CAP ARCONA

CAP ARCONA

Project Description

Part of her forthcoming collection THE HOPE OF FLOATING HAS CARRIED US THIS FAR (Coffee House Press, 2015), Quintan Ana Wikswo’s CAP ARCONA is a constellation of works in literature, photography, 35mm film, and performance collaboration with composer Veronika Krausas. Subverting the traditional romance story with a distorted lens, CAP ARCONA explores how the middle class mythos of an individual, self-directed life trajectory can be compromised not by destiny or fate, but by geopolitical policy.

The Cap Arcona was a luxury cruise liner that sailed the Baltic Sea in the 1930s. At the end of World War Two, it was used by the Germans as a prison ship for inmates from evacuated concentration camps and escaping Nazi war criminals. At the end of the war, it was bombed and sunk by the British Royal Air Force. Bones from the concentration camp prisoners washed up on the Baltic shore into the 1970s.

Artist Statement

I began CAP ARCONA through conversations with German artist Paetrick Schmidt – we discussed the Holocaust and German-Jewish relationships as we navigated a friendship that spanned two different familial legacies from that place and era. I became very intrigued by the moment between eras – a time when educated, affluent artists and intellectuals could cross borders, cultures, and languages fluidly, and then the time of war when those relationships were forcibly severed by geopolitics.

Literature

CAP ARCONA
by Quintan Ana Wikswo

translated into German by Dorothea Herreiner

 

1.

Karolina and George met in college, at Oxford University. She studied ornithology. She thought George had the eyes of a bluebird. George was studying engineering. They would read together in the library. They never spoke. She had books about birds. He had books about airplanes. He admired the structure of her hands, which seemed to him like wings. At night, they would dream of each other.

Karoline und George haben sich als Studenten kennengelernt an der Oxford Universität. Sie studierte Ornithologie. Sie fand, dass George die Augen eines Blaukehlchens hat. George studierte Ingenieurwissenschaft. Sie haben zusammen in der Bibliothek gelernt. Sie sprachen nie.  Sie hatte Vogelbücher. Er hatte Flugzeugbücher. Er bewunderte die Struktur ihrer Hände, die ihm wie Flügel zu sein schienen.  Nachts träumten sie von einander.

 

2.

In Karolina’s dreams, they floated on the Thames together in upside down umbrellas, making wild and inventive love. Precisely at the moment of orgasm, falcons would catch hold of their umbrellas, and carry George and her far, far up into the sky. In the clouds, they would continue making love. In George’s dreams, Karolina would give birth to enormous eggs. He would sit on the eggs until they had hatched into birds with his aristocratic face and her delightful fingers. They never shared their secret dreams. Instead, they continued to study together at the library and occasionally the toes of their shoes would touch.

In Karolinas Träumen trieben sie zusammen auf der Themse in einem   umgedrehten Schirm, auf wilde und einfallsreiche Art miteinander schlafend. Genau im Moment des Orgasmus ergriffen Falken ihren Schirm und trugen George und sie hoch, hoch in den Himmel. In den Wolken haben sie weiter miteinander geschlafen. In Georges Träumen gebar Karolina riesige Eier. Er saß auf den Eiern bis die Vögel mit aristokratischen Gesichtern und anreizenden Fingern endlich ausschlüpften. Sie haben nie über ihre heimlichen Träume geredet. Stattdessen haben sie weiter zusammen in der Bibliothek gelernt und manchmal berührten sich die Spitzen ihrer Schuhe.

 

3.

After graduation, they promised to meet again soon. Karolina returned to Hamburg and began work in the bird sanctuary at the zoo. She loved the egrets and the peacocks, who would eat schnitzel and hamentaschen from her fingertips. Within a few months, Karolina was a slave at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp, where she made bricks. George became a pilot in the Royal Air Force. He had the eyesight of a bluebird. His first days in the bomber plane were awkward and uncomfortable until he felt his bones turn into aluminum and steel and his body stretch out to fully inhabit the remarkable machine.

Sie verspachen, sich nach dem Studienabschluss bald wiederzusehen. Karolina ging nach Hamburg zurück und fing an, im Vogelgehege des Zoo zu arbeiten. Sie liebte die Reiher und Pfaue, die Schnitzel und Hamantaschen von ihren Fingerspitzen aßen. Wenige Monate später war Karolina Sklavin im Konzentrationslager Neuengamme, wo sie Ziegelsteine herstellte. George wurde Pilot in der Königlichen Luftwaffe. Seine Augen waren so gut wie die eines Blaukehlchens Die ersten Tage im Bomber waren komisch und unbequem, bis  sich seine Knochen langsam in Aluminium und Stahl verwandelten und sein Körper sich ganz streckte um die bemerkenswerte Maschine ganz auszufüllen.

 

4.

George’s moment of honor arrived at the very end of the war, when his commander ordered him to bomb the Cap Arcona. A ship of exquisite grace and beauty – a floating dovecote for honeymooners of a brighter era. In the rough grain of aerial reconnaissance photos, it is not entirely impossible to observe the deck of the ship filled with escaping Nazi officers as well as the wavering shapes of prisoners from the Neuengamme Concentration Camp, whom the Gestapo planned to drown off the coast of Helsinki.

Sein Ehrenmoment kam am Kriegsende, als sein Kommandant ihm den Befehl erteilte, die Cap Arcona zu bombardieren. Es gab wenige Schiffe, die so auserlesen schön waren wie die Cap Arcona – eine Art treibender Taubenschlag für Paare in den Flitterwochen in helleren Zeiten. In dem grobkörnigen Luftaufklärungsphotos is es nicht wirklich unmöglich, die Aktivitäten auf dem Deck zu unterscheiden. Zwischen den Rettungsbooten schwanken dünne graue und weiße Gestalten in Uniformen aus dünnen weißen und grauen Streifen. Das sind die Gefangenen des Konzentrationslagers Neuengamme. Sie stehen zwischen den großen Sprengstoffkisten, die die SS kurz nach der Ankunft in Helsinki detonieren wollte.

 

5.

From the deck of the Cap Arcona, the spring wind whistled against Karolina’s ears like the sound of ice, white. From the deck of the Cap Arcona, Karolina saw the glorious airplanes descend through the clouds. She waved to George. She was a thin figure of thin stripes, her fingers opening and closing, like feathers, like wings. He waved back to her from inside the cockpit of his airplane.

Auf dem Deck der Cap Arcona pfiff der Frühlingswind um Karolinas Ohren, der Klang von Eis, weiss. Auf dem Deck der Cap Arona sah Karolina die prächtigen Flugzeuge durch die Wolken herunterkommen. Sie winkte George zu. Sie war eine dünne Figur dünner Streifen deren Finger sich öffnen und schliessen wie Federn, wie Flügel. Er winkte ihr zurück aus dem Cockpit seines Flugzeugs.

 

6.

The bomb fell through the air between them.
To Karolina and George, it looked very much like an egg.

Die Bombe fiel durch die Luft zwischen ihnen.
Für Karolina und George sah sie aus wie ein Ei.

Published in Drunken Boat

Film

Credits

Film, Text, and Photographs: Quintan Ana Wikswo

Composer: Veronika Krausas

Voice: Rafael Liebich

Translation into German: Dorothea Herreiner

CAP ARCONA is supported by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Oberpfalzer Kunstlerhaus, Ucross Foundation, and Catalysis Projects / LA.

Performances, exhibitions and presentations include Schloss Pluschow (Germany), Yeshiva University Museum (New York City), Kebbel Villa (Germany), and Cal State University at Fullerton.

Publishers include Catalysis Projects and Drunken Boat.