Two Days From Europe

2011, Curitiba, Brazil

The crash of the Zeppelin "Hindenburg" put an end to the history of the airship. It was also the end of the routine Zeppelin flights between Europe and Brazil. The crash took place on the 6th May 1937, 2 years before the beginning of the Second World War, 2 years after the announcement of the Nuremberg Laws and 1 year before Germany's first act of aggressive international expansion, the annexation of Austria. The "Hindenburg" was the pride of Nazi Germany. It was the largest airship ever built: 245m long with a volume of 200 000 cubic metres. It was in use for 14 months, from March 1936 until the crash. Hugo Eckener, the commander of the Zeppelin, named it "Hindenburg" in the honour of the former president of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg. The Third Reich propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was furious and tried to force Eckener to rename it "Adolf Hitler". After the first trial flight, which was, in fact, a Nazi propaganda flight, during which flyers with a speech by Hitler were distributed, "Hindenburg" set off for its first transatlantic flight to Rio de Janeiro. In 1936, "Hindenburg" went on commercial tours to Brazil seven times and this was when it appeared over Curitiba. In 1937 it made one round trip to South America. It then departed from Frankfurt for USA, where it exploded near the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 people. "Hindenburg" was seen over Curitiba in places crucial for community life, e.g. over the main market. Its appearance had to be deeply symbolic for the city, as it was a symbol of communication with Europe, a communication that was fast, easy and expensive (a ticket was $400 - equivalent to US $6,300 in 2010), so it was reserved only for very wealthy passengers. What's more, it represented Europe in Nazi fever, Europe overwhelmed by a deep moral crisis, ready for the next, devastating war. Curitiba, colonized by the Portuguese at the beginning of 16th century, was a city which had experienced a sudden economic boom in the beginning of 20th century due to increasing immigration from Europe - mainly from Germany, Italy and Poland. European culture has been the dominant culture. Until now, the descendants of the European settlers, despite the fact that they don't speak their mother tongue, are very proud of their European surnames and they celebrate a blurry memory of their country of origin. The indigenous culture has remained a colonized folk culture only, and hasn't played any role in the leading, official discourse. What Europe brought to Curitiba, apart from the civilization leap, are all catastrophic results of the Enlightenment: colonialism, discrimination, exploitation and a disregard for indigenous cultures. A break from European political thought seems to be essential for the advancement of the political and economical emancipation of Brazil. In this context the Zeppelin crash seems to be a symbolic act. Two Days From Europe is a project about breaking the relations with Europe, especially with its rightist political tradition based on national values; about a new, desired model of politics not based on the European model, about political emancipation, about what is "here and now" rather than what was "there and then". The recording of the famous testimony by Herbert Morrison: It's practically standing still now. They've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and they've been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It's starting to rain again; it's—the rain had slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from — It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it's falling, it's crashing! Watch it! Watch it, folks! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie! It's fire—and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames, and the—and it's falling on the mooring-mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. Ohhhhh! It's–it's–it's the flames, [indecipherable, 'enty' syllable] oh, four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it ... it's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It's smoke, and it's flames now ... and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring-mast. Oh, the humanity and all the passengers screaming around here. I told you, I can't even talk to people whose friends are on there. Ah! It's–it's–it's–it's ... o–ohhh! I–I can't talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it's just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk, and the screaming. Lady, I–I'm sorry. Honest: I–I can hardly breathe. I–I'm going to step inside, for I cannot see it. Charlie, that's terrible. Ah, ah—I can't. I, listen, folks, I–I'm gonna have to stop for a minute because I've lost my voice. This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed.
The project should have been visualized and performed in two ways, both in the exhibition space of Oskar Niemeyer Museum and in the public space of the city. In the public space of the city a relatively large model of the Zeppelin should have become the mobile instrument of a social experiment, the element of the city carnival, and the screen for the expression of political will. The Zeppelin would have been filled with helium and moored over the centre of the city. The artist planned to conduct and record conversations with the inhabitants of Curitiba about the presence of the Zeppelin and its role in the city's history and also about its legendary catastrophe. This part of the project was not realized.