Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Wax figures from the Uncanny valley - photos by Eleftheria Lialios


Introduction by Eleftheria Lialios:

My interests in gender representation and group behavior began
within my first years at Wayne State University in Detroit, 1972.
Taking courses that concentrated on psychology, sociology,
anthropology. At the same time I was a statistician for a baboon
troupe at the Detroit Zoo. Looking at their behavior in hopes of
making the same conclusions to human primates.

My interests in the superficial gaze began in 1978 while helping
my father put his peanut cart in a garage next to a mannequin
factory in Detroit. At the onset, I knew what I was photographing.
Body representations from a factory with dimensions that depict an
Adam and Eve, given to the masses for comparison of not only
what shape your body should be, but what to buy to become
current and accepted in your social grouping.

Photography for me seemed to be a natural progression of my life
interests. Photo-documenting women and men interacting with
each other and apart. Trying to change the world by pointing
attention to the sexism and racism that existed all over this country.
An experiment with film being the proof, rather than numbers,
essays, books.

If the Dadaist Man Ray can say that photography is not art, then
these photographs pose for me the same question. In Walter
Benjamin’s essay, “The Work Of Art In The Age of Mechanical
Reproduction” he spoke of the loss of an aura and the authenticity
of an art object since the invention of photography and film, due to
its inherent reproducibility. Painting came on top of the list for its
aura, authenticity, and uniqueness.

In this book, I further examine Benjamin’s observations by
proclaiming that these pictures indeed have an aura. A superficial
aura. While the public sees the differences of the wax figure apart
from a tabloid photograph, their opportunity to be close to
someone they admire gives them a feeling of importance with the
superficial authenticity of proximity. Measuring themselves in
terms of height, gesture, face, looking straight into the glass eyes
of Barac Obama, a gaze frozen in wax and make-up. This becomes
the true illusion, with measurable dimensions. A wax voodoo doll
that will make their dreams come true. Something that hopefully
gets rubbed off on them, with the proof being the photograph.
Consider someone experiencing for a moment, sitting on a bar
stool with Ernest Hemingway next to you, a glass of whisky in his
hand. One-way conversations were common. These photographs
were also documents of what different societies believe were their
cultural and historical heroes. Whether seen in person or in a
photograph, these replicates in wax are a part of their history,

My artwork speaks of social, familial, political, and religious
controls on the individual. These are represented as large
transparencies, using big sheets of film to convey societal controls.
Therefore, it is not a big leap to say that I looked at every wax
museum as a continuation of my statistical data on human
behavior. This time using a camera to document individuals who
had the honor to be made into wax, deciding on my camera
position and their stance within seconds. Using a 35mm camera
shooting slides. Calculating exposures manually on the spot.
Shooting only 1 or 2 as money was always limited and keeping up
with the tour.

While I gazed into their glass eyes, I became a part of their
artificiality. Living in a world where shallowness is encouraged,
where the authenticity of an individuals face can be changed with
plastic surgery, changing time, becoming a freak of nature. When
everyone’s human gaze looks like the wax gaze in these museums,
vapid, one-dimensional, and pre-occupied with appearance. As if
the essence of a human being can be felt when touching Sigmund

We have removed ourselves so far from who we really are, that it
does not matter to many what we look like, as long as we try to
look like Marilyn Monroe, or Michael Jackson.

Eleftheria Lialios

Wax figures from the Uncanny valley – captions by Hatto Fischer

The photographs by Eleftheria Lialios say already a lot about a culture which turns to iconic figures to demonstrate the already known. It makes this repeatedly explicit vis a vis the many who remain on the sidelines, in the shadow, if not in silence and unrecognized. Amazing are all the more the photographs of these wax figure because they represent well known figures who played a role in history, politics, culture (entertainment) and sports. Once Eleftheria Lialios showed me them, I felt immediately the need to add some texts to go beyond the mere image. The following captions reveal what comes to one's mind by way of poetic associations and reflections when seeing these wax figures come alive thanks to her photographs.

Historical figures

Napolean Bonaparte

The angle in which he sits and is depicted, that says already a lot about an unusual inclination of those having power - even when relaxing. The stature has to do with not merely the clothes or uniform worn, but also with the light illuminating the historical figure. Always those in power seem to radiate more light, or is it merely because they stand always, as the saying goes, in the limelight? Still, the wax figure is an amazing imitation of real life, and becomes even more so when a photo is taken of such a wax figure. For it seems to capture not merely a fleeting moment captured when passing by as a visitor of the wax museum. Rather the photographic image reveals how 'uncanny' life filled with great figures can become. It is like wandering through the valley of the dead, for suddenly those known figures thought to be dead already a long time ago, they come suddenly to life - in front of one’s own eyes.

To Napolean can be added what Siegfried Kracauer said: he was a bad leader. Two examples illustrate it according to Kracauer. Once, when Napolean was coming back with his troops from Italy - they marched through the heat - they passed through a town in the middle of which was a barbier. Napolean decided to get a hair cut and a shave. He dismounted and ordered the troops to stay put in the soarching heat while he was inside getting his shave and hair cut. By showing so little consideration for his men, he revealed a curse which goes with abuse of power. The other example illustrates something of even greater importance. Napolean was said to be at first very interested in Egypt and even thought about constructing already then the Suez channel. He ordered engineers to Egypt to make initial plans; when they returned four years laters with fantastic drawings, Napolean was not merely disinterested, but had forgotten about his original order. He was already at that time preoccupied by what turned out to be his fateful decision, namely to march on Moscow. Leaders who fail to recognize the outcome of their own orders are no longer in contact with reality.

Stefan Zweig in 'Happy hours of the stars in the history of humanity' adds another aspect to Napolean as to why he lost at Waterloo. By then he had only loyal officers around him; the others had been killed or no longer followed him. When faced by the armies of Waterloo he saw how suddenly the Prussian army split off and went off into the forest. Napolean ordered his most loyal, that is obedient general to follow the Prussian army but told him explicitly stay in contact with me. The general pursued the Prussians ever deeper into the forest. His officers told him Napolean wanted him to stay in contact, but the general took the order by Napolean to be an order to persue the Prussian army. The latter circled around in the meantime and returned to the battlefield where two exhausted armies faced each other. By throwing the fresh troops into the battle, it tilted the outcome in favor of Waterloo and Napolean was defeated as a sign if only surrounded by those who follow blindly orders, then no innovation can come about in leadership.



A youngish look, somehow more familiar, less of an angry British bulldog as depicted by Josef Karsh and then again cool and steady in the gaze. This historical figure was at the center of decision making when Hitler attacked Great Britain. His determination was a key to how Second World War ended. Often Churchill would be seen from his fellow citizens but merely from a distance. He was a bit clouted by secrecy so as to give him protection from too much public attention. All the more famous is his radio speech.


A lunatic without any sense for right and wrong, a figure whom masses followed and who made the German administration into a perfect killing machine. Trains ran on time to bring the Jews to the concentration camps for their final destiny: extermination. What madness! When he parted from life by committing suicide, then because he deemed no longer the German people - das Volk - as being worthy still another fight. By that time Berlin was being heavily bombarded. He fled into the bunker for safety reasons and took his life in order not to face the questions of a tribunal he could surely expect. All others close to him did so at the Nuernberg Trial but the sadness in all of this is what Mitscherlich describes as his inability to take differences. Apparently Hitler was only then a happy man when everyone else marched in the same uniform in the same step past him. Rank and file showed devotion to him and his cause: the negation of the otherness and of real differences.

Wax figures of Thinkers

Karl Marx

What to say about this man who spend hours upon hours in the library of the British Museum? He is also buried in London. In Brussels, Marx lived on Rue Jean D'Ardenne in Ixelles; while there, he studied the plight of the Belgium workers. He stayed in that future capital of Europe for two years.

In a way he was like Heinrich Heine a fugitive who had to flee from Germany. The ruling class feared that their power could be undermined, if they let him question further the construction of the system called 'Capitalism'.

One key element of his theory has been identified by the philosopher Habermas: Marx did not merely develop a theory of change, but also identified the subject which shall bring about this change - the worker.

All the more should be noted that the wax cabinett does not depict one single worker. This blending out of human reality makes the gallery of only famous people 'surreal', to say the least. Indirectly it explains how in a certain society only certain images begin to dominate.

Of course, for some time the Socialist and Communist regimes attempted to elevate the worker into the sphere of heroes. What happens to them has been shown by Wajida's films and it came to a full swing of history with the collapse of the Berin Wall in 1989. Still today the society of allusions and illusions leaves many people standing, literally speaking, if not in the rain, then in the shade and in silence. This lack of recognition is odd for precisely the workers and, generally speaking, the silent ones are the ones who guarantee that the system does function.

In this sense, the wax cabinett demonstrates in a powerful way what what eluded Marx when thinking the workers, being the closest to the contradictions in the system, would be the ones who know how to free all from a society of bondage through money. The latter was to be gained only through exchange by offering ever more labor on the free market.

Thus an assembly line of wax figures, Marx included, underlines both how society selects the influential few and demonstrates at the same time the power of images. The latter underlines why communication as public relations exercise can also be perpetuated by a wax cabinet. The absence of workers and the silence of the rest of the people testifies that propaganda is still at work! It is done in a most successful way: the parade of wax figures prove that point. A good example of failure is provided by Russia where the unpredicted revolution predictably failed to prevent Stalin's rise to power.

Still, Marx should not be misunderstood. He wrote an amazing dissertation for his Ph.D. in which he compared two philosophers, Epicur or Democrit as to was wiser. The comparison was possible because both studied the atom as a concept, but while Epicur stayed put at one place, Democrit traveled permanently to gather knowledge at different places. Interestingly Epicur came up with a richer theory than Democrit to explain the atom. Still more important is that Marx referred in the introduction to his dissertation to the need for a language which contains categories of both productivity and creativity. Both must be brought together, if human self consciousness is to exist. Marx touches with this upon a crucial point.

Indeed, everyone knows what a difference it makes when working, if addressed with respect rather than being downgraded, if not dressed down altogether, as if the one up higher in the hierarchy has all the Rights while the one below has none. Such a demand to observe the prerequisites for a humane language was completely ignored by those who wished to adopt the theory of Marx for their own revolutionary or more precisely counter-revolutionary purposes. No wonder then that the philosopher Ernst Bloch held the problem of hierarchy to be one of the biggest in philosophy and which has still not been resolved, even when 'flat hierarchy' has become the mode of social innovation in these days and as such as made possible that a Pirate Party enters for the first time the parliament of Berlin after elections in September 2011.



That amazing figure of not only science, but also of humanity becomes more real in the photograph of the wax figure since it makes the many traits attributed to this man stand out more clear. At the same time, it brings everything into an imaginative realm. That allows any viewer of this figure to explore more thoughts about the person. The photo guides the eyes. This is because certain glances become fixed to the white hair, others to the moustache. There are the impressive eyes in a face radiating an overall serenity. Still, it seems that in the eyes there is a reasonable plea to understand why he said ‘God does not play dice!’ Outside the image there has to be added something to this statement by Einstein. It was his way to refute the probability proposition put up by Heisenberg who claimed neither the whole nor the parts are determinable when it comes to locate particles in space. The world did not understand Einstein why he held onto his notion of a unified field theory. He wanted to keep scientific self understanding aligned with what ordinary people can comprehend and only once there exists common understanding around the globe, then the world and the things in it can be perceived independently from human emotions, impressions and ideas. It is interesting that this simultaneous plea becomes in the photo an insight as to what has to happen outside of man before he can grasp the idea. It is like Einstein going up in an elevator and when he saw light slide by when passing slightly not closed doors, he captured that moment and formulated as the relativity theory. Such creative deduction completes the thought of Kant who said concepts without perception are blind, but it shows what an inquisitive mind basing scientific theory on ethical principles can attain in a very short life span.

Jean Paul Sartre

What to write about this thinker first a friend of Albert Camus who introduced him to real politics in the underground during the resistance against the Germans in France and especially in Paris, but protected him as well since Albert Camus Sartre had not the political skills or strength to endure the tougher levels of resistance. How ironic then that Sartre would criticize Camus for his apolitical stance towards the pending war in Algiers? The two had also a different opinion about violence. Ronald Aronsen describes how this friendship broke apart and Sartre endorsing the Communist party until the squashing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 made him leave the party again. Crucial is that Sartre undertook something very few philosophers have researched, namely to study the the imagination. Later known as Existentialist, he wrote the Critique of Practical Reason but also numerous plays. Alongside was his life companion Simone de Beauvoir but who suffered the consequence of their relationship having to be revolutionary, he was determined by a bourgeoisie backround. Sartre tried to explain this determination through his work about Flaubert. It can be said this philosopher was a prolific writer while also a man of action. When the Baader Meinhof group was imprisoned in Stammheim he went to that prison to visit them. That was before their mysterious death.

Wax figures of entertainment

Josephine Baker

The fact that a strip teaser can make it into the hall of fame as far as the wax cabinet is concerned, that too is an interesting point. Whenever sex and politics are in play, then scandals are not far around the corner, but pure sex by itself means something permanent in man’s life is established without taking the claim like philosophers would do that this is something ontological. Rather as the hand gesture of Josephine Baker would suggest so what if my hand is open to invite all men to put money in her hand. So what if you can view my body for to touch it you must do more. Like in the museum where touching is not allowed, the real deception of such playfulness with man’s permanent desire is the closeness to the desired. Bunel called one of his films ‘the obscure object of desire’. It is thought from the camera angle that due to the exaggerations of the image that desire can become at times overpowering while in reality nothing else happens. Instead the power of desire vanishes and fear of consequences replaces the hunger for real love.

Nina Hagen

Captivating moments of famous people is in reality a discussion about complex issues like how to stay in fame while not loosing one’s artistic abilities. Being liked by people is a dangerous undertaking. Nina Hagen provokes especially with her fire red hair. That has also something to do with her singing style. If the photo can be differentiated from the wax figure, then in elongating one moment, that of being aware that fame depends upon knowing in time where the shoot is coming from, the shoot with the camera. Paparazzi know how much voyeurism is there to replace true desire to know about another human being.


Johnny Halliday

Dubbed as the French Elvis Presley, his musical career is most amazing at its spans since the sixties and seventies till today an eagerness to perform. What else to say about such a prototype of the world of entertainment? As Spyros Mercouris would say are there still in today's world such icons around as Edith Piaf? The cultural sky seems during the hell lit nights in cities to be without stars. Hindrance for seeming them is, however, not only all the lights of the city, but what seems to have faded out of collective consciousness. Of course, the age of the Internet brings with it another range of stars performing around the world. Some become famous with a single hit, but risk to fade very quickly like a shooting star. Others do their solid work but stay below the search light for stars and therefore remain out of sight. But Halliday, he defies both the old and the new version of stars; he is one in his own Rights and on his own terms. C'est la vie!

Michael Jackson

Anyone who has watched his video clips cannot be but amazed by this blend of show business, artistic talent and narrative not merely conveyed by a song, but through dance and theatrical performance. The perceptivity of what the combination of video clip and music can do in a modern age of communication means Michael Jackson was not a stranger to the latest technological developments. At the same time, his performances take as well to the street, to subcultures which exist there and what West Side Story had already articulated in a fight against Racism. No wonder when the world was stunned when it learned about his early death. He had not only a huge fan club, but there were many more who were attracted by his performances without so much admitting it as long as he was alive. It is like waiting for a final verdict about such an artist who went from child star to someone who disfigured his face in order to adapt what critics would say the white man's world and his concept of beauty. Certainly aesthetics play as much a role as the upbringing of Michael Jackson within a musical family. Then he became famous and rich, but this has made him ever more isolated and therefore into a figure which confounds the world and at the same time astonishes. He did so by holding his child out the window to demonstrate what? And it was no coincidence that he was married with the daughter of Elvis Presley. The two have much akin and like Elvis tragic life was to take its toll.

John Elton

Who does not recall him playing at Lady Diane’s funeral a musical farewell with people in tears, since unable to believe she would end in that way. Some time later news was spread that John Elton married his male partner in an official wedding ceremony. Conventional wisdom says the norm of institution forms a language not to be bend and needed if to attain recognition. John Elton has been made into a knight by the Queen. This was in recognition of his amazing link of voice to the piano he plays himself. What can be said about the photo taken, is that the angle whisks away any doubts about this star. He enjoys himself and shows it.


The photos of the wax figures like this one of Bono show how people once famous become icons. The latter may be a term borrowed from Byzantine and certainly iconic images prevail within the spirit of Orthodoxie to ensure the image of fame remains unchanged or rather forever. That differs very much from how the Greek poetess Katerina Anghelaki Rooke would describe poets like Elytis and Seferis for they are to her the 'immortal souls'. That has nothing to do with the kind of fame thought by music stars turning their fame into a vehicle to address issues such as world poverty and thereby create a platform where entertainment blends out the stark reality. It can do that more openly when addressing the hard core issue seemingly not as a publicity stunt but as an ongoing campaign while making possible musical revivals like that of the band playing "on the dark side of the moon".

Ray Charles

When looking at the photo of the wax figure meant to represent Ray Charles, then shuffling of cards and the turning of roulette wheel can be heard to beats of music which immediately fill the hall when Ray Charles starts. But how can an image created by the photo be linked to such an impression of a famous musician. Independent from who Ray Charles was, what could be said about this person? Again the shuffle of cards, the turning to the side, can mean a person capable of putting the world if not upside down then at least on its keel while sailing straight into the winds. All of a sudden liberation comes from his music once there is felt the breath of a human being. It makes sense to understand the many walks home all alone well after the concert was over. Weights on shoulders can be interpreted in terms of knowing what was needed as a black man to overcome racial barriers and still remain true to your self. The photo taken makes an important statement about what can allow another look at a famous person in the world of music.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix and his guitar are inseperatable. It figures like light on water not tranquil but disturbed in a good way. There cannot be something smoothed over or waters calmed if the issues need to be addressed by way of a guitar making an incredibable musical sound. It matters how then listening changes into a wish to stay afloat in such a tune. No wonder when the outcome of his popularity is the yearly Hendrix festival in Wroclaw, Poland. Similar to the Elvis Presley imitators, there gather in the city every year around the same time those who love to play like Jimi Hendrix the guitar. It fills the night air of Wroclaw like a thousand strings being plucked to recreate those unforgetable tunes. Fades out then finally 'blue moon' - a sojourn of many dreams and emotions kept afloat on now shiny waters.

Heroic Wax figures

Joan of Arc

When seeing this photo then the first question which comes to mind is if that could not be a self portrait of Eleftheria Lialios?

An amazing posture: Joan of Arc not storming in front of the troops to lead them on, but as a prisoner or at the stake before being burned! Again a historical moment is captivated in a double sense. It shows that art can be linked to cross-overs from shaping history to fate. The determination of that fix point makes her look that much more pronounced. She is not startled but demands less of an explanation than an answer why all others appear so resigned. She remains resolute and cannot be bend in her will to fight for freedom of France. Only a psychoanalyst would interpret this engagement for the nation as a possible compensation and replacement of other things not attained. For fighting in the name of liberty is not only a noble cause but pits one truth against the other and even brave men and women succumb when overtaken by the sheer force of not ideology, but historical events.

Liberty leading the people. Eugene Delacroix

Here is shown what arouses men when female power manifests itself. For once she is aroused herself, then there is no way to stop that woman. The wax figure is not only very realistic when thinking about such a symbolic figure, but the very humanization thereof. That leaves few choices to avoid the critical question for when arises again the moment when the spirit of people is to be addressed so that they stand up in the name of freedom? Power tends to fear that moment. Much is done to evade a confrontation with such a truth that people cannot be held back. Of interest in the photo is the shadow cast of the rifle held. For in the shadow the choice of weapon is more direct but independent than what is held up high, namely the flag. There is also the glance. This image tells, therefore, its own story for what people will follow once someone has the courage to stand up and to rally all around the flag. As this is a reproduction of a figure to be found in a painting, it is a unique specimen amongst all other wax figures. The very arousing nature of the figure underlines the fact that sexuality does play a role in politics.

Wax figures of the film world

Alfred Hitchcock

The director of incredible films is seen sitting in a train. It could be the Orient Express. Marvelous setting compounds in a face looking ahead. Sigmund Freud wrote his theory about sexuality in a train. Maybe Hitchcock follows that inclination and finds in that moving space through the landscape the best laboratory for inventing birds descending upon people to scare them. Always on the look out for a determination of human drama, the wax figure takes the viewer into a new form of deception. That leaves the compound evidence an open hand for the observing eyes of the photographer since Eleftheria reinforces here a side glance. It can be noticed that she found her theme as she continued working on capturing images of the famous by using these wax figures as departure point of her own reflections about those who made it and their name engraved in the minds of people.

Orson Welles

This wax figure does not resemble the man who played the key role in the film 'Citizen Kane', or how he looked like in his early days when moving from theatre to film directing, and therefore to Hollywood. He had a hard time to convince studios and their bosses of the need to adhere to artistic and aesthetical principles. Some of them he derived from Brecht's ironic touch, but he also took a lot of ideas from what can be set free in the imagination alone by hearing sounds as used to be the case when only the radio and no TV was around. He made then such a realistic imitation of a likely invasion from outer space that supposed to have created panic amongst the listeners, but even if this report is not really true, it helped him to fame. If anything could describe the configuration which attracted him the most was 'noir', an outpost of the color black and with it all the black humour which goes with it.

Charlie Chaplin

One movement, one way of walking with or without a cane being swung through the air and then this imitation of Hitler made Charlie not merely into a movie star but into a moral force to off-set the negative impact of Hitler himself. Some horrific figures can cast a long shadow. Charlie made sure this shadow stayed short and even cut off the sunlight to extinguish it in the final end. But without the emigration to the United States like so many other European artists and intellectuals, Charlie Chaplin would not have become what he became thanks to the movie industry in Hollywood. Often he is compared to Buston Keaton who some think was a better imitator when walking stiff and funny as if to imitate the first films running in a jerky manner over the silver screen.

Wax figures - artists

Pablo Picasso

Whatever happened to this genius of painting, he looks a bit frail and too much trapped in his attire as if a mate on a ship of fools rather than a bohemian character with plenty of energy to attract women before he went off with not just one, but several images of them to place them on the canvas. The curiosity of the public with regards to Picasso is ambivalent. Not all trusted his talents. This is because Picasso made also fun of those who wished to take art serious, too serious. In his reply he did not go as far as Duchamp who declared a toilet bowl as an art work and left the audience stunned as to such a definition, but nevertheless there is an ongoing dialogue between the public and Picasso. The recent exhibition in Paris at Grand Palais showed how much he can attract people. Artists realized his capacity resided very much in this ability to attract even when still alive a large number of people to his exhibition. It was not a devastation of previous art nor a prediction what was to come but stood on its own. As Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism said, Picasso does not need to follow the Surrealist Manifest for he follows his own ‘morality of creativity’. Given all that, this photo of his wax figure puts everything into more humble perspectives and allows the moral question to be formulated along that frail looking face scanning the canvas in front. Contemplation before actively involved in another artistic expression was a way to study the moment of the muse before taking over the spirit of a man who left his mark on the twentieth century.

Maria Callas and Jean Paul Gaultier

The singer and the writer in a café with a photographer taking the image as if it is a historical not hysterical moment when two stars get together. The final meeting shows itself in both interacting to reinforce this moment. She looks at what he is about the present and he looks towards those who will acclaim the fame of the two. That is a story of the glance analyzed very well by Martin Jay in his book “Disenchantment of the Eye” or how the glance in the twentieth century crumbled after having been a totalitarian one with the state getting eyes to one of details with Bachelard speaking poetically about a sea shell entailed space with a sense for time longer than the existence of mankind. Now such associations may be vindictive remarks about what can be connected within a single space to what is going on. The moment feelings are represented through what is deemed to be important and famous by the public then there is no longer the question but what contributed towards this fame. Naturally here writing and singing skills are combined in two personalities which have contributed to the culture of the Western world.


His Surrealist technique followed the method of paranoia by taking out of reality one element, blowing it and then forcing it back as exaggerated example into that same reality from where it was taken. His political leanings said something about his character and stance in life as he assumed to be above ordinary people. No wonder that he sided with Franco. That is the fate of poets like Erza Pound who sympasized with Mussolini. It is a question how through the estrangement of life the tendency to embrace dictators and therefore in the extreme case Fascism could ever be called but a surrender to man's own feeble nature when faced by naked power ready to lurch ahead with another act of brutality.

Joseph Beuys

Likewise Beuys. He was a pilot flying a fighter airplane till shot down. He survived due to the healing secrets of the Shamanen people. He stayed with them for two years. Upon returning to Germany he was a changed man. His art is an action which needs explaining. Usually it is abstract by itself, that is without Beuys nearly nothing, like the Black board with one tableau on the rack while many others are lying around on the floor. Beuys wished to overcome the split between the senses and perception usually called in Germany 'Weltanschauung' while denying sense perception any quality of truth (Hegel). This meant Beuys wished to enact something Kant had perceived and meant how can the mind be 'affeziert' (in English: affected) to sense the lawfulness of things but to no avail. Already Adorno and Horkheimer had described in 'Dialectic of Enlightenment' how this movement to bring people to terms with reason had failed utterly. But to give a further example of Beuys in action. When Herbert Distel created the 'museum of drawers' by collecting art works from all the artists of the sixties and seventies, including Beuys, he presumed all artists state they need space to exhibit their works, but they never say how large a space. In the case of the 'museum of drawers' each artist had one little compartment in a drawer similar to what grandmother would use as cabinett for all her sewing kits. Beuys did something typical of him. He grew a toe nail over a period of time and then cut it off to send it as art work to Herbert Distel. He stuck the toe nail like a half moon at the back of the tiny compartment and added to it a letter by Beuys in which he explains how many socks he ruined in trying to grow that toe nail. That comes close to Beuys explaining to a rabbit what is art and thereby remembers the drawing Duerer made of the rabbit.

Religious Wax figures


Pope John Paul

Here the wax figure does not depict exactly the real person and Pope from Poland. Something unnatural imposes itself and enlarges the face so that familiar contours vanish and instead another male figure begins to be shown. The contradiction of this figure could not be shown more aptly. Revered not only by his Polish people as he told them to stand up to Totalitarian regimes, but also by many people around the world, he became known as the Pope kissing the earth whenever he arrived by plane in another land. He smiled and enjoyed skiing as much as other things which made him more mundane than his popular image may lead to believe what would not be possible for a Pope. The deviation from the official version has, therefore, something to do with human nature more spontaneous than the usual protocols and other constraints of such an institution as the Vatican which has survived all kinds of political weathers over the past 2000 years. One lapse was that Pope John Paul never came out strong enough in condemnation of child abuse by priests of the Roman Catholic Church in countries like UK or United States.

Pope Benedict

Kueng, the critical theologian in Switzerland, has recently criticized Pope Benedict by leading the Catholic Church away from all the progressive measures initiated by his predecessor Pope John Paul. This includes dialogue with the Protestant church and upholding the resolutions of the economical council. Instead Pope Benedict aroused criticism especially amongst Jewish people by restating bishop Wilhelms known as Holocaust denier. Benedict was in his youth a member of Hitler’s Youth movement and during the Papacy of John Paul the inquisitor who watched with strict ruling over the ideological purity of the Roman Catholic Church.

Wax figures - Politicians of the 2oth and 21st century

Nowhere to go but to the top, the zenith of power, one of the most lonely spots in man’s political landscape for presidents are there to unify a country while emerging out of some clear political constellations. They embody a combination of shrewdness and calculated intelligence to create the possible despite all impossible odds for no one man can fulfill the expectations of everyone. There was the aura around J.F. Kennedy. No matter what he did, people did revere him. With Putin it is different. Awe hides or means more clearly here fear. That has to do with the KGB past and how he uses power in the present. But when speaking about deception then it is important to study the clothes of these presidents. Without uniform as some dictators prefer, they all wear civil clothes: suits with ties. Their differences can be perceived on hand where they place the hands. That is more than a mere study of human nature. Journalists would pay attention to body languages as they usually do not get much other information. The art of politics is demonstrated insofar as the obvious is hidden while the complicated never should surface so as to be not understandable to the common people. In that art of manipulation Reagan was perfect. He continued from actor to the political stage and convinced everyone of his sincerity very much as Schwarzenegger in California can continue his actions if not on a motorcycle than in a limousine.

George Bush

Half lit, half in shadows, it is the trade mark of double faced politicians who seem not to know how to distinguish between right and wrong even though they are prone to use black white schemes to label friends and foes alike. “Who is not for us, is against us!, was the key slogan after 911, yet caution has to be applied here. The Bush junior belongs to the Bush family which endorsed the death penalty as force for detriment.

Putin and Sarkozy

Two very different men but both engaged to strengthen their power over and beyond political accountabilities by using their own personalities to push through agendas which depend upon uplifting their power. That makes the two prone to disagree over minor issues while they can find agreement when it is about to save face. After Russia and Georgia clashed, it was an opportunity for Sarkozy to take the EU Presidency beyond normal boundaries and to seek such an agreement with Putin who was himself angered by encroachment by the USA in Eastern Europe.

Mikhail Gorbachev

That was no political stunt when he dissolved the Soviet Union by starting out with perestroika. He took Russia and Eastern Europe out of the narrow confines of Communism and its totalitarian rule which included Stalin but all the others who followed him to suppress their fellow men. Always the Politburo was supreme and as well the secret police. The latter watched over thoughts so that no one would deviate. To emerge out of this mistrust of rational thought was heroic and at the same time humane. It showed in the love for his wife. Whatever can be said about this man, he held a key to change in history and he used that key wisely. Changes were brought about without thereby evoking violent backlashes. The Soviet Union just collapsed as if an engineer had skillfully set off explosions to bring the old building to the ground.

Ronald Reagan

There is a dispute about his legend. Heirs to his archive are vigorously defending him against what they feel are cynical critics. Ronald Reagan was the one who dared the Russians to open the Berlin Wall and indeed that came in 1989. Sometimes these provocations are deemed to be keys of change when in fact they are just provocations. The Reagan economics had its own concept. As a good friend with Thatcher they shared this dream that the Middle Class would finally make it and go beyond what the upper class had known all along when mixing entertainment with power games. That is why political analysis of such a figure should resort to what Adorno and Horkheimer deemed as the making of someone like Hitler. Highly educated and well verses people thought he could never ascend to power and likewise many proved to be wrong that an actor could never make it to become not merely a President, but a decisive one. Reagan is considered even by Barack Obama as a crucial orientation as he was decisive but not divisive. The need to unify the country in crisis is paramount to the political skill of an orator who knows how to speak with people in terms of what they wish to believe, namely that power knows their problems and has also the means to fix these problems. The belief system entails a two pronged progress towards solutions. The people are willing to wait for the solutions while the power makers can map out their strategies before changes are invoked. Only the people are then left in the unknown how things will end up. More important that change is evoked in order not to change the basic equations of the power game and therefore to leave those who are in power intact. Crucial is after all that the power holders can continue as they assumed before to be their privileges in life and society. Nothing short of earning such a reputation marks a great politician leaving even historians scratching their head to figure out how he did it and got away with so much foolishness and stupidity. The latter was hidden in a peculiar form of politeness practiced as well by Bush to mask the real brutality of his political actions.

Margaret Thatcher

No one would argue against the fact that she would rule with an 'iron fist', and thus her nickname became the 'Iron Lady'. That showed itself when she broke the coal miner strike and initiated hard economic measures. Coming from a middle class background, akin to what would be the stories of the grocery store in a small town, she became famous as a kind of upspring who broke some of the most sacred value systems Britain had known till then. It is said that she opened up the City, the financial district of London, to outsiders: new managerial types, including women, aspiring to climb the ladder in the financial world. Critics say that broke the back of bankers very much aware that keeping the high reputation of the banks they were working for was essential to keep the financial system working according to certain rules. Once Thatcher made these changes, the talk in the pubs in the City altered. Strangers came in and no one knew their background. It may explain why banks started to head for default or for unserious, indeed very speculative businesses. But Thatcher had other things on her mind. As close friend with US President Reagan, she ventured into Falkland by provoking a war about this island and in having put down her foot, she won once more her re-election bid. That was, however, the last time the British electorate could take medicine of the same kind. Her legacy may well end up being described in future in terms of what transformations the docklands underwent while she was in power. The kind of mega business it invoked was more than just a heart beat away from the trusting atmosphere of the grocery store.

Barack Obama

What shall become of this man whose rhetoric thrilled so many when he was elected the first time, and for the first time a black man moved into the White House. 'Yes we can', was his slogan. Many trusted him to take the United States out of the mire former president Bush had trapped US troops in. There was the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He did a left and right punch by promising troop removal from Iraq, but a surge of troops in Afghanistan. The equation did not work out entirely, but at least in terms of the press set-backs or other failures are not making so much headlines as used to be the case as long as Bush was in the White House. There remains, however, the moral issue of keeping prisoners at Guantanamo Bay unresolved, while the use of Drones to kill those identified as 'terrorists' has increased and thereby extends the 'war against terrorism' in a new technical form. Naturally the killing of Bin Laden happened during his watch. But Barack Obama is struggling due to having lost the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives during mid elections and the battles about budget revealed almost a polarized situation in the United States. The upcoming Tea Party with its rants about taxes and too big a government / state leaves politics of a rational kind nearly in shambles. A great pity is that the overhauled Medicare system does not receive enough credit while critics are quick to jump on examples of abuse. There is a readiness to jump immediately to wrong conclusions out of a general distrust of institutions. This makes the life of any president all the harder when he started like Barack Obama with very good policy proposals as long as he was campaigning for elections, but once elected all that information was removed from his website and people were left guessing which of the promised policies would be implemented. Without these measures it is, however, impossible to conceive rational politics to be possible.

Wax figures of those who left a definite stamp

Indira Gandhi

She is both a daughter and a mother, and thus continues a line of political action which has transformed India into the largest democracy in the world. She grasps the essence of politics with hands to form a cup, in order to gather water at the fountain. Water has always been an important element of India when it comes to purification. People gather besides holy rivers to wash en masse their bodies. She does so in thinking about all the tears that flooded the cheeks of mankind over many centuries, and always there is the next dreadful moment when people have to flee. They run barefooted for their lives, run across the fields which Ghandi used to cross in order to liberate the poor farmers of India, run like a herd stampedes, but only silently to make power fear what shall come next. Then hush, the child falls asleep, and only the murmurs of the men outside the village hut can be heard. In living in her imagination vividly those departure points of a peaceful, indeed non violent rebellion against British Imperalism and Colonialism, there was something that made her go against any fettered reasoning. She had no easy time since Indian politics knows also its twists and turns like any ugly power that lifts its head whenever possible. It may be called corruption or the forgetfulness of the rich as to what happens to the poor. In India that saga continues with the party staying in power only as long as it manages to keep abreast the development of the economy with a need to include those impoverished ones, so that they need no longer to flee their villages but can stay and look forward to bringing up their children where their grandparents used to sing them, the now parents, to sleep. But it is also a curious question about India insofar as there is absent this sentimental, equally depressing question when looking back and thinking about those times when they were young and playing in the fields.


Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s diary is about survival of a special kind. The threat to Jewish people made it mandatory to hide if to avoid the SS and Gestapo even in a city like Amsterdam. Amazing is to what extent Anne maintain a high moral spirit despite being for two years in hiding. Such a portrait of a figure in wax will make the photographer become attentive to how the posture, looks and colors are used to outline the image she has in everybody’s mind. For she is really present and yet remote as death in a concentration group removed here from the hope to continue life after the war was over.



Before Chomeiny left France to return to Iran, he gave an interview to two students, brothers, who had travelled extra from Berlin to reach him prior to departure. When examining together after they returned the interview materials, we came to the conclusion there are bad times ahead for Iran. In terms of democracy, there would be no hope. By putting a religious figure into the position of central power and at the same time make him into the custodian of not secular, but religious law, it was a reverse of anything known till then. Even the Left which had participated in the revolution against the Shah did not anticipate this. Also there is some doubt whether Michel Foucault would have predicted those developments known by now the turning point in the history of Iran. Sure, the Savak police of the Shah, known for its brutality, disappeared, but it was replaced by the religious police which could arrest anyone at sight if in contradiction to the religious law e.g. a woman not wearing her head scarf. Anyone was guilty at sight if identified as an oppositional element, and could be punished immediately. When Naipaul returned ten years later to interview the key man responsible for the crack down in Iran, a man who had tortured others and disregard human rights, Naipaul failed to find any words. His intended interview had to be called off since he could find the words to ask any question. The chief of the religious police had by then withdrawn to a luxurious villa near the mountains, into a sort of secluded place. Interestingly enough at the time when the Chomeiny revolution started, many men in Berlin agreed with him, if only they would not go as far as he did. They agreed that the emancipation of women had to be beaten back. After that Islamic law and the creation of religious communities began and transformed the Turkish community in Kreuzberg into what has become known in the meantime as the danger of having a community within the community and the former observing its own laws, including honory killing if the sister is found to date a Western man. It is worthwhile to remember what Naipaul describes as the worst kind of transformation in the lives of people once a country converts to Islam. He describes in his book 'Beyond Belief' how everyone must alter his or her persona narrative so that the family story fits into the religious bondage. That means even if the grandfather was anything but a Muslim man, he had to be converted in order that the family of the present was not to be persecuted. By distorting personal history, it robbed everyone of any possible resistance against such total demand to be religious. Something similar took place in Germany during the time when everyone had to prove there was not a trace of Jewish blood within one's veins. Totalitarian rulership takes on various forms over time, but always the suppression of the individual means also there are no open public spaces accessible for free discussions. Repeatedly since then there have been attempts to reverse the trend and gain back some of the freedom meant to be attained by the Iranian revolution. Roger Cohen described some of these forms, including the amazing tolerance for Jewish people within this very rich Iranian culture that has many invaluable fibres and hence poets and amazing story tellers. Indeed, Chomeiny left his mark, but what kind!

Mstislav Rostropovich

This celloist loves to play Bach. When he performed in the Herodos Atticus in Athens in 1966 with the Lenin Symphony Orchestra, the audience loved his way of playing so much that they applauded and applauded till the orchestra let him play a solo. He came to the front of the stage, bowed down and announced what he would play in his deep voice: "Bach!" After he had played that solo, the audience clapped even more enthusiastically. Out of politeness the orchestra left the stage to give him space. Once again he went up front, bowed down and said: "Bach". He played in a way that music drifted up to the Acropolis. It was fantastic. After that solo piece the orchestra came back onto the stage and sat down to play on but the audience would not let go. They applauded and applauded till Rostoprovitch came up to the front of the stage and bowed down. This time everyone was tense what he would announce. It came as expected as unexpected: "Bach!" Everyone laughed and then settled down immediately into that silence which means everyone is prepared to listen as he took his cello and started to play Bach once more. Rostoprovitch has been throughout his life enthusiastic if progress had been made in the direction of freedom. When the Berlin Wall came down, he gave a free concert besides one of the newly opened gaps in the wall. A most famous saying of his was that he did not aspire to take any holidays, but just go on playing. He died April 27th, 2007 in Moskau.

Eleftheria Lialios - her photographic work

Eleftheria Lialios took about 179 images of wax figures in a time span stretching from the Orwell year 1984 to 2009 when Barack Obama became President of the United States.

According to her own accounts, it all started in 1984 when she started to travel to parts of the United States that had wax museums and soon after around the world, including Cyprus, Greece, London, Paris and Berlin. At first she thought of merely documenting wax figures but then her concept changed. Once she had developed a series with slides of wax figures she had discovered in a camera store, she was startled by this form of perception. Her reflections come close to what the philosopher Husserl had analyzed as phenomenological phenomena of perception. For what allows us to distinguish a standing doll in a shop window from a human being present in that store, if not by criteria such as movement and some other features attributed to people?

When narrating about her work, she explained that she soon started to shoot medium format color negatives, multiply exposed, that is, shooting the same frame twice, in order to compensate for density, exposure, color. It was followed by a self portrait series. She placed herself in the wax historical context and presented this image to the audience as a life size figure. By doing so, she aimed to re-represent history by including a female participant within the image itself. As the writer Christa Wolf pointed out in her novel ‘Cassandra’, historians hardly recorded what women did when forced to flee the Athenians after Troy fell. They fled into caves where for lack of historical records they scratched their pains into the walls. Heuristically speaking, it can explain Eleftheria Lialios’ way of exploring and contradicting through her work the dictation of how women are depicted in history and in contemporary art. It may mean taking things if not out of the cave, then to liberate perception from spaces of deception leading on to drawing false conclusions.

By altering the meaning of the female image she wants to question 'actual truth' as presented by historians.  Her motives are quite clear. She wants to intervene into how history is narrated by making and marking it herself. By using photographs as evidence of a historical event, she describes her relation or non-relation to these events. The method can be called the undoing of the past. It is best achieved by creating a new factual proof of something that happened or could have happened.  This aspect in her work can already be seen in the catalogues entitled 'Jackie and I', and 'Signing out the treaty' published in 1984.

Wax figures representing people well known in history are therefore most suitable for such attempt to undo historical accounts. Photographing wax figures furthers thoughts about who make it into this rather unusual ‘hall of fame’. Here Eleftheria Lialios starts to think out aloud about why and how people are selected to be represented life size to a mass audience. By strolling past these wax figures, she started to wonder why people want to visit wax museums. She started to think about people’s wish to become a part of that world these famous people represent. It got even stranger once she imagined people wishing to share the same space or else actually face these famous people at the same height. Hence through her photographs it becomes possible to trace a need to confront and question the authority and power in the world of these representative wax figures. It makes her photographic work into an exploration of key motives prevailing in a world structured around representation and presentation. As the wax figures include religious and political leaders, scientists and entertainers, they play on associations on how they have become already known to the public by some typical features.

Details matter for recognition purposes, thus typical features are exaggerated upon in this hall of fame e.g the moustache of Einstein or the curly hair of Michael Jackson. Of interest is what the image of Hitler evoked in Eleftheria Lialios. She took the photo in front of glass on which was posted the sign: 'do not photograph'. She thought this may be due to the fragility of the subject matter, or sensitivity of subject matter, but she took the picture anyway. To her it is still today unforgettable how he was sitting and glaring into a non-space, as if in thought of what was to come. A viewer has always that foresight in the afterthought. It does satisfy a wish to restore a lost feeling of hell when conveyed in public by such a wax figure as the one of Hitler. By contrast other wax figures are in more real contact to their potential audience. For instance, Barack Obama is shown directly confronting the photographer with teeth prominent, eyes direct. When looking through her lens, it seems that these wax figures document how famous people represent things in-between facts of life and non-life.

Always Eleftheria Lialios wonders how a photographer’s eye can represent this in-between concrete and abstract meaning in time otherwise called history. At risk is to photograph the wax figures in way that shadows give away to style. Of interest is that she made these photographs when following around the group tour of the wax museum. Only little time was allowed, thus all of the pictures had to be taken in seconds, and therefore she simply hoped that her analog camera exposure readings were correct, the composition decided. She felt at times some selections were represented strangely. She witnessed how viewer were frightened if the gaze of the wax figure was so strong, a challenge.

Her photographic work continues to 2009. It is important to note that she never planned on showing these images to anyone as she considered them to be documents only. All along wax figures interested her, but she did not consider her photos to be a work of art. However, after continuing the practice for so long, she began to see a consistent vision in her photographic documentation in terms of gaze, composition, perspective, color etc.. By focusing more and more on scratches, shades, lines which altogether reveal the construction of face by a specific wax figure, she started to explore the underlying motives of people reaching for fame and of the selection to present them in a certain way as wax figures. Consequently she contemplated society’s constant need to convey a false identity and asked herself what would be a critical photographic representation thereof. To Eleftheria Lialios these are key concepts in modern society.

The photographic works presented here are about selections made by a 'low art' museum in regards to who the public wants to see in life size. Due to these photos by Eleftheria Lialios, it can be observe more precisely and patiently in what manner they are presented. Most interesting to her is with what gestures they give possible answers to a public who is consumed with figures that are to her mind popular for the wrong reasons. By photographing these wax figures, she wants to really show what portraying history only as popular culture implies. As these wax cabinets show only fragments of figures that have changed the world, it is for her an integral part of the world of deception. Thus her astonishing photographic work stands for a strong conviction. Eleftheria Lialios believes strongly people have to free themselves first from this kind of deception before they can come to terms with their own, indeed livable truths.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 7.3.2009

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