New Images for an Old Ceremony

Bernd Stiegler

“It is much better, when many images appear strange to the viewer for a time ... ” 
—Ernst Fuhrmann, “Überblick”(1) 

It is among the peculiar paradoxes of photographic history that the aesthetic of external 
appearances, for which the photography of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) became 
known, started out with barbs—more precisely with cactus barbs. Even if this aesthetic was 
often exclaimed as sleek, cool, or even as a transfiguration of the world of things and goods, at 
the beginning, it seemed to be much more thorny, resistant, abrasive, natural, and yet formally 
perfect—and precisely that was its aesthetic fascination. 

Plants have been among the preferred objects of photography from the very start, appearing as 
subjects since the earliest times, as in the photographs in William Henry Fox Talbot’s The 
Pencil of Nature or the comprehensive photographic archival works of Anna Atkins in the 
eighteen-forties, but since then are mainly being used as objects of still life photography. This 
doesn’t change until about the turn of the century, when photographic floral patterns come into 
wide use in fine arts and architecture (think of the floral ornaments of the Jugendstil and Art 
Nouveau). Karl Blossfeldt, who, ultimately, also stems from this tradition, presented a classic 
work of Neue Sachlichkeit photography in 1928 with his book, Urformen der Kunst. Even when 
Blossfeldt still represents the crossover point of very different lines of tradition that range from 
the monism of a Haeckel and the biosophy of a Fuhrmann, to the peculiar biological theory of a 
K. H. Francé, and classical photographic documentation for artistic use and art education, his 
photographs of plants set the course for a new way of observing a classical object. And they 
were reviewed as such: Walter Benjamin, for instance, devoted an important review to Blossfeldt 
as a turning point in photography in his work Kleine Geschichte der Photographie. Georges 
Bataille published an essay, “Le langage des fleurs,” in his magazine Documents with 
Blossfeldt’s photographs. Surrealists reviewed them with enthusiasm and even popular 
magazines, such as Uhu, referred to the images. There in the article, “Grüne Architektur,” a 
photograph of a horsetail was compared with architectural photographs. This was also shown in 
a similar fashion in a variety of forms in historical and theoretical architectural works. Many 
further examples could be mentioned. Plant photography did move into the focus of attention for 
a short period of time and acted as a programmatic determining factor between art, technology, 
and form. Form follows function: this defined position of modernity is already found 
implemented by plants in an exemplary manner. 

Images of plants held a special meaning and an unusual objective; it was about nothing less than 
the basic forms of nature and of culture. As Karl Nierendorf wrote in the foreword of 
Blossfeldt’s Urformen, it is about “grasping the deeper meaning of our times which in all areas 
of life, art and technology strives towards recognition and realization of a new unity.(2) Plants 
become the archetype and the photography that documents it, a universal medium. 

While cacti play a comparatively marginal role in Blossfeldt’s Neue Sachlichkeit photographic 
Florilegium, they move into the spotlight of Albert Renger-Patzsch’s work, the second important 
figure of Neue Sachlichkeit photography. Here, as well, we find a programmatic connection of 
images of plants and a formal new definition of modern art. As Carl Georg Heise wrote in his 
introduction to Albert Renger-Patzsch’s epochal illustrated book, Die Welt ist schön:  

“The photograph releases the characteristic section out of the multiplicity of 
guises, underlines the essential, omits that which seduces into digression. It holds 
the observing gaze firmly spellbound on the strangely beautiful organic growth. It 
clarifies what the scientist can only describe. It shows the appeal of the 
substantial: as in the matt glaze of grape skin or the delicate hair on the calyx of 
the echynopsis cupreata. The beauty of color: one can feel the somewhat 
intrusive brilliancy of the dahlia, that must assert itself in the colorful autumn, the 
forceful expressiveness of individual forms: the euphorbia grandicornis cuts 
through the dark surface like a jagged flash.”(3) 
The photograph of the euphorbia grandicornis, a type of cactus discussed here, is among the 
most famous photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch. It is reproduced in Die Welt ist schön, and 
is thus part of a proper aesthetical program, but originated in connection with a comprehensive 
documentation of plants and here, specifically, of cacti for the Folkwang/Auriga publishing 
house. From 1922 to 1925 Renger-Patzsch produced hundreds of images for contracted freelance 
work.(4) Between 1924 and 1931, four volumes of the series, Die Welt der Pflanze were published 
in which a preference for the prickly flora world was striking: Orchideen (1924), Crassula 
(1924), Kakteen (1930), and Euphorbien (1931). The last two volumes of this series stem 
explicitly, as the cover already shows (fig. 1), from the darkroom of Walther Haage—as well as 
those images that are the starting point and material basis of this series from Erik Niedling. 
Hence, Walther Haage continues a series, to which Renger-Patzsch and others made significant 
contributions. Here, the leader was the dazzling figure of Ernst Fuhrmann, who in 1931 
published a selection of photographs from the Folkwang/Auriga archives in a volume titled Die 
Pflanze als Lebewesen. The introduction of this volume called “Überblick,” tries to describe in a 
few, somewhat enigmatic short pages, the difference between flora and fauna, plants and animals 
and ultimately also the difference between them and the world of humans. In the “extraordinary 
world of appearances,” so Fuhrmann, those that possess “the small ability for abstraction” can 
perceive and recognize that “animals and plants are in a continual interaction with each other” 
and even in the assumed trivial appearance of a leaf, a downright “state building individual of 
the plant” can be determined. This observation is so important to Fuhrmann that he repeats it: “A 
plant is a state. Its individuals have totally different duties to fulfill. Some operate in the ground, 
others are effective in the stem and bark and again others evolve, while some have to perform a 
continual service, such as the tendrils, etc.” Behind the photography of plants is a proper 
aesthetic-philosophical program that finds visual abbreviations of complex cultural attempts at 
meaning in plants. The plant is a miniature world and the photographs show in the “appeal of the 
composition” just those sought and found self-evident structures, that in the world of everyday 
life are no longer taken for granted: “In our photographs, we have found the beautiful forms of 
plants to be self-evident, endlessly variable, yet always perfect.”(5) Die Welt der Pflanze is in 
many ways our world and the photographs should be seen as such—not only as an archetype of 
art, but also as an archetype of nature and culture, flora, fauna, and also technology and art. 

The Neue Sachlichkeit photographer, Albert Renger-Patzsch, was more reserved, but 
nevertheless enthusiastic. His elation for plants and especially for images of cacti can not only be 
seen by the fact that he published several texts on exactly this topic,(6) but also by their restrained 
programmatic trait, that interlocks technology and perception. “The impression of a collective 
vegetal force that is found in most forms of cacti, is in itself worth a plate,” as it says laconically 
in his article “Kakteen-Aufnahmen” for the magazine Photographie für alle. And in his essay on 
the “Photographieren von Blüten,” he establishes a special reference to the perception of an 
object: “The charm” in the photography of plants consists of the fact that one is “forced to adjust 
one’s eyes to the more or less small organism that constitutes a flower, that one is forced to see 
with the eyes of an insect and, for once, to make their world ours.”(7)
The photography of plants in general, and especially of cacti, holds a special place in 
photography and modern art: here not only a revolution of perception is shown en detail, a “new 
way of seeing,” but also a proper aesthetic-cultural theoretical program. The plant and cacti 
images sustain an old ceremony: that of a reconciliation of culture and nature through art. 

Erik Niedling’s work, Formation, is a special form of repetition: it brings back tradition and 
repeats tradition, but transforms this reconstruction through a subtle arrangement in its 
deconstruction. The recurrence of the images throughout the work registers a difference in and 
with the images—in the only assumed identical material. In the studio, almost secretly, negatives 
are transformed into positives that only look as if they are negatives. The original manipulations, 
the retouching and the corrections, are still visible—and last but not least, they appear to shine, 
although they come out of the darkness. The function of the enlargement of the plant images that 
played a central role in the photography of the Neue Sachlichkeit is taken over here through this 
transposition of the negative. It produces a new perspective that alienates the seemingly familiar, 
morphs, and transforms. In this way, Erik Niedling creates images that visually transcribe the 
ambivalence of the Neue Sachlichkeit’s visual program and still remain loyal to the factual 
unemotional approach of the photographs used. He generates a visual tilt that leads to the 
unanswerable question, what is it about now: about positive or negative, documents or works of 
art, historical material or his artistic recreations. At the same time, that is precisely what it is 
about: positive and negative, documents and works of art, historical material and its recreation. 
New images for an old ceremony, that is no longer the same. 

Erik Niedling’s Formation repeats photographic history as cultural history and cultural history as 
photographic history. The starting point is generated by the cactus culture, together with its most 
important characteristic or to be more exact, that of its photographic documentation, which for 
its part registers the complex history of the discovery of the cactus as a privileged object of the 
photography of the Neue Sachlichkeit and its cultural program: complex cultural history (and 
histories). In many ways, it is about a determined cultural history and, as we have seen, the 
stakes are always high: yes, a downright revolution of the nature of perception and thought. 

This subtle repetition of a cultural history as photographic history is due to a certain discovery or 
better yet, several discoveries. Everything began when a volume from the series, Die Welt der 
Pflanze was tracked down in the library of the Angermuseum in Erfurt, in which the photographs 
of the Erfurt-based photographer and nursery owner, Walther Haage were printed. The garden 
center still exists today, and when Erik Niedling went there he discovered something of a 
camera obscura, a dark room in the attic of the apartment house where photographs were hidden 
to protect them from later access. The locked room was opened and a large wooden box was 
brought to light containing hundreds of negatives from Walther Haages’ estate that documented 
the work of his own cactus culture, and that were probably also used for advertising and 
publication purposes. These negatives constitute the material for Erik Niedling’s photographic 
works, who, for his part, spent weeks archiving, securing, studying, printing, arranging, 
grouping, and spreading out the plates to then transform several of them into new large-format 

This photographic metamorphosis of the photographic plates also brought about—in a wondrous 
way—the metamorphosis of the objects. The physical reproduction of the original glass negative 
plates also transformed the material because Erik Niedling remained true to the sober objectivity 
of the given material. He again repeated the transformation that the photographers from the 
period between the wars strived toward and made the photographic language of form legible as a 
program—and that sometimes in a literal sense: scissors, knifes, blades, and garden tools refer 
not only to the cacti culture, but also to the cultural encryption of photography that has always 
been a process of cutting, cropping, and caesura. The work on the cacti is at the same time 
metaphorical, but also highly specific work on and with photography. This also applies to the 
serialized arrangement of cacti, earthenware, and pots, that correspond to a serialized 
arrangement of photographs, or for the archive wall, in which seeds and samples are stored (and 
in which photographic archives could also have found their place and perhaps even have). And 
last but not least, for the allotted use of light without which no cactus culture and also no 
photograph could be successful. The same thing is repeated on the level of the image: the 
manipulation—meant here in the literal sense—of the cacti is doubled in size through 
manipulation of the negative plates, which are recognizable on the enlargements from the C- 
prints in a sometimes irritating way. This brings us to the old question of the objectivity of 
photography, but at the same time photography is identified as a reproduction, as a process of 
manipulation. In one photo the word, wetterfest (weatherproof) can be seen on a pencil that is 
supposed to make the scale of the blades discernible. But here it becomes a light sensor in that it 
underlines what the image is showing—because wetterfest is not that what Johann Faber 
produces, but instead what homo faber produces: images upon images, images of reflection, that 
make complex cultural history readable. 

Erik Niedling succeeds in creating something wonderful and at the same time highly alienating: 
he forces the aesthetic-epistemological program out of the Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and 
leaves them in an idiosyncratic twilight—in the hauntingly beautiful and darkly luminous light 
of photography. And in this light, our cultural history begins to shine anew. 


The reproduction is taken from: Rainer Stamm’s Die Welt der Pflanze. Photographien von 
Albert Renger-Patzsch und aus dem Auriga-Verlag (Ostfildern-Ruit, 1998), p. 16.

Ernst Fuhrmann, “Überblick”, in idem. Ed., Die Welt der Pflanze (Frankfurt am Main, 1931). 
Karl Nierendorf, “Einleitung,” in Karl Blossfeldt, Urformen der Kunst (Berlin, 1928), p.ix. 
Carl Georg Heise, “Einleitung,” in Albert Renger-Patzsch, Die Welt ist schön (Munich, 1928), 
pp. 7f.  
A comprehensive and detailed documentation of the images from Renger-Patzsch can be found 
in Rainer Stamm, Die Welt der Pflanze. Photographien von Albert Renger-Patzsch und aus dem 
Auriga-Verlag (Ostfildern-Ruit, 1998). 
Gert Mattenklott ventures a depiction of this program in several publications. Compare with the 
beautiful documentation of Karl Blossfeldt’s plant photographs: Karl Blossfeldt. Urformen der 
Kunst. Wundergarten der Natur. Das fotografische Werk in einem Band, with a text from Gert 
Mattenklott (Munich, et al, 1994). As to Fuhrmann, see Mattenklott’s “Nachwort,” in Ernst 
Fuhrmann, Was die Erde will (Munich, 1986), pp. 237–55, and “Vorwort,” in Ernst Fuhrmann, 
Neue Wege, vol. 10 (Hamburg, 1983), pp. i–ix.  
See these texts by Albert Renger-Patzsch: “Pflanzenaufnahmen,” in Deutscher Camera 
Almanach, vol. 14 (Berlin, 1923), pp. 49–53; “Das Photographieren von Blüten,” in Deutscher 
Camera Almanach, vol. 15, (Berlin, 1924), pp. 104–12; “Kakteen-Aufnahmen,” in Photographie 
für Alle, no. 6 (Berlin, 1926), pp. 83–86; “Photographische Studien im Pflanzenreich,” in 
Deutscher Camera Almanach, vol. 17 (Berlin, 1926), pp. 137–41; and “Pflanzenaufnahmen im 
Winter,” in Camera (Luzern, January 1927) pp. 186ff. 
Renger-Patzsch 1924 (see note 6), p. 105. 

In: Formation, ZERN (Hrsg. / ed.),  Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2008


The Documentation Center Thuringia (DZT) is dedicated to researching radical political movements in Thuringia that glorify oppression and violence. Founded by artist Erik Niedling and writer Ingo Niermann, the DZT examines both what was and what is, as well as what could be. Unlike documentation centers dedicated to Nazi history, the DZT does not confine itself to surveying particularly catastrophic past events, but understands the pursuit of oppression and violence, as manifested in National Socialism and its underlying racism, sexism, ableism, and totalitarianism, as something always undergoing transformation. In order to resist it successfully, the DZT strives to apprehend not only its existing forms but also its potential future mutations.
In the DZT’s  exhibitions – Dokumentationszentrum Thüringen (2022) and Summer of Anarchy (2022) – Erik Niedling explores the question of how Thuringia became a rallying point for right-wing radicals and neo-Nazis after the fall of the Wall, and chronicles how, in order to violently oppose them and the annexation of the socialist Eastern Germany by the capitalist Western Germany, he and his friends founded the „Anarchist Faction“ as  teenagers. Niedling gathers archival material and historical artifacts and presents his personal story as a fragment in world events. A present-day encounter between Niedling and an old comrade-in-arms, who today belongs to the QAnon movement, gives a glimpse into an ominous future.
The Thuringia Documentation Center sees itself as a complement to the Burial of the White Man, which Niedling and Niermann anticipate annually on May 8, the day of Germany’s defeat in World War II, on Thuringia’s Kleiner Gleichberg. Here, the largest pyramid in the world is one day to be cut out of the mountain and subsequently disappear under it again, symbolically burying the archetype of the White Man, which bears a particular responsibility for oppression and violence.
Download exhibition brochure
In the Heart of Germany, 2022. 
Video, 22:57 min 
Helmut Kohl in Erfurt, 2022. 
Video, 11:48 min
Information Board, 2021.
Wood, paint, wax, soot, steel, thumbtack, 117 x 65 x 6 cm
ACAB, 2022
Plastic, steel, wood, cord, spray paint, dirt
111 x 82 x 36 cm
Summer of Anarchy, 2022
Wood, camouflage net, concrete, aluminum foil, steel
Dimensions variable
Summer of Anarchy, 2022 (Detail)
Wood, camouflage net, concrete, aluminum foil, steel
Dimensions variable
Target, 2021.
Steel, Gun oil, 53 x 19.5 x 7 cm
Thuringian Photograph (Equestrian statue), 2022.
Archival inkjet print, 58 x 46 cm (framed)
Thuringian Photograph (Waterfall), 2022.
Archival inkjet print, 58 x 46 cm (framed)
Thuringian Photograph (Car), 2022.
Archival inkjet print, 46 x 58 cm (framed)
Thuringian Photograph (Statue), 2022.
Archival inkjet print, 46 x 58 cm (framed)
Display case I, 2022. 80    x 140 x 15 cm
– Logo design for the Anarchistische Fraktion (Anarchist Faction, AF), 1990
– Manifest of the AF, 1990
– Founding charter of the AF, 1990
– Admission regulations of the AF, 1990
–  Claim of responsibility of the AF for an attack on the Kyffhäuser Monument, 1990
– Poster design for the AF, 1990
– Press photographs of the AF’s actions: slogan graffiti on house wall (photo: Axel Usko, 1991), plates of party offices corroded with iron (III) chloride (photo: Andrea Schicker, 1990), facade hit with paint bombs (photo: Andrea Schicker, 1990)
– Article “Neofaschismus in der DDR” (Neofascism in the GDR) in Neue Erfurter Zeitung, issue 4, Erfurt, 1990
– Photo of the members of the AF in Berlin, 1990
– Audio cassette with Erik Niedling’s interviews with young neo-Nazis, 1990
Display case II, 2022. 80 x 140 x 15 cm
– DIY throwing star, 1990
– DIY nunchaku, 1990
– Folded flag of the GDR, 1989
– Sleeve of a bomber jacket, 1990
– DIY slingshot, 1990
– Schwarze Texte: Politische Zensur in der BRD ‒ 1968 bis heute (Black Texts: Political Censorship in the Federal Republic of Germany ‒ 1968 til today), ID-Archiv im Internationalen Institut für Sozialgeschichte, Amsterdam, 1989
– Insert in the second edition of Schwarze Texte: Politische Zensur in der BRD ‒ 1968 bis heute, 1989
– Sticker with anarchist slogans, 1990
– Sticker with the anarchist star, 1990
– GDR passport of Erik Niedling, 1990
– Wegerein-K in petri dish, 1990

Flag Painting (Thuringia III), 2022.
Oil on canvas, 90 x 75 cm
Flag Painting (Deutsch Süd-Ost), 2022.
Oil on canvas, 90 x 75 cm
Claim of responsibility, 1990
Typewriter on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm


In Lychen, sitting in the middle of the overgrown garden, I sipped sparkling apple juice while pondering the idea of creating Pyramid Mountain with a gigantic explosion. Two butterflies landed on my knee. I tried to sit still so as not to disturb them. After a while they beat their wings and flew to a red tulip.(Excerpt from Burial of the White Man, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2019)

Untitled (Pentaerythrityltetranitrat), 2019
Pentaerythrityltetranitrat in petri dish
Dimensions variable    
Untitled (Fragment of the lost installation: New Balance, 2016/17), 2019
Rope, Nail
Dimensions variable    
White Cat, 2020
Archival inkjet print
66 × 99 cm 
Ramp, 2021
136 Books
38,5 × 203,2 × 19,5 cm
Rider, 2021  
Lacquer and shellac on polyurethane
Three plates on blue wall, each 38,5 × 79 × 6 cm 
Driver, 2021
Lacquer and shellac on polyurethane
Three plates on blue wall, each 37 x 75,5 x 5,5 cm
Untitled II (Burial of the White Man) 2020
Oil on canvas
60 × 50 cm
White Donkey, 2021
Archival inkjet print
75,8 × 50,5 cm 
Monument, 2021
Archival inkjet print
75,8 × 50,5 cm
2048, 2020 
Basalt, rope
10,5 × 9,5 × 19 cm
Seizure V, 2021
230 x 270 cm 
White Man, 1994/2021
Archival inkjet print
75,8 × 50,5 cm 


A public diary not only captures experiences, it often encourages you to make your life more successful. Just as millions of people today document their lives more or less realistically in social networks to create an optimized version of themselves, Niedling shows his attempts to advance Pyramid Mountain’s realization in a regular video diary as a way of spurring himself on and exploring the framework conditions through conversations and actions with sympathizers, critics, and experts.

What Happened So Far, 2018
59:12 min
Leveled to the Ground, 2018
5:26 min
Seizure II, 2018
2:54 min
Collateral Damage, 2018
10:20 min
A Camp, 2018
22:37 min
Power Nap. 2019
8:54 min
Erik Niedling and Maik Bluhm
Burial of the White Man, 2020
10:55 min
Burial of the White Man, 2021
1:01 min


Molybdomancy is still practiced today in German-speaking countries and commonly known as Bleigießen (lead-pouring) respectively Zinngießen (tin-leading). It is a popular pastime, especially during New Year’s Eve celebrations to predict one’s upcoming year. Small lead or tin figurines are melted over a candle and, once liquified, poured into cold water. The transformed and resolidified shape is then interpreted for clues to an uncertain future.For his sculpture series, Niedling replicates the process of Molybdomancy, but enlarges its scale over a hundredfold. Instead of a single figurine, Niedling liquifies whole armies of tin soldiers, pours them into water and receives a quite dramatic object.

Future 12/27/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
24.5 x 17.5 x 18 cm
Future 01/20/17, 2017
Tin, Lead
22.5 x 23 x 8.5 cm
Future 12/30/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
36.5 x 41 x 8.5 cm
Future 11/17/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
26 x 18 x 14.5 cm
Future 02/29/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
8 x 40.5 x 41 cm
Future 01/13/17, 2017 
Tin, Lead
22 x 22 x 14.5 cm
Future 01/19/17, 2017 
Tin, Lead
8 x 53 x 18.5 cm 
Future 07/10/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
24.5 x 21.5 x 8.5 cm
Future 06/17/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
25 x 32.5 x 26 cm
Future 11/18/15, 2015
Tin, Lead
22 x 23 x 11 cm
Future 01/21/17, 2017 
Tin, Lead
16 x 29.5 x 11 cm
Future 08/13/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
4 x 20.5 x 19.5 cm
Future 08/19/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
5.5 x 23 x 20.5 cm
Future 08/21/16, 2016
Tin, Lead
28 x 37 x 7.5 cm


The launch of the Pyramid Dollar (P$) marks the first time that shares in a single artwork, Pyramid Mountain, are being issued. This work, which was conceived by Ingo Niermann in 2010 and subsequently transferred to Erik Niedling, is a concept for the largest burial site and pyramid of all time: a pyramid, chiseled from a mountain and at least 200 meters high, within which Niedling will be interred, after which the pyramid is itself buried under the excavated material and the mountain restored to its original shape. The issue price of the Pyramid Dollar doubles each successive year. In the first year (2015 AD) it is 1 P$ for 1 g gold, in the second (2016 AD) 1 P$ for 2 g gold, in the third (2017 AD) 1 P$ for 4 g gold, etc.

Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann
One Pyramid Dollar (P$), 2015
Digital print
14,5 x 25,9 cm 
Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann
One Thousand Pyramid Dollars (P$), 2015
Digital print
14,5 x 25,9 cm 
Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann
One Million Pyramid Dollars (P$), 2015
Digital print
14,5 x 25,9 cm 


The series Pyramid Mountains Photographs, is the result of a worldwide search for a suitable mountain to realize Pyramid Mountain.

Pyramid Mountain Photograph I, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph II, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph III, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph IV, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph V, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
 Pyramid Mountain Photograph VI, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
35 x 27,5 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph VII, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph VIII, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph IX, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph X, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph XI, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph XII, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph XIII, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm
Pyramid Mountain Photograph XIV, 2014
Inkjet print on fibre-based paper
27,5 x 35 cm


In his series of the Pyramid Paintings, Niedling uses the soot of discarded and destroyed paintings as colorants for abstract gestural notations. Only when he has perfected his work on the Pyramid Paintings to the point that they unvaryingly satisfy him over a long sequence will the series find completion. After Niedling captured the soot of his scrapped works on glass plates in his Teilchen (2012) series, he now rubs it onto canvases in his Pyramid Paintings, creating a link to an imaging technology that harks all the way back to cave paintings. Niedling’s painting is a pause in the face of the oversized challenge of making the Pyramid Mountain a reality. The alternation of creation and destruction recalls the cycles of life, and the completion of the series resembles death in perfection.

Untitled #01 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
164 x 124 cm
Untitled #02 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
240 × 195 cm
Untitled #04 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
240 × 195 cm
Untitled #6 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
195 x 140 cm
 Untitled #8 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
195 x 140 cm
Untitled #10 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
230 x 170 cm
Untitled #12 (Pyramid Paintings), 2014
Soot on canvas
195 x 140 cm


List of works to be transferred to my burial chamber after my death. This is to be realized within Pyramid Mountain, conceived by Ingo Niermann—a pyramid at least 200 meters high carved from a natural mountain that will be reburied under the excavated material after my internment, restoring it to its original mountain shape. Pyramid Mountain not just buries a single human being and their treasures, it rather buries an entire epoch — of the white men – shaped by the cruel pursuit of symbolic immortality.

Room 1: Childhood


High display case


– Four vases from my family’s supply.

– Creamer that belonged to my grandparents.


– Two GDR toy army tanks.

– Seven GDR toy soldiers.

– Two Matchbox cars from the Intershop in Oberhof.

– GDR bottle openers showing marks I made in 1983.

– Wooden cat that stood in my childhood bedroom for as long as I can remember.

– Photograph (b/w), 1979: my parents with me at the parish fair in Bindersleben.

– Wooden pistol, 1979: carved by my father, with my fingerprint where I picked it up before the paint dried.

– White die that has always accompanied me.

– Shell, acquired through a trade in elementary school.


Room 2: Adolescence

  1. Table display case

– Three certificates: DTSB school judo tournament, first place, 1984; school judo tournament, first place, 1985; Steelworkers’ Trophy, first place, 1986.

– GDR scorebook for judo.

– Photograph (b/w), 1986: judo training camp in Ł d z, Poland.

– Three judo medals: Spartakiad Children’s and Youth Games, bronze, 1987; Erfurt District Championship, silver, 1988; gold, 1988.

– Photograph (b/w), 1981: winning my first judo medal (bronze) in the Erfurt District Championship.


  1. Table display case

– “Honor Dagger” from the German Wehrmacht.

– Bayonet, German Wehrmacht.

– Bayonet, German Wehrmacht.

– Casting mold for tin soldiers.

– Crocodile leather case, lined with ostrich leather.

– Stopwatch.

– Slice of ivory.

– Watchmaker’s hammer with ebony handle.

– Decorative spoon.

– Watchmaker’s shaping pliers.

– Paintbrush crafted from a bullet casing.

– Butcher knife that belonged to my grandfather.

– Piece of pottery from the Temple of Karnak (Egypt).

– Two Indian arrowheads made of flint.

– Flint arrowhead from the Stone Age.

– Amber pendant that belonged to my grandmother, which I wore for years after her death in 1988.

– Heart-shaped aluminum locket that belonged to my grandmother, contains a photograph (b/w) of my grandfather.

– Travel thermometer made of ivory.

  1. Table display case

– School essay “Pauseneindrücke,” ca. 1986: describes a hike in the Krkonoše Mountains.

– Two photographs (b/w), 1989: Wehrausbildungslager (weaponstraining camp) in Beichlingen.

– Summons to the Wehrausbildungslager, 1989.

– GDR children’s I.D. card.

– GDR I.D. card.

– GDR passport.

– School notebook started by my parents, contains evaluations of my school conduct, 1985.

  1. Table display case

– Reproduction (b/w) of a Depeche Mode poster.

– Bravo articles about Depeche Mode.

– Photograph (b/w), 1988: group portrait with Markus Bruszis, Andreas Horvath, and me, taken in a photography studio.

– Reichsbahn card forged by my girlfriend at the time, where I gave my name as Vincent Strauß.

– Gutting knife in a leather sheath.

– Photograph (color), 1989: Christmas in my parents’ modern living room.

– Certificate for my participation in a children’s painting contest held in India, undated (ca. 1987).

– Contract with my father regarding conditions of use of his leather jacket, with an additional clause concerning the length of my hair, 1989.


  1. Table display case

– Poster design for the Anarchist’s Faction (AF), founded by me in 1990.

– AF foundation charter, 1990.

– Poster for a demonstration against Chancellor Helmut Kohl, 1990.

– AF logo design, 1990.

– Burgonet in packaging.

– Mouth guard shaped to fit my mouth.

– Sticker for an antifascist strike.

– Broken-off Mercedes star.

  1. Table display case

– Letter from the Yeti mountain bike manufacturers, 1994.

– Yeti team jersey.

– Yeti catalog, 1991.

– Photograph (color, with red filter): me and Christian Zahn after a ride in the countryside.

– Swatch watch with a skewed face.

– Photograph (b/w), 1994: me and my skater friends.

– Key chain.

– Yeti shot glass.

– Two Yeti and Syncros buttons.


Room 3: Mark


Table display case

– Two slide reproductions (color), 1993: my upper arm following a laser tattoo removal.


Room 4: Travel Years

  1. Table display case

– X-ray photograph, 1992: the broken bone that left me bedridden for several weeks, when I began taking photographs.

– Large-format negative, Type 55, 1994: Marc Holtmann, my photography mentor.

– Sketchbook, 1997–99, with a photograph of my slashed and blooddrenched undershirt from a knife attack in 1997.

– Article in the Thüringer Allgemeine on the founding of my project

space foto.raum in Erfurt and my search for like-minded people in the area, 1999.

– foto.raum stamp, 1999.

– Key chain in the form of a violet billiard ball.

– Polaroid, 1996: my friends Daniel Homes and Markus Bruszis.

– Old broken Pepsi bottle.

– Asphalt from the old Route 66.

– Barbour wax.

– Flier for Puck, a techno club in Erfurt.

– Admission ticket for a Bodycount concert at the Weimarhalle, 1993.

  1. Table display case

– Erfurt city magazine t.akt 11 (1995) with a cover photograph (b/w) taken by me.

– Erfurt city magazine Boulevard 8 (1998) with an ad I designed for the Erfurt skate shop Orange Jungle: four photographs (b/w) and an excerpt from the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

– Promotional postcard for E & N Photography, Erfurt.

– Promotional postcard for Optiker Bettzüge, Erfurt.

– Two promotional postcards for the Orange Jungle skate shop, Erfurt.

– Invitation card for my exhibition “Mein Kampf. Dein Kampf” (My Struggle. Your Struggle) at foto.raum, a Leipzig project space opened for this project, 1999.

  1. Table display case

– Polaroid camera.

– Passport, Federal Republic of Germany.

– Erik Niedling, Monochrome, portfolio (Bleicherode, 1999).

– “Kawumm” cannabis pipe, 1993: built by me in southern France.

– Zippo lighter that I shot several times with an air pistol.

– Passport photo, 1999: me with my mouth and shirt smeared with fake blood.

– Photograph of an installation in the “Mein Kampf. Dein Kampf” exhibition, foto.raum, Leipzig, 1999.

– Rock that Susann Lochthofen (n e Luthardt) used as an ashtray.


Room 5: Day


High display case


– Teapot my friends and I used to pass around LSD and Hawaiian Baby Woodrose on Christmas Eve 1998, at my shared flat at Theaterstra e 6, Erfurt.

– Headless, matte-black plaster sculpture I bought when I was in elementary school and later partially gilded and plated with silver.

– Poinsettia made of white paper.

– Cinzano bottle, like the one Christoph L schau had smashed over his head.

– Blank pistol, like the one fired to end the first part of the nocturnal disputes.


– Firewood from my father’s log pile, like the ones we used to heat the Theaterstraße 6 flat.


Room 6: Art

  1. Table display case

– Six vinyl records with covers I designed for 1st Decade Records: Northern Lite, Treat Me Better, 2001; Northern Lite, My Pain, 2003; Monosurround versus Raccoon Brothers, Greepy Guys / Fingerlicking Good, 2003; Junghan , Zu lieb, 2005; Warren Suicide, Listen to National Radio Stations, 2003; Northern Lite, Treat Me Better, picture disc, 2003.

– Booklet 3Y1ST for the third anniversary of 1st Decade Records, 2003.

– Photograph (color), 2004: Helmut Geier (DJ Hell) in Tokyo.

– Stamp, 1st Decade Records.

– Pick from Northern Lite.

– Flier I designed for a party for the Neo.Pop compilation series, 2001.

– Notice of receipt for my “1st Decade Records” wordmark registration at the German Patent and Trademark Office, 2002.


  1. Table display case

– Albert Renger-Patzsch and Ernst Jünger, Bäume, catalog (Ingelheim am Rhein, 1962).

– Albert Renger-Patzsch and Ernst Jünger, Gestein, catalog (Ingelheim am Rhein, 1966).

– Erik Niedling, Formation, catalog (Ostfildern, 2008).

– Erik Niedling, Fotografien/Photographs, catalog (Cologne, 2006).

– Erik Niedling, Status: EIKON Sonderdruck #11, catalog (Vienna, 2007).

– Erik Niedling, Blick, catalog (Erfurt, 2003).

– Erik Niedling, Produkt verschiedener Faktoren (Product of Various Factors), catalog (Erfurt, 2001).

– Erik Niedling, Blackbox #03, wood, glue, lacquer, concealed contents, 2003.

– Ham, given to me by my parents as a Christmas gift in 2006.

– Old tin box from the Niedling stationer’s shop in Erfurt.

– Sketchbook, 2003–9.


  1. Table display case

– Ingo Niermann, U.S. Rifle, composite wood, unlimited edition, 2008.

– Polaroid: my dog Butch who died in 2008.

– Butch’s collar.

– Erik Niedling and Jens Thiel, Nationalholz (National Wood), wood, unlimited edition, 2003.

– Erik Niedling and Jens Thiel, National Three A, newspaper with a text by Ingo Niermann (Erfurt, 2003).

– Pregnancy test (positive) belonging to my girlfriend Kitty Heckert, 2005.

– Forged nail that I found in 2005 while working on my Status photo series at the Angermuseum.

– Erik Niedling, Feuerzeug (Lighter), plastic lighter, gold leaf, unlimited edition, 2004.

– Ingo Niermann, Minusvisionen: Unternehmer ohne Geld, protocols (Frankfurt am Main, 2003), in which Jens Thiel says, “Meanwhile [Erik] has been hanging at all the German art fairs, but I think

it’s going to go international this year and with a little luck, our thing will be pulled along with the undertow.”

– Ingo Niermann, Umbauland: Zehn deutsche Visionen, essay (Frankfurt am Main, 2006), with one of the first descriptions of the idea of the Great Pyramid, a collective tomb for potentially every human being in the world.

– Ingo Niermann and Jens Thiel, eds., Solution 9: The Great Pyramid, essays (Berlin, 2008): Ingo Niermann describes how I (through Jens Thiel) started him on the idea of the Great Pyramid.


Room 7: The Future of Art


Table display case

– Ingo Niermann with Erik Niedling, The Future of Art: A Manual (Berlin, 2011).

– Horn purchased from Genesis and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge.

– A4 sketch of Pyramid Mountain by Ingo Niermann, 2010.

– Pen from Tobias Rehberger.

– Broken ax from Thomas Bayrle.

– Target I shot at Coney Island, 2010.


Room 8: My Last Year

  1. Table display case

– Luna magazine (Cologne, 2005): Ingo Niermann first describes his idea for the Last Year.

– Ingo Niermann, Choose Drill / Drill dich (Ostfildern, 2011).

– Wooden pyramids from Visoko, Bosnia, where, according to Semir Osmanagic, the largest pyramid in the world is concealed under a mountain.

– Hotel key from Visoko.

– BahnCard 100, the validity dates of which correspond with those of my Last Year (3/1/2011 to 2/29/2012).

– Three lottery tickets, filled in by me, 2011.

  1. Table display case

– Purchase contract for the works in the Chamber cycle, 2011.

– Six lists created in the course of my Last Year, 2011/12.


  1. Table display case

– AEG Traveller de Luxe typewriter, like the one used by Ernst Jünger.

– My Last Year, three diaries, 2011/12.

– Bread baked on a hot rock during a hike through the woods with Ingo Niermann, 2011.

– Rock from the steps of the Reichsparteitagsgelände (Nazi PartyRally Grounds) in Nuremberg.

– Walnuts from Niedling.

– Ernst Jünger, Storm of Steel (Hamburg, 1926).

– Iron from the battlefield in Verdun.


Room 9 (East Hall): Preparations


Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann

Day, 2012

Inkjet on paper in a wooden frame, 230 x 180 cm.

*Area plan mapping events on the night of December 24, 1998.

Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann

Interview I, 2012

Laser print on paper, 194 pages, each 29.7 x 21 cm.

*Transcription of interviews Ingo Niermann conducted with individuals

who participated in the events on the night of December 24, 1998.

Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann

Tribunal of Reconciliation, 2012

Active speaker with built-in MP3 player, 3:46 min. sound loop, punching

bag, 103.3 x 50 x 300 cm.

*A speaker aimed at a punching bag plays a group EEG converted to

sound, recorded during a reunion of all those who were friends on

the night of December 24, 1998, and participated in the transpiring

events. The speaker and punching bag were located at the place the

events took place.

Erik Niedling

ST37, 2012

Steel, goat’s milk, laser, 197.3 x 2.5 cm.

*A steel rod I compressed at both ends and rubbed with goat’s milk,

the upper end of which is struck by a green laser beam. The first

impetus towards an escalation of the events on the night of December

24, 1998, came from a laser aimed at my eyes.

Erik Niedling

Cycle, 2012

C-print in a wooden frame, 167 x 125.5 cm.

*Reproduction of a print from a photograph of a photograph lifted

from a newspaper. The picture shows a Harley Davidson motorcycle

that I won as a prize at a carnival in 1986. The print has accompanied

me ever since and continues to fade more and more with each passing day.


Room 10 (West Hall): Tomb


Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann

Chamber, 2012

Inkjet on paper in a wooden frame, 230 x 180 cm.

*Construction plan for the Pyramid Mountain concept, which I

acquired from Ingo Niermann, along with my burial chamber.

Erik Niedling and Ingo Niermann

Interview II, 2012

Laser print on paper, 780 pages, each 29.7 x 21 cm.

*Transcription of Ingo Niermann’s interview with me about my life.

Erik Niedling

Empire of the Sun, 2012

C-print in a wooden frame, 162.5 x 125.5 cm.

*My last large-format photograph, taken on a supposedly ancient

vegetation-covered pyramid in Visoko, Bosnia.

Erik Niedling

Particles, 2012

Soot behind glass in a wooden frame, seven parts, each 89 x 69 cm.

*Glass panes coated with soot from burning assorted parts of my

artistic archive.

Erik Niedling

Coffin, 2012

Zinc, wood, peat, 190 x 45 x 50 cm.

*Receptacle for preserving my corpse in Pyramid Mountain.


Average life expectancy can fool you into thinking you still have many years ahead. But what would it be like if you had only one left? What would you want to—what could you—experience in this limited period of time? Erik Niedling lived one year—from March 1, 2011 to February 29, 2012—as though it were his last.

My Last Year, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
List of People, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Training Plan, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Forest Passage, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
List of Works I/II, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
List of Works I/II, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Wishes, 2011
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Contract I/III, 2011 
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Contract II/III, 2011 
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm
Contract III/III, 2011 
Typewriter on paper
21,1 x 29,3 cm