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?

AtlasShrugged2.0

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
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 MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

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?

TheRapingBull_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
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!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

(»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

Hölderlin-Pallaksch

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
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!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

 

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…

HappyParanoia_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZER:
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!

THE MIND BOTANISTS
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«

DyingIsAnArt_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
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!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

va­ni­tas va­ni­ta­tum

When people talk about immortality it is very likely that they don’t speak of the same thing. What does it mean to live forever? To stay young and actually never going to die? To believe in an afterlife or rebirth? Must we create something unprecedented up to now, gain fame and praise or simply pass on our genes to our descendants? Science, art, religion… Choose your personal life jacket, perhaps you will not sink into oblivion.

LocusSolus_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
»Locus Solus« (1914) by French novelist, outstanding personality and eccentric Raymond Roussel. In the novel a prominent scientist and inventor, Martial Canterel, has invited a group of colleagues to visit the park of his country estate, Locus Solus. As the group tours the estate, Canterel shows them inventions of ever-increasing complexity and strangeness, amongst other things the preserved head of guillotined Georges Jacques Danton. Canterel discovered a way to resuscitate the brain matter of the French revolutionist with electricity, so that Danton’s lips form soundless words…

»The Cryonics Institute« (USA) cools legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future scientific procedures will someday revive them and restore them to youth and good health. The institute has also a special offer to remove and cryopreserve only the head of a deceased person. The theory is that only the information contained in the brain is of any importance, and that a new body could be cloned or regenerated at some point in the future…

Defrost your mind!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

 

A Payne In The Arse

There are photographs which hunt us through the years. One of them is the portrait of Lewis Payne (or Powell), taken by Alexander Gardner in 1865, which inspired my collage against death penalty. Payne was involved in the Lincoln conspiracy and attempted to assassinate U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward on April 14, 1865. For that he was sentenced to death by hanging. We deeply detest his deeds, but we also detest the fact he died (aged 21) on July 7, 1865 after he struggled for nearly five minutes at the gallows.

Today’s horrible fact: This seems a short time considering executions gone wrong in the U.S. over 150 years later. In Arkansas criminals were killed in a rush before the State’s death drugs expired… Some of the convicted suffered terrible pain. The beautiful face of national justice has a rotten and vindictive side.

LewisPayne_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZER:
Roland Barthes’ »Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography«. Barthes captioned the photograph of Lewis Payne: »He is dead and he is going to die«. What makes this photograph special, its punctum, is the future death by hanging of its subject. In this sense this punctum is relevant to all photographs showing a future death and trauma.  Its unique feature is that it relates both to the future (what is going to happen next) and to what has happened (as information that is brought in by the viewer).

A Handbook on Hanging (1928) by Charles Duff. The book is a Swiftian tribute to that unappreciated mainstay of civilization: the hangman. With barbed insouciance, Charles Duff writes not only of hanging but of electrocution, decapitations, and gassings; of innocent men executed and of executions botched; of the bloodlust of mobs and the shabby excuses of the great. This coruscating and, in contemporary America, very relevant polemic makes clear that whatever else capital punishment may be said to be justice, vengeance, a deterrent – it is certainly killing.

Replant your mind!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

Crotch Blossom

Would you call a flower ugly, just because its petals are bigger than the petals of other flowers? It may be a question of fondness. Some like roses, others prefer clitoria. (Yes, that’s also a real flowers genus.) But you can hardly say, that one of them is ugly. Of course a vulva is not a flower, although their appearances are similarly varied. Is that a bad thing? No? Then why all this fuss and false shame on the subject of vulvas?

In developed countries labia »correction« by puffing or cutting is a beauty trend. In some African countries little girls suffer genital mutilation, because it’s a traditional practice. The oppression of women is a global problem and misogyny has many faces. What are the reasons? Who’s afraid of an unmodified vulva? Are these questions just appropriate for feminists to ask? What do we know about the female genitalia at all? How many people still believe that the clitoris is a tiny nodule, even though it can be up to 12 cm in size? Why do men (and women) still believe the myth of the hymen? And why is talking about menstruation (and diseases such as endometriosis or the PCO syndrome) such a taboo?

I think, it is time to set the razor blade on our ways of thinking and no longer between women’s legs…

CrotchBlossom_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZERS:
The Somalian model, author and social activist against female genital mutilation (FGM) Waris Dirie. She suffered genital mutilation when she was three years old. In her book, »Desert Flower«, she tells her autobiographical story.

The American sex toy entrepreneur Brian Sloan. Originator and host of the world’s first vagina [sic] beauty contest. It’s up to you to judge…

I hope you will discuss this collage.
Flower out your mind!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.

Propaganda

This first collage starts the Botanic Mind project. It is my artistic reaction to propaganda which affects us today even more than we consciously perceive. I leave it up to you to analyse and interpret this illustration. Hopefully it makes you raise some inner questions…

Propaganda_BotanicMind

BOTANIC MIND FERTILIZER:
The artwork was inspired by the book »Propaganda« (1928) written by Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward L. Bernays, father of Public Relations. The book explores the psychology behind manipulating masses and the ability to use symbolic action and propaganda to influence all areas of our society.

Grow your mind!

THE MIND BOTANIST
D.B.