1993 – 1994

Post-utopian charity project in Support of Africans from Central Ethiopia

I rebuilt the gallery into an office to serve as a charity center and called on the residents of the city to participate in a “collection of tears” for afflicted Ethiopians. I used the media and live lectures to try and draw citizens whose quality of knowledge about this part of the world was basically zero into discussions about the problems of far-away Africans. I offered specific and detailed information in an attempt to affect people who could then try to give their emotions free reign. I then called on the citizens of the city to donate their tears, which would become concrete evidence of a real emotional experience indicative of empathy and compassion. So as not to create psychic blocks (this was also about a kind of special psychotherapy), I offered participants the possibility of crying not only in the special containers attached to the windowpanes of the gallery, but also in a private space of their choice. This option in the end proved to be more palatable, and so a few of them really came back to the office carrying little bottles half–full of tears.

After collecting several milliliters of the liquid I contacted an anonymous organization dealing with the distribution of humanitarian aid for the region of east Africa and I requested that they send my little package and accompanying text along with their consignment, to be delivered and read publicly to the real people in that location. Of course the workers in this organization made it very clear to me that they had no intention of partaking in the belittlement of the entire action. After several attempts the situation became irresolvable, and so all I could do was go to Africa and deliver the tears myself.

Ethiopia is a very religious country. Therefore I decided to hand over the tears to the monastery in the village of Lalibela, the center of the Ethiopian monophysitic orthodox church. The lands of the monasteries lie high in the mountains, in a place above sea level where the temperature often and dramatically changes. For this reason I choose for the placement of the tears a meteorological thermometer in whose capillaries the tears could pulse like living liquid. The object, reminiscent of a strange kind of monstrance with an authentic relic, I placed in a special transport box and flew across Saudi Arabia to Kenya. From there I continued by hitchhiking and walking through the mountain range of Mt. Kenya and the Chalbi desert on to the north into Ethiopia. Although the way was difficult and risky, I finally succeeded in reaching my goal and after a month of wandering I finally came to Lalibela and asked for an audience of the highest local spiritual authorities. The next day I had the opportunity to officially hand over the thermometer with its documentation and a greetings translated to Amharic on the central square to a gathering of the citizens from the village. It was peculiar that at that moment all my efforts stopped seeming utopian.