Atlas Shrugged 2.0

»Atlas Shrugged« by Ayn Rand is considered one of the most influential political books in the United States. The novel sees egoism as a virtue and advocates strict laissez-faire capitalism. But times have changed – think of 2008 and 2010. Aren’t we already living in meta- or post-capitalist times? Who really stands symbolically for Atlas today? Who are the supporting (or »producing«) people of our society? Is it the CEOs of the Big Tech companies, the mega corporations? Or is it the 99% of the population who enable a small elite to accumulate more and more wealth while their own situation becomes more precarious and the burden on their shoulders heavier? Aren’t the »looters« of today more likely to be the Tech Giants who grab the data of their users and exploit the privacy of each individual solely for their benefit? Haven’t government subsidies, and thus taxpayers, made the (digital) inventiveness of Zuckerberg, Bezos and Co. possible in the first place? Yet these men act like techno-feudal lords whose online platforms have become monopolistic markets and private, digital fiefdoms. Shouldn’t we shrug the burden of this new serfdom as quickly as possible and thus prevent a Matrix-like future? Do we really want to shift our lives into a 3D metaverse where we exist as digital serfs?


Big Tech, also known as the Tech Giants or Big Five, is a name given to the presently five largest, most dominant, and most prestigious companies in the information technology industry of the United States. The Big Five consist of Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft. The Tech Giants are the dominant players in their respective areas of technology, namely: e-commerce, online advertising, consumer electronics, cloud computing, computer software, media streaming, artificial intelligence, smart home, self-driving cars, and social networking. They have been among the most valuable public companies globally. Big Tech companies typically offer services to millions of users, and thus can hold sway on user behavior as well as control of user data.

»Atlas Shrugged« (1957) by Ayn Rand: Based on a fictional plot, Rand unfolds her philosophy of Objectivism. Rand draws a sharp contrast between the constructive »producers« and the destructive »looters«. According to Objectivism, egoism, inventiveness and efficiency are the highest virtues. Accordingly, selfishly producing big industrialists are the »engine of the world«. From an Objectivist perspective, all state intervention is immoral. Selflessness, traditionally considered a virtue, is, according to Rand’s analysis, one of the core causes of the failure of systems like socialism. According to Rand, every act of selfless help rewards neediness instead of ability, and educates people to be lazy and to demand for no reason instead of solving their problems themselves through work.

Choose the red meta!


The Raping Bull

Where is international finance capitalism taking Europa? How democratic and social is the EU really? Most European citizens feel increasingly forced into a structure that serves the rich and powerful. »Geld regiert die Welt« (»Money rules the world«) is not just a saying, it is the reality we live in – today more than ever. Europe should be a union that protects all Europeans as equals and ensures their well-being. But transnational solidarity is extinguishing, member states are leaving the EU, a political shift to the right is sweeping through all countries. The elites increase their wealth and the 99% fall further behind. This has radical consequences… How do we save our European community? How do we overcome the debt and banking crisis, social inequality, climate change and increasing migration? Certainly not by carrying on as before. Do we really want to surrender Europe to neoliberalism? Shouldn’t the EU institutions become more transparent and accountable to the citizens? Shouldn’t we finally put the well-being of the people first? Shouldn’t European politics control the banking and financial sector more strongly and no longer let its decisions be influenced by big business? Don’t we as Europeans share the same democratic and social values? Then it’s time to stop riding the financial bull and save Europa! Don’t you think so?


Charging Bull: Charging Bull, sometimes referred to as the Bull of Wall Street or the Bowling Green Bull, is a bronze sculpture that stands in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City. The 7,100-pound (3,200 kg) bronze sculpture, standing 11 feet (3.4 m) tall and measuring 16 feet (4.9 m) long, depicts a bull, the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity. The sculpture was created by Italian artist Arturo Di Modica in the wake of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. Charging Bull has been a subject of criticism from an anti-capitalist perspective, such as in the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

The Rape of Europa: Titian’s Rape of Europa, painted in Venice ca. 1560–1562, is inspired by a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Infatuated with Europa, Jupiter—king of the gods—transforms himself into a bull. Europa, close by with her companions, approaches the beautiful creature with hand outstretched. Finding him tame, she plays with the bull in a meadow and entwines flowers around his horns. When she climbs playfully on his back, the mischievous god seizes the opportunity and springs into the sea, spiriting away the target of his affections while she clings to him in terror. Although the act of sexual violence is not depicted in the painting, it is implied through Europa’s open-legged posture and her expression of fear as she is dragged off by Jupiter.

Carpe DiEM!


(»Pallaksch. Pallaksch.«)

What makes a poet fall silent? Too high ideals and disappointed hopes? Existing power relations and lack of freedom? What makes a poet rebel and become creative, what ultimately silences him? A lost love, a prison cell or the oppression by a performance-oriented society that forces one into a tedious bread-and-butter job? The alienation from (one’s essential) nature? It is a fine line on which artists balance. Today as in Hölderlin’s time. Pain gives birth to something new, but it can also kill. To be struck by Apollo* (von „Apollo geschlagen“) can mean a great, ecstatic inspiration, but also a spiritual visitation. The direct path to madness? How can an artist, a human being, endure the inner and outer tensions without being torn apart? When does one start to become another in order to protect oneself? Is it worth it to be oneself – without any compromise and with all the consequences? The artist identity is fragile „und wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit.“

*Apollo(n): the roman/greek god of poetry and divination


The works and thoughts of Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843). Hölderlin was a German poet and philosopher. The poetry of Hölderlin, widely recognized today as one of the highest points of German literature, was little known or understood during his lifetime, and slipped into obscurity shortly after his death. Hölderlin had high hopes, but was disappointed by society and politics, struggled to establish himself as a poet, and also lost the love of his life Susette Gontard. He was plagued by mental illness, and sent to a clinic in 1805 but deemed incurable and instead given lodging by a carpenter, Ernst Zimmer. He spent the final 36 years of his life in Zimmer’s residence in Tübingen what is today known as the “Hölderlin Tower”. Hölderlin’s major publication in his lifetime was his novel Hyperion, which was issued in two volumes (1797 and 1799). In the great poems of his maturity, Hölderlin would generally adopt a large-scale, expansive and unrhymed style. Together with these long hymns, odes and elegies – which included “Der Archipelagus” (“The Archipelago”), “Brod und Wein” (“Bread and Wine”) and “Patmos” – he also cultivated a crisper, more concise manner in epigrams and couplets, and in short poems like the famous “Hälfte des Lebens” (“The Middle of Life”). His shorter and sometimes more fragmentary poems have exerted wide influence too on later German poets, from Georg Trakl onwards. He also had an influence on the poetry of Hermann Hesse and Paul Celan. Celan wrote a poem about Hölderlin, called “Tübingen, Jänner” (“Tübingen, January”) which ends with the word Pallaksch — according to Schwab, Hölderlin’s favourite neologism “which sometimes meant Yes, sometimes No”.

Europe: The European Union, the European Culture and the European Thought.

Write down your mind!



Mountains of Madness

It’s a mad world – don’t you think that sometimes? But what exactly is madness? When you consult Wikipedia, the word »madness« refers to insanity, mental disorder and also anger. It tells us the dark history of asylums, straightjackets and so called »euthanasia«.  What is madness? Being schizophrenic or killing people for being schizophrenic? Am I a mad(wo)man, just because I have a disability or an eccentric behavior? Madness fascinates us and scares us as well. Mankind always wanted or even had to define what is normal and socially acceptable. But who is making the rules? And why are we willing to accept most of these rules unquestioned in our everyday life? We have always been afraid of otherness, but at the same time modern people desperately want to be different. Nowadays we romanticize madness as a marking for creativity, we equal it to personal resistance, but we also use the term to insult and redline others. What is madness? A desirable quality as long as we can decide on it? After all, the question what is considered appropriate manner seems to change permanently, you just have to follow current world politics. It’s confusing, because the perception of madness has so many different faces… It’s a mad world – don’t you think?


Today I just say: It’s all in the collage. Take some time for contemplation. Search for traces and patterns in the chaos. Gain knowledge within the madness and feel free to add your own thoughts.

Derange your mind!


Sick (of being) Muses

The artist-muse relationship is a well-known topic that has been around for centuries. Its origin lies in the myth of »The Nine Muses«, inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts in Greek mythology. In current English usage, »muse« can refer in general to a person who inspires an artist, musician, or writer. In most cases this person is female. Many male artists through all art periods, but also today, consider women as their source of inspiration. Women have immense influence on their work, but they are always just given a secondary and passive role in arts. The art world doesn’t seem interested in the fact that inspirational women often were and still are great artists themselves. Even today there is a huge gender disparity.

The work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe.* And less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, (but 76% of the nudes are female.)**

What is it that makes us demote creative women to just muses? Why must the creator of an artwork always be of male gender to get society’s attention? The women who appear in or inspired some of art history’s most-famous works of art also contributed substantial bodies of work of their own. But they usually never got the respect and recognition they deserved (with very rare exceptions). Many of the women died young or tormented. They were forced to give up what they loved most and lost their own way of expression… Do we still want this to happen in our metamodern times?

*Judy Chicago, »We women artists refuse to be written out of history«, The Guardian, 2012.
**Guerrilla Girls, »Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?«, 2012.


Lucia Anna Joyce (1907– 1982) was a professional dancer. Joyce studied dancing from 1925 to 1929. In 1928, she joined »Les Six de rythme et couleur«, a commune of six female dancers that were soon performing at venues in France, Austria, and Germany. After a performance the Paris Times wrote of her (of course comparing her with her father), »Lucia Joyce is her father’s daughter. She has James Joyce’s enthusiasm, energy, and a not-yet-determined amount of his genius. When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father.« At the age of 22, Joyce, after years of rigorous dedication and long hours of practice, decided »she was not physically strong enough to be a dancer of any kind«. It can be assumed that it was her father who finally put an end to her dancing career. Lucia started to show signs of mental illness in 1930. Once treated by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic in the mid 1930s and institutionalized at the Burghölzli psychiatric clinic in Zurich. In 1951, Lucia Joyce was transferred to St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, where she remained until her death in 1982.

Anita Berber (1899–1928) was a German dancer, actress and writer during the German Weimar period. Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity. Her public appearances really challenged taboos as well. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She died in 1928, at the age of 29, in Berlin. Today she is mostly known for a male artists painting and not for her own work: »Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber« by Otto Dix.

All the so called »muses« who were, in fact, artists themselves: Zelda Fitzgerald, Camille Claudel, Elizabeth Siddal, Berthe Morisot, Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller, Dora Maar and so many others…

»Artify« your mind!



Ghost Pain

In human history, the possibility of organ transplantation is rather new. Our forefathers and -mothers never had to deal with questions like: Do I want my dying body to be used for saving or improving somebody else’s life? What if I have to decide instead of a loved one? Is it ethical to declare a brain-dead person a material storage after all? It is very likely that people of former centuries would have been shocked by this idea.

The questions we ask ourselves today in case of organ donation often have a moral twist: Isn’t it unethical not to donate organs? Isn’t it selfish to let our organs rot or burn while ill people would need them urgently? Are these thoughts just the result of medical progress or are we also more altruistic than in earlier times? What will be possible a hundred years from now? Being alive and being healthy seem to be the only things we’re willing to make real sacrifices for. But we must never stop questioning. What is acceptable to you? What sacrifice will you offer for a »better« world?


The dystopian science fiction novel »Never Let Me Go« (2005) by Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The story begins with Kathy, who describes herself as a »carer«, talking about looking after organ donors. She has been a carer for almost twelve years at the time of narration, and she often reminisces about her time spent at Hailsham, a boarding school in England. The story revolves around three Hailsham students: Kathy, and two others, Ruth and Tommy, who develop a close but complicated friendship. All of them share the same fate: they are clones who were created to provide organs to others, a cycle of donations will end their lives when they are still young…

Dissect your mind!



Happy Paranoids

Did you ever ask yourself, why we often want and don’t want to know certain things at the same time? The postmodern writer Thomas Pynchon is an expert for quests with open ends. His protagonists desperately try to gain information about mysterious persons, organizations or incidents. But every answer just leads to new questions or the answer seems to be absolutely pointless. Sooner or later Pynchon’s heroes get lost in subplots, between dozens of weird characters – lost in a loud, funny and dirty world. A world with no deeper sense at all? A world like ours?

The main characters in Pynchon novels are often classified as paranoids. Paranoids think they would know more than others, while they do know less and (just a theory) privily don’t want to know more. Doesn’t that perfectly fit our today’s society? So is it just the never ending search for meaning, the infinite exploration of the hidden links between superficially fragmented entities, that makes us human, gives our lives a purpose or simply saves us from daily boredom? In that case we permanently play tricks on ourselves: We wish to solve the mysteries around us, but need them to remain unanswerable as well. We want to know and don’t want to know.

Perhaps we are all happy paranoids…


The novel »The Crying of Lot 49« by US-author Thomas Pynchon (an enigmatic figure himself). The heroine Oedipa Maas tries to solve the mystery about her dead ex-lover Pierce Inverarity. Soon she gets in contact with a weird counter world of the isolated and forgotten, in which an alternative communication system is used: W.A.S.T.E (»We await silent Trystero’s empire«). Its symbol: the muted post horn. But what’s all this about? The book ends with the auction of a set of rare, manipulated postage stamps that she believes representatives of Trystero are trying to acquire…

Destabilize your mind!

D.B. (and D.B.)


Dying is an art

The aim of this new collage is to provoke new thoughts about the works of Sylvia Plath and suicide. Are artists more likely to struggle with mental health issues or is it just the myth of the mad genius that endured for centuries? A conclusive link has never been made between mental health issues and creativity. But for the first time reliable data* has recently shown that in the UK the suicide rate among people working in creative roles is significantly higher than the national average. But how reliable are such studies really? Of course under special circumstances everyone can be at risk and e.g. clinical depression is a serious illness which can affect anybody. Whether someone is an artist or not, we should take our fellow human beings seriously and always listen carefully. It is also important to analyse the causes, whether they are individual or social. Because we must not forget that the ills of our society can significantly increase the pressure on vulnerable people.

*Office for National Statistics: »Suicide by occupation, England: 2011 to 2015«


The semi-autobiographical novel »The Bell Jar« (1963) by American poet Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) and her poetry collection »Ariel«. The Bell Jar became a cult book in the 1970s. The turmoil of its protagonist in the face of societal demands struck a chord with many women and contributed to the Plath’s posthumous rise as an icon of the women’s movement. Ariel was originally published in 1965, two years after Plath’s death by suicide. The poems in the edition, with their free flowing images and characteristically menacing psychic landscapes, marked a dramatic turn from Plath’s earlier poems. In her writing Plath was exploring a dark, taboo, personal subject matter. Sylvia Plath was clinically depressed for most of her adult life. In 1953 she had already tried to commit suicide. Her father, a German entomologist, died when Sylvia was only eight years old. Plath had a troubled marriage with the English poet Ted Hughes. In 1961 she miscarried their second child. In 1963 the couple had two children, who slept next door when Sylvia put an end to her young life.

Analyse your mind!


Dearest Father

This new collage takes a closer look at the psyche of writer Franz Kafka (1883–1924). But it also connects Kafka’s past to our present. Time to question father-child relationships… According to a report in »Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being«: »Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.« But what if a father is constantly over-challenged? What if he is psychologically unstable, abusive or violent? What if his expectations towards his child are far too high? Kafka suffered many psychosomatic disorders… Having children always will be a great responsibility.


Franz Kafka’s »Letter to His Father«. Kafka wrote to his father Hermann in November 1919, indicting him for his emotionally abusive and hypocritical behavior towards him. The subjects of the letter include the contrasting characters of father and son, sexuality/marriage and judaism. Kafka hoped the letter would bridge the growing gap between him and his father, though in the letter he provides a sharp criticism of both. Kafka actually gave the letter to his mother to hand on to his father. His mother never delivered the letter but returned it to her son. Kafka’s sisters had to cope with their choleric father as well and weren’t able to help their brother. The father-son relationship also influenced Kafka’s famous novella »The Metamorphosis« (1915).

Emancipate your mind!



Paradise contaminated

Progress is a desirable thing, but the consequences of our civilizational actions have huge influence on nature and therefore on each and every one of us. We all live in a world of constant transition and latent threats, but we calm ourselves down by saying that everything is under control. Can we really master what human hubris evokes? Some human behaviors never seem to change… What has always made a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it heaven. Would you agree or disagree?


»Paradise Lost« by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608–1674). Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse first published in 1667. Some of the most notable illustrators of Paradise Lost included Gustave Doré, Heinrich Füssli and William Blake. The epic has also inspired other visual works by well-known painters like Salvador Dalí. The poem concerns the biblical story of the Fall of Man and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

The nuclear disasters of Chernobyl (or Chornobyl) on 26 April 1986 and Fukushima Daiichi on 11 March 2011. Both accidents lead to massive radioactive contamination of the environment. The radiation causes cellular degradation due to damage to DNA within the cells in various tissues. The health effects on humans, animals and plants are devastating. Thousands of people in the affected areas were forced to leave their homes, personal belongings and former lives. They must never come back…

Decontaminate your mind!