It seems that Thomas Bellinck’s dark projections about when the European Union will meet its demise may have been just a fraction off. The theatre director is best known internationally for his work House of European History in Exile, a museum space constructed in a decrepit building in Brussels in 2013. The museum, toying with the division between fact and fiction, examined the crises faced by the continent by positioning itself in an imaginary future in which the European Project had collapsed; the consequence of recession, separatism, and rising nationalism. In Bellinck’s playful rendition, however, Project Europe survived until 2018.1 While the European Union’s political and economic alliance will seemingly continue, the choice made by the slim majority of those that voted in the UK’s referendum on the 24th of June to leave has wide-ranging, unpredictable ramifications for the project as a whole.
Continuing his captivation with the ways in which individuals are bound to political and historical abstractions, Bellinck’s play Memento Park (2015) satirised the centenary celebrations of the ‘Great War’ conducted in Flanders.2 The tinny "Ode to Joy" soundtrack which plays over Memento Park’s trailer nods to the European Project, and is infused with a heavy sense of failure. A cruel twist sees the animated bird flying towards the balloon itself explode, thus bringing the music and its implicit European triumphalism to a sticky end. In this piece, I will use the animated aesthetic of Bellinck’s clip, which was created by Matthias Ruelle, as a starting point to consider what kind of dormant political sentiments and populations have been vitalised by the EU referendum in Britain, and to speculate on the effects that it has on the soul, the vital principle, the anima, of the European Union.
stay in the shadows
cheer at the gallows
this is a round up.
– Radiohead, "Burn the Witch", A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016.
The animated form, perhaps by virtue of its association with childhood alone, calls to mind a pronounced nostalgia. Here, I wish to examine this phenomenon further in relation to our current political situation by looking at the clunky, kitsch aesthetic of the trailer for Bellinck’s production in relation to another piece of animated art which directly responds to the contemporary political zeitgeist, the video for Radiohead’s track "Burn the Witch" which was released earlier this year. Before delving into the aesthetic resonance between these visual responses which observe the failure of larger political collectivities, it is worth mediating upon the significance of animation as a clear temporal and generational marker. As Vivian Sobchack contends, animated film’s aesthetic is very much determined by the technological proficiency of the time in which it was produced.3 Thus animation, perhaps even more so than other forms of visual art, is increasingly receptive to what Sobchack describes as "generational modes of perception and cognition".4 This is made particularly clear by the tactics of the animation studio Pixar, who in their effort to reach a transgenerational audience, invoke both hand-drawn and digital animation aesthetics.5
The Memento Park trailer can thus be seen to manipulate the temporal hyper-sensitivity of the animated form in various ways. In the film promoting Bellinck’s production, the bird’s glazed, unmoving expression, combined with the poor quality of the film evokes a bygone, analogue era. The bird’s dramatic explosion, complete with blood-splatter, is accompanied by the whistling of feedback which meets the abrupt end of "Ode to Joy". The crisp quality of the play’s title which then appears, brings us back to a digitized present. The bird’s obliviousness, its ignorant peacefulness is thus associated with the past. By using a form of violence, albeit comical, to interrupt the European anthem against this obsolete animated aesthetic, the video can be used as a microcosmic reading of Bellinck’s vision that Europe will return to a continent defined by brutal national feuding, that the postwar period of cooperation and peace was a temporary historical blip.6
While the Memento Park trailer juxtaposes the antiquated and contemporary in order to stress the outdated nature of the vision of European unity that the bird’s whistling signifies, the video for "Burn the Witch" draws this phenomenon out to greater effect. Directed by Chris Hopewell, the video employs the stop-motion animation style of Bob Bura and John Hardwick. As creators of the "Trumptonshire" series of the late 1960s, Bura and Hardwick portrayed a bucolic, fundamentally English view of village life.7 The similarities drawn between Trumpton’s fantastical rendition of small-town living and the constrained and xenophobic vision of Britain promoted by the UK Independence Party have been noted by Marc Hogan, who gracefully dissected "Burn the Witch" in Pitchfork.8 Using Bura and Hardwick’s style of animation, "Burn the Witch" scratches away at the pastoral idyll to reveal the sordid underbelly of UKIP’s vision. The film depicts a government official coming to the Trumpton-like space, only to witness a series of horrendous events which draw attention to the realities of the hard right’s sexist and xenophobic positions – the ritual burning of virgins, the painting of red crosses on doors to mark out those not accepted within the community, the huddling of dehumanized fruit-pickers. "Burn the Witch" references the 1973 horror cult classic of The Wicker Man, and "plays as a pointed critique of nativism-embracing leaders across the UK and Europe."9
In the wake of the referendum, however, Radiohead’s adoption of the Trumpton aesthetic has become infused with a more pertinent meaning. Firstly it can be read as a commentary on the separation between rural and cosmopolitan areas which was made manifest by the vote, where more densely populated cities solidly voted to remain within the European Union.10 The referendum was also marked by splits between the young and the old, significant perhaps, when we think about the animated genre’s sensitivity to generational divisions. A survey by Lord Ashcroft has suggested that the older the voter, the more likely they were to vote to leave the EU.11 The exact reasoning behind these votes is difficult to ascertain. Yet the Leave campaign was driven predominantly by fears about the way in which migration from both the EU and further afield was changing the constitution of English society. The haunting refrain of "We Want Our Country Back," the rhetoric used by those that wanted to break with Europe was mired in "a toxic swamp of postcolonial nostalgia, xenophobia, and general disaffection".12 The lyrics of the song, the opening of which begins this section, echo this oratory. Radiohead’s utilization of the Trumptonshire aesthetic becomes uncannily resonant when viewed in relation to an older generation of voters’ desire to return to an imagined community like Trumpton, one untouched by any signs – be it people or products – from our interconnected and globalized world. This version of society simultaneously eradicates the transnational exploitation of goods and people which is a result of Britain’s imperial past and perpetuates the perspective that immigration, as opposed to a steady decline in localized industry brought on by the expansion of neoliberalism and the current Conservative government’s economic austerity, has caused the transformation and material deterioration of British society.13
In contrasting the quaint stop-animation style with the familiar sounds of xenophobic discourse through the "Burn the Witches" lyrics, Radiohead and Chris Hopewell call attention to the fallacy of Trumpton as an English idyll – using the aesthetic of nostalgia to call into question whether this place, this version of nation or home or nostos, has ever existed. The fact that within the discourse of the British far right, this imaginary Britain is being venerated brings us back to Bellinck. When asked about his decision to frame Memento Park around the commemoration of the Great War, Bellinck responded "a commemoration is never neutral. It is always about history and how we rewrite it. It always means selection and interpretation."14 Viewing these two pieces together gives us pause to reflect on how specific versions of the past have also been re-animated with grave effect within contemporary political rhetoric.
My vote, I didn’t think was going to matter too much
– Adam from Manchester, BBC News, June 24, 2016.
Adam’s soundbite, characterized by his incredulity that his vote to leave the European Union mattered, was picked up by both national and international news outlets from the BBC’s coverage the morning following the referendum. In the brief segment, Adam offers his concern about Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation, commenting "I think the period of uncertainty that we’re going to have for the next couple of months, that’s just been magnified now. So yeah, quite worried."15 The Slot, the political branch of American feminist site Jezebel, quipped that the clip showed "a man finding out live and in real time that voting is not theoretical."16 And yet, while Adam’s plight is both baffling and frustrating, especially from an international perspective – it is symptomatic of the entrenched and unmoving nature of Britain’s democracy. The First Past the Post system, in which voters are collected as part of a constituency and a single Member of Parliament is elected, ensures that often individuals do not directly see their vote represented within Parliament. Thus, Adam’s contention that he didn’t think his vote "was going to matter too much" is indicative of the disorientating shift that occurred during the referendum whereby votes and their effects were vital. To push this notion of anima further, I wish to use Memento Park’s trailer, and particularly it’s curious pairing of the balloon and the bird, in order to suggest how populations and sentiments previously rendered inanimate within the British political system were revived by the Referendum.
Mel Y. Chen’s reading of the concept of animacy is helpful for unpicking the central tenants of this discussion. Chen contends that whether we culturally perceive something (whether animal, human, the living or the dead) as animate is inflected by biopolitical and hierarchical distinctions between which existences matter.17 Drawing on her background as a linguist, Chen draws our attention to the animacy hierarchy, "which conceptually arranges human life, disabled life, animal life, plant life, and forms of nonliving matter in orders of value and priority."18 Thinking about producing and policing the boundaries between the animate and inanimate is therefore not neutral, but rather shaped by discourses such as race, sexuality and class.19 Memento Park’s trailer can be seen to offer an interesting commentary on the animacy hierarchy. At the opening of the trailer, the bird warbling the European anthem, seems to possess the most agency – the logical outcome is that it pops the balloon with its outstretched beak.20 Yet it is the bird which explodes. The balloon, an object lower on the animacy scale, remains.
If we extrapolate this scenario out into the context of the European referendum, we can perceive how the aspirations of the European societal elites have been outlasted and flummoxed by the balloons, those previously treated as politically inactive, held up by hot air. The areas in the UK that voted to leave the European Union generally had fewer formal qualifications, had a lower median household income, and were not ethnically diverse.21 It is essential here to resist the narrative of ‘white victimhood’, which Akwugo Emejulu identifies as one of the unstated campaign strategies of the Leave campaign, whereby the ‘working class’ (as she notes, always presumed to be white), are merely reacting to the ‘burden’ of mass immigration.22 Instead, we must observe how this narrative fundamentally obscures the means by which those that voted for Leave have often been rendered politically and socially inanimate; collateral in the ongoing process of shrinking and privatizing the state, symbols of a dysfunctional democratic system.
Reading the trailer to Memento Park in relation to the European Union’s current crisis, the UK electing to leave it, demonstrates the extent to which its animating principle of co-operation across national borders has failed. This seems particularly pertinent when looking at how the platform of the referendum came to be dominated by questions of migration, and its effects on meanings of Britishness. Bellinck’s whistling, oblivious bird underlines the vulnerability of the European Union against new vitalized forms of poisonous nationalism.
from PIL import Image as Oh_Lord_could_you_and_I_with_faith_conspire
from random import shuffle as and_remould_it
sorry_scheme_of_things_entire = conspire.open(‘europeanflag.jpg’)
width, height = sorry_scheme_of_things_entire.size
itsy = width / bit
bitsy = height / bit
bit = 1
shattered_to_bits = [(it*(bit), sy*bit, (it+bit)*(bit), (sy+bit)*bit) for
it in xrange(itsy) for sy in xrange(bitsy)]
bits = list(shattered_to_bits)
remould = conspire.new(sorry_scheme_of_things_entire.mode, (width, height))
for itsy, bitsy in zip(shattered_to_bits, bits):
scheme_of_things_entire = sorry_scheme_of_things_entire.crop(bitsy)
Where has this dove flown in from? He seems to me at first to be a cartoon re-imagining of Picasso’s dove, both a symbol of peace and of the international Left in the Cold War. But perhaps he arrives from a more distant past, as a symbol of hope from that Judeo-Christian myth of the flood, bearing news of a new land to Noah. He seems like a cheerful little guy. He flaps through a blue sky, and even that one obstacle that presents itself to him – a mere balloon! – could be exploded with one peck of his beak.
At this moment, as I write only a week after the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the question of hope could not be more acute. Those who voted for our country to remain within the EU, whose life projects and values are bound up with that political project, for all of its many and obvious flaws, have been experiencing something like a state of bereavement, in which even moments of happiness are inflected with a sense of catastrophe, compounded by the insult of the victors (if they truly are the victors) raising their glasses over the beloved corpse.
Perhaps we (the 48% who voted to stay) were unhealthily cathected to this flawed love object, the European project; certainly, this period of grief will give way to a melancholic acceptance in time, as is the way with all such losses. With the political system in chaos, however, and with the centre Left seemingly unable to harness the anger of those who feel betrayed and dismayed by these events, foolishly brought about by a Prime Minister apparently more interested in finding coping mechanisms for an internal civil war in his own party than in the good of the country he was supposed to be governing, what we are short on is hope.
Not so those who voted to leave the European Union. It is all too easy to dismiss their verdict on European integration as the judgement of dupes, ignoramuses and xenophobes. Certainly, the spike in hate crimes against all kinds of groups deemed not sufficiently ‘English’ in the eyes of their aggressors in the last week suggests that the EU vote has become a lightning rod for the ugliest of passions. And yet, when I watch a BBC interviewer speaking to a woman in one of the most deprived towns in the north of England and see that she is nearly in tears as she describes her elation at the vote to leave, I cannot help but ask what hope has become in the context of this referendum debate.
Chantal Mouffe has contended that the consensual politics of post-Cold War Europe has abandoned political passions to the populist Right. The centre Left has sought to mitigate the consequences of neo-liberal economics in the context of globalisation, without actually proposing an alternative to that model. In Tony Blair’s (and then in David Cameron’s) Britain, the state has become a provider of supposedly enhanced opportunities, but no longer of social justice. Accepting its defeat in the face of global competitive forces, the best the state can offer its population is the promise that it can make them fit for that competition, to put them in a position to prevail against all the rest. The reality on the ground looks very different: those opportunities are clearly not provided on anything like an equal basis, and social mobility, such as it was, has stalled as a consequence. To give only the example of education: the best publicly-funded schools can choose their own students, not infrequently seeking to re-draw the boundaries of their intake so as to exclude the less ‘desirable’ neighbourhoods, while middle-class parents pay exorbitant prices for houses in the areas that will give their children a shot at one of the coveted ‘academies’; close to where I live, in one of my town’s most deprived areas, an excellent school takes a tiny percentage of students from the surrounding streets, preferring those more ‘talented’ children bussed in from the leafy suburbs.
In areas of the country hit by de-industrialisation since the 1980s, a few individuals manage to grasp the fabled opportunities the system affords them and leave their communities, but often at the price of a debt of tens of thousands of pounds to pay for their university tuition fees. Where ‘regeneration’ does happen, leisure takes centre stage. The old factories become shopping ‘experiences’ or museums. People serve each other endless cups of coffee at the minimum wage. And yet, we are all supposed to be entrepreneurial individuals, seizing the few opportunities still to be had. If we fail, surely we only have ourselves to blame? After all, as Jacques Rancière has repeatedly pointed out, we are told that there is no alternative, this is the new way of the world, and any attempt to change that world is doomed to failure: nobody would vote for it, in any case.
Hope in the political sense is, however, the belief that things could change, that a sense of faith in the future, of the freedom to collectively choose a different kind of future, is possible. Populist politicians understand this well. Both the unashamed populism of the United Kingdom Independence Party and the strategic populism of that wing of the Conservative Party that drove the leave campaign sought to offer the usual quick fixes: get rid of the immigrants and there will be more jobs and better lives for us all! Our country is great, but oppressed by malign outside forces, who steal our money and curtail our freedom! The unabashed mobilisation of such noxious clichés, whose associations with European fascism were sometimes shockingly hard to overlook during the referendum campaign, is perhaps beside the point. What was on offer here, however unpalatable it may seem to those of us among the 48%, was hope. Hope that things could change and that people collectively had it in their power to make that change.
The leave campaign gave a significant number of people back the possibility of political passion: the passion of hope. We may observe that this hope was invested in a nostalgic longing for a country that never truly existed, but which somehow had to be reclaimed (‘We want our country back!’), yet is this not in itself a symptom of that desire that Ernst Bloch described as the utopian longing for Heimat, that land of content where nobody has ever been, but which everyone wants to recover? Our dove may be flying from right to left, against the wind of so-called progress (as Walter Benjamin would have it) and into the past, but that does not mean to say that there are not potentially progressive desires, or desires that could not find progressive expression, in this apparently regressive movement.
And yet, this hope will be betrayed. Already since the vote, leading figures in the leave campaign have sought to row back from key promises. Access to the single market may well mean that the UK (or what is left of it once Scotland and Northern Ireland are gone) has to accept freedom of movement. There is no guarantee that the money allegedly to be saved when we are no longer an EU member state will be spent on helping those people who feel left behind. If the UK remains in the single market, much hated regulation will remain, although it has to be said that I spoke with no leave voter who could accurately name a piece of ‘red tape’ that specifically affected their lives. What mattered to them (or, at least, to many of them) was more freedom, more opportunity, in short a positive change in their own lives that could be achieved through a collective expression of will. And this is precisely what they will not get.
What they will get instead, as is becoming increasingly clear, is a pumped-up neo-liberalism, cheered on by libertarian ideologues, who equate the war of all against all with kind of liberating ‘freedom’. Always aware that their campaign promises were likely to be unachievable, but that their true agenda would be unpalatable, the kind of sovereignty they truly sought to restore to the United Kingdom was the sovereignty to reject what is left of the ‘social Europe’ of the Maastricht era, its workers’ rights, its environmental protections, its weak attempts to impose restraint on a rapacious financial sector and the tax ‘efficiencies’ of international corporations, its promise of mobility and cosmopolitan citizenship. The question, of course, is whether this new ‘freedom’ will serve the interests of those who so passionately committed themselves to the hope offered to them by Brexiters in the referendum campaign. This seems unlikely. They may find themselves, like our hopeful little dove, destroyed not so much by the obstacle they believed they would so easily overcome, but rather by hope itself. Like Hegel’s cunning reason, this hope betrays its passionate bearer. The referendum result has emboldened the neo-liberal Right as never before, and we can have no doubt that it will seek to use the UK’s eventual settlement with the EU to further its agenda.
This experience is of a piece with our wider political experience in modernity. After the totalitarian projects of the 20th century, which equally harnessed the passions of the populace to their destructive (not to say murderous) utopias, neo-liberalism offers another vision of a perfect world, in this case a world of individuals and nations ‘free’ to compete against each other. Its cheerleaders do not shrink from dismissing those who challenge this hegemony as representatives of ‘right-thinking elites’, ‘out-of-touch intellectuals’ who do not understand the will of the common people, even as they turn that will against the interests of those people. In this way, passionate hope is degraded to serve the interests of the already-powerful.
Is another kind of hope possible? Not just in the midst of the UK’s current political crisis, but in the years that have led up to this moment, I have been pre-occupied with Günter Grass’ novel, From the Diary of a Snail (1972), his account of the West German general election campaign of 1969. This is a novel I regularly discuss with my students. For all of the apparent impenetrability of the text, which is (like so much of Grass’ writing) slant, kaleidoscopic and phantasmagorical, and for all of its specificity in relation to a particular point in Germany’s development, it remains for me the work by Grass that escapes a merely historical or aesthetic interest. In it, Grass explores the dialectic between what he defines as melancholy and utopia, that is to say between the belief that nothing can change and the passionate desire to change everything by whatever means possible.
Grass associates the principle of utopia with the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century, of which he had direct experience, but also with the passions of the West German student movement and the Marxist-inspired grouplets that emerged from it. Their demand for immediate and radical change, their frustration with the stubborn conditions of the present, and their violent anger at those they held responsible, or who dared to challenge their views, represent for Grass the danger of a slide back into extremism. And yet, without the passion for change, without hope that the world could be made in a different way, we are bound to sink into inaction, into an acceptance of the status quo that would equally release self-destructive feelings. For Grass, melancholia and utopia, hope and despair, must be held in the balance. Progress is slow, passionate hope is always disappointed in the short term, but must somehow be kept alive. Populism short-circuits this dialectic, telling us that hope can be satisfied tomorrow, in one fell swoop. Democratic politics has hope in the long haul. But who is in the market for that kind of hope in the UK, and indeed in the EU as a whole, today?
The challenge for those opposed to the neo-liberal hegemony now reinforced by the Brexit vote is to find a way to allow those who voted to leave the EU, and others similarly enticed by populism in their own countries, to find a way to hope for change, and to passionately commit to that change, without that hope being turned against its bearers.
Es gibt einen naheliegenden Impuls, den 23. Juni 2016 zu einem Ereignis in der Geschichte Europas auszurufen. Mit anderen Worten, zu einem Vorgang, der etwas noch nicht Dagewesenes hervorbringt, eine Revolution, einen Epochenbruch.1 Die Titelblätter der Tageszeitungen Europas in den letzten Tagen vermitteln einen lebhaften Eindruck von diesem Impuls. Der Ausgang des Referendums in Großbritannien mit dem Entschluss, die Europäische Union zu verlassen, erscheint leicht als Anfang vom Ende Europas als politischem Projekt. Ob das Datum sich als ein Ereignis in die Geschichte Europas einschreiben wird, bleibt freilich abzuwarten. Von epochalen Einschnitten und revolutionären Ereignissen ist schnell die Rede; sei es, weil dies der kurzatmigen Logik der massenmedialen Berichterstattung folgt, sei es, weil es diese oder jene politische Perspektive begünstigt. Vom Ende Europas sprechen heutzutage jedenfalls nicht zuletzt diejenigen, die genau dieses herbeiwünschen – wie etwa Nigel Farage von der UKIP, der in einer hollywoodreif pathetischen Geste umgehend einen britischen „Independence Day“ ausrief.2
Vergessen wir nicht, dass die Evokation vom Ende Europas ein traditionsreicher Diskurs ist. Ein ebenso aktueller wie überkommener Diskurs beschreibt, wie Jacques Derrida ausführt, dass „Europa sich am Horizont selber erkennt, also von seinem nahenden Ende her betrachtet (auf griechisch meint Horizont die Grenze).“3 Europa ist, mit anderen Worten, strukturell immer schon – geographisch und temporal – am Ende angekommen, dort liegt in gewisser Weise sein eigentlicher Ort. Aus diesem Grund ist es zu früh, das endgültige Ende Europas – und sei es auch nur das Ende des politischen Projekts eines vereinigten Europas – auszurufen. Ob das Referendum vom Juni 2016 den Austritt Großbritanniens aus der Union bedeutet, ist zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt ebenso unsicher wie die Frage, ob womöglich weitere Referenden in anderen Mitgliedsländern folgen oder ob die Union möglicherweise sogar vom Austritt Großbritanniens profitieren kann, weil nun eine Vertiefung der politischen Union ohne das ständig drohende Veto der britischen Stimme möglich erscheint.
Nichtsdestotrotz wird durch das britische Referendum ein kritischer Moment in der Entwicklung der Europäischen Union markiert. Über diese Krise kann aus verschiedenen Perspektiven gesprochen werden. Aus kulturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive interessieren weniger politische Institutionen oder Repräsentanten, sondern womöglich eher die Art und Weise, wie von Europa gesprochen wird und welche Bilder es repräsentiert. Diese Frage ist längst Teil der politischen Diskurse geworden: Es gehört zu den Gemeinplätzen der Kommentare über die Krise Europas, dass Europa eine „gemeinsame Erzählung" fehle. „Mythen konstituieren einen gemeinsamen Verständigungszusammenhang, der für das Funktionieren von Demokratien unabdingbar ist“, argumentiert der Politikwissenschaftler Herfried Münkler: „[H]ier lassen sich die Folgen eines fehlenden Mythos am Beispiel der EU zeigen: Sie tritt immer wieder als kalte Maschinerie in Erscheinung, die zwar funktioniert, aber nicht erklären kann, warum es wichtig ist, dass sie funktioniert.“4 Eine ähnliche Perspektive formuliert der Schriftsteller Charles Lewinsky: „Europa, und das steht seiner Einigung im Weg, hat viele Erzählungen, aber keine gemeinsame Erzählung. Das ist ein emotionaler Mangel, den auch das hundertste Treffen von Staats- und Regierungschefs nicht wettmachen kann.“5 Es leuchtet jedoch ein, dass die Symbolik der Europäischen Union keine Fortsetzung der nationalistischen und patriotischen Traditionen sein darf, gegen die sie gegründet wurde.6 Dies erklärt zumindest den Schwierigkeitsgrad der Suche nach angemessener Repräsentation.
Ein Mangel an symbolischer Energie prägt entsprechend die offizielle Repräsentation der Europäischen Union. 1985 akzeptierten die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU eine Melodie aus Beethovens Neunter Symphonie – die eine Vertonung von Schillers „Ode an die Freude“ darstellt – als Hymne der Union, allerdings in einer rein instrumentalen Version, da es wohl unmöglich erschien, sich auf eine Sprache zu einigen.7 Der gleiche Zwang zur Abstraktion zeigt sich auf den Euro-Banknoten. Diese stellen „wechselnde technische Zeichnungen von Brücken, Toren und Fenstern" dar – bildrhetorisch einfach zu entschlüsselnde Verweise auf „offene Grenzen und neue Verbindungen“.8 Damit kein Mitgliedsland der Eurozone „symbolpolitisch brüskiert wird“,9 ist jedoch keine tatsächliche Brücke und kein reales Tor dargestellt: Es handelt sich um rein abstrakte Konstruktionen, die noch in der offiziellen Symbolik den Kompromisscharakter ihrer Genese offenbaren.
Der Trailer zu Memento Park (Thomas Bellinck / Steigeisen & KVS) lässt sich unschwer als eine Reflexion über die Problematik der symbolischen Repräsentation Europas und der damit verbundenen Krise der Europäischen Union verstehen.10 Es ertönen die Klänge der europäischen Hymne, und vor dem Hintergrund eines blauen Himmels – der symbolisch ebenso in der Flagge der EU repräsentiert wird11 – sehen wir einen weißen Vogel, der als Friedenstaube erscheinen mag und daran erinnert, dass die EU sich selbst als die Garantin des Friedens in Europa seit 1945 versteht. Der Vogel begegnet einem Luftballon – eine Allegorie zugleich auf das Motiv der Feier und des Fests, zugleich jedoch auf die Fragilität. Am Ende ist es jedoch nicht der Ballon, sondern der Vogel, der zerplatzt oder verpufft: Der europäische Traum selbst scheint sich restlos aufzulösen. Diese symbolische Szenerie ist vage und unbefriedigend: Wir sehen nicht, warum der Vogel platzt oder welche Kräfte – von außen oder innen – auf ihn eingewirkt haben mögen. Exakt in dieser Vagheit jedoch kommentiert der Clip die symbolische Armut des Sprechens über Europa heute.
Eine vorzeigbare Symbolik von Europa haben im Moment eigentlich nur die Feinde Europas. „Abendland“ ist die phantasmatische Kampfparole, mit der Nationalisten, Rassisten und Faschisten nach wie vor wöchentlich durch deutsche Städte – und vor allem durch Dresden – ziehen: Das existierende Europa ist damit ebenso wenig gemeint wie die Europäische Union. Aus kulturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive ist das Sprechen über Europa demgemäß beherrscht von symbolischer Unangemessenheit einerseits und Verlogenheit andererseits. Beides zusammen gestaltet die schwierige Situation Europas heute.