from: Punch in Out, Kath. Kunsthaus Hamburg, 1997
by Rembert Hüser
How apelike can a gesture be? Why are apes not equipped with hands?
It is “not difficult to see that a child capable neither of
reason nor of speech nevertheless makes its desires understood by
hand gestures and movements of its head. Is the teacher of this art
to be sought in nature herself, who may be understood even by those
animals which are least endowed with reason?” If truth comes
from nature, and if the hands are closest to the truth of a statement
? remembering that the hand grows next to the heart (writing distorts,
and even the voice reates difficulties), then we have the problem
of what separates us from dumb beasts. How can we, as distinct from
them, behave with decency? First, we have to ignore zoology: “The
human hand would thus be a thing in itself, not as a removable organ,
but as something that is different, distinct from all the prehensile
organs (those that serve to grasp and claw and capture); it is infinitely
different from these, separated from them by a gulf of being. This
gulf consists in speech and thought. ‘Only a creature that speaks,
i.e. that thinks, can have hands through which to accomplish the works
pertaining to the hand.’”2 If we immunise an original
expression in this way, and assign it to a domain of its own, then
we can focus on the artificial creation of this hand?thinking. How
can it be repeated? How do we engage with a social space? What aspects
of a gesture can remain after it has been made? The model is possibly
the most overdetermined metaphor in postwar German history (Armin
Meier: “So how come you're using it again then?”3 ? ?
4). Seven years ago, we heard: “The hands were cramped. As far
as I could see he was carrying nothing”5 and one year ago: “The
prearranged signal was unclutching the hand and opening it, three
times.”6 The hand of authority approaches the question of political
action in the public sphere via an inventorization of the basis, of
gesture. In answer to Fassbinder's self?exposure ? on the phone in
bed in the act of eating in a white bathrobe naked with his hand on
his dick with his hand in front of his face with his mother with his
boyfriend on?screen ? ten photos are assembled here on a single CD,
published as part of the joint project, with images based on e ,?>
scenes from the film showing public figures (from the worlds of cinema,
sport, the theatre), or more precisely, showing the hands of ten well?known
people. The name accompanying the hand seems at first to suggest a
specific, unique identity. “A hand can only fit the body to
which it belongs … the hand speaks at rest and in motion. When
static it demonstrates its natural qualities ? when moving, it speaks
more of human passions and activities.7 One of the hands belongs to
the comedian Helge Schneider, an instant trigger for the referentializations
of physiognomy: “I have animals at home, anchovy paste, boiled
ham. Er, no, that's not an animal, no legs on it, but otherwise, fish,
yes, a 200 litre aquarium on the windowsill.” The hand?writing
is rubbed on with Letraset, programmes are running in the background,
the essence of seriality. What is there to distinguish us from the
apes? How do we construct our space of memory? “When the relatives
wished to bury them and were unable to tell the broken bodies apart,
Simonides is said to have shown them all who was to bury whom by remembering
the exact seating order at table.” With the garage in 1137 South
Cochran we spent a year after se7en needing no grand cultural pretexts
for our tableaux. Deciphering, sure, but can we trace the outlines
of our own selves with the dead animals? “Toad when waving goodbye
vole getting tired. A truckdriver vanishing.” The dead animal,
picked up by the human hand. chalked on our slate. Let us carry on
with a combinatoire that welds together gesture and work and allows
us to combine the freely ramified paradigmatic and syntagmatic connections.
“Art. 61, contents: Bathing cap, shells, shuttlecock, banana?flavoured
condom, sand moulds.” Jump back and forth.
1 Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, Frauenzimmer Gesprächsspiele,
vierter Theil (1644). Tübingen 1968. p. 268.
2 Jacques Derrida, Heideggers Hand (Geschlecht 11). Vienna 1988, pp.
3 Alf Brüstellin et al., Deutschland im Herbst, FRG 1977?8.
4 Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email: Gestures.
ducky @ webfoot.com.
5 Interrogation report, Adolf Richard Soukoup, senior prison officer,
Stuttgart?Stammheim, 25 October1977. Repr. in Weidenhammer, Selbstmord
oder Mord, Kiel 1988, p. 357.
6 Minutes of the 72nd meeting of the Committee for Interior Affairs
and the 83rd meeting of the Legal Committee, Monday, 12 July 1993,
9.00 hrs, Bonn, Federal Parliament, Room 2304 NH, p. 31.
7 Lavater, Physiognomische Fragmente. Stuttgart 1984, pp. 198 et seq.
8 Helge Schneider, live at Gelsenkirchen, 22 November 1991. Cicero,
De oratore, 11, Münich, n.d., p. 250.