Merkel, the neo-virgin

Kamel Daoud
March 2018

We need an antidote to Time. This is humankind’s major concern. So, we trap time in a bar, a story, in the dream of powerful architecture, in labyrinths and tales, in the mechanics of weightlessness and in forms of prayer or vigorous sex. The antidote to time is definitely the Work, its power capable of immobilising a vision, a moment or an era. In a bar, the artist sends chairs into the air—ultimate dreams of lightness—a scene that does not exhaust the desire everyone carries in the face of gravity and Time. It is the twentieth-century image of rest and reclusion. It is the painting of the abyss and the favourite musings of two centuries earlier. It is the self-portrait of ‘The Absinthe Drinker’ who has become transparent and invisible.

Art is an antidote because time is a disease and the body is a clock that we carry on our backs, surrounded by a procession of objects of our time, from day to day. This is the line on which the artist juggles—the line that separates object and body, subject and instrument.
To understand that the artist’s indignation is a necessity and not aesthetics you have to come from a country of origin like Adel’s, where terrible symbols are still painful, with real potential for life and death. Adel has long held the nationality of his world, of his entire universe, but he is still the child of a land overloaded with signs that want to steal the body, the view and the light of the world.
The dangerous display of his freedom, for those who meet him in the flesh or in his works, is the test they are submitted to. We meet Adel as we meet the Minotaur. We survive the scene of his explanations and broad visions and then enter into his work. His proclamation becomes obvious and his magnificent, Herculean effort to shift
the foundations of the signs of his era is revealed. It is not a man playing a game but an art that with its hammer cuts galleries into the flank of universal routine.
There it is. We are not gods so to create we must disassemble. That’s the word.

In Adel’s world there is the body, there is the object and the Greenwich meridian between them. He imposes disorder in the second (the object) and then an unexpect- ed reincorporation into our universe. The object dictates the idea of the body around it, which created it, which has left in it the trace of a desire and of utility. To rediscover the naked body, the object must cease to make believe
in its false invisibility in our daily life; it must reveal itself for what it is—monstrous or magical. An entire art has been devoted to this for a century, with a thousand versions of the still life, but this is not enough. It needs a return, vigilance by the artist, the power to set a distance that can bring us back from the insidious blur of the objects around us. Thus caught in motion, these objects become signs that are out of phase with their usefulness, instruments for meaning. A knife that pierces flowers incarnates the look, the precision and the destruction.

The West is an overabundant catalogue of objects,a deluge of instruments. The first time I saw it, this wealth crushed me like a swarm of stones. I did not have enough desires to correspond to all the objects ready to help me. The West was an old story in my head and was revealed as a machine with no instructions, with no visible lever or call button. It was rapid and cold because of the cogs, metals and seasons, subway entries, tall buildings and insolent window displays. I had no solution, no counterbalance.
Here, in Adel’s world, we can face the Evil of the plethora of the mechanical through insolence, the shifting of use, and the perversion of machines and objects. The object then goes outside its instructions into the catalogue of our dreams and senses. It is no longer within reach, in the hand, but in the corner of the eye. It becomes almost a compass or competes with the use of one. It is a sign because it is out of joint.

Does the object become a subject of our senses when travelling back across the Greenwich meridian? Here
the subject, body, person comes down on the other side of this line and reveals itself as the object of our violence. In Shams, hell is raw earth and what remains of humanity is its oldest clay, burnt and cracked, in an endless procession that is both perpetual movement and hopeless freezing. We like evoking light in discussing the birth
of wisdom, of measure and humanity. But it was the sun that invented slavery. By its strength and its weight on the body, by the burns that it inflicts on all the earth. So we designed the antidote to the sun, the slave. It is an old invention of the shade. You might believe that slavery no longer exists, but it continues as long as the sun lasts. Shams is a monumental vision of hell. It is a renewal of the descent into the abyss. Its power immobilises you as if it were a memory of a former life of each person. Flesh has descended to the status of object and is bought, sold, chained and traded. It circles around the hell of the utilitarian. It no longer has a way out and its ladders do not rise towards the sky, but rather drive hands into walls, perpetuate blindness, give disintegration the illusion
of being a voyage. Unique and alone, Sisyphus is the myth of a condition. Scattered in millions of unnamed individuals, it is slavery. Embedded in a wall that at the same time immobilises and traps, gives body, takes the half devoured by incrustation, prevents it from freeing itself and gives the possibility of raising a column, of standing upright and crushed. It is a vampire wall, a fake fortune. Objects are scattered at the foot of this wall, surviving the person who moves away and wears away. The objects are there, instruments of a pointless eternity: they are removed from Time, almost eternal, but needlessly.

This wall is the clock of time, its consistency.
The rupestrian condition of humanity. I have never seen anything as close to Hell.
The body is a person’s only fortune, with its insolence in the face of gods and objects. Its time is held in a single embrace—the measure of a single shadow. While gods, devils and other weightless beings organise themselves to steal it, soil its unique value, make it feel guilty, plunge it into shame or martyrdom, pain and flagellation. A person is held to be guilty with regard to their body. This is a business that has lasted for several millennia. And it took centuries for the crucified body to come down from its cross and be able to laugh and jaunt naked on beaches, assume the pubis, the orgasm and the curve. Liberation that required sacrifice and vision, artists and orators, militants and cartoonists, sacrifices and role models. Wars.
Again, the violent line—the Greenwich meridian between object and body—has been slow to move or is still not there.
This time, the object remains in the reign of the sign, takes form as a symbol and frees itself from use while the body of the slave falls back into the reign of the object.

But body and object coincide in the gaze, the being,the nude of the woman. Woman is the body that we wish to be object. In the name of desire, history maintains it far from liberty. The woman will live her flesh like an everyday history, an identity that is porous in the hands of others, offered to their bites and possessions. The nude woman is the longest, most tragic striptease of our humanity, a stripping of blood and injustice. It took one or two thousand years for it to be possible to accept the plenitude stolen from our appropriations, the right to laugh on a beach, naked and in abundance.The Merkel Trinity1 is the scene of the descent from the cross. It is the happy epilogue of the Crucifixion in the West.

The end of History will be a woman who can walk naked in a trinity with her laughing, joyful friends. The West is a galaxy of objects, a deluge of angles and cogs and its history peaks in the right to nudity, the antidote to guilt and concealment. The side of the object is the body. Here, Merkel is an immediate and ancient story. Germany is the site of memory of immediate violence, but also of the body resurrected after the war. It is the place of fantasy and misunderstanding. For us in the ‘south’ of the world, the West is an image, and this image is in the giant portrait of this woman: bare sex, pubis, laughter, power, politics, strength, domination, desire. Merkel is both the detested West and the dream woman, recreated by the fantasy of the foreigner. It is the body of contradiction, the spectacle of liberation, the proof of decadence in the eyes of a radical. Merkel is the mother of contradictions in the same way that we say ‘the mother of all battles’. The approach is tainted by history. It is also an intimate history of the West, from Eden to the political period, from the naked body to the dominant body. From scandal to law. We can thus understand it better: in Adel’s staging, the body of the naked woman escapes time and the wall that embodies it with its slaves carrying stones on their backs. Nudity is the possibility of an eternity. The woman’s body and its Western trinity are a long history
of wars, corpses, lost and losing time, and confrontations with death.

In the scene, Adel, director of the world, shows the West as the centre of the world, a scandalous place of joy inside the wall of dis-incarnations and slaves surrounded by a Hell of clay and sweat. The naked women emerge like an insolent geographic navel, a party in Hell. The trinity shown is the essence of the West, the political and the carnal, body and laughter, indifference and cartography, the migrant’s dream and the three statues of liberty. Insolent joy that has freed itself from the rupestrian condition in the face of condemnation to labour.
The West is an apple, fruit, laughter, a pubis; the rest of humanity is a fall, an imprisonment, a condemnation to live in circles.
For it must not be forgotten that the history of the nude is the history of art and laws. Its aesthetic developments or crucifixions in a thousand forms. It is the great battle between humans and body-stealing gods. The intimate tension between object and subject. The gods, in the form of totems, institutions, values or celestial monsters, cannot travel, die, touch or caress. To bite a single apple,
God had to create a couple and a long story.

Merkel is a religion: body, power and resurrection. Sex is a flag. The beach is the dream of the Westerner and Merkel’s body is the dream of the man from the ‘South’.
She is what the West offers and hides at the same time. The old nymph legend. Or the prostitute in a window.
Finally, Adel’s vision calls up a story. Aisha is the name of the prophet of Islam’s favourite wife. This is the charnel aspect, immediate, here below, of the hereafter and its killing verses. She was the woman he loved. We can tell stories of virgins after death but this woman’s body was the only one he had in his hands.

She has become a bar-restaurant that becomes corner. A site of exile, a representation of the West, after working hours, a place of destruction and encounters.
In comparison with the hell of Shams, this place is the only possible paradise. Lit with neon lamps.
A West.

Kamel Daoud