aspect-ratio 10x9

© HfG Karlsruhe

The 1966 German civil defense exercise Fallex 66, associated with the biennial Nato exercise series, was different – firstly, because it took place in the recently completed government bunker; secondly, because the intensively disputed emergency laws (implemented 1968) should be tested by a fictional ‘emergency parliament’.

In midst of student and union protests against the emergency laws, this exercise was a disruptive moment, seen as a prejudgment, omitting the stipulated democratic procedures and thus working as a symbol for the anticipated non-democratic politics of an emergency government, indicating that the protester’s most dreaded scenario was not a nuclear war but a slow transformation of democracy towards a technocracy.

Yet, an examination of the journalistic reception shows that the as-if mode of the exercise was discussed without any systematic approach. Ascriptions included: (role-)play / (war-)game [Spiel], rehearsal / test [Probe] and exercise [Übung]. These termini share oscillating subject-object modalities, an indeterminacy between fiction and reality and a secure spot in the aesthetic discipline.

In 1966, however, they gained political and legal currency, as it was not only a test of the laws, but also a training of the participant’s imaginary. Although the accusation of manipulation is too aggressive here, by means of the politician’s bodily involvement in the exercise, the bunker’s immersive atmosphere and the scenarios affecting capabilities, a non-rational form of knowledge transfer was installed.

I follow the hypothesis that the fusion of fictional and real elements in the scenario, combined with a bodily and emotional immersion, had the power to influence the discussion about the emergency laws.

Trained in Art Theory, Aesthetics and Political Theory, my research goal is to understand the complex net of fictional and imaginary dimensions at work in this exercise and thus contribute to the question how an exercise can shape political and legal landscapes.