What is My Precious today? And what does that still have to do with exquisite materials from underground? An exhibition project about local and global mining, its consequences as well as its people and natural conditions.
Nature does not want to be the exclusive possession of a single individual. (Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen)
Mansfeld region 2023. The mining district in the triangle between Eisleben, Sandersleben, and Hettstedt, which was important from the Middle Ages until 1990, was up until recently a place of hard work down in the mines and in the foundries. Now the region is seeking new added values and virtues. It is said that mining shapes people in a special way. Today, 30 years after the abrupt end, what about the afterlife and survival of the old values? What new values have been created?
Mining came and went. It now takes place elsewhere. But not only the profits but also the damages it causes have merely been shifted. How do the living circumstances and environmental conditions at the distant mining sites take shape in comparison to those that prevailed here until 30 years ago?
Toxic modernity. Radiant modernity. Modernity accumulating mountains of waste. In Mansfeld, the heaps have remained as visible signs of the mining industry. They form a new precious treasure: as striking landscape features and monuments of past work, as potential sites of future raw material extraction, and as “laboratories” for the creation of “third natures” that arise from post-industrial conditions and adapt to these extremes.
Gollum’s proverbial “precious,” the “Ring of Power” from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, could be a smartphone today. Like the Ring, every smartphone is made of exquisite ores. Digital modernity also needs Heavy Metal. But who knows this still today? What role do the subterranean and the desire for the precious treasure to be extracted, and what role do imaginations of caves, boreholes, or shafts play for our society and its individuals?
The venue of the Werkleitz Festival is Oberwiederstedt Castle. This is where the early Romantic poet and philosopher Novalis was born. Under his real name, Friedrich von Hardenberg, he worked in the service of the Electoral Saxon mining administration and opened up new mining areas. As the poet Novalis, however, he imagined a nature that resists being objectified by scientific thinking and being valued solely through economic calculation. Does this ambivalent attitude not appear as a typical, early embodiment of the contradictions in which we, as industrial-modern humans, find ourselves to this day?