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I Felt Silly

(Performance mit Offizier, Video, 2009/10)


In einem Internetforum lernte ich zufällig einen ehemaligen Offizier der British Airforce kennen. Das erste, was ich zu ihm sagte, war: "Krieg ist etwas sehr abstraktes - da sitzen Leute in Flugzeugen und drücken Knöpfchen, werfen Bomben, ohne wirklich zu wissen, was sich unter ihnen befindet. Sie töten, ohne zu wissen, wen oder warum."
Er antwortete: "Ich hasse es, wenn Leute so über meine Leute reden. Sie haben keine Ahnung davon, wie es wirklich ist. Wenn wir einen Einsatz fliegen, wird alles bis ins Detail geplant. Wir konzentrieren uns ausschließlich auf das Ziel und unsere Prioritäten bestehen in der Schadensbegrenzung und der Minimierung der Gefahr für alle Beteiligten." Er begann, sehr genau zu erklären, wie so ein Einsatz abläuft. Nach einer Weile fragte ich: "Haben Sie jemals einen Menschen getötet?" Er antwortete: "Ehrlich gesagt - ich weiß es nicht."

Wir redeten oft miteinander und es entwickelte sich eine Freundschaft. Der Offizier, der anonym bleiben will, nutzte die Diskussionen mit mir, um sich mit seinem Leben und Kriegserfahrungen auseinander zu setzen, ich lernte vieles über die Gedankenwelt eines Soldaten.

Aufgebaut auf diesen Gesprächen entwickelte sich die Idee für die Performance, die sein Schwanken zwischen freiem Willen und Manipulation sichtbar und erfahrbar machen sollte. Ich bat den ehemaligen Offizier, sich selbst Marsch-Kommandos zu geben und mit verbundenen Augen durch einen geschlossenen Raum zu marschieren - mit der Gefahr, gegen die Wände zu laufen. Die Performance dauerte 3 Stunden, das geschnittene Video (10 min) zeigt einen Soldaten in Uniform, der blind den eigenen Kommandos gehorcht, vorsichtig durch den Raum marschiert und immer wieder von Wänden gestoppt wird. Nach der Performance fragte ich ihn, wie er sich fühlte. Er sagte nur: "I felt silly."


Interview auf Skype, 2009:

(der Offizier gab sich selbst den Spitznamen "someone")

Artist: What were your reasons for joining the military?
Someone: I wanted to do job I loved (for me flying). The military allowed me to do that, and also protect my country against what, at that time, was a real threat. I also had the chance to do more study and learn more about working with and leading people, things I love to do.
Artist: In which way did your childhood and youth experiences influence your choice of how to live your life?
Someone: My parents died when I was young and I was brought up by my grandparents, who loved me very much. Of course, to an extent, they wanted to relive their lives as parents through me, and had expectations of me that they had of my father. I wanted to break away from that. My decision to go into the military will have been influenced by that.
Artist: Isn't life in military a lot about rules and kind of the opposite of breaking free?
Someone: No. Rules and discipline are there to ensure that, when under significant pressure. It is about self discipline. But, the military also encourages free thinking and challenge. If people truly believe what they are doing is right, they will perform better. Equally, free-thinkers produce more varied solutions to problems.
Artist: Would you say you found a family in the military?
Someone: Yes. The military makes itself into a family. Teamwork and family is important if you are going to be an effective team in a high pressure situation.
Artist: What are your personal positive and negative feelings of being in the military?
Someone: Positive - Part of a team. A great personal and support network. Feeling great about yourself and your abilities. Negative - Some isolation from 'Real' life.
Artist: Risking your life in war isn't a negative issue?
Someone: It is what you 'sign up' to do. It is part of committing yourself to your country, or other things that you believe in.
Artist: What are your positive and what are your critical Thoughts about military in general?
Someone: Positive - The military in my country is diverse and inclusive. It is clear about its job, and it works to national policy, not its own. It challenges individuals to make themselves better. It prides itself in its involvement with its community. Negative - Some militaries exist for their own purposes, not those of the people they serve.
Artist: What will this be leading to? What do you think about war being an industry factor?
Someone: Significant parts of national industry are based on military production and engineering. National security is critical. However, too many people think of it in military terms. It is far more - it involves secure energy, management of immigration and emigration and the stability of the economy. Security effects us all and is not just a concept around the military.
Artist: You know if you want people doing something for you, you need to give them something. what do you think is the main thing, one has to give to a young man to make him throw himself into a dangerous situation like war? money? self-consciousness? safety? community?
Someone: The intelligence to work out for himself that what he is doing is legal and justified.
Artist: Do people in the military doubt that sometimes?
Someone: Yes, they do - they think about it, so there will sometimes be doubts. They have a choice to serve in the military, they have a choice to stay or go.
Artist: Is there a balance between authority and free will?
Someone: The two can exist together. People with free will can choose to recognize authority, or not.
Artist: Do people in the military sometimes refuse commands and what happens if they do?
Someone: Within an operational context, the refusal to obey a 'just' command has a legal definition. There are plenty of opportunities for individuals to leave the service before they find themselves in that position. I never did disobey a just command.
Artist: What is good leadership in your eyes, what do you think are issues of bad leaders?
Someone: Good leadership depends on the context. What is good in one place is bad in another. To me, it is applying leadership that is appropriate to the situation, that takes into account business/organisation needs along with the needs of the people. A good leader persuades people that they can and want to work for them, that that commitment is good for all.
Bad leaders have only one way. It does not mean to say they would not be effective - but only in a restricted number of scenarios.
Artist: What is the strongest war experience you remember when you look back and can you tell me about it?
Someone: I got shot at badly as did my people. WE got through it together. can't say too much...
Artist: Can you tell me in which way this experience made you change something in your life?
Someone: I realized that in life the unexpected happens, so make sure you live it when you can. Things like 'work to live, not live to work'. Enjoy life when you can. Take a walk in the dark, listen to poetry. Help those who are worse off than you are.
Artist: Now that you are not in the military anymore, did your point of view change when you look at the structure from the outside?
Someone: Yes. It is still a great structure for what it demands of its people. I think it encourages diversity and personal development, and funds it properly. It does take a view which is focussed on making decisions legitimate - but so do outside companies.
Artist: What are the things you do now which you couldn't do when you were still in it?
Someone: Very few - I can travel more extensively, I can be more openly liberal with my views, though even in the service now there is a far more open-minded attitude to most things.
Artist: In which way do you think will the system of military and war change in the future?
Someone: More process to ensure war is more just. There will be more scrutiny and debate on decisions to go to war, which will have more public buy in - more open decisions. More technology to keep man safe. The use of remotely controlled vehicles to take the place of men in the danger area. The better use of electronic intelligence to paint a more accurate picture of the battle area. More 'unknowns' as people adapt to the conventional military tactics. War used to be easy - two sides lined up against each other - you could see them all. Now, it is asymmetric - you can't necessarily identify who the 'enemy' is. So, new ways of managing conflict need to be developed.
Artist: What is the first thing that comes to your mind, that I ever said, which made you think?
Someone: You challenged the military as unthinking.
Artist: I said people never know whom they kill if they do. I didn't say without thinking, I meant they just can't know - thats different
Someone: It is what I felt you meant, which is the important point, yes?
Artist: Yes. Why have you been interested in talking with me about the military?
Someone: I loved my career in the military and am proud of it. It is an organisation in my country that takes care of its people, and develops them, gives them life skills.
Artist: So you felt like you want to 'defend' the military from the critical opinions?
Someone: I don't need to defend it at all. People have a view, and they are entitled to it. Also, we should be able to challenge our own views - that is how progress is made.
Artist: Did the discourse with me Take you any further with your own thoughts?
Someone: Yes, I realized that we can be what we want, though still our own experiences do restrict us a little. And, in a cumulative way, the more we talked, the more I was able to do, and felt more comfortable about doing things that before I felt uncomfortable about because they did not align with my view of acceptability.
Artist: Do you think art pieces like this Performance make any sense?
Someone: They can do that, with the right context. They can bring an issue to life, as long as they are in a way that an 'ordinary' person can understand.



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