State. A Terrarium.

By Stefan Kaegi / Bernd Ernst (Hygiene heute)

“It seems that socialism works under particular conditions. Karl Marx only dealt with the wrong sort." (Hölldobler/Wilson: Ants)

During the few seconds while you are reading these lines, 40 million people and 700 million ants are being born, 30 people and 500 million ants are dying on earth.
On the search for the smallest performer possible Hygiene Heute built a ant terrarium across several rooms in the gallery of Zeitraum_Exit in Mannheim which is developing autonomously in the course of weeks. The Swiss artist and archivist Michael Blättler was engaged as state’s scribe and peoples’ nurse (?) to live together with the newly founded ant state of Mannheim for one month, to observe it and to document it: “In the state, five peoples of the ant species formica polyctena live together. My most important task is to take care of the peoples’ welfare.” A narrow wooden path leads into the installation. In the interior of the installation there are several small rooms, the national theatre, the Mannheim model biotope, the office for home security, the national gallery, the cinema and the room of the state administration, which is Blättler’s office. The development of the state and the research findings become texts, sketches, and statistics which pitch Blättler’s life against the life of the ants. Based on Platon and Hobbes the smell highways and model landscapes grow to a spatial novel. “The ants are tacticians", Blättler says "they master the art of arrangement and deployment. In reverse, the visitors react to the state with different strategies of observation and analysis. In my observations I focus on this collision of strategy and tactics, art and nature.”

When man is scared, when he is happy or angry, his endocrine glands produce hormones, which are only effective in his own body. They circulate in a closed vessel. His heart bumps faster, he sweats, he grimaces, screams, or cries. That’s his own affair. When an ant is scared, when it is happy or angry, the hormones do not only circulate in its own body, they leak through it and penetrate the bodies of the others. Due to these pheromones millions scream and cry simultaneously.
In the halogen light of the spreading ant text laboratory Blättler welcomes visitors and, upon request, leads through the progressing philosophy and historiography of the young state. The communication with the visitors takes place on the backstage. The 200.000 actors play on stages behind glass panes. Through looking glasses and special microphones every vote of the small nation an be followed (im großen Modell): Bach or Shostakovitch? Roses or tulips? McDonalds or Burger King?