Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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Gottfried Helnwein - Head Above the Cuckoo's Nest (2000)

Extracts from this interview were used for features in Irish Tatler and The Dubliner.

James Fennell and I met Gottfried Helnwein on a bleak and blackened Wednesday afternoon shortly before Christmas 2000. He was at his castle in Kilshelan, just on the Tipperary - Waterford border, beneath which the River Suir flows. I wondered whether I'd feel intimidated in the presence of a man evidently blessed (or cursed) with the mind of a genius. I'd read a series of essays and stories about his life. His expulsion from the Viennese School of Experimental Art for painting a portrait of Adolf with his own blood. The time he'd photographed William S. Burroughs, who'd insisted on being snapped with his notorious pistol. Or Andy Warhol, a few months before he died. And, of course, there was that momentous occasion when Gottfried's "Not Worth Living", a painting of a girl dead in her soup, brought down Dr. Grosse, Head of State Psychiatry in Austria and a one-time scientist for the Nazi's genetic modification campaign that left 250,000 children dead.

His wife Renata greeted us and went to fetch tea, leaving us to wander in the great Castle hall, surrounded by fading tapestries, ancient swords and full size portraits of the de la Poer family who had sold him the castle in 1997. My eye would occasionally drift down a stray corridor, lured by a picture I recognised from his books. "Embarrassment", for instance.

Gottfried arrived, dressed in black yet without looking Gothic. He seemed to be a man at ease in his castle. The absence of his trademark bandana suggested a day off which I reckoned unusual for an artist as prolific as he. Earlier in the week he'd been designing costumes and stage props for an operatic production in Hamburg. He enjoys the theatrical world. It enables his creativity to tackle new dimensions. Clothes can walk, backgrounds quiver. But the world of stage is a poor one and so he keeps his theatre work to a minimum. He would like to get involved with making movies, as an actor and co-producer. Living in LA, this is not beyond the realm.

Gottfried likes to know what you're at, to be as interested in you and your plans as you are in his. I took a liking to him immediately and figured my best bet would be to just get on with the fellow well enough for me to be able to call him up and ask if I need any further information in the future.

I said our proposed trip to Mexico was bound to be a clear improvement on the dark skies of Ireland. The interview began. It lasted close on 2 hours. I was told to call again if I needed anything else.

TB: How come you fetched up in Ireland?
GH: We were travelling through Ireland for 14 days and looked around in a winter four years ago. I had never been here before. We landed and said lets just go through the country and if we really like it, then we'll move over here. We went to Galway first, to Connemara, and drove around. We were looking for houses and we found two we liked. One was close to Galway, Connemara; the other was this. I was uncertain which. Connemara was the most magic place I had ever seen. I went and said this place must be Paradise. And you cannot tell why and that's the strange thing because you look around and you don't see anything. There's not much trees around. There's nothing. It's just flat. So what is it? I've never experienced being in a place and being so happy. Almost flying away. I don't know why. Why is it? It is a magic place. That house was completely restored actually, a little bit smaller than this, Castle Gara. It was perfectly restored by a professional interior decorator, the right wall fabric, everything was perfect, but it was a little bit too perfect and so finished that I thought what should I do? Should I rip it down or twist it so it comes closer to my taste. It was too finished. And also the ceilings were not so high and I thought where can I put my big paintings. What I liked here was the green, there's so much beautiful forestry.
Before I moved here I lived in a castle close to Cologne, a castle from the year 1090, a fortress later converted into a castle. It's a beautiful land, not totally different to this, also green, but the atmosphere, the vibrations were completely different. That's what I find very important is when you go to different countries, areas, houses … it's the vibrations. It's not only how something looks. You can be in a nice landscape and you don't feel great. You can be in a desert and think you're in Heaven and you don't know exactly what it is. Here in Ireland, the vibrations are extremely good, generalising. Absolutely. I've been in so many different places. Ireland is a magic island. I don't know what it is but wherever you go, it has a certain soft, wonderful feeling. I always thought that here has some innocence that continental Europe lost a long time ago. Like, some peace.
TB: And you don't think that's changing?
GH (chuckling): I'm very very afraid that the EU will manage to fuck it up. It's now a question of how resistive the old Catholic spirit, the elves and the leprechauns and all these guys. But the EU is tough. I don't think that Irish people really realise what they're doing. They're taking everything away from you.
TB: We're selling our soul pretty quick too.
GH (shrugs): Lots of money comes in so everyone's happy. They're building roads that nobody needs. Its great. You're getting all this free money. There's just one weak point. There is no free money in the world. If someone gives you lots of money, be sure there's pay day one day. And it's soon. I don't like this. I think this island is so wonderful and so special - it's still simple. Germany is so over-regulated. America? If you live there, you are entangled in a web of one billion rules and laws that nobody understands. So just by moving, you have violated ten things. Let's say someone in the Government doesn't like you for some reason, it'd be so easy to make you a criminal. They just have to check your records. You are under surveillance all the time in these countries. And that is not the case here.
TB: Well, it's started in Dublin now.
GH: Sure. But you're still behind, which is nice. In Germany, any phone call is taped by the Government so whatever you do, they know it. And if they really want to know something about you, they go onto the computers, like in the science fiction films, and they have your profile. They know everything about you. And they can make your life miserable if they want. And I think that will be the future. If you want to get rid of dissidents, people you don't like, you can do it in a very elegant way. You just start checking the records. And then you can give them a hard time.
TB: Is that why you left Austria?
GH: I left Austria almost 20 years ago. Yes, I wanted to have my base in a country that's different. I am not nostalgic but … I want to believe that its possible to always live in a land that is innocent. Southern Italy, the people, the land, and Ireland are the two countries in Europe I like most in that respect. It's a different life. It's laid-back. In the other countries, you become a nervous wreck after a while. It's not that you can really get away from that totally. I can't and I don't want to because that would just mean hiding. I want to be in contact with the world. I want to see what's going on. It's also important for my art. It's good to spend part of my time in America because if you need that, then go to America, because that's the most advanced. I don't say that everything is bad about this future world but I also see the dark side. There is, of course, lots of amazing, interesting, inspiring things. But there's a big dark side too, of course.
TB: But you play the optimist card, I think?
GH: Me, yes. You have to be optimistic. But I think its always good if you know you have a home, a base where everything is consistent. That's what I've always wanted. I can sit here in this library with all the old books, no electronics, nice fire, look out at these birds and trees. I like that.
I suggest that demesnes like Gurteen were originally landscaped to soothe the minds of great orators and generals in other confusing centuries.
GH: That's probably the case. From the Renaissance to the 19th century, the idea of houses was to create your own little world or universe. And they were also meant to hold big groups of people. When I hear of people buying castles in France because they're rich. And they have all these empty halls. That's a shame. It's made for a tribe, a whole group. It has to be filled with people. So in summer we invite friends and artists from all over the world to come and stay. That is my plan, to make it a place where other artists and friends can come and stay. The house is big enough to have 20 people. There's enough space so nobody disturbs the other one. We can seat 20 at the dining table. For the last two summers we had lots of friends and it was so much fun. People would come and others would go, so it changes all the time. Many of them worked back in the garden. And then we all go to the dining room for supper or lunch and you have all these interesting people. You can talk and have discussions, bouncing ideas …
TB: You enjoy collaborating … with other people, artists, I mean?
GH: Sometimes. We exchange and share ideas. We have friends who are writers. It's good to get writers and painters together. And musicians. The world's involved with these types of art are very different. I always prefer musicians and writers to painters, but some painters are great!
TB: You know about Rachel Whiteread and the Holocaust Museum in Vienna that just opened up? Are you involved at all?
GH: No. Who?
TB: Rachel Whiteread?
GH: I go back to Vienna very rarely. From time to time, but not often. They've opened a Holocaust Museum?
TB: Apparently. Quite recently, I believe.
GH: That's good. It's a good place. They should do it. Next Summer, in Los Angeles, there is to be a week of remembrance at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, that's the Museum of Tolerance, and I'm going to make an installation there with 100 children, big, blown up.
TB: And you have an exhibition planned for Beijing. That ought to be interesting. I used to live in Hong Kong.
GH: Hong Kong? I have been there. I liked it.
We talk about Hong Kong and Asia for a while. I mention Tuol Sleng Prison in Cambodia and how it was quite the saddest thing I've ever seen.
: You can see how insane people can get. Pol Pot was probably the worst of all the Communists. He was completely insane. He wanted to exterminate everyone.
TB: In his last interview before he died, he still maintained he'd done nothing wrong.
GH: Yes, that is the worst. The biggest criminals of all have one thing in common. They feel completely good about it and have not the slightest idea that anything was wrong. I know. Eichmann was the same. It's very hard to listen to the guy. You can't believe it. He knows that he killed 6 million Jews. And he had done anything to get as many of them killed, turned into lampshades, soaps, things like that. He admitted it. But he says he feels very good in his heart because he was an officer and those were the orders he obeyed.
I try him on the WHO head who resigned in '92 for allegations of Nazism.
GH: Yeah? I would not be amazed. The World Health Organisation is always open to people like that.
TB: That's shocking. You think they are still rising through the ranks?
GH: Yes. If you do some serious research, then you will be amazed what's really going on up there. You have to get through the world of media lies and all that shit, you know, and see what's really going on. That was always a passion of mine. Politics. History. Philosophy. That is what I've always been interested in. Politics, today? People don't even want to know what's going on. It would be unbearable. We would find that the gap between the world we believe in, made by CNN and other of those jesters, and the real world would be a great surprise. I look at The Matrix, Enemy of the State. They are very good. I talked to a guy who actually worked for the British Secret Service and NATO. He has friends among the National Security people and the CIA. He said the film Enemy of the State was 10 years ago. Today, if people knew how far they can go, they would be up for a surprise. 13th Floor. The Truman Show. It's really interesting that they're coming up with all these films right now. It's like an unconscious feeling. And I think that's closer to the truth than CNN.
TB: And you're still trying to play the media?
GH: I haven't watched television for the last year and I read. Here I try to disconnect from the world and that's good. Whenever I have to get a plane and I see the news, it is just the same, nothing changes, always the same.
TB: What's your plot for Beijing? That's going to be tricky?
GH: Yes. I want to do different things. One is the children's faces, big ones, a wall with a thousand children, something like that.
TB: Like Kristellnacht?
GH: A different twist to Kristellnacht. I will take Chinese children. But I will start when I get over there. With a project like that, I don't think in advance, or plan. I go there and it has to be spontaneous, very fast. When I have to think and plan, it's no good.
TB: You been to Beijing?
GH: No. My wife was there. I have to go next year. But there is Tibet. That is also a sad thing, how they are wiping out this old culture. I would like to ask about Tibet. But if you try that, then you will not have the pleasure of being a guest of the People's Republic of China. They will kick you out immediately.
TB: Aye. But they are getting better slowly. Did you ever see Clinton's debate with Jiang Xemin, the President?
GH: Clinton is a genius. I really think Clinton is one of the best Presidents America ever had. He is definitely the best communicator I've ever seen. I've never seen a politician so good at communicating. Amazing. He can talk to anybody naturally.
TB: You see him speak in Ireland. No? He played a blinder.
GH: That is it. He is so intelligent. I'm really amazed. He is also the most attacked President of all time.
TB: Now then, Catholicism. You kind of missed the collapse of it all over here. But I've a feeling it's one of your pet gripes. The Hierarchy and all that. You notice much over here?
GH: Now? You don't feel anything but I know that the Roman Catholic Church obviously had a tight grip on this country. When I came, it was all over. I was raised in a Catholic family. Austria was very Roman Catholic and very suppressive actually. So I had my fights with the Church in Austria and Germany. But, to be fair, when you look from a distant point of view, of course, the Roman Catholic Church has changed the face of the planet. The influence was enormous. It was one of the most cleverly conceived organizations that ever existed. It is amazing how they used a combination of the Roman Empire administration and military strategy and the power of the spirit to create Christianity. And that changed everything. On the one side they have committed more criminal acts and murders than almost anybody else; on the other, they spawned more art than anyone else. The Renaissance. Music. Opera. Mass. Architecture. I don't know why it is. It's an interesting phenomena. My view on the Church is now very different to what it was when I was fighting against certain aspects. I look at it now, especially after being in Italy, and I really have an admiration for it. This Church embraced everybody. Hitler chanced to be outside.
In Germany you have a chance to experience both cultures. The south is Roman Catholic. The north is Lutheran. Austria is completely Catholic. You can see there is a difference. The Roman Catholic countries always encourage art and pictures and theatre. The Protestants, especially the Calvinists … Calvin was one of the biggest criminals. This is a really evil, destructive guy, a bad guy, because he wants destruction, hate only. It was him who destroyed art. He was against dancing. A sin was dancing, laughing. They killed people who did that.
History always says it is about Catholicism and Protestantism but, when you look closely, that's not fair. There are Protestants and Protestants. You have the Anglican Church which never really had a problem with the Roman Catholic Church because they are the same anyway but just they don't believe in the Pope. They are not fanatic. There were times when they got along with the Catholic Church easy, no problem. But the Calvinists, the Presbyterians that came from the north, this group, these hate groups who still cause problems up there … that's Calvin. When you look and dig, it's Calvin. I don't want to say anything against Protestantism in general but Calvin definitely, there's nothing good about this guy.
I think differentiation and specification is very important. If you are too general then you can hurt people without wanting to. Look at the Klu Klux Klan, for example. Calvin. Behind that it's Calvin. A fanatic Protestant group for white Protestant Americans against Catholics, Jews and blacks. When you look at these people who shoot doctors from abortion clinics, pro-life fanatics, they are all Calvinists. Whenever you see fanatic Protestants being destructive and evil, it's Calvin. Calvin is always behind that. He is the enemy of all artists because he was against art. He destroyed all the old Dutch paintings.
The Roman Catholic Church was the opposite. They tried to fight the Protestants with the Counter-Reformation, more art, bigger churches. Even though it was just propaganda for them, it was good for the world.
TB: Medieval spin doctors!
GH: Of course. Nothing could compete with them. There was no television, no entertainment. You can imagine these big churches with millions of angels, gold and music and smell … you get blown away. Vienna is serious, great buildings and fantastic churches. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, that was something I really liked. Because that is my tradition. Old Austria was good. It was a type of United Europe. There were Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, part of Romania and everything that's part of Yugoslavia today … everything was Austria. The nice thing was, even though it was the official language, the German-speaking part was a little minority. I liked the idea of a multi-cultural country of so many nations and so many people.
TB: But you require a heavy hand to keep it all running?
GH: The Emperor Franz Joseph I who started in 1848 until the First World War was a very simple man but he was a genius as a ruler, I think. Nobody would say anything good about him in Austria, for example, but its stupid because he was great. When he came into power, Vienna was a little medieval town, very little, tiny, a medieval wall around it, and it was pretty much what we call today the First District of Vienna. Vienna is now 23 Districts. He destroyed the wall and decided to build a big city. And he was the first to give the Jewish population which was big in Austria - bigger than anywhere else - full citizen's rights. Until that point, that didn't exist in Europe. Jews were always second class citizens. And they had to have certain marks so that you would recognise them. Emperor Franz Joseph was the guy who gave them the complete right to do what any other citizen could do. And in Vienna they built this most beautiful city. The Jews took this chance after thousands of years and became so rich they built factories and became part of the success of the Austrian Empire.
TB: Which annoyed a certain young art student called Adolf about 60 years later?
GH: Of course, at that time there was anti-Semitism because the Jews were so powerful. In Vienna, it was strong, but it was always verbal. Nobody thought of killing a Jew. That never happened. I was just nattering. There was strong movement of anti-Semitic thought but it had no real influence.
That's the source of Hitler's ideas. Not from Germany. The idea of executing, of disintegrating all the bodies and making practical things out of them, that's very German. For Austrians, it would be too much work, they wouldn't even think of something like that. But the ideas that there is a sub-human, that there are superior beings, genetic Darwinism … the new psychiatry of those times.
I think that everything had become materialistic so everything spiritual or idealistic was going away. Everything was now to be explained scientifically. This is the end of the 19th century. Then you had these new psychiatric studies saying everything was genetic in body. So it's the brain. So you can now tell, lower race, higher race. Before this, anti-Semitism was always based on religion. Why did they hate the Jews so much? Because they did not join Christianity.
In the beginning, around 300, when it became the State religion of the Roman Empire, it was not because Constantine thought it was a great religion. He wasn't Christian himself. But he knew this enormous Empire was falling apart. There was still the know-how, all these command channels and lines and administration, but the spirit was gone. I was dying. He needed a new fanatical spirit. He found that this sect, this cult, was so fanatic, completely out of their mind. They tried to get tortured. Nobody wanted to torture them. The stories you hear about the martyrs are lies, invented by the Roman Catholic Church. Serious studies found that this did not happen, with a few rare exceptions. The problem was these guys wanted to be martyred so they started to brutally provoke Roman soldiers and institutions, because the way to get into Heaven was to be martyred. So they made a whole myth out of it.
History, as we know it, was falsified by the Christians. The first hundred years, who wrote history? The monasteries who destroyed the old histories and recreated a new one. Research also says they wanted us to believe that here was Jesus Christ, he changed everything, before that there was nothing, and he founded Christianity and here we are. The truth is there is not one record that Jesus existed. I don't say he didn't exists but he was not significant enough for one of the Roman writers who wrote any shit down to mention it.
(GH, increasingly rambling and enthusiastic)
And there were several groups of different Christians with completely different ideas, a mass of different sects, cults… Manichasen was one philosophy, which St. Augustine, originally belonged to. When the first Christians got into power, they exterminated all the other ones, so that there was now just one official Church made from one cult of hundreds. Now they became the official religion of the Roman Empire and had all the power. You could either join or be exterminated. Manichasen was exterminated and nothing is left, no letters, no books, nothing.
After that, everyone had to join this Church. There was only one group that always resisted, that could never be made convert, and that was the Jews. And that's the only reason the Christians developed this hate. There's nothing else, nothing mystical. The Jews said you're wrong. The Christians hated that. They wanted to get everything and everyone. They hated someone having a different belief. You go to Africa, they destroy the old Gods. Same with the Pagan Gods. Smash them so there's nothing left. If people go to some Pagan place or holy hill, build a church on it so "now you can go, go on". The only group that was never broken were the Jews. And what they hated that this group was living among them, from whom Jesus was born, did not believe. Many Jews did convert. Many great Christians were Jews before they converted.
So, they only wanted you to change and convert. But at the end of the 19th century, a new psychiatry came in and now it was genetic. Nothing was spiritual or religious. Everything was body. So now its higher and lower races and now you've found the lowest and most wicked race - the Jews.
The people who inspired Hitler - one was called Lance Von Liebenfeldts who lived in Vienna, a former monk from a Roman Catholic monastery who was kicked out because he was severe, and he started his own cult. His crazy idea was that, in the beginning, Paradise meant everyone was Aryan, big blonde blue-eyed and good, good heart, great people, no crime. And then the Original Sin was one of these Aryans had sex with an ape. And now you have the mixture of the races and what enters the world but crime, insanity and all these bad things. That was his idea. I have read this book. And then he thought we were waiting for the Messiah. Hitler.
TB: And Hitler read this book?
GH: Of course. It was not a book. It was periodicals. Every month a magazine called Ostarra, some Nordic name, and Hitler read all this shit. That was his favourite literature. He was completely enthusiastic about it. Most of the things you find in Mein Kampf or executed by him came from that book. Mr. Lanz von Lieberfelt was the first guy to put up a swastika, 1907. He had bought an old castle at the Danube and here he performed his cult meetings, some shit like the Templar Knights, and he had a swastika flag. And so, basically everything mystical which Hitler brought into his Nazi party came from that. When he was in Vienna, Hitler was a disaster. He had failed completely. He would never have made it in Austria. So he read this shit and that gave him hope, a way to get revenge on all these evil guys. And that's coming from Austria. The idea was for this new bible of Mr. Von Lieberfelt that if someone was to get rid of all the Jews from the Planet then there would be Paradise again because Evil would be gone. I really think Hitler totally believed that. As an insane kind of religious idea. It was not a political idea, not greed and power, like an obsession of somebody insane.
All the time he would always repeat his main message, exterminate the Jews. Even in the war, there were no other big Nazis except Streicher who had the same ideas. They all obeyed, but Goering would've thought it's much better to use the Jews, make them work but why exterminate, it costs so much money and people, and the same with Goebbels. But Hitler would say "No No No, We have to get rid of them. If it's bad for the factories, good. If it's bad for us, I don't care. We have to get rid of them. We have to get rid of them". His last will for the people, before he shot himself, after all this disaster, after 50 million people are dead, what does he say? Keep on fighting the Jew. Never ever stop fighting the Jews. It was an insane obsession.
In the beginning it was a question of power. The Christians could not get this little tribe to join, to give up their identity. Then there came this long religious hate against them out of competition or whatever. Then in the 19th century it was twisted into something materialistic so now the Jew could not escape because there's no soul in a body, there's only body. So if the body itself is completely bad, what can you do? Burn it. Like a bug. That was the idea, you know.
What always shocked me the most was how could one guy like that turn a whole country that considered itself one of the leading cultural nations of Earth within a few years into a madhouse. Germany and Austria both. They both must share that.
TB: Do you think it was his media skills?
GH: No. It's the stupidity of people. Generally. And I think that's the most dangerous thing for any country at any time. The danger is the stupidity of people. Especially when it comes to masses. A single person is a different thing. When you have masses, something else switches on. If somebody knows how they trigger and pulls the right button, its not complicated to turn them into a bunch of complete, mad savages. It's the easiest thing on Earth. It's so easy to trick the masses. I think two of the most important books are Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World" foresee everything. The amazing thing is Huxley wrote in the 1930s about a world being entertained all day by completely infantile games so they never have to think. Look at the television, switch it on, and you see grown ups running around in silly hats, trying to win a million, from morning to evening.
Then he talks of this drug that makes people happy - soma, they call it in the book. In America, tens of millions of people are on Prozac and that's great because you swallow it and your problems are gone. Depressed, swallow it and it's gone. I think this is a nightmare. And they give it to children too. Ritalin is the drug. Tens of millions. Even now they design it for babies. That's for hyperactive behaviours, another invention of psychiatrists, for first you have to invent an illness and then you come up with the drug. In school, if a child is wild and alive and annoys the teacher, in the old times the teacher had to try and talk to the kid, talk to the parents, find out why. Today its very simple. The psychiatrists gave them a solution. It's not your fault, its not the fault of the parent, its not the child's fault, its only a dysfunction of the brain and all you need is the right drug. And it's always Ritalin for some strange reason. The magic drug. They have to go to the school psychiatrist and take it. If they don't take it, they get kicked out. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the best films I've ever seen. And that's basically a metaphor of the world and what's good for you and if you resist then we can always help you with an electric shock. So that's how I perceive the world out there.
TB: You've evidently researched your stuff, the swastikas you paint and such like.
GH: Yes. I always wanted to know my research, what is behind all that, is it really true what they're writing? You have to read and counter-read all the different opinions. And you must only trust your own sense of logic and reason. Its not because all of them said it or some of them said it or its always been believed. If you ever want to get somewhere, you have to forget all that. What everybody and nobody thought. It means nothing. Just look and see if it makes sense. For thousands of years people believed the world was flat. Galileo had to denounce it all and say I'm very sorry, it was very evil and wicked and stupid of me to say that the world was round.
TB: Same as Darwin saying we all had tails in our bottoms.
GH: Yes. And now we find that is probably not true. That is something I want to find out more about. The newest research says we grew from apes and straightened up to homo erectus is a myth. It's not a bad idea. It's nice. But Santa Claus is also nice. I like the idea. The guy with the red-nosed reindeer. Its great. In science, people expect proof. And for that there's no proof at all. What did they find? The Neanderthal is basically not human. It's not on the path from the ape to us at all. It's a sideline that just ended, that's it. It's not in the line. Now they found Lucy in Africa, 2 or 3 million years old, 70% of the whole skeleton, a woman, little over one metre and it's a humanoid. It's not a homo sapien but it's a humanoid. It's still a sideline. And they still don't know much because it's only one skeleton, nothing before, nothing after. And so when you look at all these little fragments, they're in a mess. You always hear about how they know everything. "Here's more proof!" But when you really dig, how can you conclude who we are from Lucy 2 million years ago. I always hate when people tell you that's how it is. That they can't admit they know almost nothing, that they're more confused than ever. The Darwin idea? There's no proof at all for that.
A few weeks ago, they find another humanoid, 6 million years old and that is when the chimpanzees were around so it seems there were many different apes and humanoid lines coming from the same tree and branching out at different times, but there's still no proof, it's a guessing game.
So they say we all came from Africa 2 million years ago. Really? So why was it a thousand years ago there was one part of the world where everybody was blonde or red, with completely white skin and blue or light green eyes. Then you have a part where everyone is completely black, lips like this, noses like this, a completely different type of body. And then there's this part where everybody is small with eyes like this, cheeks like this. Do we all look alike? No, we're completely different. Then there's the Mediterranean type, so maybe 4 or 5 different races, but in certain areas there is only them. Africa, negros, top to bottom, nobody else. Why? There is not the slightest hint as to why. Genetic differences. OK, so say they moved slowly up through India, I can see how genetics would change, black to brown and so on. But evolution would surely have created a massive mixture of races, thousands of totally different types. It does not explain why in this area everyone was black, here white, here completely Chinese. When the first white people came to Japan, they thought it was someone from the moon. And so the Vikings were descended from negros. Ok, that's a story, one of many, but where's the proof. There is not a shadow of proof. And that's not science. Science is not guesses. The truth is nobody has the slightest idea. Anthropology is only people who make up stories.
Sometimes I think the hardest thing to face is that we know nothing. And so they pretend everything is very scientific and straightforward. The world is not admitting it knows nothing. They want to keep everyone secure. They don't want people to start thinking too much, to dig for themselves. They have to stay there. Listen, we are the professors and the priests and we'll tell you what you need to know so don't ask too much.
There are other theories that are not acceptable like, say, that the human race is the result of genetic engineering by an extra-terrestrial race. There is also no proof of that, of course, but it's a different theory so official scientists would call the police to arrest you for it. It's forbidden to even mention it. But, so far, as there's no evidence for anything, its as good as saying everybody comes from an ape and became Vikings or Chinese.
TB: Do you tackle the future much? Science fiction.
GH: Not really. I was always interested in humans, their existence. That's why I like to work with their faces, children, human beings. That's what I'm interested in. The tragedy (says he with a gentle but challenging grin) of our life. The hopes, the fears, the struggle, the nightmares, all this stuff.
TB (foolishly retreating): Travel much?
GH: Yes. It is so important. Travel makes one so much more tolerant. You have to change your own impressions and prejudices of the world. You have to give it up. And you get a bigger heart. Like the Irish. My experiences are that people are extremely nice and kind here, much nicer than in England and Germany. Compared to those places it is much better. Italy is the only other country who is that tolerant. They are also people who don't care much. They are friendly, tolerant, like the people here, you can go to any pub if you're a stranger and they'll talk to you. Compare that to Germany where last year 150 people were killed because they were black or looked like Turkish, on the street, beaten to death, burnt. That doesn't exist here. Nor does it happen in Austria. You might have anti-Semites in Austria but it only means they would talk bad about Jews or blacks among themselves, but they would never beat somebody. That's not Austria. In Germany they do it, and most of them come from East Germany. Why? Because East Germany was always isolated and there's so much hate among young people on the street. The neo-Nazis see a black man and they beat him to death. 80 - 90% of neo-Nazis are East German. They had 40 years of totalitarian state and oppression so they couldn't move or get out. They were stuck. When I talk to people from East Germany, they say that times were not that bad in the old days, the only thing they all suffered was that they weren't allowed leave the country and that makes you feel like a prisoner. You know you can never see Italy. You can never see the Sea except in a Communist country. America, Paris, all these places you hear about, never. And so they haven't seen many places or races, these young people grow up differently. When the wall was falling people thought "now we are free" and they started imagining things about how the world is. When the Wall was falling, these East Germans were much nicer than the West German people. And that is true for all the Communist countries. Why? Because they were more naïve, softer, not spoilt. People from the west are much more sophisticated, but also cynical, more brutal, from the capitalistic fight for survival. These people didn't know anything about that. In Russia, the people are so nice and soft. You feel really moved. How can it be like that? Like it's the beginning of the 19th century. But when everything was opened you had these guys coming out thinking "My God, you can buy bananas here, isn't that fantastic!, it's Paradise" so everyone bought bananas, pornographic videos, coca cola
and at this point my minidisc stopped and the interview finished.