“If there is anything which may be referred to as a political manifestation of the postmodern age, then this would be called upon to design a global cartography of our perception and cognition, and to project this into a social space open to precise evaluation”1

In mid January 2008 I (R.Eidelman) proposed to create a political movement as an art project for my Master in Fine Art thesis. The project was to build this movement in order to promote the idea of the Jewish state in Thuringia, Germany, with the city of Weimar as its capital. The thesis committee accepted the proposal after a few corrections that were made. At the same time I was invited by Marke.6, the new gallery of the university that was opening at the Neues Museum in Weimar, to participate in the opening show. I proposed to do the first stage of my project for the gallery.

I suggested opening a bureau at the Neues Museum, so as to establish the movement headquarters in the city of Weimar. There, the process of the establishment of the movement involving charts, maps, letters, photos, and documents would be displayed as well as information that visitors can collect and take. Office hours would give the public an opportunity to ask in-depth questions and to explore the deeper meaning for the existence of the movement. Public meetings and events would be held and would further foster a place for discussion and debate. It would work as an art installation as well as a working office. (See appendix for proposal for office)

The committee in charge of the gallery, which included three students, two members of the faculty and the museum director, accepted my proposal and I was excited to start building it. However, the museum director expressed concerns about security and violence that might be result from the reactions of neo-Nazis and other extreme nationalists.

Soon it came to my attention that my proposal invoked many concerns and questions and was discussed with representatives (Dr. Bestgen, Christiane Linsel) of the university rector office and, following their discussion, an email was sent to me.

“Marke.6 as the exhibition space of the University in the Neue Museum is strongly bound to the 2 institutions. We decided that both, Rector Prof. Zimmermann and President Seemann have to be informed about your project. Zimmermann and Seemann are both Civil servants, which means loyalty to the government of Thuringia. In preparation of this talk, your concept should be read by the legal advisers of both institutions. The concern is that your project is not an art project, but a political movement. Founding a “Verein” is in a way equal to founding a political party in the language and thinking of law. The university has to be neutral and not take side for political movements or parties, was one voice. Another concern was the reaction in the Thuringia government. (Conflict of interest, Friendship with Israel, diplomatic conflicts…). For sure, your work will get a lot of press…

Issues to be explained:
Are you acting in the sense of Joseph Beuys, who was co-founder of the Green Party? His talks in the art-context were part of the movement? Then the project will be only convincing, if you do use your office in the Museum.

Where is the project fiction, where is it real? The audience, the citizens, take it for real. Will the project end with the meeting in the DNT. How will it end? What is the aim? Will it continue, how?
Some voices would like to know about this “Exit strategy” or ending point.

The question raises, in what way art is finally protected within institutions.
Is the project meant as cynicism? Could you explain this double game between seriousness and fake/irony?
An important question is the one about your safety during the whole time. You will be safe in the museum. But what about the other times and places? As I understood Sebastian, you will be safe, because you will be known enough. Could be. Did you asked experts about that? To what conclusion have you come?”

My response:

“The new artist protests, he no longer points… life and art make one.” Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto, 1919
Dear Sir/Madam,
I understood there is some concern regarding my project at the Neues Museum Souterrain. I hope these words will make the project and its goals clearer. Also attached is the full description of my Master thesis which the show at the Museum is a part of.
The project is both real and fiction – it is an art project. It’s supposed to make people think, question and confuse their ideas about state, nation, identity and history. I’m interested in creating art works that blur the border between life and art, that takes risks and might even disturb people but makes them think, discuss and leave an emotional impression behind.
The project is not cynical or ironic; it’s a project dealing with ideas in an absurd, exaggerated and sometimes ridiculous way. The idea is absurd but I’m very serious.
And no I can’t explain this double game between seriousness and fake/irony because I don’t completely understand them myself. I just know that to make this project work I have to play this game. Many people get it; others will only get it later. I don’t always have the ability to explain all my actions and motives, that’s why I’m an artist not a theoretician or a psychologist.
And to be a bit more concrete: I believe this project will work by making the border between real and fake a very blurred line. Different people will understand it in different ways, by putting the project in the gallery in an art context, it makes the fake side stronger therefore in other activities I will have to make more real.
My thesis project will end in the DNT, however I hope the project will live forever. Every project I do, I hope will never die. I do not have an exit strategy, the DNT rally is just a beginning, it’s the establishment of a movement, its living art, who knows where it will go? There are no ends, only beginnings…

About the aim, let me quote our friend Joseph
“Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power. Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build ‘A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART’…” Joseph Beuys
Attached is my full thesis proposal to the committee of the gallery (see appendix).
With respect,
Ronen Eidelman

I was sure that with this letter everything would be cleared. I clearly stated that Medinat Weimar was an art project and that I was taking part in a long tradition of art projects that play with and blur the lines with politics. Over the next week many discussion were made with the different representatives trying to figure out what to do with my project. I was very surprised by the measure of fear that the university representatives expressed and at the same time had a hard time trying to understand these fears. However I still believed that they would come to their senses and therefore was very surprised when I received a long letter from the rector’s office telling me that my project was banned from the Neues Museum.

Position taken towards the project Medinat Weimar – The Movement for a Jewish State in Thuringia (Ronen Eidelman) Creating and establishing a movement to forward the idea of a Jewish state in Thuringia

The artist Ronen Eidelman intends, in the framework of his masters work in the study program “Art in Public Space”, to promote the idea of a Jewish state by the initialization of a movement, in which he uses the possibilities and make up of a political movement (marketing, meetings, public assemblies, pamphlets, press and other forms of communication).
The University supports the study program “Art in Public Space” that, through its research areas of the public and society, should naturally also incorporate political art in its entirety. In the particular case under consideration, however, it concerns the presentation of the project in the framework of the university gallery in the New Museum. For this the university management rejects their participation.
On the part of the university leadership it has been intensively examined, if they as a bearer of the university gallery in the New Museum (Bauhaus University and The Foundation of Weimar Classics) can show the project. There exist, however, various reasons that oppose a presentation in this context. The artistic questions stand herewith not in the focal point and the university does not put this study into question, since the advisory board and the mentoring professors have already examined them.
As far as the freedom is concerned of a university to show art, there exist greater restrictions in comparison to those of an (free) artist. The possibilities for the university to present an artwork are orientated especially towards the constitutional law of the Thuringian constitution, the Act of Settlement of the Bauhaus University and relevant third party laws.
The concept of the project of Ronen Eidelman wishes to use the gallery and the hosting institutions involved, including their status, operation, public awareness etc. The institutions have however likewise the freedom, to reject such an involvement. No obligation exists for the organizer as regards the exhibition or distribution of works, nor does it need to make itself a part of the art project (neither active nor passive). It is up to the role of the institution within the project as a part of the concept and the role as organizer of the exhibition (distribution of art) to discriminate. The curatorial decision of the advisory board referred to the question of the exhibition of the project (distribution). The artists themselves and those involved can decide as regards their involvement in the project. The university management has decided against the involvement of university property in the project. A different decision is not possible for a university in such a situation.
A further part of the project entails taking advantage of the reaction of the press towards simulated political activity. The activities for the establishment of a movement ought to have serious consequences. The basic principle of the concept is that the project is neither connected with irony nor with cynicism externally. The provocation ought to be perceived properly. The dissolution takes place as early as the defense of the work in mid 2008, after the closure of the exhibition. According to the concept, it could not be seen in the press (or in the institutions and gallery) that it involves art, since the desired effect cannot otherwise unfold. It demands an active involvement of the institutions in order for the project to be carried out and for it to be effective. In this regard the university would not only be making itself available as physical place, but even as active participant too.
It is undisputed that this is obviously not possible, even in the case that the university could decide otherwise as regards the previously mentioned point. Were the concept of this project not one based on an error of the beholder of the accompanying clarifying / explanatory press work, but rather a simulation only, as made clear with defense of the work, the perception of the activity of the university would be that of a political activity in a very explosive topic area. An explanation was also not discerned as regards the exhibition and the organizers. The organizers themselves can therefore only be perceived as supporters of a political movement for the formation of a Jewish State in Thuringia in Weimar. This is not possible.
The university management questions furthermore the perception of the project or of the university being involved in the project by third parties (visitors, press, Jewish communities, the state of Israel, Palestinians, other Arabic visitors, neo-Nazis, etc.). A perception as such by the beholder would be created due to the desired simulation of a political activity. Not everyone would see that it involves art, even when the presentation would take place in a gallery or museum. Not everyone would recognize the cynicism. Not everyone knows the historical or political framework criteria as a foundation of the examination of the project, the questions and the broached topics. Not everyone questions. Not everyone studies the artist. Many would, when questioning and examining, question in turn the organizer not the artist. The artist assumes of the beholder a high degree of knowledge, scrutiny, alertness and openness. Even when he does not grapple with all questions raised that can relate to the current situation of the project, he assumes that the public likewise understands.
Further, the intended project here is problematic in that an anti-Semitic provocation from the Iranian president Ahmadinejad should literally be laid out as the basic tenet of the project. Through this (and the deliberate blur in the delineation between artistic and real political agitation) emerging, yes, intended misunderstandings of various sides are namely a hitherto known way for an artistic experiment in the form of a process with an open stimulating outlet. This can however in respect of the sensitivity of the topic not be supported by the university management. As a German university we see ourselves with the obligation to take particular care in the interaction with all aspects of German – Jewish relationships in order to maintain and avoid any kind of misunderstanding.

Following the letter, I received a lot of pressure to accept the banning of the project and to “move on”. During the discussions, many offensive things were said and I was made to feel that as a foreigner I didn’t understand the social and political situation in Thuringia and in Germany and therefore should not make a fuss. I learnt that the German establishment cannot accept a discourse that the Jews are not in the position of being victims. I refused to play the role of the victim. When told that the project can be dangerous for me, that the fascists can hurt me physically, it just made want to do the project even more. What I found totally disgraceful was that because of some chance of an attack by some unknown right-winger, they would censor a project. I believe that if there is a danger to art or an artist from fascists one has to do all that is possible to protect the art and artist and not surrender to assumed threats. I told them that the Nazis don’t scare me, it would not be the first time that I would be beaten up by fascists, and if they are worried then they have a responsibility to provide security for me, not censor me.

But I don’t believe the reasons for the banning was the fear of the neo-Nazis, I feel the dread is something much deeper that I can’t fully understand and I’m not sure that the people behind the banning fully understand themselves.

“The university management questions furthermore the perception of the project or of the university being involved in the project by third parties (visitors, press, Jewish communities, the state of Israel, Palestinians, other Arabic visitors, neo-Nazis, etc.)… “

As we can see in the letter, they refuse to take a position, wish to distance themselves from any difficult questions and are afraid of the perception of almost any party possible. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in the Iranians as well.

“Not everyone would see that it involves art, even when the presentation would take place in a gallery or museum. Not everyone would recognize the cynicism. Not everyone knows the historical or political framework criteria as a foundation of the examination of the project, the questions and the broached topics. Not everyone questions.”

Yes, I agree that “not everyone questions”, or has the knowledge to understand the project. I think most people probably don’t. But I think that is true in many cases of good conceptual art, so what should we stop making mind-provoking art because not everyone would get it?

Through this letter we (re-) learn the most important and, perhaps at the end of the day, the only strictly non-negotiable rule of art as seen by the university as is expressed in the notion of “artistic autonomy”. In this context, autonomy means that art is different from “life” and that this categorical difference has to be enforced by the art institutions or art schools in this case, galleries, the market, museums, critical and promotional magazines and publications, and so on. We already established that in some ways, artists enjoy more freedoms of expression than do people in everyday life. “What counts as utopia, fantasy, and rebellion in the world of fact is allowed in art.”2 But these freedoms can be exercised only so long as the result is clearly marked as “art” and is not confused with “life”. The autonomy of art, then, is relative and not absolute. It includes conditions that amount to the enforcement of a social and political powerlessness, as Adorno would put it: “Neutralization is the social price of aesthetic autonomy.”3

I found so many parts of this letter ludicrous and just plain wrong. Nevertheless, to analyze it and show the contradictions and mistakes in their claims is not the intention of this paper. In addition, the letter opens up a whole discussion on the relationship between artists and institutions and the way the pubic perceives this relationship as well as the responsibility of an artist to the institutions he works with and also utilizes. I feel this discussion is important but it is also lies beyond the scope of this paper.

Still, it did astonish me in many ways and if found the claims it made so nonsensical that it seemed important to me to make it public. As I realized that there was no way I could open an office for the movement at the Neues Museum I offered a compromise.

New proposal for the Ausstellungsraum marke 30773047.6, Neuen Museum Weimar:

I would like to use the space to communicate about the discussion that came up following my previous proposal.

In the space there will be installed:
1. The different documents and letters of my thesis letter from the rector and signature with a small explanation:
The original proposal for the artwork in this space was moved elsewhere following the request from the office of the university rector. In its place, the public can view the original proposal for the installation alongside the reasons stated by the university that the work would not be presented at this gallery space.
I invite the public to experience the work at it new location and visit the website and participate in the discussion and debate.
2. The address of the new office, the web addresses and contact information will be also included.
3. In the middle of the room there will be a flagpole with a white flag.

Technical: What’s needed in the space?
1. Wall to hang letters and documents, 6-10 pages A4
2. Flag pole holder, flag pole, flag
3. Good humor

In addition, the gallery committee told me that I have to speak to the people who work at the Buchenwald memorial and to the head of the Jewish community in Thuringia who is based in its capital, Erfurt. They feared the Jewish community could get offended by the project. I found this offensive, treating the Jews like little children who get easily offended and are so self-absorbed they can’t even understand a complex art project. However, I spoke to both the Buchenwald staff and the chairman of the Jewish community. I can’t claim that they were over excited by my project, but they did not oppose it.

A few days later I received an answer making it clear that nothing relating to the project can be shown at the gallery.

Dear Mr Eidelman,
Thank you very much for your email and the suggestion, which I have forwarded to the university management. Following thorough examination and checking with the Rector, I wish to inform you that the university management is keeping to their decision. The work with a reference to the project counts the same as the (actual) project. The reasons pointed out in your letter from 19 March 2008, make a presentation in the framework of the exhibition space Marke30773047.6 therefore, as before, not possible. I wish to ask for your understanding once more that the project cannot be shown.
For queries I am naturally gladly available.
Yours sincerely
Christiane Linsel

I was astonished on receiving this final answer. I created the project because I felt that there were important issues that were not addressed due to fears concerning stirring them. Now, my early assumptions were proven correct before I could even start the project. I found this total banning completely unacceptable and I wanted to fight it “by all means possible”.

Over the next couple of days I had to decide what actions to take. I was being pressured from all sides and it was really hard to make a clear-minded decision. On the one hand I was told, “that I should understand that I’m part of an institution, and one should not go against the institution one belongs to”. I was warned not to talk to journalists as well as post the letter on my Blog, claiming that by doing so I would be breaking the law! A good friend warned me that that if I did go public I will just look like a crazy radical artist. I wanted to continue my project and raise the questions that the project deals with, however I was afraid that my project was turning into a one about the power of institutions and censorship.

On the other hand, I was not willing to give in to the banning and I felt that an injustice had been done towards my ideas and myself; I wanted the world to hear about it. Talks with various friends and some professors both from the university and elsewhere also encouraged this feeling. I was told that I should fight it all the way, including writing up a global petition of art professors supporting me, talk to the press and even calling for the rector to resign.

All the different opinions just made me more confused and I did not know anymore who is really interested in what is best for me, the project, the gallery, the university, the state or the “truth”. I was not actually interested in a big conflict but I felt that I was being pushed against the wall and had no choice. Deciding that it was important to go public and hoping to put some pressure on the gallery committee I told them that I would hold a press conference on the day of the opening of the gallery. However, a few days before the opening, the committee of the gallery met and decided that despite the rector office’s decision, they would accept my compromised offer with the white flag. At this point, the rector also agreed on the new proposal and we even all met at his office and had a nice civilized conversation on the issues and controversies that my proposals raised.

Communicating Medinat Weimar

At the gallery I installed a white flag on a flagpole and hanging on the walls was my original proposal, the letter from the rector as well as my revised proposal. Next to the installation was a sign explaining what was on view:

Communicating Medinat Weimar
The original proposal for the artwork in this space was moved elsewhere, following the request from the office of the university rector. In its place, the public can view the original proposal for the installation, along with the reasons for which the university demanded that the work would not be presented at this gallery space.
I invite the public to experience the work at its new location, visit the website and participate in the discussion and debate.
For more information and to participate in the debate: www.medinatweimar.org

At the opening I felt terrible. The rector and other cultural figures from Weimar gave speeches, comlementing themselves and saying how proud they where now that Weimar has another place for contemporary art. People were coming up to me and congratulating me. However, I felt that there was nothing to congratulate me for. I made a terrible compromise and my work was still banned. Art was banned because of fear – fear of history and the present, of the fascist from the outside but also of the little fascists inside of themselves. If the reasons they expressed for the banning are correct, then there was nothing to celebrate and the situation in Thuringia is terrible. If the reasons are wrong, the work was banned for nothing. I would rather see the installation of the office of Medinat Weimar than the white flag of surrender. However, I decided to continue the project in another place and leave the whole Neues Museum incident behind me.


1 Fredric Jameson, Postmoderne: Zur Logik der Kultur im Spaetkapitalismus, in: Andreas Huyssen / Klaus Scherpe (eds.), Postmoderne. Zeichen eines kulturellen Wandels, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989, p. 99. Quoted from Inke Arns: Mobile States / Shifting Borders / Moving Entities, The Slovenian Artists’ Collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK)
2 Gene Ray, On the Conditions of Anti-Capitalist Art ,Radical Cultural Practices and the Capitalist Art System.
3  Ibid


[…] stworzenie takiego awaryjnego państwa („Medinat Weimar”) w Niemczech, a konkretnie w Turyngii ze stolicą w Weimarze.  Inny Zyd, Yael Bartana, sugeruje wręcz, by trzy miliony Zydów sprowadzić do […]

Czy Izrael to pomyłka? | monio added these pithy words on Aug 10 09 at 12:40

Comments are moderated.

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Return to Top

The Neues Museum saga


latest news