ETERNITY.
A CONFERENCE WITH PRACTICAL EXERCISES AND TRAINING INSTRUCTIONS FOR HALLUCINATION


Friday, 24th of April 2015
from 7p.m. to 10 p.m.

Haus der Wissenschaft
Pockelsstraße 11
38106 Braunschweig



Terence Koh, Copycat Academy Toronto 2014
Photo: Bruce LaBruce

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Credits
Eternity.
A conference with practical exercises
A project of the Mobile Academy Berlin, in cooperation with the Kulturinstitut der Stadt Braunschweig and the Haus der Wissenschaft Braunschweig

Team Mobile Academy Berlin:
concept & set: Hannah Hurtzig; production & research: Stefan Aue;
décor & graphics: Florian Stirnemann;
technical consultancy: Philipp Hochleichter;
contact:
stefan.aue@mobileacademy-berlin.com

Organiser:
Kulturinstitut der Stadt Braunschweig
in cooperation with the Haus der Wissenschaft Braunschweig,
Pockelsstraße 11,
38106 Braunschweig


www.hausderwissenschaft.org





ETERNITY.
A CONFERENCE WITH PRACTICAL EXERCISES AND TRAINING INSTRUCTIONS FOR HALLUCINATION

Strictly speaking, eternity is a timeless category. We, who live and work this side of the eternal, coordinated and located in a chronological temporality, must therefore wonder: how can one draw nearer to eternity on 24 April in Braunschweig? Braunschweig and eternity are neighbours. In the city's Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) sit the state custodians of standard time, here stands the synchronising atomic clock. In Braunschweig time is produced: the marking of time, the official atomic-clock which we all trust. And at the same time, a nuclear time is of relevance because here the Konrad pit, a final deposit site for medium and low level radioactive waste, shall begin operations in 2022.

Eternity is not a stable constant. The centuries have amassed various ideas and competing models of eternity: it could lie behind or beyond time, it could be endless time, or a state without beginning and end, an eternal recurrence of the same and what has been, or the sublating of time per se into a total present. It is an ancient and beautiful mystery, and fortunately there is no hurry to come up with an answer, for who still needs the promise of eternity today?

The religions continue to offer it as an existential solution, but precisely for anyone who can get along without religious promises of eternity and has no need for experiences of transcendence, eternity remains an interesting phenomenon and puzzle: as the state one enters upon death. And as a thought model that provokes imagining a de-temporalized time, beyond all chronology. Eternity creates space for speculations and imaginings apart from the prescribed regime of time in which efficiency enhancement and fear of mortality interlock.

The conference presents the most exciting models of eternity and concepts of infinity from the history of philosophy, cultural theory and the natural sciences. Parallel, practical exercises from various disciplines will be offered - from art, professional coaching, performance art, transhumanism and literature. Elongating, serially repeating, bringing to a standstill and denying time - these are the devices to be used to enable momentary convergences with eternity. In addition, we present techniques to practice a fateless mortality. We guarantee: the look into the rotating drum of the washing machine will never be the same.


Terence Koh, Copycat Academy Toronto 2014
Photo: Bruce LaBruc

An obstacle course in six stations

Station a:
Serial repetition and eternal recurrence of the same

This state can be a horror scenario: everything must be lived through exactly the same, over and over again. Or it is a blessing of tedium: experiencing time expires, everything stays the same, without purpose and without end. And that's a good thing. (Kai van Eikels, Petra Gehring, Rainer Gruber, John Cage)

Station b:
Halting time in rapture (or in shock)

The precious moment, in which before and after, inside and outside vanish, a crack in the temporal continuum. The sobering knowledge that this moment is finite enhances - if that's possible - the enjoyment even more. (Ivana Franke, Petra Gehring)

Station c:
Storing and archiving in memory (ars memoria) or in containers

The deepfreeze container in Arizona: the cryonics believe that physical immortality for humans is achievable on the basis of technological enhancement (a Braunschweig undertaker offers to transport the flash-frozen body to Arizona). A container depot near Braunschweig: the barrels in the Konrad pit will soon store nuclear waste that is radioactive for more than 100,000,000 years. (Martin Donat, Petra Gehring, Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, Dorothee Wenner / Hannah Hurtzig)

Station d:
Instruments of eternity

An artificially constructed eternity was already sketched by Leonardo da Vinci: his infinity machine is a gear mechanism that slows movement almost down to a halt, but never reaches a standstill. (Broadcast of Organ2/ASLSP by John Cage with the tempo marking "As SLow aS Possible" from the Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Wladimir Velminski)

Station e:
The Buddha method

The best starting point for approaching eternity is neither the past nor the future but the present. The present is an open place, a no-longer and a not-yet, jammed in between the past and the future. If one could experience the Now, the immediate present, one could feel a spark of eternity. (Ivana Franke, Rainer Gruber, Christine Wank)

Station f:
Antagonist training

Reflecting the finite, training the last moment. A dynamic meditation exercise that graphically illustrates the transition from living person into a visual representation of the deceased. A general rehearsal for one's own mortality. (Hannah Hurtzig / Susanne Sachsse, Edit Kaldor / Ogutu Muraya)

Talks, Narratives, Consultations on Infinity

Martin Donat:
The final disposal site. Narrative
Atomic waste is the materialised human hubris of 20th-century technology. What began 70 years ago with the infernal Nazi uranium project and the apocalyptic dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, results in - logically and almost inevitably - the boundless self-overestimation of a safe "final disposal site" or even the human-made "transmutation" of the elements. Man, who has ignited the sun's fire on earth, considers himself godlike and superior to creation. Because he was once capable of capturing the dimension of the eternal through the technologies of physics, man has fallen for a grandiose delusion: in practice it has become clear that the works of the mortal once again penetrate into this temporal world and do so within a human life…

Ivana Franke:
We close our eyes and see a swarm of birds.
Installation, wood construction, polystyrene, LED lamps, frequency range 12 – 33 Hz, length: 6’24’’
You enter the tubes, sit down and close your eyes. Initiated through a flashlight-dramaturgy, spaces and images appear to move in ways which have no correspondence whatsoever to reality and which we have not retrieved from memory. We are obviously seeing the reactions of our neuronal structure to light stimulation - a phenomenon that science is also unable to explain. Something becomes visible that is invisible. Bright shadows of our brain. The boundaries between inside and outside appear to dissolve, one experiences a rupturing of individual perception that plunges us into the hallucination of an experience of the present. And this experience is subjective, incomparable and cannot be proven.


Petra Gehring:
Seven times eternity. Talks (3x20 min.)

The philosopher describes seven forms of eternity and the corresponding social figures: 1. The unbounded future, the unlimited continuity of time (e.g. Plato). Figure: the unchallenged adult // 2. The halting of time in a moment of intensive experience of the present (e.g. Nietzsche). Figure: the enchanted // 3. Fixating the transient through material preservation (e.g. stone, marble, granite, gold, platinum). Figure: the guard // 4. The total presence of all, the omniscience and omnipotence of God (e.g. Augustine). Figure: the sage // 5. Cycle and eternal recurrence, fate in the tragic sense (e.g. Nietzsche). Figure: the hero // 6. The deferral, perpetual dying (e.g. Hegel). Figure: the ascetic, the hurried // 7. Variation of the same, paralysing tedium (e.g. Dracula, de Sade). Figure: the dandy and the cynic.

Rainer Gruber:
Big ban. Talks (3x20 min.)

With the special relativity theory, the single, universal time geared to eternity splintered into inherent times; simultaneously, space and time coalesce into space-time. The thesis of the big bang derived from the general relativity theory enabled physics to ascribe a beginning and a conceivable end to space-time. But eternity as a concept is essentially embedded in deeper layers of physics. It has its roots in the fascination of the Pre-Socratics with the permanent, the existing - with what remains the same throughout all change - and is expressed in the laws of conservation which became the basis of classical physics and have achieved experimental triumphs in the symmetry concept of elementary particles. Meanwhile, the general relativity theory profoundly questions this concept.

Stefan Lorenz Sorgner:
Transhumanism. Consultancy

Human immortality is a utopia frequently discussed in the context of transhumanism. Immortality should be seen less as a eu-topia (Ancient Greek: the good place) to be practically realised but rather as an ouk-topia (Ancient Greek: non-place), a human longing whose fulfilment is not realistically expected but plays a rhetorical function. Whoever speaks of immortality is assured of public attention, because human mortality represents a challenge for all of us. Three variants of transhumanism are particularly relevant here: 1. cryonics, mind uploading and the silicon-based transhumanism; 2. human evolution, genetic enhancement and the carbon-based transhumanism; 3. human advancement with respect to the span of health.


Wladimir Velminski:
Shudder of eternity. Narrative

The premiere of an unpublished radio play: enshrouded in the sound of electromagnetic waves we head into the year 8888 (the year of the four reversed infinities) and are witness to a mysterious fateful encounter between a famous architect and the ruler of Russia, the Golden Child. The question is if eternity is a place of authority that humans can only glimpse in the act of subjugation and what role is assigned to the 'eternal organon'. The radio play is based on the drawings of Suprematism-inspired futuristic architecture, which the Russian artist, author, nomad and founder of the group "Medical Hermeneutics Inspection", Pavel Pepperstein exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2009.


Christine Wank:
Presencing. Consultancy

How can we let go of the debilitating structures of the past or - as well - the fixed images of the future? The concept of the "Theory U" (Otto Scharmer, 2009) begins right here - aiming to recognise and implement systematic innovations and changes for humans and organisations. One method is that of so-called "Presencing", a specific training for perceiving the present. The sessions with Christine Wank are an invitation to reflect on one's own future possibilities and bring these into the here and now. This can relate to a current concrete challenge in your life or your work as well as general questions concerning one's conduct of life.


Dorothee Wenner / Hannah Hurtzig:
Ars Memoria. Training exercise

It seems to be certain that one can only enter eternity through one's own death. Then one reaches perhaps the other side or a place, Hades, the underworld, the inferno, Arcadia, paradise, or one remains in limbo, in an interim zone. If we assume that eternity is a place of remembrance, an auratic place in the memory, a curious web out of time and space where closeness and distance enter a strange connection: how can one spend eternity at this place? The exercise offers a special mnemonic technique for eternity. The exercise draws on a film, one of the most beautiful films ever made on the theme of the afterlife: After Life (A Wonderful Life) by the Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda from 1989.

Training for Finiteness & Mortality

Think of eternity, one remembers death. It can appear in a diverse array of guises. Death as the return into the indeterminate, perhaps the cosmos, perhaps into a state before our birth. Death as the dissolution of a temporarily material entity and a liberating detachment of the soul from the body. It is described as a transitional phase after which the judgment on how we have conducted our lives awaits. Death can restore the order of the world, for the individual merges into the collective of the dead and makes room for the living. Death as a consciousness exercise, as an ethical teaching and a chance for configuring life. Or as an unacceptable impertinence that simply has to be rejected. Meditations on death are an ancient technique, while TV series a suitable possibility for dealing with the transient.

Edit Kaldor / Ogutu Muraya, exercise (30 min.)
Edit Kaldor has adapted her play "One Hour" (2012) for Braunschweig. Together with the performer Ogutu Muraya she tells of a waking dream, a report on the physiological processes at work during dying, where one can draw nearer to a notion of the end and test out our relationship to finite time and mortality.


Kai van Eikels, talks (3x20 min.)
The desire of we European-educated humans in the 21st century is by no means directly aimed at the eternal. We wish to live in a time in which the eternal only makes itself noticeable here and there, portending that there is something else and more than the here. The novel, the drama in theatre and the film organise time in this sense: they lend certain moments a fateful quality, allow the eternal to flash up amidst the fleetingness of all that goes on. Perhaps the only popular format that practices fatelessness is the series. Whether in literature, comics, TV, theatre or performance, with the series I can experience a time that actually does nothing else but continue on and then cease. Given suitable circumstances, the passion for a series energizes a spirit to embrace finite, transient and futile life.

Hannah Hurtzig / Susanne Sachsse, exercise (video, 12 min.)
The first portrait was the corpse. Looking into the face of someone dead was the earliest image man made of man. A mysterious image, for the corpse is a doppelganger, it shows the deceased, it is his/her face and at the same time it demonstrates his/her absence, the face of death. The video "Übung über den Tod" is part of the installation "The Milieu of the Dead" shown at the Vienna Festival in 2013.


Terence Koh, Copycat Academy Toronto 2014
Photo: Bruce LaBruc

With:
Martin Donat, anti-nuclear activist and occupational therapist, Free Republic of Wendland;
Dr Kai van Eikels, culture and theatre theorist at the Free University of Berlin;
Ivana Franke, visual artist, Zagreb/Berlin;
Dr Petra Gehring, professor for philosophy at the Technical University Darmstadt;
Dr Rainer Gruber, physicist, dissertation on quantum field theory, Munich;
Edit Kaldor, director, Amsterdam;
Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, author and director of the Beyond Humanism Network, Leipzig;
Ogutu Muraya, author, theatre-maker, storyteller, Nairobi/Amsterdam;
Dr Wladimir Velminski, art and media historian at the ETH Zürich;
Christine Wank, systematic organisation developer and trainer, Berlin;
Dorothee Wenner, filmmaker and curator, Berlin.