Donnerstag, Horst Janssen, 1975

NORDSEEKRABBEN

or: How to fight right-wing populism?


Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

Nordseekrabben
is the title of a satirical story by Bertolt Brecht, in which the clinical and aesthetically harmonious atmosphere of a Bauhaus apartment provokes destructive energies in one of its visitors. “Der dicke Müller” is a humorous macho who drinks too much, loves cosiness and – as a consequence of his lost years in the muddy trenches of WWI – has some trouble with discipline and authority. He is the antithesis of the rational and self-controlled middle-class owner of the apartment (the engineer Kampert), whose war trauma in the same muddy trenches needs to be compensated by spick-and-span walls, floors and ceilings.

Nodseekrabben
mysteriously signal the catastrophe of Müller’s devastation of the modernist apartment (“Und jetzt ist es eine Wohnung!”). Müller’s appetite for North Sea shrimps stands for his desire for everything chaotic, irrational, unsuitable, inappropriate and illogical. Eating shrimps on top of the piano, Müller doesn’t care for reason or good manners, for the thin varnish of civilization or at least for a tepid consensus – let alone for architecture. But: he has a plan.

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NORDSEEKRABBEN

or: How to fight right-wing populism?


Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

Nordseekrabben
might serve as a neutral substitute for the ambiguous battlefield of Kulturkritik, which recently seems to have been refreshed by the increasing power of right-wing populism. The US elections and the presidential elections in Austria, with the accompanying debates around hate postings, post-truth politics, racism and the “pussy generation” (Clint Eastwood), are alarming. However, unlike in the 1920s and 1930s (when Brecht wrote his story), the angry white men seem to be attacking not so much the modernist and rationalist culture of universal standards, but rather postmodernist (or late-modernist) cultural pluralism, which to them is mainly represented by policies of political correctness and gender. What kind of “culture clash” is this? And what is architecture’s role in it? Is it simply embedded in neoliberal economics, globalization, the automation of labour and EU bureaucracy? Or have architects themselves opened the box of shrimps by asking for the uncontrollable and the unforeseeable, for spirituality, for irrationalism, for being anachronistic? Who else let the postmodern “trench pig” loose in the Bauhaus apartment?

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NORDSEEKRABBEN

or: How to fight right-wing populism?


Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

Nordseekrabben
remind us that answers to these questions are far from simple, and that numerous authors hold different views. Nevertheless, it is crucial for a lucid contemporary diagnosis to look carefully at the thoughts and products of cultural criticism of the past 100 years. El sueño de la razón produce monstruos.

Nordseekrabben
also reminds us that Brecht wrote a satire – a good antidote to the ideology of oversimplification.

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