Dagmar Varady

Medienkünstlerin im Bereich Intermedia

Es kann sein, die Tinte ist aber neu.

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Ausstellung: „Gedanken Raum geben“, GRASSI Museum of Applied Arts, Leipzig. 24.11.2016 - 28.5.2017

But perhaps the ink is new.

Luther’s ink stain as media myth.

In my literature research I discovered that in 1712, during his ride through Wittenberg, Tsar Peter the Great visited Martin Luther’s study, where he was shown the “ink stain” purportedly produced as a result of Luther flinging his inkwell at the devil. On being presented with this “relic” the tsar remarked sceptically: „But perhaps the ink is new.“ Myths, it seems, can be replicated. For doesn’t legend tell us that the ink was flung in Eisenach? So where did Luther actually fling the ink? And did he fling any ink at all? I have had Peter the Great’s sceptical remark translated into seven languages for distribution as a kind of “pamphlet” in seven countries where the Reformation took hold. This act of translation is in keeping with the tradition of the Reformer, one of whose most important achievements was of course the translation of the Bible, which can be seen as the first great media event of the modern era. The number seven also refers to the caricature of Luther with seven heads produced in 1529 based on a woodcut by Hans Brosamer (ca. 1500-1552). This polemical portrayal served as the frontispiece for Johannes Cochlaeus’s pamphlet Sieben Koepffe Martini Luthers (Seven Heads of Martin Luther). Each head has its own label: Doctor, Martinus, Luther, Ecclesiast, Utopian, Visitator, and Barabbas. The portrayal both caricatures Luther and defames him as the Antichrist with its reference to the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse. The Protestant camp responded to this woodcut with an image titled “The Seven-headed Papacy”.

The German phrase has been translated into the Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Kurdish, Hebrew and Greek. Recent linguistic research has shown that the languages most influencing German are Turkish, Russian, Arabic and Serbo-Croatian. If globalisation trends continue at their present pace, it may well be that in one hundred years no one will speak German any more. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 726 million speakers and is the most widely spoken language in the world, followed by English and Spanish.

No explanation of the meaning of the phrase is provided. The intention is to encourage visitors to the exhibition to explore the historical background of this statement in their own language.

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