Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reflections upon the Great Pyramid

In about two weeks’ time, on Monday 10 2008, a massive gala will be held in Berlin at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre, to celebrate and to present the project of the Great Pyramid. The Great Pyramid was first suggested by German writer and journalist Ingo Niermann in 2006 and found resonance with a group of eager people who are currently promoting and pursuing this idea of a monumental memorial site for everybody and all of us, to be built in the Eastern German pampa. Come along and visit the Gala to learn more or read about it here, here or here (in German). Below you will find a string of reflections upon the Pyramid which I assembled to celebrate this brave and, admittedly, somewhat bizarre idea.

— For Ingo and Jens, the guys with the shovels

There it is, in the East German desert. Outside a city aptly named Dessau. In a region called Sachsen-Anhalt; anhalten, also a German verb, translates best as to stop, to rest. Does time have a hole, and might this hole be found 100 km south of Berlin?

Most people who live there—in our loophole of time and space, where a gargantuan pyramid might soon be growing to a considerable height and hopefully for an unimaginably long stretch of time—outrightly hate the Great Pyramid project. Why? Out of fear? The fear of a sleeping giant. A fear nobody dares to put in words, as of yet: It is already there. The Pyramid has always been there.

The Pyramid plays an ancient, not to say archaic game with its observers’ minds: It makes us believe that we have invented the pyramid, whereas it must have been quite exactly the opposite way around. A Berlin writer and an Erfurt entrepreneur may have hallucinated the concept of a pyramid as a large-scale columbarium, a three-dimensional graveyard with worldwide appeal, also as a timely solution for Eastern Germany's obvious socioeconomic despair; rightly so. But one can hardly avoid the tempting thought that the two simply served as receiving and transmitting media, as prophets articulating the pyramid’s will. They might have been sensitive enough to hear the pyramid’s call: Come and exhume me, resurrect me. Get yourselves a few shovels and help me see the sunlight again.

You are right, this might push it a bit too far, crazy brain scientist! But the general idea has a certain appeal to me.

The pyramid is such an odd concept that even those brave few who had assembled in September 2007 in the de-localized out-of-time middle of nowhere for the first Great Pyramid festival did not really know what they were at. Everybody was very cheerful, and, yes, a certain aura of pathos and avant-garde filled the Anhaltinian air. But it remained a bit unclear what the Pyramid really should become, why we should pursue it. This is the interesting, metaphysical aspect of it: Its raison d’être appears to lie beyond political or rational pro’s and con’s. Its sensual appeal seems to transcend the (admittedly very un-hip) aesthetics of a pyramidal shape. Of course the latter fact, the pyramid as a concept and as a building and all it conveys, is so painfully unhip as if to annihilate hipness altogether. Don’t be fooled by the fifty-odd Berlin Mitte hipsters who had made it to the Dessau desert: The pyramid is not hip.

It is not hip to suggest monuments in Germany, and it never will be again. (I am very much looking forward to how my current home town Leipzig will deal with the centennial of Germany's biggest monument so far, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal.) It is also trés unhip in Germany, usually for good reason, to suggest (as I am doing here) that some project might have a reason to exist beyond ratio and worldly needs: The delusional belief to be destined and sent from above for everybody’s well-being is a genuine sign of fascist argumentation, and the slightest hint of it does not go down well with the German public; luckily enough. But for the sake of it, I allow myself to indulge in the phantasy of the emergent, self-errecting, ever-present Pyramid; the enigmatic, hilarious project that I hardly understand myself, but which is so easy to fall in love with.

The absence of anything cool to the Great Pyramid might be a problem if it would aspire to serve as a club. But it isn’t. It is something more interesting than hipness it has to offer, it is magic.

Now, the founding fathers of the Pyramid again might object here: Jonas, we do not want to push aside people investing in the project of the Great pyramid, or anything; leave us alone with the mystic folk rap. However, it remains a deeply fascinating idea that the Pyramid is there in the Anhaltinian ground; that Ingo Niermann and Jens Thiel were actually very right, more than their meticulous plan to find a site for the Pyramid allowed them to note, when they first stepped on the acres outside Streetz. Not unlike those “energetic” places animals and men seek out alike (Stonehenge, if you know what I am saying), which are constantly used for ritual and worship throughout myriads of generations, and on top of which the churches and temples of various cultures, religious practices and beliefs are built. Why shouldn’t the beginning of an enlightened, transcended, post-religious, post-historical cult to remember our deads and to contemplate our own ends find its pre-determined final destination in the Saxonian-Anhaltinian ground?

[Disclaimer: Nobody of the friends of the Great Pyramid has approved of this wild hallucination of text that you just read, and, yes, I am a scientist rather than a believer in, err, anything. Also, nobody here is planning to found a new church or something. Although, coming to think of it, I think I heard somebody call out last September after the Pyramid festival, in a slightly mad tenor: “ Now, let’s clean this place up, or what!”]


  1. Referring to your note on the Pyramid and the absence of cool:

    Pop is cool. But Pop is always in the past. In contrast The Great Pyramid is always in the future. That is why the (every) present needs it so badly. That is why it has not to be cool. It has to be something different.

    So, stay passionate.

  2. AnonymousJuly 09, 2008

    Not sure that "Great Pyramid is always in the future". It is literally - the stones are. But conceptually it seems irrevocably mired in the ancient. I think most people trying to imagine a futuristic take on the pyramid will still come up with the generic cover to a dog-eared sci-fi paperback from the 60s or a postcard from Las Vegas.


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