Training the Social Imaginary. An investigation of the German federal government's participation in the NATO Maneuver Fallex 66 (1966) with Regard to its Modality, Fictionality, and Immersivity.

by Jandra Böttger

art research and media philosophy

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.

Week 4

Bodies Exercising Society

Bodies Exercising Society focuses on material practices either shaped through architectonic or other societal surroundings or, inversed, shape society by means of continuous, maybe repetitive practices. Implicit predicaments of court architecture gain visibility when translated into movement notations, socio-emotional entanglements fly high if a case of sexual violence takes place in one’s own, thought to be reflective and liberal environment. The body is a crystallization point for biopolitical propositions, the thing all too easily neglected and displaced, yet never totally forgettable it has the power to fight back in moments unanticipated.


Die Übung eines gesellschaftlichen Imaginären.

Jandra Böttger

In a short lecture, Jandra Boettger will present her Magister thesis: Training the Political Imaginary. Revisiting the German Participation in the Nato-Maneuver Fallex 66 regarding its Fictionality, Modality and Immersivity.