What destructive, desolate life around me! Nothing but drums, cannons, misery of all kinds.

So then, I take leave of you, and sadly, beloved hope, which I took with me here. Even the high courage that often inspired me in the beautiful summer days has disap­peared. Let a pure day of joy appear to me once. For so long I have been deprived of the heartfelt echo of true joy.

I wish it were once more in the morning; and in peace! *

Although this was written more than two hundred years ago, many aspects of the human condition and state of mind could be expressed in compa­rable words to this day – most urgently, the despair and vain hopes of those who are fleeing war and displacement, and strug­gling to survive at the gates of Europe.
Long after the demise of the author of these words, Ludwig van Beethoven, a segment of his Symphony No. 9 helped Europe – whose members rarely reach unanimous agreement, and not only on refugee issues – to forge a community: it is used as the European anthem.

The instal­lation “Continued Symphony” by Elmar Hess connects Beethoven’s work, which is closely linked to humanism, with a recent event in the Mediter­ranean related to European policy on refugees, namely the rescue of shipwrecked people by the ship Sea-Watch 3 under the command of its captain Carola Rackete.

The instal­lation formu­lates the events of summer 2019 as part of a human­i­tarian drama unfolding near the region that was, in antiquity, the cradle of philosophy, humanism and the democ­ratic state. These three ideals underpin not only the current form of the EU, but also the historical period in which Beethoven embarked on his artistic career, that of Viennese Classicism. But while the EU continues to baulk at tackling refugee issues, others, among the younger gener­ation, above all, are acting in the spirit of these old ideals. Captain Carola Rackete’s rescue of refugees and the Italian author­ities’ opposition to it seem in this light to combine all the ingre­dients of a classical tragedy, numerous details of which are reminiscent of the several quotes from the poetry of Schiller to be found in Beethoven’s libretti…

Elmar Hess’s conceptual immersive instal­la­tions, which usually extend over several rooms, comprise cinematic, sonic and photo­graphic elements relating to socio-political topics. Hess demon­strates in such projects that inter­per­sonal conflicts are the result of systemic constraints, and thereby equates subjective experience with events in contem­porary history.

The work of Elmar Hess has been presented in numerous group exhibi­tions, such as “German Open” at the Kunst­museum Wolfsburg, “Lost Paradise” at the Kunstraum Wien and “Man Son – Vom Schrecken der Situation” at the Hamburger Kunsthalle; and, more recently, in the solo exhibi­tions “La Mère perdue” at the Europäisches Kunst­forum Berlin, “Dear” at the Laznia Centre for Contem­porary Art, Gdansk, and “Einen Frieden später” at the Kunsthalle Rostock. His cinematic works have been screened at film festivals in Moscow and Cannes, among others.

* L. v. Beethoven, in a letter to H. v. Struve, 1795

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