by Dora García (ed.)
In 2015, a debate emerged in Germany surrounding the recent publication of the “Black Notebooks,” in which Heidegger's anti-semitism and Nazism was shamelessly exposed. Shortly thereafter, the University of Freiburg, where he had been rector during the Nazi period, eliminated its Heidegger chair in the Philosophy Department—though the cause was never made fully explicit. This heated debate is the starting point of the artist Dora García’s project, ON RECONCILIATION, commissioned by Galerie für Gegenwartskunst of E-Werk in Freiburg as part of the exhibition Performing Grounds (2016). Articulated through various formats such as an exhibition, performances, public dialogues, and a publication, the project approaches the following question: Should moral positions be demanded from authors (in addition to professional excellence), and should their failure to satisfy our (contemporary) ethical standards be a reason to dismiss their work completely?
The publication ON RECONCILIATION uses archival material (the letters exchanged between Heidegger and Hannah Arendt between 1925 and 1975) as a departure for a series of essays and conversations aiming to encourage a public debate on a difficult subject: the question of ethics and artistic production. The conceptual background is Arendt’s notion of “reconciliation” as an act of political judgment that, unlike revenge or forgiveness, can respond to wrongs in a way that fosters the political project of building and preserving a common world. In García’s view, Arendt not only formulated the concept of reconciliation to make bearable the world after the Second World War, but also to rationalize her unconditional loyalty to Heidegger (founded in youthful love) and her lifelong devotion to his oeuvre. Heidegger was infamously a member of the Nazi party and (arguably) the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, while Arendt was an assimilated German Jew who fled Europe to escape the Holocaust, later becoming a moral referent, as well as an acclaimed social, historical, and political theorist.
In its first instantiation during Performing Grounds, García’s project formalized itself through a series of guided tours around selected letters exchanged between Arendt and Heidegger (lent by Deutsche Literatur Archive Marbach, and authorized by the publisher of their collected volume, Klostermann). These weekly tours were given by people from all walks of life with different interests in the subject—philosophers, historians, psychoanalysts, artists, writers, actors. Each event naturally led to a rather heated debate among the guides and the public. This experience will now crystalize into a publication that gathers a selection of the letters in facsimile reproduction next to transcriptions of revelatory fragments of the tours and debates as well as essays on the notion of reconciliation by some of the tour guides and an introduction by Performing Grounds curator, Heidi Brunnschweiler.
A project by Dora García
With contributions by Heidi Brunnschweiler, Dora García, Nikola Mirkovic, Claudia Rönn-Kollmann, Mark Thomas, and Yuliya A. Tsutserova and facsimile reproductions of selected letters between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger.
English & German
Ca. 160 pages
Published by K. Verlag in collaboration with the Gallery for Contemporary Art – E-WERK Freiburg and the Academy of Fine Art Oslo/Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Made possible with the kind support of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Forthcoming in September 2017