Performance for Camera
23:51 minutes, 2014
Camera: Monika Deimling

“One can say that fascism added to a certain extent to the old art of lying a new variant – the devilish variant, that one can imagine, namely: truthlying”
(Hannah Arendt)


Text by Marie Arnold (12th grade), 2019

“Just the jacket is missing, then Johannes Deimling could be considered a successful CEO of the 21st century – and a pair of shoes. Then it might even be enough for a career at a bank. Why does this neatly dressed man show the Hitler salute?

Rarely in art is it possible to recognize so quickly what message a work has; and above all, that there is one. With BBB Johannes Deimling’s performance “Deutschland Deutschland” it is not like this. Here it is immediately clear that the performance does not serve entertainment and there is not much room for interpretation. If you look at action art, then in most cases you do so to be inspired by the creative ideas of the artists or simply to be washed over by them. In this respect, it is both unusual and uncomfortable to be confronted with the Hitler salute in the very first seconds of an art performance. To stretch out the right arm at an obtuse angle, straight as a pole, is an unmistakable symbol of National Socialist Fascism and therefore alarms the collective memory, especially in Germany. With the Hitler salute, BBB Johannes Deimling opens a horizon full of horror-terms to his audience and transports his statement quite simply and therefore impressively.

BBB Johannes Deimling does not need much for this. The white wall in the background serves at the same time to focus attention on himself as a performer and to depict the masses from 1933 onwards who were brought into line. Furthermore, a white wall offers no orientation whatsoever and thus reflects the problem of political disorientation until the Nazis took power. White is a passive color and results from the reflection of all light spectra together. White has little expressiveness, but one can project onto a white surface. As a background, white gives every color the possibility to radiate completely. But instead of starting over and seeing the prevailing emptiness as an opportunity, the authoritarian National Socialists around 1933 guided us to think – to think in the Nazi ideology.

Thus, BBB Johannes Deimling showing the Hitler salute, is faced with the missed opportunity as a society to start something new, something colorful – and he fights. The over 20-minute performance depicts twelve years of Germany under Hitler’s rule. What can be seen in this case is the change in mentality among the German people. Deimling takes a clear stand (and stands solid like a rock), but at the same time, he blurs a link between what everyone was showing at the time (sympathy) and what everyone was feeling (pain). What Deimling painfully shows, everyone hid back then and always kept their face. One paid for belonging to the community with the painful task of giving up one’s own freedom to protect his hopeless life in the cogwheel of the system. In doing so, one did not notice that the wall remained empty. The Nazi ideology did not splash paint on the white wall – only blood. In his performance, Deimling thus blurs with the emptiness through the white shirt and remains only partly as an independent human being.

As Deimling’s arm sank and sank, so did the initial euphoria in the German Reich. The deportation of the Jews, but at the latest the outbreak of the Second World War disillusioned the people. Now no one stood sincerely behind Hitler’s salute, because everyone had to experience psychological or physical pain at the hands of the regime. But folding was no longer an option. For his fatherland, on which Deimling stands barefoot and is rooted, one should bear the pain.

In 1945, however, this fatherland “Germany Germany” no longer existed. What remains is an exhausted BBB Johannes Deimling – still in front of an empty wall.

But he still stands. In this case, the purity of the color white can be seen as hope for the future and as a request that this wall should not be used again for the projection of such cruel thoughts.

The fading away of the heavy music lets the viewer of the performance breathe a sigh of relief. According to Deimling, this feeling of lightheartedness is worthy of protection and could never exist under fascism.

The performance is an important reminder to society, which is still highly relevant today. This must not be repeated.”