On the necessity and the impossibility either to say, or not to say anything about or around Dachau

by Marcel Stoetzler

The impossibility to produce something on Dachau, about Dachau; the necessity, intermeshed with the insight into the inability to produce anything, though. (‘Dachau Blues, those poor Jews’; empty talk perforated [the case of Don van Fleet, Cpt. Beefheart]). To find: not to be able to say anything. This is where the work begins, this is the starting point, and it remains the point. (Go back to go, do not collect two million dollars). ‘The concept works for itself’. To delete rather than to accumulate, rather than to systematize.

A protocol of disappearance.

Of course this piece of work is about Dachau, but it is not a work about Dachau. ‘Go back to Dachau, but do not go via Deutenhausen. Do not collect two million dollars.’ The small forest is surrounded by small places: Neuhimmelreich, New City of God; Rothschwaige, Red Silence; Dachau; Pellheim, Skin House; Deutenhausen, Meaningville. They all work for themselves. Also the small forest works for itself. The author seeks the vicinity of something he cannot say much about. Why? He cannot say that, either. This, however, is what can be said: no further empty statements shall be piled up all around us. History and stories, monuments, vistas, artworks, poems after Dachau. The poem, the condensed, highly meaningful utterance: perforated. The condensed, the poetic fall to pieces, like rotten mushrooms fall to pieces in my mouth in the moment I speak, getting loose, loosing it.

No de-noising has filtered out the recording noise. Nothing can be heard after three years. Flaws in the recording. Flaws in the views. Slowly, bit by bit, successively deleted. The concept that works for itself is slowly, successively deleted by the labour that it exerts on itself. Automatic process, machine, random choices, selected, deleted. Not anymore to accumulate knowledge. The process is disinterested: to avoid any compositional intention, concentrate all attention on the process itself, ‘time, history, process’. Work. The work is ‘thinking up a form of disappearance/ that defeats death’ (Jochen Distelmeyer), ‘NOT to draw ever more lessons, to derive ever more golden rules/ from history’. ‘Do not erect memorials. Just let the rose/ bloom annually in his memory./ For He is Orpheus. .../ We shall not trouble ourselves with finding/ any other names.’ (Rainer Maria Rilke).

After Dachau, to make recordings in a forest and to preserve them is garbage (Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno, one who loved forests and meadows). A conversation on small forests, deciduous trees and conifers, flies, hail, sunshine, endless funding applications, is a crime (Bert Brecht). Those modern artists who sit in the forests and listen to the trees seem not to have heard the bad news yet.

Where does it come from, and how does it feel, this fact that one is driven by something, coming from somewhere, something that seems to be deeply ingrained in one’s own biography, to do something that one is not able to do and that one has no desire to do? And yet, in spite of it all, something that one has to do, as it were? To travel to such a thoroughly awful place that nobody wants to travel to, that only a few people even want to think of, and then, in order to do what?

That which is ‘deeply ingrained cannot be grasped by language: some kind of permanent, never-ending HESITATION’.

‘To travel to Dachau (who would want to go there voluntarily?), roving through re-parcelled lacklustre pieces of forest, spending one’s nights in these forests, flies, hail, sunshine, recording, listening back in the studio, how sensational these minoritarian tiny bits of forest sound, mixing, saving, writing endless funding applications, financial calculations, persuading editors... just in order finally to delete everything, completely, totally. And all this hesitation possibly, perhaps, only in order: not to be forced to say anything, out of all things, on Dachau.’ Indeed there is no doubt that this piece of work has something to do with Dachau. Who would want to doubt that? A necessity, an impossibility ingrained in one’s biography.

To go there, but then not to do the obvious thing but something completely different. To follow the ‘necessity deeply ingrained in one’s biography’, as indeed there is no alternative to it, but then something else happens – this is the tension that makes this piece of work interesting. (The problem is of course not the philistine question whether one is ALLOWED to write poetry, or if perhaps one better shouldn’t. Adorno’s and Brecht’s sentence was not a moral imperative but a simple statement of fact: culture after Auschwitz, and Dachau, objectively IS garbage because it has failed, it failed to deliver what it has always implicitly promised, civilization, and this includes also the critique of culture. It also includes the piece of art that refuses, that resists the temptation to state something ‘about Dachau’, and instead says something around Dachau and subsequently destroys itself.)

Birds, wind, rain, locusts, landscape around Dachau, shaped by agriculture, broken up by small pieces of forest. ‘These small forests’, like so much else, ‘have been formed after 1945 in the course of re-parcelation.’ Poetical, simple, banal, lacklustre. ‘Oases in an agricultural desert’. (We write poetry. We eat well. ‘Even sex is getting better’. We still play music.)

Marcel Stoetzler, Historian/London