© Wermke / Leinkauf, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2019

In one of his main works - Crowds and Power (1960) - the Bulgarian writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature Elias Canetti describes the phenomena that occur when individuals dispose of their most important intangible asset in Western societies – individuality – and merge into a larger crowd of people, feeling like equals among equals. The most striking characteristic of the masses, according to Canetti, is their "obsession with destruction," with which the synchronized crowd pounces on everything that looks, acts, and thinks "differently". In the context of organized football or the Ultras, this otherness refers primarily to the respective other team and its supporters; but the fight against the increasing commercialization of sport also plays an important role for the Ultras. The "obsession with destruction" diagnosed by Canetti is predominantly transformed by the Ultras into productive energy, with which the opposing club and its supporters are to be intimidated in a variety of ways - a strategy that is largely implemented after the actual football match, in the so-called 3rd half.

The extensive media installation 4. Halbzeit (Fourth Half), by the Berlin artist duo Wermke / Leinkauf deals with the phenomenon of power and violence of crowds at a downright physically experiential level. At the center of the installation are found footage sequences of organized football fans and Ultras, which, in connection with diverse politically motivated protest movements, reveal the aesthetic as well as structural characteristics of the resistance of the masses as a powerful video and sound installation, but without judgement. These scenes drawn from the web are supplemented and combined with the artists' own recordings. Two large, opposing LED wall shows: on the one side, peaceful demonstrations aimed at general improvements of existing social conditions, and, on the other side, scenes degenerating into sheer aggression followed by blind destructive rage. The sequences of images are underpinned by powerful bass sounds, which reinforce the striking visuals with physically experienceable sounds. The visitor stands in the midst of these scenes and feels almost defenselessly exposed, not only to the direct impressions, but also to the masses.

The juxtaposition of the scenes illustrates with full force the resounding potential of the Ultras' expression of protest, which is also being adapted by new groups beyond the stadium, for resistance in public space. The extent to which extreme fan culture and political rebellion are almost mutually dependent has been demonstrated in recent years in places like Kyjiw, Cairo and Istanbul. These are also the places from which the found footage material used in 4. Halbzeit originated. The initial development of the Ultra movement in Italy in the early 1970s, in the wake of the '68 protests, also shows that today's largest youth subculture is based on a political origin that is evident across the entire bandwidth of sociopolitical engagement, from charitable commitment to politically marginal actions.

4. Halbzeit offers an artistic space of experience, especially in times of increasing and potentiating dynamics of real as well as virtual masses and opinions and their partly deep-seated aggression towards those who think differently, feel differently and believe differently, often based on misinformation or prejudice. Within this space, the immersive qualities of the installation impressively convey the power of the masses and the potential for good or ill that arises from them. The interplay of fascinating and at the same time repulsive images, as well as the powerful sounds, leads to an enormously intense experience that goes far beyond the usual reception of art.

PhD Andreas Beitin studied Art History, Applied Cultural Studies, and Modern and Contemporary History. He obtained his doctoral degree in 2004, after which he worked at the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe. After holding in various academic and curatorial positions, he became director of the museum in 2010. From 2016 to 2019, he was Director of the Ludwig Forum for International Art in Aachen; since 2019, Andreas Beitin has been Director of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.