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Suicide Tools - More than just breaking a taboo

The artist Zandmann launches "Suicide Tools" and forces viewers to engage in radical debate


Suicide tools made of solid concrete, sturdy steel and elegant wood, which can induce suicide of their users in various ways: In his new works the artist Zandmann creates something extraordinary: a suicide tool as individual as the human being himself, for an end of life between contemplation and design. Zandmann moves playfully, disturbingly and mercilessly between breaking taboos and artistic freedom: "My art is the most radical possibility for contemplation and examination of the self," says the artist.

The room-filling sculptures automatically create a suction effect. The viewer should not be able to escape being part of the sculptures as well as their antagonists. For the artist, the quality does not lie in the shock effect. Zandmann seeks the meditative confrontation: "The visitors should take a seat. They should come to rest and examine their own highly individual position in life." The possibility to decide on the Absolute is inspiration to reflect on the actual.

"Individual Suicide Tools for a better World" - This is why the works, as products of a supercapitalist world full of narcissism and egocentricity, can be individually configured, are aesthetically pleasing and fit stylistically into our design-oriented living culture.

The significance of the works of art is divided into three areas:
1. the conceptual idea: "The end of art is peace" Using the suicidal moment as a source of artistic inspiration.
2. the intellectual and emotional confrontation: the process begins through the confrontation with the machines
3. the aesthetic meaning: the object effect beyond its function.

Suicide Tools

Currently, the ensemble of suicide machines consists of six installations. These are: "Burning Man", "Heaven", "Catapult", "Mindblower One", "Mindblower Two" and "Daybed". They all bear the Zandmann logo, the three-pointed star and are made of high-quality materials such as concrete, steel, chrome or fine woods. All Zandmann machines can be individually configured - as for example with the wood types and lacquers.


One of the most visually confrontational works is the daybed. It consists of an ergonomically shaped lounger made of high-quality oiled cherry wood, mounted on chrome-plated spring steel and two vertical steel plates 2.50 metres high and 1.50 metres wide. The noble wooden couch is comfortable and invites you to sit down and relax. Both steel plates bear the Zandmann logo in the upper third. The "reaction plate" does not protrude quite vertically upwards. It is secured to the fixed, vertical plate with a steel cable and then falls onto the couch when the two so-called „activation buttons“ are pressed. With its weight of 900 kilograms, the plate reaches a speed of 7 meters per second. The daybed is weatherproof and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

About Zandman

Zandmann is a European artist. He studied art at one of the most renowned European academies of art and graduated there as a "master student" and „master of art“. His paintings have been shown in exhibitions in Asia, the USA and Europe and were shown at Art Basel, Frieze Art Fair and Art Cologne, among others. He is represented in renowned collections and museums worldwide.

Due to the complex legal situation regarding active euthanasia and suicide in numerous countries, the artist wishes to remain anonymous for the time being.

Further articles and information

'In the face of death, we awaken to life' - an introduction to the work 'Zandmann' by the German author Tobias Vetter (released for the press - also in excerpts)

At first sight the sculptures of the artist ZANDMANN seem quite harmless. While strolling past, I noticed striking forms of concrete and steel and my instinctive turning in the direction of these objects, I attributed to my affinity for clear, contemporary architecture. Exposed concrete and rusty steel, in combination with fine woods and polished surfaces, have long since become part of our living culture. I had not yet fully deciphered the mechanics or the functionality of the exhibited objects when I read the words „individual suicide tools for a better world“ on a wall print. I must have stood there for some time with a somewhat stupid expression on my face. While a part of my brain kept trying to understand how it worked, my limbic system confronted me with an undertow. In front of my inner eye I suddenly sat in these machines, already exposed to the immediate danger of death, while I was just beginning to understand what or in what way I was threatened. A light touch of panic in the face of this uncontrollable threat situation gave me back control of my facial muscles. It doesn’t happen too often in an exhibition that I first walk away from all the objects, only to return again and again to the individual objects, to persevere in order to listen to my inner restlessness.

What you can expect from art

Before I rebel, before I ask myself the question of dignity or morality, before I consider what art is allowed or not, I would like to report on the pure level of experience. I don’t want to talk about what art should achieve, but about what Zandmann’s art actually achieves. Because what is so readily attributed to art in general, namely that it is capable of stimulating debate, I have not yet experienced in this intensity. All too often one remains a passive observer. Of course, one is moved by beauty, authenticity, and even by the conceptual intellect. But it is brutal that you cannot resist becoming part of the exhibited object, that your own imagination forces you into this situation. Where else can I, as a visitor, become part of a work of art in this intensity – regardless of education, intellect, cultural or social background? Because anyone who becomes aware of its functionality becomes part of the sculpture at that moment. Zandmann’s art objects literally go beyond what one can expect from a work of art.

Beyond the trivial taboo of a suicide machine

We must not make the mistake of looking for the quality of Zandmann art objects in their trivial and conceptual function of suicide. The world has already experienced pure suicide machines and the excitement of their mere existence. Be it in the form of the intravenous suicide machine „Thanatron“ by Jack „Dr. Death“ Kevorkian, or in a more sober form, the box reminiscent of the „Futurama Suicidchamber“ by the Australian doctor Philip Nietschke. In fact, the true quality does not lie in the loud bang of the taboo-breaking „suicide“. The quality of the objects lies in their confrontational quality. The actual confrontation is then also far more contemplative than one would first suspect. Sandmann’s intention is to enter into a dialogue. It is not necessarily about the amount of adrenaline, but rather about a means of relativizing one’s own longings, fears and motivations. Thus Zandmann recommends to confront oneself daily in one’s own „individual“ machine. Only the hands on the triggers create the awareness to relativize one’s own life to a zero point. Or to put it differently: in the face of death, we begin to live.

The need for an individual Suicide Tool

It is no coincidence, it is part of the concept that Zandmann markets its objects like products. There is a website with product descriptions and storylines, a marketing campaign with provocative slogans and the possibility of customizing his own personal tool. We react immediately and impulsively to the banality of his marketing slogans: „Save the planet, kill yourself“ is as simple as it is threatening, as it seems to reflect the attitude towards life of an entire generation. In general, the Sandmann slogans reflect almost the entire spectrum of what seems to occupy people substantially and defines their idea of the world and their own lives. With a few slogans, Zandmann strikes a collective nerve and provides the answer with his objects. I am not sure whether it is a sign of good powers of observation or a cynical spirit that Zandmann makes even the confrontation with one’s own existence configurable and consumable in a narcissistic, capitalist world. But what Zandmann works out precisely in his objects is the confrontation with one’s very own fears. For it is quite astonishing how clearly visitors develop an affinity to one or the other machine and have a very precise idea for themselves of the form in which suicide would or would not be conceivable. The configurability of suicide machines thus serves two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the narcissistic desire for individuality and, on the other hand, the actual, original idea about the act of suicide.

Loud and vulgar or contemplative and gentle?

If one looks at the objects independently of their function, as if they were abstract room installations, they follow classical design patterns. Each object has a completely clear structure, materials and surfaces are coordinated, the constructions have a clean, almost monumental structure. In their pure appearance they are confrontational and take a dominant position in the room. Thus they are at least not quiet, not adapted, but also not vulgar. Only through the implied function and the associated taboo-breaking of suicide do they seem to become vulgar, vain and effective. If we overcome this taboo break in our minds, we are able to see the contemplative gentleness of the installations. Because the confrontations are gradual and the function is in dialogue with the construction and the materials. There is a spectrum from fast to slow, from soft to hard. If we take the machines as pure contemplation machines, in which we imagine their function only as a means, we experience that they react amazingly sensitively to our own limitations. One thing is definitely great about the Zandmann Suicide Tools: they have stimulated me to engage at all levels of my being – and that is more than I ever hoped for from an art object.


About the author: Tobias Vetter is a German author writing about contemporary artists, but also about important artistic personalities of the 20th century.

'Suicide Tools and Art' - an interview about the current works with 'Zandmann' (released for the press - also in excerpts)

Suicide Tools – my first thought was that it’s fascinating but somehow banal, at least the subject is crying out for attention. I don’t like to ask the question „is this art“, but I’m sure we can agree that it’s a tremendous provocation?

Zandmann: In fact, the subject of „suicide“ obviously moves people’s minds. To be honest, the genesis of the idea was in no way about provocation. A provocation is always directed at a recipient. But my discussion was of a purely egocentric nature. I studied classical painting and quickly felt that there were other things at stake besides formal abilities. The quality of an artistic work is closely linked to your own personality. It’s about personality development and about questioning oneself. Who is this „I“ actually and how do I penetrate to a deeper authenticity and thus truthfulness? An adequate means for me was a consequence of borderline experiences. A constant confrontation with my fears, but also a questioning of my motivations. At some point I ended up in a kind of positive crisis. I had found a coherent quality in my painting, but had lost the inspiration for further works. The feeling of having arrived, can also trigger an existential crisis. To detach from the world, but to be physically and existentially in it was a shocking experience. At some point it became clear to me that there is basically only this one, completely clear and, of course, banal borderline experience at which our entire existence can be reflected: the question of life and death and the freedom to answer this question for oneself. This was the basic idea behind the Suicide Tools.

As you present it, it is a philosophical reflection on our existence. At the same time, you can hardly deny the brutality and uncompromising nature of your suicide tools. How does this fit together in terms of content?

Zandmann: The logical consequence of the idea of suicide lies in its implementation. I found it interesting to see in my circle of friends and also in myself that everyone seems to have a personal preference as well as an idea. So the way of a suicide is in most cases very personal and specific. And yes, of course, an induced death has – as in many „natural“ cases – mostly something raw, brutal, uncompromising. But even in this radicalness there are gradations, affinities, which have something to do with one’s own experiences and life. It can go very quickly or slowly, painfully or gently. You can look death in the eye or, still in the process of dying, try not to encounter it.

You offer your suicide tools like everyday items. You have written product descriptions and customers can configure the machines to their own taste. There are even advertising campaigns that encourage suicide. Is this coquetry or criticism?

Zandmann: For more than twenty years I have been in exchange with intellectuals, artists and scientists who sit in their ivory tower and work relatively lonely on their topics. Even for people who are better educated, open-minded and cultured than average, it is difficult – not to say impossible – to enter into an exchange at this level. To stay with the topic of contemporary art: either it is banal, or difficult to comprehend. I suddenly had this vision that my suicide machines could break all boundaries. With the campaigns, the beautiful materials and surfaces, the fascinating mechanics, I attract attention. But exactly in the moment when the viewer understands what such a machine does, what it was constructed for, he is suddenly completely in the center of his own examination. It’s as if the art object has jumped into the viewer’s head and almost made it explode. The idea of finding oneself in such a machine triggers an elementary debate in everyone, regardless of age, nationality, educational background or social milieu. It really doesn’t need anything. You don’t have to understand or be explained anything. My own paintings, for example, were far from that. But of course you are right with your question. I couldn’t resist playing with the narcissism of our super-capitalist era. The idea that the individual defines himself almost exclusively through his consumer behaviour is not new, but that he can now „individually“ configure the tool for eradicating his own existence, I found quite amusing.

The group of those who experience the topic less „amusing“ but as a tremendous breach of taboo is probably not exactly small. You have decided to remain anonymous for the time being. What prompted you to do so?

Zandmann: I came to the subject of suicide primarily through an artistic examination. To be honest, I was surprised myself when I started researching this topic. I have little to do with everyday politics, as I am more interested in basic ideas and contexts. The motives why people kill themselves could hardly be more different. The associated tabooing and stigmatization of those affected is downright disgusting. And I am not even talking about conservative, religious groups. Especially in Europe, the topic of active euthanasia is currently being discussed again and again. It is a disgrace how even in the supposedly most progressive countries of the world, the freedom and dignity of the individual is curtailed by the state. One of the campaigns bears the title „Save the planet – kill yourself“. The slogan came to my mind at night and as simple and banal as it is, I fear it corresponds to the attitude towards life of many young people. Maybe I chose anonymity out of pure cowardice, but in the face of such realities, I feel a certain gulf. And I have not the slightest desire to give up control over who I am willing to deal with and who I am not willing to deal with.

'Freedom of Art' - Exhibition text on Suicide Tools (released for the press - also in excerpts)

The „ZANDMANN Suicide Tools“ exceed all the expectations you have ever had of a work of art. Because no matter on which level you approach, a contemplative, an intellectual, a sensitive, an active one: in the end you will find yourself in the eye of the storm, in the center of your world, at the edge of your being. The aesthetics of surfaces, the beauty of impressive mechanics, the enormous fascination of physical energy, all these are only means of attention. From the moment you become aware of the function of a „ZANDMANN Suicide Tool“, you are no longer a passive observer of an art exhibition. You will not have the strength to resist the idea of being exposed to direct confrontation yourself. 

All the beauty and function of the „ZANDMANN Suicide Tools“ initially only serves your personal affinity. There will be this one tool that attracts you in a special way that you cannot escape. Please take a seat.
Put your hands on the release button.
Check your fears, observe your motivations.
Welcome. ZANDMANN is inside you.
You are the creator of your world.

'The Suicidal Artist' - an article about the frequency of suicide among artists by the Scottish author Ewan Morrison

In his article „The Suicidal Artist“, Ewan Morrison provides a precise classification of what an artist personality is and how it is classified within a society that pathologically diagnoses any deviation from a norm. He shows typical causes that make a person become an artist, as well as the dangers involved. For the question of whether an artistic process manifests a cure or rather a demise, he too does not dare to answer. After all, Morrison provides a clear overview of common methods of psychotherapy with which „artist types“ are encountered and consequently pleads that it is perhaps high time to see the „artist“ type with different eyes.

In contrast to the idea of the artist Sandman, who with his suicide tools offers a level of confrontation for the seeker in order to be thrown back on his own humanity, Morrison describes the artistic confrontation as a process that can become suicidal simply by becoming infertile or aborted.

Read the full article here.