When Albert Speer pointed 152 anti-aircraft searchlights towards the sky, the Third Reich gained a strategic symbol of power, that reflected the megalomaniac aspirations of the newly emerging Empire. The monumentalism of the Cathedral of Light was undeniable. Its sheer scale overshadowed any previous human-made architecture. Despite its ephemerality, it represented an impenetrable border, shielding those who perceived themselves as “superior” from those they deemed “inferior”. Notwithstanding its naive Promethean promises, The Cathedral of Light is a deterrent reminder that big ideas, however sinister, are always in need of embodiments in the real world.
The European Union, founded as a safeguard against its Nazi raison d’etre, has been in a state of perpetual existential crisis, desperately in need of its own symbols. The common interests of economic cooperation and promotion of human rights seem to be succumbing to the irreconcilable differences embedded within the fellowship. It is, however, precisely this fragile search for balance which should be regarded as the EU’s biggest virtue. In opposition to the arrogant symbolism of Hitler’s Third Reich, EU’s symbols should admit, embrace and celebrate its greatest inherent contradiction – the never-ending quest to reconcile nation-state sovereignty with pan-European interconnectedness.
In 1957, a technology even more imposing than the searchlight was invented, surpassing its predecessor as the ultimate technocratic tool. Laser would have been the Third Reich’s dream. A single concentrated beam of photons allowed for the most precise aim targeting conceivable. In contrast, the EU Embassy project will aim to liberate the medium from its gaze and soften the stiffness to create a symbol of EU’s simultaneous greatest flaw and asset – the eternal search for equilibrium.
To better understand this task, I will examine the processes leading to the establishment of the EU through World Order by Henry Kissinger, whereas the European Identity by Stephen Green should help me understand, where the main current contradictions lay. I will study architects and filmmakers like Rem Koolhaas or Agnieszka Holland, for whom the search for European identity is a key topic. As a counterpoint, I will investigate the practice of propaganda, especially through the architect Albert Speer and the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.
EU Embassy will become a series of 27 photographs, referring to the number of EU member states. With the use of a laser bar, the aim is to study the relationship between the Union and its citizen – “a European”. In contrast to the rigid and unilateral Cathedral of Light, EU Embassy, will be a dynamic scale of experiences – a constant discussion between the institution and its citizen. At times hostile and imposing, other times obliging and liberating, this project wishes to rethink Speer’s strict seriality and reflect more truthfully the contradictions inherent to the European project.
A laser beam bar in combination with a haze machine is deployed in a dark staircase space, deliberately picked due to its sequence of obstructions, waiting spaces and discontinuities. Various compositions between the laser and the body are tested, both by following a script as well as on-site improvisation. The wider selection gets curated with the strongest 27 emotions organised from the most invasive to the least ones. These are then printed out and displayed in a straight line, preferably hanging as a singular “border” object in space.