Rivers of wine & beer

A steel profile frame  with white and blue neon letters running around it and a round hole in the ground, realised as part of the Wies­badener Kunst­sommer “Wo bitte geht’s zum Öffentlichen?” (2006 Summer of Art, Wies­baden, Germany “Show me the Way to the Public Sphere!”).

A steel profile frame measuring 450 x 350 x 20 cm, with white and blue neon letters running around it is mounted on two 11 m-high steel cross­beams. The construc­tion is installed in front of a round hole in the ground (diam­eter: 10 m, depth 2 m, 45° gradient) covered in wild­flowers and only acces­sible via a wooden ladder. The instal­la­tion is located at the entrance to a large open area behind the main station in Wies­baden, Germany. “Steel cross­beams, a metal frame, a partially over­grown hole in the ground. During the day Thorsten Goldberg’s work resem­bles an unfin­ished building site, a bad archi­tec­tural invest­ment on the noman’s-land behind the station which noone bothers to get rid of. At night, when func­tional, target-oriented life stops and the land­scape of the euphemisti­cally named “culture park” that is the transit area between the empty car park and the partying in the old abat­toir surren­ders as if half asleep to the dark­ness; only then does the message spelt out in white neon letters emerge like an appari­tion against the dark night sky.”*
The neon text which runs around the steel profile frame, which can only be seen from a contorted posi­tion, cites descrip­tions of the Land of Milk and Honey, for example from the 1491 „Sterf­boeck” (Death Book): “RIVERS OF WINE + BEER + STREETS MADE FROM GINGER + NUTMEG + AND AN IDEAL LANDSCAPE + PRECIOUS BUILDING IN WHICH NO ONE BUYS OR SELLS + THERE ARE NO CRIPPLES OR BLIND PEOPLE, NO-ONE IS CROSS-EYED OR DUMB. NO-ONE SUFFERS FROM SCABIES OR HAS SPOTS, THERE ARE NO FREAKS + EVERYONE HAS A PERFECT BODY + AND THE VIGOUR OF MEN TO ENJOY THEIR WOMEN WILL NEVER FALTER +”.
The idea of the Land of Milk and Honey is based on legends describing a land where unful­filled desires became real. As an ironic coun­ter­part to the biblical paradise promising deliv­er­ance from all earthly matters, it entices us to fanta­sise about sensual and mate­rial things. Thorsten Goldberg’s neon sign promises just that: the estab­lish­ment of the Land of Milk and Honey, a land of unlim­ited desires and unin­hib­ited lust where chil­dren are born as adults and women remain forever virgins. This all too human dream with its visions of a ficti­tious land can be traced back to the Middle Ages. At the end of the 17th century, the impe­rial general Johann Andreas Schnebelin decribed the “Luilekker­land” as a land where one can find “all the vices of the waggish world, in partic­ular king­doms, estates and areas with many silly towns and cities (…) and many notions worth reading.”** Located next to some railway tracks in an area that has yet to undergo urban devel­op­ment, the construc­tion promises a realm where all dreams come true, where gold can be found in the streets and penury is super­seded by natural abun­dance. No-one needs to work, worry about how to pay the rent or suffer any other exer­tion. The status quo sustains itself, a sensual perpetuum mobile where idle­ness replaces progress and, in the last instance, animal instincts replace reflec­tion. The construc­tion of the object mimics a modern construc­tion sign which announces a construc­tion project at night in bright neon letters, visible from far away. The metal frame however, is empty. Where the construc­tion sign should be, is nothing but the night sky. A window appears in the work rather than a projec­tion screen, a window whose purpose is not the view but looking through itself. A wooden ladder leads down to the bottom of the strangely perfect hole densely covered in wild grasses. Down there in that almost roman­ti­cally chaotic little meadow, as if cut out from a different place then trans­planted here, the familiar surround­ings disap­pear. The construc­tion sign is a monu­ment to longing which Kant defines as “an empty wish” (here the empty frame) and as “able to destroy the time between the desire and fulfilling that desire.”***

* Katha­rina Klara Jung, Milch + Honig +, in cata­logue: Wo bitte geht’s zum Öffentlichen, Wies­baden 2007.
** Cf. Johann Andreas Schnebelin’s late 17th century text: „Erklärung der Wunder=seltzamen Land = Charten Utopiae, so da ist/ das neu = entdeckte Schlaraffenland/ Worinnen All und jede Laster der schal­ck­hafftigen Welt/ als beson­dere Königreiche/ Herrschaften und Gebiete/ mit vielen läppis­chen Städten/ Festungen/ Flecken und Dorffern/ Flüssen/ Bergen/ Seen/ Insuln/ Meer und Meer = Busen/ wie nicht weniger Dieser Nationen Sitten/ Regiment/ Gewerbe/ samt vielen leßwürdigen Einfällen aufs deut­lichste beschrieben; Allen thör­rechten Läster = Freunden zum Spott/ denen Tugend liebenden zur Warnung/ und denen melan­cholis­chen Gemüthern zu einer ehrlichen Erget­zung vorgestellet. Gedruckt zu Arbeitshausen/ in der Graffschafft Fleissig/ in diesem Jahr da Schlar­raf­fen­land entdecket ist”.
*** Immanuel Kant on anthro­pology and peda­gogy: Schriften zur Anthro­pologie und Päda­gogik, Leipzig 1839, p. 276.