Thursday, 7 June 2012


Head, hands and heart

Head and hands want to join together but they don’t have the heart to do it… Oh, Mediator, show them the way to each other.
Head and hands need a mediator. The Mediator: between the head and the hands must be the heart.
Metropolis, 1927, directed by Fritz Lang; screenplay by Thea von Harbon

This year in Rosenheim

In March I spoke at the German national CE congress in Rosenheim, to the title 'András Pető: a man in his time' (Ein Mensch in seiner historischen Umfeld):

He had lived through difficult times, marked by the end of European empires, national liberations and despotic oppression, Fascism, Nazism and Anti-Semitism, including the Nazis in Austria and the Arrow Cross in Hungary. Then came the fears and terrors of Hungarian Stalinism (under Rakosi), followed by the uneasy compromises after '56. He survived.
The complete text of this presentation, in English and in German, will be included in the forthcoming conference proceedings. Watch out for an announcement on the conference website:

András Pető had lived in different countries, under different political regimes, within different Zeitgeists. As Conductive World has more than once cautioned, it is folly, given the lack of evidence, to assert 'Pető believed this' or 'Pető thought that'. One can at best be a little aware of the material and social circumstances in which he lived and something of the Zeitgeist in which he was immersed at given points.

Central Europe, 1927

The concerns and preoccupations of the time, such as industrialised warfare, dragooned populations, mechanistic understandings of humanity – especially,  perhaps most of all,  in Central Europe (and not unreasonably so). Most people had of course seen nothing yet and what was soon to come to whole populations would far exceed mild dystopic fantasies like Metropolis. Was András Pető personally concerned about such matters? Who knows, but in the twenties and thirties he was living in a world in which many people were indeed concerned about the threats to civilised society – with not a few others actively conspiring to realise their worst fears and nightmares.  Over  András Pető's years in Vienna, that city knew many people of both kinds.

The film Metropolis was released in 1927. I have no idea whether András Pető saw it, or even whether he even went to the cinema at all. But I am very aware that I have little real grasp of what people thought at the time, or how the world looked to them. Here is a masterpiece of the cinema that I can share in some part with the people of eighty-odd years ago. Even if András Pető did not even know of is existence, I can be sure that some of the people whom he knew would have known of it, and that some of the concerns and themes that it manifests were echoing around the society of which he was a part. This theme is particularly redolent –

Head and hands want to join together but they don’t have the heart to do it… Oh, Mediator, show them the way to each other.
Head and hands need a mediator. The Mediator: between the head and the hands must be the heart.

As an early trailer boldly proclaimed, the film was Visionär, Modern. Zeitlos (visionary, modern, timeless). In so far as analogous concerns prevail today, albeit differently focussed on new social forms (industrialised, dehumanised medicine and therapy, for example) then unmediated dislocation of head and hand still cries out for the same mediator.

To say this makes no claim that some of the ideas of the nineteen-twenties and those who held them were 'ahead of their time'. It simply points out that the more that things change, the more they are the same.

Earlier take on this topic

An earlier posting on appeared on Conductive World a couple of years ago:

No apologies here for returning to this theme: my understandings have advanced a little since then and anyway, the central message merits restating, again and again. and again.

Online videos of Metropolis

Technology and availability have marched on a step in the two years since that previous posting on Conductive World:

Metropolis (2011) | Trailer HD
The Complete Metropolis - Official Trailer [HD]

1927 Metropolis (restored) part 1/3
1927 Metropolis (restored) part 2/3
1927 Metropolis (restored) Part 3/3
Sorry about the modern adverts that introduce (and pay for) these.


Sutton, A. (2010) What is missing in modern medicine? Conductive World, 12 February

Sutton, A. (2012) National conference in Rosenheim: observations and first reflections, Conductive World, 20 March

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