Bürokratrie is a neologism formed out of the German words for bureaucracy and psychiatry. Within the project, artist I. Paehr programs the performer A. Werner to execute a total work of art that confronts the employees of a regional council with hierarchy, dominance and compliance to rules.
Regional Council Kassel invites Kassel’s art students to exhibit for 6 weeks a year in their building. The exhibition’s title is 'Interventionen', which translates to interventions. Artist I. Paehr lets her co-worker A. Werner, called the executor, publish tasks for the council employees to fulfill to keep the two poles of the total work of art, chaos and order, in harmony. Otherwise A. Werner, who behaves in accordance to the artist’s scripts, will perform punishments.
The employees of 'Regierungspräsidium Kassel' (regional council) are confronted with the executor A. Werner one week before the official exhibition starts.
A. Werner acts as a suited and very tall man with a clipboard and a multitude of printed forms. He has the order to find out as much as possible about the members of the council staff. His questions are personal, political, always direct and he makes the employees sign a form which confirms their participation in the interviews.
Photographer J. Lohrengel takes photos of every step the employees make, even if they protest against this rude documentation. A QR code leading to the artwork’s web page is placed in front of every room.
In the main entrance of the building, a picture frame displaying the employees’ weekly tasks is installed.
The executor also oversees their parking habits – since the council is in charge of the collection of fines for the German federal state, he has to make sure that the council fulfils its own norms.
Finally, all the information is sent to I. Paehr, who publishes the material online. She also collects and evaluates the council personnel’s answers.
At this point in time, most employees are not particularly interested in art. Some even refuse to speak to the executor, saying they don't understand why the council invites artists at all.
When the exhibition is opened on April 21st, less than 10 employees, but many art students visit the vernissage. More than 30 art and design students present their projects within the building. Right on time, I. Paehr publishes graphically edited quotes of the council’s staff members online. The first task is for them to adapt their favourite quote as a desktop wallpaper.
Two days later, A. Werner, documentary filmmaker K. Bannat, and photographer J. Lohrengel begin the artistic examination. Unexpectedly, the employees react in a very aggressive fashion. The reviewed staff members did not install the wallpaper. Some of them shout at the executor, and even tell the documentary team to (f*cking) turn off their cameras.
The executor is not impressed, and proceeds to take out red tape from his briefcase and marks the offices of the wayward insubordinate employees with an X on the door. One employee tears down the X while Lohrengel and Bannat are filming, another desperate woman tells A. Werner that he is a cruel person and distreats human beings. Werner responds that he only executes actions and has to enforce the total work of art.
The team films one employee dutifully fulfilling his official instructions. He insists on being a simple worker who simply does what he is told. Supporting an art project was not part of his duties, but the executor would certainly be allowed to mark his office with an X if this is what the council’s superior agrees on.
Nameless saboteurs delay the publication of the second task via the council’s intranet because of the rough manner of expression of the given instructions.
The artist assumes that those persons either have a deranged relationship to art or to their co-workers, as they obviously want them to be punished while not knowing about the actual task they would have fulfilled otherwise.
The week before, some employees kept to their duties, using their work title to avoid open contact to art. Because of this breach, the council staff is ordered to generate 100 facebook likes until the end of the week. By linking their own social identities with the total work of art, some employees display cooperativeness.
The executor establishes a list of the uncooperative staff members names.
The executor is instructed to finalize profiles of the employees. Therefore, already gathered information is combined with a personal evaluation of themselves by the staff members. They can evaluate their relationship to the total work of art, to art in general and the quality of this year’s interventions exhibition.
An additional hair sample of every worker is needed, which the employees should prepare by themselves or let A. Werner cut off their heads using a professional pair of scissors. Finally, I. Paehr gives every co-worker a grade from 1 to 10.
In every department, a number of posters showing the executor’s face is installed due to the total number of deniers.
The veterinary inspection office puts up signs prohibiting photography and receives the full amount of six visual displays of the executor.
The activist team also puts the executor’s face to places where a great number of employees pass, in order to remind them that they have a responsibility towards art at every minute of their worktime.
Concerns find their way to the artist through the council’s press spokesman, but cannot be revised since only official complaint forms sent to ichunterstuetzedasgesamtkunstwerk@bürokratrie.com (meaning “I support the total work of art”) can be processed.
One employee stands up for the entire council: Instead of yelling or hiding between his forms, he speaks up to the executor, bringing up a speech about his personal resistance against hierarchy, dominance and thoughtless compliance with rules. As the executor tells him his attitude won't change anything, the employee assures to understand the critical attitude of the artistic experiment and expresses his full support.
The employees are told that a team of art therapists will visit them to cure them from their unhealthy behavior concerning art. Instructed by A. Werner and artist A. Nikolic, a group of activists analyze the employees’ profiles and develop strategies to heal the council’s staff. They decide the best option will be bringing art to them as a present they can take home, so they visit the offices equipped with cameras, audio engineering and a tattoo machine.
Most of the staff members refuse to have 'Interventionen 2015' (title of the exhibition) tattooed on a part of their body of their choice, but one cooperative employee consents.
„This brave man accepts pain in order to keep the total work of art running“, explains the executor.
While tattooing, the activists play the 'Hessenlied', a song about the beauty of the local countryside.
In general, A. Werner finds much more open-minded co-workers than the weeks before, which indicates that art therapy can be described as a success.
The total work of art even receives a present: Mr. G. gives his precious photo of a 'Panzerhaubitze 2000' into the artists’ hands. „I personally know this tank“, says A. Werner. „It is used in Afghanistan, made for five persons but can only be used fully by three persons”.
At the end of Wednesday, the team visits the retirement of a senior employee and A. Werner gives a speech about the worker and the power of arts. While some guests are angry about the group showing up, the activist rely on their right to join an event taking place in public space.
Some employees tell the local press about them feeling pressurized, inducing articles in several German newspapers.
On the Saturday night before the official installation of the next task, A. Werner sneaks into the garden of the council president Dr. Walter Lübcke. Fully camouflaged, he kidnaps 'object cock', a sculpture of a metal bird.
Monday morning, the 'Hessische Rundfunk', a German television format, accompanies Werner, who presents object cock to the president in his official office. The task I. Paehr wants the employees to fulfil is to free the bird sculpture so that it can be given back to its rightful owner.
The week before, Lübcke assured his support for the total work of art Bürokratrie to the press. To give something back, the artist decided to test the employees’ loyalty to the president.
Object cock is buried under 110 lbs of jelly produced by the executor. Together with gourmet chief A. Lilleson, he asks the employees to eat a portion of the delicious green essence. „I met a lot of open-minded staff members“, reports the executor. He states that especially the women supported their superior selflessly.
The total work of art receives a present once again. This time it is a poster of beer.
The president’s wish to have creative co-workers is fulfilled in the veterinary inspection office which had before been very repellent against the total work of art. In a way reminiscent of the Gallic village of Asterix, the veterinarians see their department as key to a rebellion against the artists’ occupation of the building.
Some employees refuse to support their president, which might stem from political tensions in the house between supporters of the CDU and SPD, Germany’s most influential parties. Unfortunately, object cock cannot be released.
Because the [openly obtainable] address of the president is used in the video of the cock-kidnapping, the council seeks to put pressure on the artist by prompting the art school principal to force his student to delete the video.
To support this claim, it is being argued that the action lacks quality in comparison to the very good and ‘subtle’ fashion of its mother project. A. Werner and J. Lohrengel film a leading employee addressing the violence against the council staff, drawing the metaphor of firebombs in the foreigner department. I. Paehr publishes a statement that the activist video is not meant to provoke violence against anyone.
The sixth week’s task is to fill out an application form for the end of this year’s interventions.
Additionally, a processing fee of 5 Euros is charged.
Because the employees are discovered to have a critical attempt towards processing fees, I. Paehr offers to spend all fees to Pro Asyl. Four employees sign the papers, making a donation total of 20 Euros. The employees can also apply for the cock to be given back to the president, but only one of the four employees does.
Following the controversy of last week, the president announces that after 14 years, cooperation with the school of art and design Kassel will stop if the video of the cock-kidnapping is not being removed.
As a final demonstration of the power of arts, the executor and an activist team lock up the main entrance of the council building.
That too much time was wasted on art during the last weeks was among the more favorable criticisms brought up by citizens and employees. The artists respect the execution of German law in the building and want to give back the stolen time to the enthusiastic employees.
Finally, the staff breaks free from art in an act of self-liberation: The maintenance supervisor cuts off the metal chains with a bolt cutter.
artist: I. Paehr, firstname.lastname@example.org
executor: A. Werner
photography: J. Lohrengel
film and sound: K. Bannat, S. Güler, L. Mueller, F.
activists president: A. Nikolic
activists: H. Drescher, L. Matthes, A. Lilleson
english editing: P. Gluth