Rainer Hawlik

A Crystal Crown For The Dictator

Thomas Feuerstein's Works "Leviathan" and "Leviathan 2001"

At the centre of Thomas Feuerstein's work "Leviathan" a state jellyfish stands as a metaphor for social meta-organisms of nature and modern civilisation. The object produced by the Swarovski company is made up of over ten thousand crystal stones, and with the state jellyfish sets a sign of a fearful and frightening authoritarian force which already manifested itself in the title picture of Thomas Hobbes's political work 'Leviathan' (1651).

Homo Homini Lupus

"Man is wolf to man," is a well-known quote from Thomas Hobbes's work Leviathan which gets to the heart of his view of humanity: man is not a social, state-building creature but a predator full of malice and destructive instincts. No law and no state coercion can stop people, and their unbridled drive for self-preservation inevitably results in a war of all against all. The title picture of the book which Feuerstein used in his work Leviathan 2001 shows a ruling person enthroned above the world supported on two pictorial columns: one brings together castle, crown, canons and flags like a battlefield and symbolises military force, the other column symbolises religious force: it includes church, bishop's mitre, the anathema of excommunication and the trident of logical syllogism down to a religious council in dispute. Justice is reflected on both sides of power.


He is protected by military force, religious power protects the Leviathan from being undermined. Hobbes's ruler appears to be half human, half fish: the human head grows from a slippery body. For Hobbes justice is always only the expression of the elemental and unlimited power of Leviathan, which the Book of Job depicts as a sea-monster which instils awe in all who live on dry land: Job, who has been tested by God with affliction turns against the Almighty. In an analogy God tells Job that he cannot understand his existence and his workings because it is above understanding. God is untouchable, just like the Leviathan he cannot be caught with a hook because Job, like every human, would have to flinch from doing so: "Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more" (Job 41.8), because the Leviathan "beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride" (Job 41.34). God is the system which does not allow itself to be brought down. In the semiotics of justice the Leviathan expresses itself as a sign of leave-taking from the "natural state" (Hobbes 1651, XIII). The force of justice pressurises and coerces each individual citizen; however, in Hobbes's conception force also means security for each individual.

State Jellyfish

In his work Leviathan Feuerstein emphasises the association to the biblical sea-monster. The shape of his Leviathan refers to the sea creature Siphonophora, also named "state jellyfish", which is a curious entity in natural development. It is a compound creature made up of different individual animals. These animals have given up all their functions to benefit the greater system. Each animal has its task: Saturnian animals, which consist of hardened plates, only live to provide protection for the whole organism; Martian animals, which are arrow-like creations, emit a caustic juice: if any fish approaches which could be dangerous, it is squirted with the liquid; Jupiter animals are responsible for expansion; Mercury animals provide nerve passages, they are responsible for the connections between all parts of the state; Moon animals are feeding animals which for their whole life do nothing other than feed in order to prepare the digested juice which is sent to all parts of the organism; Venus animals are sexual animals which are only responsible for reproduction. The crowning element, which in Hobbes was the head, is the so-called Sun: a single animal in the middle, which sits on a kind of column. It takes over authority and makes sure that the whole organism stands upright, that it is correctly directed: he is the ideal dictator of the system.

Crystal Crown

For a dignified representation Feuerstein has put a crown set with hundreds of crystal stones on the dictator head of the state jellyfish. At the heart of the state, or much more in its jellyfish head, "something exists which constitutes it as such, and this something is sovereignty, which Hobbes said was precisely the soul of the Leviathan". Michel Foucault would like to localise power "at its most outer points, at its ramifications, where its canals can be detected as fine as hair. Power becomes interesting where it circulates, where it becomes clear that it only functions in a chain": under its shielding Feuerstein's jellyfish symbolically fends off outside influences which threaten the state, with its metre-long colourful shimmering filaments of light. The stinging cells of a jellyfish are tiny body parts which are filled with poison and have a small external stinger as a trigger. When something touches this stinger, the cells bursts and shoots out a small point on a thread. The point wounds the prey and the poison which enters the wound poisons it. The Martian animals serve the ruling state jellyfish head; power goes through the individual which has constituted it, right through.

Society As A Network

At the same time Feuerstein emphasises that in his work "Leviathan" the network of crystal stones in its materiality refers to the oldest description of society as a network: the net of the god Indra. In this Hindu myth society is seen as a net formed from a multitude of individual facetted crystal stones. Only in the reciprocal interplay of reflections does singularity shine resplendent in the radiance of society. Complementary to his work Feuerstein presents a video-DVD which shows an interview with Antonio Negri who explains his socio-political theory of multitudes in terms of a crystalline network.

Pac-Man In The Battle Zone

In his work "Leviathan 2001" Feuerstein already documented how rotten the state is which appertains to the jellyfish. Milton Friedman, the father of monetarism, is the declared image of the enemy: under the heading Leviathan::Global Player, Feuerstein makes him an evil spirit which Pac-Man cannot get rid of. Friedman's head, in multiple versions, threatens the Global Player who wants to move "freely" on the stock market. Only for a few moments is the Global Player left with the belief that he can eat up the Friedmans. When they are transformed again, they hunt their victim unhurriedly to the end. Feuerstein leaves no room for doubt: neoliberalism is leading our world to ruin. Under "Miss Information" in the assembly instructions for Leviathan::Atopia Feuerstein sketches our world: "Knowledge becomes money and vice versa, money makes interest only as symbolic knowledge capital. This prepares us for a life in electronic networks, where all communications and transactions and finally also we ourselves become synonyms for information and money."

Game Tied

Click on Leviathan::Dialoque and in the pictorial centre of the animation appears a reminiscence of the predecessor of all play stations: a game of tennis which was played at the beginning of the 1980s on the living room television with two joysticks. Feuerstein simulates a game in which force and counterforce cancel each other out: the score will always be nil nil. Lettering above the tied game indicates the sparring partners meeting here: "Ted Kaczynski in conversation with Joseph Weizenbaum's doc". Click on the tennis game and a window opens and a simulated dialogue between "ted" and "doc" begins. At the beginning of the 1970s, after an academic career at US universities, Ted Kaczynski had retreated into the forests of Montana as a recluse. One summer morning in 1983 he found tourists and a road in front of his own front door. From this moment Kaczynski swore to take revenge on the system. Eighteen years later in a total of sixteen bomb attacks in the USA Kaczynski had killed three people and injured twenty nine. During the investigations FBI agents gave Kaczynski the name "Unabomber" because universities and airlines were his first targets. To the right of the tennis animation Feuerstein shows an early identikit picture and offers a link to Kaczynski's manifesto in which the author explains his profound criticism of western civilisation and pseudo-left-wingers.

Force Produces Counterforce

In the conversation Feuerstein confronts this defender of the simple, primitive life with "doc", which brings to mind Weizenbaum's computer program ELIZA (1964), in which the human conversation partner typed their contribution to the dialogue on a typewriter connected to the computer, the program analysed the message it received and put together an answer in English. Feuerstein's dialogue between these two stands out because the machine "doc" sometimes takes one of Kaczynski's questions and returns it as an identical counter-question: a question and answer game as a tied match for all eternity. The questions from "doc" repeat themselves and Kaczynski answers perseveringly, repeats his accusations but finally remains at the mercy of the machine. Like Job, Kaczynski tried in vain to criticise a system which would not allow itself to be misled: Job wanted to warn God to proceed justly with the fate of the God-fearing; Kaczynski wanted to irritate the state with terror attacks and turn it away from capitalism. In principle however, the state lives from using each opportunity of proving its power. On the pretext of protecting individuals - freely after Hobbes - force is answered with harder counterforce. The Leviathan 2001 rose from the ashes of the collapsed Twin Towers more determined than ever before.

Translation: Steve Gander, originally published at http://www.thecrystalweb.com