Catrine Val
The female wisdom

DIARY Dialogue

For years, my works intent primary about the role of women within diverging cultural and political systems. My central idea is the trial of strength between authenticity. Working with humans is the source of all my life elixir. We can be light and playful, fearless and fragile, free just to be. As conceptual photography is at the centre of my work, which is interdisciplinary and interactive;– I use them to investigate complex themes. It is important to hold on to art, for the diversity and knowledge, values, exchange of cultures and the emphasis on the female voice. As a conceptual artist, I´m interested in the genesis of representation. We all try to figure out how we can overcome this kind of world still stand. This deceleration of life will dramatically change our view of the world. We all need creative solutions to the current challenges, which drive positive energy into the world around us. The current cultural vacuum can be filled, and we can demonstrate that we are still active, strong and mostly important thinking positively.

Challenging the Challenge:
Personally I could value this lock down by each week’s excitement for upcoming Friday. This was exactly the quality time with I spend on a DIARY DIALOGUE with my visionary philosopher Sigríður þorgeirsdóttir .
I am infinitely grateful to Sigga, that she always encourages me to keep thinking and acting. Through her I experience the world anew. Learning to be a human. We discuss each week one female position in the spectrum of philosophy. The prelude to my theoretical approach is my longtime companion:

Hannah Arendt

Arendt, a US emigre since 1941, was an oasis in the fevered, dialectical dust of New York – migrating from the old world to the new, between politics and philosophy, Zionism and Judaism, Heidegger and Kant.

Hannah Arendt has shed light on the darkest German past, and her work continues to be relevant. Arendt’s escape from Europe during world war II and the destruction of European Jewry shaped her world view. The implications of these events for modern conceptions of freedom and the relationship between theory and praxis were among the themes she addressed. She became a big star in the United States, and always an attentive chronicler of the reconstruction of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Zwischen den Fronten
Today Arendt is best known for her analysis of Nazism.  She was among the first writers to provide a systematic critique of totalitarianism.  But her claim to fame as a public intellectual arose from her coverage of the Eichman trial in which she coined the phrase the ‘banality of evil’.  Unfortunately, the controversies surrounding her book ‘Eichman in Jerusalem’, fuelled by her pithy phraseology, have overshadowed the wider body of work on ethics, politics, religion and culture.  I believe that careful study of Arendt’s oeuvre offers valuable guidance in our troubled times.

Lessons from Arendt
In the 21st century age of electronics open society is threatened by the growing power of governments and corporations to monitor and influence the public, alarmingly often with their own consent.  Hannah’s contention the each of us is unique and possess their own free will offers a way to resist these alarming trends. Arendt’s predilection for critical thinking and rational inquiry to explain the world, rather than ideology, make her work timeless.

What interested Arendt was not so much the difference between “public” and “private” but rather between politics and society.  Her willingness to prioritise the political over the social can sometimes be difficult but it is fundamental to her philosophy. Arendt provides confidence and comfort in the struggles of our daily life. Her conviction that even when times are at their darkest, we have the right to some illumination, and that it should be self-driven, is a guiding principle for me.  Through the very act of thinking Arendt crosses back and forth between the gap that separates the experience of everyday life from its observation.

Gefühl der Fremde
Hannah Arendt was driven by the question of who we are – not what we are, a fundamental distinction that shaped her world view. She refused to engage with politics, which focused on the “what”. Arendt believed that only through examination of ‘who we are’ could plurality emerge. From this she developed the concept of natality to describe the potential of humanity to improve the world through action.  If life was reduced to labour and work, it would become merely a grim struggle of enduring necessities.  Action and speech allow us to express who we which is why language is so crucial to her work.
I am most impressed by the masterfulness of her writing, precise and poetic with an extraordinary freedom. Through her language she could depict the world in a sharper light, particularly in her German native tongue, with all its associations with the glories of high culture. Arendt’s love affair with Heidegger was nurtured by their mutual passion for the German language.  It was a profound and significant relationship for both of them that endured although shaken by crises.  To understand why this should be the importance of literature cannot be underestimated.

Arendt read ancient Greek poetry in the original at a young age which nurtured her appreciation for refined language.  And more importantly mastering the text gave her the confidence to think nothing could stop her. It was Arendt’s unconditional passion for Heidegger’s use of language that made their love a utopian retreat safe even from the contamination of the Nazis.

Im Vertrauen
Heidegger’s willingness to trust Arendt with English translations of his works demonstrated huge respect for her linguistic ability.  His trust delighted and fuelled her love for him.  It is important to understand that in the early years for Arendt language and friendship were more important than politics.  The rise of the Nazis, however, pushed politics to the forefront of her thinking.  Arendt felt obliged to become politically active to resist what she came to define as totalitarianism. Despite her engagement with political philosophy it never offered her solace during this darkest period of history.  Language and friendship were her only consolations which helps explain how her friendship with Heidegger survived the war although he supported the Nazis.

wer wir sind – nicht was wir sind
I do not belong in the circle of philosophers! My profession, if one can speak of it at all, is political theory! I do not feel that I am a philosopher at all, nor, I do not think, that I belong to the circle of philosophers. You say it is generally a male occupation, well it need not remain a male occupation! It could well be that a woman will one day be a philosopher too. “

Hannah Arendt never disavowed her womanhood. In her last speech, she stressed the three conditionalities which were formative; she was Jewish, German and a woman.  Arendt assumed that being female, unlike being Jewish, could not be hidden. Perhaps the history of woman’s emancipation was necessary for us to realize that femininity is just as socially constructed as Jewish identity. She could not understand the second-wave feminism of the 1960s and reverberations it stirred. Why she believed the difference between the genders to be meaningless is a mystery to me. The best explanation I can give is that the Shoah simply pushed, what she considered, more urgent matters into the foreground.

Arendt was a Human Being in the fullest scene despite her cool analytical gaze.  Throughout her life Arendt cultivated close friendships and political relations with women, which, sadly, have been slightly neglected in her biographies. Being a woman was not a misfortune for Arendt, just a matter of course.  She had no attachment to any notion of the ‘sisterhood’; Arendt’s only allegiance was to the facts and her own rational judgement.  If we are to understand Arendt one needs to explore her perception of her German identity as an émigré who escaped the Shoah.

Arendt never really came to terms with post-war Germany. Perhaps she saw an expired idealism in the modernist buildings constructed after the war. The utopian ideas surrounding post-war reconstruction seemed scarcely believable after the holocaust. This is why her work was so preoccupied with utopian cultures such as the Russian Avant-garde, Bauhaus, Esperanto and Zionism. From the perspective of an artist I feel her pain at loosing her homeland and more importantly her own culture. Despite Arendt’s disillusionment her unconditional love for the German language remained. The German grammar was her vehicle for understanding the holocaust and the relics left behind or the words left unsaid.

Arendt’s life was a reflection on a childhood past that disappeared before her eyes.  She permanently searched the archives and for witnesses who could help her understand humanity. What defined totalitarianism? How could Germany, a cradle of European civilisation, perpetrate the holocaust?”  Arendt wrote “What seems specifically German to me is this almost insane idealization of obedience” I confirm this from my own life experiences, in both good and bad times. MEN in DARK TIMES.