DIE GUILLOTINE

“Die Guillotine“ - An experiment by the artists Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne.

Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne, master students at the Berlin University of Arts have built an execution instrument and started a public vote concerning the killing of a sheep to assess and represent the current state of our democracy. The construction of the machine and the literature surrounding the life or death of the sheep was already met with resistance at the University whilst still in its planning stage.

Iman Rezai, who grew up in the wartorn Iran of the 80s & 90s, creates glowing colour elements juxtaposed with weapons and playstations. Rouven Materne uses raw materials such as wood, nails and metal in his works. Using lead and heat in these objects he tells stories of pain and the search for truth whilst putting history into the present context. Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne share a studio at the University.

"In order to determine the future, you have to connect the past with the now." - Iman Rezai and Rouven Materne speak of power and dis-empowerment, death, weapons, perpetrators and victims. They provide an impartial fascination with the handling of weapons and killing tools, unexplained, like the joy of a young boy dressed as a cowboy, locked in an imaginary gunfight. "What needs to be done, will be dictated to you by the art of your subconsciousness", says Rouven Materne. "I have a duty, this must be done, there is no more room for why? or what for?" adds Iman Rezai. The thoughts of the artists that accompanied the construction of the guillotine can be seen in the video documentary which also shows the sheep for which a public vote will decide possible future decapitation. In this way, just as they treat art as a reflection of their perception, the artists would like to hold up a mirror to society and practice in their experiment, the guillotine of democracy. The mere intention of building a machine that was capable of killing people was initially met with indignation at the University of Arts however upon completion the project drew many curious onlookers to see the first public viewing.

The guillotine is fully functional, a premise of the artist, and corresponds exactly to the execution machine developed during the French revolution. This was created to eliminate cruel and degrading methods of execution and represent the equal rights demanded by the sedition. It has standard dimensions: 3.20m height, 1.50m width, 1.50m depth and the predominantly wooden construction carries a blade that weighs approximately 40kg. The only new feature is the bright colours it was painted with. They are reminiscent of pop art and create a happy playful feeling. In this way it appears much less a tool for execution, rather a hazard at a kaleidoscopic fair attracting clientèle with the macabre spectacle of the promise of death.

The vote on the killing of the sheep is accessible to anyone with internet access. At www.die-guillotine.com you have 28 days left to vote on the question, "Should this sheep be killed by the guillotine?"

Die Guillotine press book

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