predicaments. The three Finnish authors offer solutions to their native country’s quandaries, ranging from the absurd (the implementation of fiction-mongering emissaries to boost tourism) to the earnest and probably half-serious (the repurposing of the country to host nuclear waste). The book elucidates the northern country’s modern history as a nation under construction, proposing that its identity remain a malleable myth.
The phenomenal performative relationship between the state and its cultural institutions was perhaps best exemplified when the declaration of the State of Israel was staged at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 1948. This relationship has been at the heart of Public Movement’s research. Solution 263: Double Agent, authored by Alhena Katsof and Dana Yahalomi, presents a methodology, manual, and performance offered as a culmination of efforts by the Office of Strategy and Protocol. It contains the necessary tools to activate Debriefing Sessions and in doing so trains future Agents in a series of one-to-one exchanges gathered from work in the field. At its root, Debriefing Sessions explore the possibility that to activate art in the political field, an agent may be a double agent.
This humorous series hasn’t lost its edge! Solution 263: Double Agent is a methodology, manual and performance. The training manual written by New York–based curator/writers Alhena Katsof and Dana Yahalomi of Public Movement contains two scripts, strategy guides and procedures. Readers learn how to study and perform Debriefing Sessions, a series of one-to-one exchanges about the performative relationship between the state and its cultural institutions. Public Movement, a performative research body formed in 2006 by Omer Krieger and Yahalomi presents the debriefing format as a methodology for the transmission of information, turning research into action. At its root is the possibility that to activate art in the political field, an agent may be a double agent. Other contributors include art critic/curator Karen Archey, New York–based artist Jill Magid, performance artist / costume designer / researcher Hagar Ophir and Berlin-based historian Janto Schwitters.
“What is luxury? Anything that is not essential to life and that, once everyone has it, is rather annoying.” ~ Solution 264, “Public Poverty” In the 12th volume of the tongue-in-cheek Solutions series, Berlin- and Basel-based writer Ingo Niermann takes a new look at what nationhood can mean and accomplish today now that the promise of global prosperity and abundance technically has been fulfilled. He finds his inspiration in—of all places—North Korea, and 11 solutions build from insights Niermann culled while traveling there. Presented in the author’s photographs and diaristic travel entries, Niermann suggests that by relying on drills and the principle of reduction, an individual can be granted the freedom to enjoy a different relationship to experiences and ideas not heretofore possible, declaring that the time has come for a minimalist rethink of society: the more we simplify, the lighter the ballast.
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