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Various & Gould Spark a Witch Hunt on Streets of Berlin

Posted on November 16, 2013

Witches are burned at the stake.  Or hanged, drowned, beheaded. Ask the American Puritans.

Of course, demonizing and ostracizing and terrorizing never quite went out of style since those formative years of the US, and the global history of the race is rife with this inclination. From Salem to today, ignorance and fear can be stirred rapidly into hysteria, usually by an invisible hand. In a tumultuous period of finger pointing and fear mongering that is often laced with latent prejudice, it is possible to whip people into a fevered frenzy of sanctimonious vigilante vitriol to purge that evil that resides amongst us, and within us.

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Various & Gould. (photo © Various & Gould)

A riveting interactive witch hunt, complete with matches, candles, smart phones and QR codes, has just begun on the streets of Berlin – the creation of conceptual Street Artists Various & Gould.  Better yet, you know many of the 13 ‘witches’, as they are people from modern times who have suffered fates of being accused and depicted as evil.

“That these people might have been persecuted and burned as witches in earlier times is a mere speculation here,” say the two artists, whose project encourages you to strike a match across the face of their screen printed posters and light a candle at the base of it.  But whether or not these people would have been called witches in earlier days, there are other similarities V&G want to draw attention to. “They still have to fight for their ideas, their freedom, their dignity or in some cases even their lives today,” they say.

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Various & Gould. Yoko Ono and Malala Yousafzai (photo © Various & Gould)

Who are you talking about, you ask? Edward Snowden is one – currently a polarizing figure for revealing the extent of spying the US is doing on world citizens and governments – is alternately spoken of as a folk hero and an evil traitor.

Yoko Ono is another – once vilified, now celebrated, for the very same violations in art and cultural orthodoxy. Also she broke up the Beatles singlehandedly for Christs sake. Also she’s a peace activist, so that is upsetting. Now widely considered to have been ahead of her time,  Ms. Ono once felt the firey public disdain for her so adamantly that she wrote and performed a song in the 1970s entitled “Yes, I’m a Witch”.

V&G even had a little luck reaching out to some of their witches for the project and got some responses. “Yoko Ono said that she was touched by our mail, but was having an important event elsewhere, which was no surprise,” says Various.

Also, performance artist Marina Abramović is a witch, as well as Antony Johnson and a Pussy Rioter. The reasons for selecting the witches who include journalists, rappers, human rights activists, artists…. may be obvious to some, perplexing for others. Their controversial status is the space of the public mind in which they each hang.

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Various & Gould. Yoko Ono. (photo © Various & Gould)

Various explains, “In this respect, the witches series can be understood as a homage to the portrayed people and a reference to the intolerance of today’s apparently enlightened times.” Gould agrees, “Different-minded people are being scape-goated and demonized in the public just as they once were.”

Of the 13 witches you will see a variety of names and if you don’t recognize them you can use the QR code beneath it or go to the special website to read and hear audio giving biographical information in German and English.

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Anne Wizorek, a feminist blogger and one of the portrayed witches will even be on hand to introduce the gallery show entitled ”Witches Wanted – Wanted Witches” at Open Walls this evening.

Speaking of the installation and the reactions they have received to the witch hunt that spreads across the city, Various says they had been afraid of negative reactions but thus far there have been none. “Somehow we were afraid someone would maybe get our intention wrong or be mad … but so far reactions are good.”

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 Various & Gould. Malala Yousafzai. (photo © Various & Gould)

In an increasingly polarized political atmosphere throughout the western world due to many factors, Gould says their imaginative project and execution of it hasn’t touched off controversy and has been really well received. “It was also very fulfilling for us to return to one of the portraits that we have in the street and to find some of the candles still burning!”

This witch-hunt in Berlin-Kreuzberg is not to be understood as a chase, but rather as an interactive scavenger hunt they say on www.witchhunt.eu/, where you can see the map locations and follow the hunt.

You can also follow the hashtag #WitchHuntBerlin on Twitter.

The full list of people portrayed as witches includes Marina Abramović, Mae Azango, Ameneh Bahrami, Antony Hegarty, Le1f, Yoko Ono, Nawal El Saadawi, Edward Snowden, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Anne Wizorek, Lana Wachowski, and Malala Yousafzai.

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 Various & Gould. Edward Snowden. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Edward Snowden . Amenem Bahrami . Le1f  (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Le1f. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Lana Wachowski. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Mae Azango. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Aung San Suu Kyi . (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. Nawal El Saadawi. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. (photo © Various & Gould)

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 Various & Gould. (photo © Various & Gould)

 

 

Various & Gould “Witches Wanted – Wanted Witches” exhibition opens today in Berlin. Click HERE for more information.

 

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