warehouse warehouse

She drives. And she who is being driven.

by Miriam Jakob

When I was a child we used to visit my grandmother at the weekends. She lived near Rosenheim, a one hour drive by car from our home. To avoid the highway my father usually took smaller roads that lead through beautiful bavarian landscapes with their little villages and onion domes. In the back seat I let this landsape pass by like a picture book with every house, farm, church, restaurant and petrol station that I knew by heart. Later, as I grew up, it felt like the car was driving me and not the other way around.

We always passed by these mysterious white mushrooms. Big white balls that lay like huge golf balls in the meadow, hard white on lush green. Backed by the panorama of the Alps, the balls morphed perfectly in their surroundings and yet radiated innocence and mysteriousness. Sometimes the odour of slurry gave the pretense of a natural peaceful environment. The white balls had such a great impact on me that I almost felt a magnetic power of attraction towards them. I was wondering what was happening inside them and what they sounded like from close distance.

I felt that their harmless aura was a fallacy. When I asked my father about the balls I could only understand that it had something to do with “the Americans”. There was a gap of information, I never fully understood its meaning. I speculated all kinds of things, but it definitely must have had to do with trying to get in contact with aliens – with something that was beyond our imagination.

On our return mostly in darkness while my brother was playing Nintendo Super Mario Land and my parents were discussing the conversations they had had with my aunt and my uncle, all I was waiting for was to pass by the white balls and receive their mysterious vibes.

Many years later in 2012 I shot a Super 8 film close to the white balls. The kind of holiday amateur films for capturing through moving images the most relevant moments, landmarks and objects of interests that were mainly used in the 60s and 70s before they were replaced by video in the 80s. I inherited the complete Super 8 equipment of my uncle, consisting of a projector, a viewer and a cutting machine including an adhesive for splicing filmstrips.

Apparently without purpose, there they were still laying like white golf balls in the meadow – archeological evidence for the future of the past.

They were my personal touristic attraction.

That they were of historical significance just at the time I was having my picknick in front of them became evident a year later when Edward Snowden´s leaks were published, revealing that the NSA still has a presence at Bad Aibling supported by the BND (German intelligence agency), which is still used as a monitory station.

In 2014, one year after the news – the white balls were the cover photo of several daily newspapers – I was working on a new piece called „Travelling to the four corners of the Earth“ with the two performers Maija Karhunen and Nir Vidan.

Knowing what their mission was today, I re-visited the white balls together with Maija and Nir to perform our personal revolt. We approached them until we were standing in front of the fence with a sign that indicated the facility as a military security area: “Caution, firearms use!” I touched the fence, but when I saw an actual armed soldier looking towards us I withdrew. At this close distance we realized the balls were emitting an audible noise. As if the data targeted by the electronic eavesdropping were actually making noise. But it was only the air that is constantly blown into the white protective covers to keep them tight against wind and weather.

While standing there I was wondering where all the data would be stored. And thinking how my uncle ( with the Super 8 camera) used to store his books in a big wall cupboard. His whole living room was an archive of books about his former “Heimat”, the so called Sudetenland. He always got very nostalgic when he was talking about it in his house in Leinfelden- Echterdingen. I couldn´t feel empathy for him. The way he would bathe in nostalgic memories was unbearable. It was as if he was stuck in time, his memory overshadowed the present.

When Maija, Nir and I revisited the white balls as close as was possible, I did not complain that my childhood dream had burst. The white balls were in contact with aliens, they were spying on us, filtering out informations about our daily life in emails, phone calls- immeasurable data streams for specific information. When Edward Snowden transferred the documents to journalists in 2013 he told them that he knew he was facing a life sentence. He accepted that. But he was afraid of something completely different: that his revelations would not change anything. That people would not change their behavior. That he had risked his freedom for nothing.

The work of Berlin-based ethnographer and choreographer Miriam Jakob is situated at the interface of social science and fiction, in which she transforms anthropological subjects into performative poetic material. Her body of work includes the Solo-Performance Friday 1.23.15 [sic] “as usual, sorry that I do not always…” (2012) and the Ensemble piece Travelling to the Four Corners of the Earth (2014) She has collaborated with deufert&plischke, Ana Laura lozza, Martin Nachbar and Angela Schanelec and many others. Beside her MA in anthropology (2010), she graduated from the Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin in 2013. Currently she is doing her Master at DAS Choreography, Amsterdam and researches on animal representation and inter-species performative exchange.