Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ich bin ein Kannibale

by Anastasia (writer), London, June 13, 2011

Credit: Goldie
The chair from the cannibal village in Dead Man's Chest

An exhibition is presently being held in Berlin dedicated to life’s fleshier experiences

In 2001 a German by the name of Armin Meiwes placed an advert on a website called The Cannibal Café, calling for a “well-built male between eighteen and thirty to be slaughtered and consumed.” That’s not the amazing thing; no, the amazing thing is he got his meal, one Bernd Jürgen Brandes. Together the two began this black dinner with a particularly intimate part of the victim’s anatomy, though the details are just too awful to dwell on here. Needless to say, Meiwes ended by finishing on his own, his dining companion previously having lost his appetite along with his life.

I was reminded of the Cannibal of Rothenburg, as Meiwes was subsequently called, on reading about a new exhibition which recently opened in Berlin. Under the title of All Cannibals, the show is intended to make people face up to their repressed ‘appetites’.

It’s been a huge success, with Europe’s most dedicated meat eaters lining up at the entrance to a cultural abattoir, to be beguiled by fleshy art, all the way from Goya to Cindy Sherman. There they are, Hannibal Lectors one and all, drawn by the enduring fascination with anthropophagy. Yes, I’ve only just learned that that word exists too, as did my spellchecker!

This meat feast arrived in Berlin from Paris, where several people fainted, not being quite as carnivorous as the Germans, or quite as prepared to “confront basic human fears, desires, suffering and pain that is represented in the collected works”, the rationale behind the exhibition.

If you are in Berlin, which thankfully I am not, you might consider popping along. I feel I should warn you that, among other things, you will see a video by the artist Patty Chang, which appears to show her consuming one of her breasts. Don’t worry; it’s only a watermelon; so keep saying that as you watch. Another exhibit purports to be the skin of a man, laid out like a bear rug, the implication being that the rest of him has been eaten

“It’s disgusting”, said one Waltraud Kempner, quoted in the Times, “but that’s the point isn’t it – it’s about how we disgust ourselves.” Frau Kemper was not too disgusted, though, going on to meet friends for lunch, perhaps enjoying one of the curry sausages for which the city is renowned.

Jeanette Zwingenberger, the curator, said that the negative perception of cannibalism is “...a typical monotheistic European division between nature and culture.” Yes, I suppose it is, something I shall bear in mind the next time I watch a cannibal holocaust. No, I shall not; for like the squeamish Parisians, I have not the stomach for this feast, for blood, for flesh or for any form of cultural relativism. My loss, I feel sure.

About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Ich bin ein Kannibale

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By TonyBerkman on June 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

What a brilliant piece of writing. You make this a tasty affair. I consumed the entire article. I particularly like the humorous parts including "curried sausages which the city is known for."

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By Tiffany Sanders on June 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Very well written and interesting. I tend to think that this kind of shock-value presentation is intended not to make us confront anything, but to desensitize us. Parisians, apparently, haven't been quite so desensitized as some of us in other "civilized" countries, but this sort of thing doesn't remain shocking. Show it to us enough in exhibits and movies and the like and before long, we'll accept man-skin rugs.

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By TonyBerkman on June 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Tiffany I agree with you though we have choice of what we will visit and not. While one can suggest a global belief such as Parisians are desensitized (which may be true to a large extent) we still each get to decide what we will let into our minds and the meaning we will give to each event. Would you attend this exhibit?

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By Anastasia on June 14, 2011 at 07:28 pm

Thanks everyone.

Tiffany, in relation to your point I remember reading about the first time that poison gas was used in the First World War. In was on the Eastern Front in 1915, an attack by the Germans on a Russian position. From the rear the senior officer watched the troops, protected by gas masks, advance into the fog. The next thing they saw was the soldiers steaming back, each of them carrying a Russian casualty, so shocked were they by the effects of the gas. This was not to last. We can become ever more desensitised; we can get used to almost anything.

Still, I have still to reach the stage where I could attend an exhibition like this. As it is I almost passed out at the dining scene in Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal”. I had to look away!

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