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A Private Eschatological Fragment


A Private Eschatological Fragment


Hans-Jacob Schmidt

How does a promise of the infinite affect us as finite beings? Can finitude itself open up a mystical experience of the transcendent? Artist Hans-Jacob Schmidt evokes the figure of a quarry as a site of doubt, faith and border between these two realms.

In 1887 multiple quarries were created around the small village in the north of Saxony. The area had previously made its living through a modest agricultural industry, growing sugar beets.

The removal of stone slowly allowed for the extension of a rocky cleft into what he - the false prophet - knew in its ideal state to be a flat, green, oval disk of water, surrounded by abrupt walls of torn rock.

The quarry still connects to the village via a small dirt road. The muddy strip intersects equally muddy rectangular fields that surround the small

Gemeinde. --

He enjoyed the confusion of the secular [municipality] and sacred [congregation] realms that the German word proposed.

--- The road transitions into a smaller path which moves fairly straight towards the rock formations. The sharp ridges are surrounded by a wooded area of only moderate density. The formations themselves reaching the size of two, three men at most - abruptly intersecting the otherwise smoothly rising and falling landscape of the region.

The positive protrusion of rocks and its transition towards a negative form [containing a body of water] revealed several uses that seemed too coherent, too repetitive to him.

Firstly, he imagined, the quarry must have - like so many others in the region - served as a place of labour and later as a site of punishment.

Secondly, after the war the local villagers had used the surprising depth of the quarry to discard old uniforms and propaganda objects.

And - thirdly - a local community of Christian believers had used it for baptism gatherings during the summer.

He remembered his own - and the baptism of another man [with the same name as his] at the quarry.

The other one had requested to be baptized, knowing that he only had a few more months to live his new life, before dying an organic death.

The experience of an other’s failing body had such an impression on his young mind, that he often struggled to remember details of his own declarative dip into the water.

A second baptism memory filled the gap: He accidentally slipped on a rock into the water, not knowing how to swim yet.

The false prophet moved towards a wooden structure at the entrance to the wooded area. Here, he decided to rename his Grand Father (Joash) and Great Grandfather (Ahaziah).

'What is left to confess when a life is lead in precisely such a mode of perpetual analysis? When the book of actions has been closed - and my desire has found its rightful place.

Perhaps, the only confession I can make to you is that of doubt. Often, it is just the absence of feeling. The fear of being left behind, or left inside myself.

--- The moment in which I would return home from school, to find my parents not home. -- Another absence, when those around me would fall under the spirit. Standing, because I lack the connection to the moment. --

What I am unable to confess to them is precisely the only thing I can confess to you.

Doubt is always related to faith; negatively. When I confess my doubt to God and his ambassadors, I affirm him.

---  But when I write these words to you, I feel like I am finally unable to do so. So I am giving you my doubt: If faith is a material, as the Apostle tells me, then doubt must be an object too.'

Hans-Jacob Schmidt was born in Germany and received his BFA from Goldsmiths College, London. Hans-Jacob uses his  objects, performances and text to discuss issues of religious and secular faith. He will receive his MFA in Sculpture from the Yale School of Art later this year.