Die Gedanken sind frei – Thoughts are free

Digital Superimposition
Video loop, 2:30 min

First distributed on leaflets in 1780, the lyrics of the German revolution song “Die Gedanken sind frei” (“Thoughts are free”) are known as a protest for academic freedom and freedom of speech. To this day the song is in the repertoire of student corps and has been used repeatedly over decades to appeal against political oppression.

In this audiovisual projection, a choir performs the protest song in a constant repetition. However, the 20 singers are not perceived as individuals, but as a collective image that is visually merged into one appearance. Acoustically, “Thoughts are free” sounds as if it is being performed by a single voice, while only occasional variations of the synchronous body movement point to the individual origin of the coalesced union.

Lyrics translated from German:

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all these are futile works,
because my thoughts tear all gates and walls apart:
Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!