21 August 2014

Three questions for:
Max Brück

Text: Susanne Heinlein

The first objects that Max Brück built were weapons. In addition to bows and arrows, he also made technical weapons like peashooters and revolver slingshots in his childhood. Now, in his undergraduate research project at this year’s graduation show at the Offenbach University of Art and Design, he managed a shed in which like-minded people had the opportunity to produce the weapons of their childhood. We present the results of the workshop in our series Take a Walk on the War Side in form 255. We also asked Max three questions.


1. Weapons can be found as toys in every child’s playroom and also wield a huge fascination for many people in later years. Why do you think this is?


This question is the key motivation for my project. I see my work as a kind of research project to answer this question. My work is currently at a point at which I can largely only answer this question based on my own childhood experiences but I am able to already draw a few more objective conclusions. I grew up in a village of 900 inhabitants and always played outside a lot. In my father’s workshop I could fashion weapons out of wood and other materials. I was generally interested in handicrafts and would specify this point as being the first motivation for tackling the subject of weaponry. I then played outside with the weapons I had made. We fought little battles, built strongholds and formed teams. It was always very exciting, wild and stirring. And sometimes I was also afraid. Building weapons always felt to me to be something that was forbidden. People looked at us mistrustfully; you could attract attention and release feeling with weapons. As a 10-year old, it is quite something to be able to frighten someone.



2. How have the visitors at the university graduation show reacted to your workshop? What do you say about the results produced?


Some people have completely opposed my way of tackling the topic. I think that my approach was somewhat provocative. The visitors were confronted with the direct experience of producing a child’s toy weapon. I didn’t exhibit any weapons that I had collected but tried to motivate visitors to engage direct with building weapons. Some people were of course shocked but primarily their curiosity was aroused. Many were suddenly reminded of their childhood weapons and could understand my observation of the strong presence of toy weapons in childhood. In my workshop, weapons were fashioned by children and people over sixty years old. Each age group could interpret the subject and particularly older generations who had experienced war at first-hand represented interesting viewpoints which were not always pacifist ones (which I had expected). The results were very different in their complexity but were often reminiscent of the shape of real weapons. There were often conversations on the topic, whereas some people without enquiring about the background went straight to the work bench and started making a weapon. It was particularly interesting when a family with children came into the room. Some children were not allowed by their parents to make a weapon; the opposite example however was a father who spent almost two hours in the workshop with his daughters and designed a mechanically complex weapon with them. In principle, I think it’s wrong to suppress playing with weapons during childhood. My father helped me make weapons and yet, at the same time, I was brought up to be a pacifist. This means that I think I understood from an early age that war is a terrible thing. I went to political exhibitions with my parents and made a poster against the war in Iraq in my fifth year at school. This sounds as if I was a model child but that’s how it was and it was done of my own free will. Parents should not forbid anything but explain things at the same time.


3. How will your project progress in the future? You are interested, for example, in how other cultures deal with toy weapons. Is a trip planned for the weapons workshop?


I can’t see my workshop going on tour at the moment but there will certainly be other projects on this topic in which I can imagine working in other countries. As I have noticed during the graduation show, the topics of “weapons” and “childhood” are very strongly represented in society but not really reflected upon. We spurn tackling the topic direct rather than confronting it. I am interested to know if this attitude is more enlightened in other cultures and whether cultural background has an influence on interaction with weapons in childhood. I have collected old videos on this topic from my own childhood. I had a digital camera with a video function. Together with friends, I shot videos in which we played out little dramas in which weapons were frequently present. I would like to work with these recordings and plan to have a video installation. To do this, I will start to collect similar video material from other people.


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