Siegfried Zielinski: Escalation

One of the Christian West’s most powerful mythical images is the stairway to heaven (»scala paradisi«). The master text, »The Ladder of Divine Ascent«, was written by John Climacus in the early seventh century at the famous Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. The ascent to truth, to perfection, to God, to metaphysical existence comes at a high price: it is only possible through an ascetic life that is thoroughly disciplined and virtuous. – In her installation »Connected to Life«, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has constructed a radical antipode to the »scala paradisi«: a stairway that plunges down into hell. All the privations endured, all the self-discipline practiced by millions of people during the pandemic turn out to be futile and pointless, or at very least questionable. The situation is escalating – yet again. In a situation of crisis or conflict, “escalation” means a step-wise increase in the intensity of tension and contradictions. The administration is unable to cope with the virus. That amounts anyway to replacing bad with worse. The steps of Shiota’s huge sculpture, which pours down from the ceiling to the floor, are the naked frames of hospital beds. The metal bed-steads are linked by transparent tubes containing a red liquid that flows through them into glass containers. The blood-letting is merciless and functions like a cybernetic machine. From the filled flasks the blood is pumped back into the hospital circulation system before it returns again to the collecting tank on the floor. Looking upwards at the installation, it tells a story of the connection to life. Looking downwards, anyone who attempts to go down the staircase of beds will fall to their death. Most accidents occur on the way down, into decadence. In »Naked Lunch« (1959) William S. Burroughs remarks: “Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. [...] Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction [...] Bureaus die when the structure of the state collapses. They are as helpless and unfit for independent existence as a displaced tapeworm, or a virus that has killed the host.” 

 Siegfried Zielinski, Berlin, April 2021

17.03.2021 – 05.09.2021
Foyer