Do Touch 

Using the idea of phase-change between solidity, fluidity, and the in-between, this text asks how to avoid unintentional solidification of positions enforced by fluid surroundings, such as the digital realm. The point of departure is Querdenken, a movement of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers founded during the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany. This text analyzes their lack of trust in institutions such as governments, science, and the media; in addition to their worship of self-autonomy. This interplay of lack of trust in institutions and abundant trust in the individual solidifies their beliefs and isolates them amongst those who share the same ideas. Another protest called #allesdichtmachen indicates the lack of tolerance for the act of mediation, as German actors called for more rational debates around measurements against Covid. While their argument was controversial, the reactions to the movement point out the necessity to identify and create a position in between voguish solidifications of opinions in our societies. This in-between position is protecting from the washing away-fluids and the captivating solids; moreover, it is an ideal state of care.

︎︎︎ Installation

Special thanks go to:
Franziska Bax, Gijs de Boer, Nadine Botha, Maxime Benvenuto, Oshin Siao Bhatt, Fernand Bretillot, Matilde Brizzi, Janfer Chung, Camille Guibaud, Lina von Jaruntowski, Jessica Jones, Neal Jordan, Yaniya Lee, Pedro Lobo, Jonė Miškinytė, Wineke van Muiswinkel, Niels Postma, Patricia Reed, Jack Segbars, Emma Sfez, Saskia van Stein, Camille Wiesel

︎︎︎ Press Kit

Solidifying Forces

We live in a time that solidifies us, embracing the clearly defined, hardened position while amplifying boundaries towards other perspectives. A time celebrating and evoking extreme emotions. A time elevating those clearly positioned decorating themselves with the right symbols to belong to the fitting box. A time rewarding the simple thought, the easy way out, a time where the loudest positions appear to have the least reason. A time in which polarization and extreme positions dominate the public discourse, where nuanced examination falls flat, or is dismissed as sympathizing with the criticized view.
            We live in a time shaped by a digital realm which i confronting all logged in with a constant shift between opening and closure, isolation and confrontation, resulting in many moments felt like losing control.1 Social Media could be seen as the land of plenty of communication, challenging us to process a cacophony of de-contextualized information, circulating through an open space that is easily shaped.2 Irritation is found next to excitement, laughter after disgust, connected with the movement of one finger. Even though digitalization is confronting the individual with boundaries to other worlds minimizing, it does not emphasize tolerance, instead it motivates to isolate in similarities and simplifications and supports the illusion of being a majority.3 Because of its fluid state, the digital realm allows for cognitive closure and self-dogmatization, it promotes solidification.4 Paradoxically, we see a flowing mass of solid simplifications, precisely strengthened by the fluid state of the surrounding mass they are part of. It seems natural that in an ever on-going fight to counter the fluid outside, the solid position would not like to be questioned and avoids being criticized. If we are threatened to be washed away by the surrounding world, why would we liquefy ourselves, and thereby make us even more vulnerable? A solid position is comforting, paralyzing safety, numbing with the comfort of unquestioned truth and certainty. While guiding through the overwhelming sensory stimuli confronting us daily, it is the retreat from the outside world necessary to explore the open, the fluid outside. Nevertheless, if never left behind, the solid position transforms into a trap.

The Urgency to Question Solidity

Crises transform the fluid mass of solid simplifications into an ever stronger boiling liquid. They amplify uncertainty and fear, negative emotions which overshadow rational discourses and determine how we perceive the world and solidify—or liquefy—our positions.5 In a time where there is not one crisis, but many, brought to us not only by our little windows into the globalized world, extreme and radical views are leaking into the midst of society. Whether we see the solids in the media, or hear them around the dinner table, the confrontation between solid and solid—polarization—affects the life of the shared community. Crises overcome the boundaries of nation-states or class, once capable of protecting those in the midst of society living the carefree life of the non-affected. This lack of distance results in new political and social dynamics.6
            The Covid-19 Pandemic gave rise to the Querdenken-movement, which is the radical base of those resisting the vaccine in Germany.7 The followers of this movement claim to, according to the name, think counter the mainstream, against the “dictatorship” of the system and the “biased” restricting their life according to boundaries highly criticized by the movement. The initiative Querdenken 711 was founded with the introduction of the first measurements against the spread of the virus by the German Government. The first “solemn vigil for the constitution” on April 18, 2020 counted 80 participants; in less than a month, they gathered more than 15,000 people.8 Querdenken is a heterogeneous movement, unified by their assumption that critique and free speech is not possible anymore. They attract protestors connected to right-wing politics in the same way as individuals attracted by green and leftist ideas, esoteric, and anthroposophical philosophies. They only regard other voices as believable when they share their critical perspectives opposed to what is considered mainstream. Querdenker stages themselves as the brave oppositional force enacting the role of a messiah who takes the blame for the honorable goal of sharing the truth, while being hushed and defamed by a biased media.9

From the very beginning, Querdenken spread conspiracy theories. Minimizing the danger of Covid-19 justifies the argument that all measurements of the federal government are out of proportion.10 The deep mistrust of Querdenker and other conspiracy theorists is combined with an absolut understanding of freedom, individuality, and self-responsibility.11 The individualistic perspective erodes a shared understanding of the surrounding world and principles formelry agreed on. Disagreements are not taking place within a context, but extend towards questioning the context in its entirety.12
            In crisis situations, the retreat into inwardness is used to counter feelings of helplessness and emphasizes the individual as the center of autonomy.13 Within this enhancement of individualism, individuals cannot expect protection from others and others cannot expect protection from them. Like this, they deny the condition of living in a society and sharing a community and thus, perceive their own freedom as superior to others.14 Conspiracy theories are a source of social stigma and promote the assumption to be excluded.15 Being part of the opposition towards the mainstream, stigmatized and shamed, combined with the perception that their own path is the only right one against all as unreasonable perceived voices, seems to lead towards a superelevation of personal beliefs. Hovering above everybody else, they can neglect and dismiss the surrounding community. The disregard of their own perspectives by the ‘mainstream’ leads towards a retreat into false belief, for some obvious mistakes, egocentric, irrational, and non-caring conclusions, for the followers of Querdenken in contrast: thoughtful, goodhearted, and far from irrational opinions. Being capable of interpreting their actions as an act of love and care for others, Querdenker are uplifted by self-confidence believing to act for the common good:

Querdenken steht für Eigenverantwortung, Mut, Liebe, Freiheit, Frieden und Wahrheit. [Lateral thinking stands for personal responsibility, courage, love, freedom, peace and truth.]16

—Michael Ballweg, founder of Querdenken

The relation of thinking laterally with personal responsibility and courage points out that they do have cause to solidify their views, and explains why polarization is a confrontation between solids: The interplay of distrust in institutions and abundant confidence in the individual transforms the solid position into a comfortable space, with no reason to be left behind.

There is a need to differentiate the radical conspiracy theorists and those distrusting and questioning the vaccine. Research has shown that distrust in institutions and conspiracy theories are mutually dependent, still, both concepts need to be differentiated: while many might share distrust in institutions, only some believe in conspiracy theories.17 Conspiracy theories indicate concrete beliefs that institutions or individuals in influential positions misuse their power and conspire in secrecy, working on realizing malicious goals. Followers assume that there is an underlying truth or purpose behind the reality presented as the truth by officials.18 Conspiracy theories increase antisocial behavior, next to illegal forms of political engagement such as violent protest, or harassment of other-minded people online and offline.19 Distrust of institutions, on the other hand, is connected to a global feeling of wanting to avoid a vulnerable position towards powerful institutions.20
            Querdenker and anti-vaxxers are conspiracy theorists who get a lot of attention, nevertheless, the pandemic visualizes to a new extent the skepticism many hold against core institutions of democracy.21 Querdenker and others not believing in the vaccine are one symptom of a time where institutions are losing the trust of many, a trust necessary to define a secure basis for the community. The Querdenken movement and its influences on German society shows the urgency to work counter solidified positions. In February 2022, 19,8 Million Germans (23,8%) refused to get vaccinated.22 Now, at the beginning of October 2022, 18,5 Million people are not vaccinated, 22,2 % of the German Society.23

Thinking laterally can be seen as a way which the arts, design, science, all fields critical of the status quo use and used to develop new ideas, to think outside the box with others, collectively. The reaction towards Querdenken varied between making fun of and being scared by.24 Still, the constant use of Querdenken as a term, the idea of thinking laterally being criticized publicly, could be alarming, potentially minimizing the tolerance for thoughts outside wide-spread perspectives, because of its use as a scapegoat for conspiracy theories.

Another protest founded during the Covid-19 pandemic indicates lack of tolerance for mediation between the solids by and for those not necessarily attached to either side. The movement #allesdichtmachen [shuttingeverything] was debated controversially in Germany in 2022. The reaction towards the movement indicates the lack of tolerance for a space in between solid positions, mixing and confusing criticizing and debating measurements against the virus with sympathy for movements such as Querdenken.25 The protest was initiated by 50 German actors and two directors who commented on measurements of the German Government and media coverage regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.26 The videos were cynical, satirical, and ironic. In one of the videos, Jan Josef Liefers, a German actor stated:

Danke an alle Medien unseres Landes, die seit über einem Jahr unermüdlich und verantwortungsvoll dafür sorgen, dass der Alarm genau da bleibt, wo er hingehört, nämlich ganz, ganz oben. Und dafür sorgen, dass kein unnötiger kritischer Disput uns ablenken kann, von der Zustimmung zu den sinnvollen und immer angemessenen Maßnahmen unserer Regierung. [Thanks to all the media in our country, who for over a year have tirelessly and responsibly ensured that the alarm stays exactly where it belongs, at the very, very top. And making sure that no unnecessary critical dispute can distract us from agreeing with the always appropriate actions of our government.]27

—Jan Josef Liefers.

Later, Liefers explained that he was wishing for an open discourse around measurements against the virus. During the most challenging phases of lock-down and restrictions, he missed the attention for negative consequences caused by these restrictions, like the mental health of all staying at home, especially children. Further on, he pointed out that under constant news-bombardement with numbers of deaths or the most horrifying courses of the disease, a conservation about the sense of existing and maybe alternative concepts for measurements was impossible.28
            Querdenken, the Alternative for Germany (right wing party) and others applauded the protest, while #allesdichtmachen was harshly criticized by multiple German newspapers and TV formats. Critique varied between the claim that the movement was feeding into the narrative of conspiracy theorists, radicalizing and emotionalizing the public discourse and being disrespectful towards victims of the disease and those working to save lives.29 After the media backslash, many actors withdrew their participation and apologized for the way their videos were received, stating they are not connected to conspiracy theories or right-wing politics.30 Jan Josef Liefers defended his video, describing his critique as valid and pointing towards the discussions held around and initiated by the protestors, which, using a different tone in the video, might not have been possible.31
            While the movement’s videos could be regarded as distasteful and misplaced, as complains by a privileged group of artists,32 the radical reactions by some indicate the tendency to easily brand positions as sympathetic to movements those individuals stating their positions never wished to belong to. Cries for employment bans for those who participated are an alarming indication for a seemingly easy overlook of basic rights such as the freedom of speech and artistic freedom.33 Garrelt Duin, politician in the German Social Democratic Party and representative for his party in the broadcasting board of the German public television channel WDR, demanded to stop collaboration with participating actors on twitter.34 He erased his comment, still, Jan Josef Liefers who is acting pathologist Prof. Karl-Friedrich Boerne in the famous German TV series Tatort, might be worried that the tolerance for artistic freedom amongst his employers seems questionable.  
            #allesdichtmachen wished for a more nuanced examination of measurements by the media, and chose a way to transport their message many could not receive and tolerate in the emotionally charged surroundings of the crisis. Communicating with irony means playing with nuances, while understanding irony requires listening for the small tones in between. People were appalled by how these artists voiced their concerns, but maybe they were appalled that they voiced concern at all, and with their critique, fluidifying the solids protecting those trusting the measurements.

With the topic of vaccination becoming less and less prominent in public discourse, Querdenken shifts their attention towards the Russian war against Ukraine, sharing Russian propaganda and praising the Russian president Wladimir Putin as a resistance fighter against the west.35 Them shifting their attention so quickly shows that Querdenker and conspiracy theories gain attention and followers because of fluid surroundings solidifying positions, while former institutions responsible to counter fluid uncertainties lose influence. Their critique will always be oppositional to what they call a mainstream position, whether this position promotes vaccination, or condemns the Russian war.
            Querdenken and #allesdichtmachen point out the urgency for institutions to work on regaining trust, but they also show the urgency to think outside the solids and to give attention to the in-between, nuanced positions, which want to differentiate, mediate, and care to find motivations below the solidified superficial.36 Not caring enough, we might face non-cared for positions left alone, surrounded by similar positions, non-cared for, but elevated. Not-talked to positions, but talked about—and mystified. Solid against solid, strengthening, radicalizing, and more and more influencing the life of all.

Phase Change of Positioning:
Finding the In-between

When reacting to the challenging and fluid surroundings with anger, fear, and intolerance, we find relief in solidity while judging other solids. Striving for simplicity we act after our emotions. We neglect reflection and context while valuing our position against their position. We isolate amongst those proclaiming to know, be better, to feel better. We become individuals proclaiming to know, be better. We hide arrogance below the subjective good position, claiming to be objective. Arrogance shared in groups of people feeling too good, because they are too many feeling the same. Arrogance created by ignorance for oneself and the amended other.
            This arrogance implies a hierarchy that the proclaimed other bad, those on the wrong side of the discussion, those stupid enough to believe what they believe, need to be lectured, indoctrinated by those proclaiming to be right. This looking down solidifies positions, isolating perspectives by raising boundaries in between those desperately needing to meet and trapping those agreeing with each other in an ever cheering circle proclaiming “You are right, we are right.” In Germany we call something mixed of everything Einheitsbrei, unity mash. Einheitsbrei is a paralyzed goe celebrating its unity while paralyzing the propellant exchanging positions can actually be, it is the comfortable agreement of many to be similar, dissolving themselves in a mass of slow rewards while forgetting their dependencies. By making Einheitsbrei, we choose the comfort of being similar over the uncertain position of being different. We play it safe by avoiding confrontation and conflict. We forget—or ignore—that we are part of a similar group, mixed into one color. We forget our boundaries and pay with losing our true colors, still we receive the positive feeling of being part of similarities, therefore not needing to change.

Some might ask: Why should we, especially if we believe we are situated on the more reasonable side, the good side, the side appreciated by friends, family, media, maybe science, the government, question our position, give in and change our boundaries? Working counter rising polarization and solidification means working with the solids, our solids and their solids. It means understanding the interplay of solid and fluid: We find relief and shelter in our solids. Still, everybody has their fluids, the uncertain, ambiguous thought, questioning themself. Seeing others as potentially questioning themselves in the same way as giving our own questions space, makes us capable of seeing nuances, and through seeing nuances, meeting at the border of our positions.37 We need to be open for fluidity—here referring to reflection and the possibility of change—to confront solidity, without neglecting the need for solidity to counter fluidity—here talking about the challenging uncertainty, the fluid outer world. We need solidity to protect from the fluid outside, and we need fluidity to question the solid inside. We need to find a stage in between solid and fluid, in which we accept the necessary solid without drowning in fluids.
            This in-between state is challenging, still it is comforting. The in-between is the mediation state: open to mean something new, while still containing a certain meaning within. It carries context and colors but it is changeable, influenceable, and transformable. The in-between gives space to argue for while seeing the against and arguing against while seeing the for. Embracing the in-between state does not mean avoiding positioning, it means choosing a position, referring to that position, fighting for that position, all with the capability to see the other person’s nuances and our own. We need to fight with the possibility of reconciling.38 We need to be brave enough to risk being dissolved, encountered, questioned, moved around, challenged by a different position approaching, already touching our skin. We need to be courageous enough to change, without being attracted to Einheitsbrei. Interaction of not the same is productive, interesting, maybe beautiful. Maybe challenging, still, we need the interplay between segregation and connection, because in those fine lines of interaction, in the friction between, the shared space is created and sustained. In the in-between, we see a big, entangled collective, not polarized, but a challenging mass of nuances.
            Communication in the in-between state means mediating boundaries, which can either be a propellant for solidification or a question provoking liquefaction. Boundaries define human interaction and positioning, their interplay is balancing out interests between individual and collective. Even those boundaries that should not be crossed need to be discussed, and in the process of discussion, shifted around following the arguments posed by either side. They need to be in motion while giving orientation.

To keep its form, the in-between state needs to be cared for. Caring means: examination, interaction, reflection, and confrontation with oneself and others, enough to understand our hidden motivations and the context we are situated in. Caring requires patience, serious play, engagement with the unknown, sharing of knowledge, and interpretation of what is and what can become. Caring means experimentation, feeling safe enough to question and experiment with our solids. Caring reawakes our solids, while protecting from the washing away fluids.

Only when we reflect upon our own solidity, can there be room for collectivity. Only if we meet in the fine line between our in-between, we can connect. Only if we replace arrogance with reflection over possible dependencies, we can really, truely, position ourself. Only if we see ourselves first, we can see others. Only if we care, we can stay connected while distancing ourself from positions we don’t agree with.

We should care to see and feel the in-between—our in-between, and that of others, now.
Do touch.

1 Bernhard Pörksen, Die große Gereiztheit: Wege aus der kollektiven Erregung (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2018), 69, 143.

2 Pörksen, Die große Gereiztheit, 17; Bernhard Pörksen, Friedemann Schulz von Thun, Die Kunst des Miteinander Redens. Über den Dialog in Gesellschaft und Politik (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2020), 106.

3 Pörksen, Die große Gereiztheit, 147, 161.

4 Dr Richard Fletcher, “The truth behind filter bubbles: Bursting some myths;” C. Thi Nguyen, “The problem of living inside echo chambers,” The Conversation, September 11, 2019,; Pörksen, Schulz von Thun, Die Kunst des Miteinander Redens, 19.

5 Pörksen, Die große Gereiztheit, 69.

6 Pörksen, Schulz von Thun, Die Kunst des Miteinander Redens, 106, 190.

7 Ulrich Beck, Risikogesellschaft: Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne (Berlin: eBook Suhrkamp Verlag, 2016), 9-12, 29-30. eBook.

8 Nadine Frei, Oliver Nachtwey, “Quellen des «Querdenkertums». Eine politische Soziologie der Corona-Proteste in Baden-Württemberg,” 6, 15-16; Julia Klaus, “Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz–Teile von "Querdenken" beobachtet,” ZDF, April 28,2021,; Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, “Neuer Phänomenbereich ‘Verfassungsschutzrelevante Delegitimierung des Staates’”,, April, 29, 2021,

9 Frei, Nachtwey, “Quellen des «Querdenkertums»,” 8.

10 Ibid. 5, 10, 12, 17, 22.

11 Ibid. 6, 18.

12 Ibid. 20-21.

13 Roland Imhoff, Lea Dieterle, Pia Lamberty, “Resolving the puzzle of conspiracy worldview and political activism: belief in secret plots decreases normative but increases non-normative political engagement,”Social Psychological and Personality Science, no.12 (2021) 10.1177/1948550619896491; Bettina Rottweiler, Paul Gill, “Conspiracy beliefs and violent extremist intentions: the contingent effects of self-efficacy, self-control and law-related morality.” Terrorism and Political Violence, no.33 (2021),; Daniel Jolley, Karen M. Douglas, “The social consequences of conspiracism: exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprints,” Br J Psychol no.105 (2014):35–56, quoted in Jan-Willem van Prooijen et al., “Suspicion of institutions: How distrust and conspiracy theories deteriorate social relationships,” Current Opinion in Psychology, no.43 (2022):67.

14 Jan-Willem van Prooijen et al., “Suspicion of institutions: How distrust and conspiracy theories deteriorate social relationships,” 65.

15 forsa Politik- und Sozialforschung GmbH Büro Berlin, “Befragung von nicht geimpften Personen zu den Gründen für die fehlende Inanspruchnahme der Corona-Schutzimpfung: Ergebnisbericht,” 8, 21, 32.

16 Pörksen, Die große Gereiztheit, 232.

17 Frei, Nachtwey, “Quellen des «Querdenkertums»,” 3-4.

18 Ibid. 24-26.

19 Pierre Bourdieu, Sozialer Sinn, Kritik der theoretischen Vernunft, (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1987), 796; Cornelia Klinger, “Romantik und neue soziale Bewegungen.” Athenäum - Jahrbuch der Friedrich Schlegel-Gesellschaft, no.3 (1993):225,, quoted in Frei, Nachtwey, “Quellen des «Querdenkertums»” 24.

20 Lantian A, Muller D, Nurra C, Klein O, Berjot S, Pantazi M, “Stigmatized beliefs: conspiracy theories, anticipated negative evaluation of the self, and fear of social exclusion.” Eur J Soc Psychol, no. 48 (2018):939–954, quoted in van Prooijen et al., “Suspicion of institutions: How distrust and conspiracy theories deteriorate social relationships,” 66.

21 forsa Politik- und Sozialforschung GmbH Büro Berlin, “Befragung von nicht geimpften Personen zu den Gründen für die fehlende Inanspruchnahme der Corona-Schutzimpfung: Ergebnisbericht,” 8, 21, 32.

22, “Aktueller Impfstatus,” Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, February 20, 2022.

23 Ibid. October 4, 2022.

24 ZDF Magazin Royale, “Der Corona-Unternehmer des Jahres,”;  lve/AFP, “Lauterbach: "Meine Kinder haben Angst um mich,"”, April 4, 2022,

25 maybrit illner, “Freiheit, Solidarität, Widerspruch – spaltet Corona das Land?” ZDFheute Nachrichten, April 30, 2021. Talk Show, 32:56,

26 APA, “Kritik an Netzaktion: #allesdichtmachen ist Schützenhilfe für Querdenker,” Der Standard, April 24, 2021,

27 Allesdichtmachen, “Jan Josel Liefers,” April 22, 2021, artistic statement, 1:25,

28 maybrit illner, “Freiheit, Solidarität, Widerspruch – spaltet Corona das Land?”, 32:56.

29 APA, “Kritik an Netzaktion: #allesdichtmachen ist Schützenhilfe für Querdenker.”

30 Dpa, “Kritik an #allesdichtmachen: Corona-Aktion von Schauspielern “peinlich”,” ZDFHeute, April 23, 2021,

31 maybrit illner, “Freiheit, Solidarität, Widerspruch – spaltet Corona das Land?”, 32:56.

32 Sebastian Leber, “Schauspieler und ihre Corona-Kritik: „Alles dicht machen“ ist so schäbig, dass es weh tut,” Tagesspiegel, April 23, 2021,

33 “Diktatur-Check bei der ARD – Berufsverbot für #allesdichtmachen-Promis?”, SNA, April 28, 2021,

34 Helmut Markwort, “Warum Schauspieler fürchten müssen, ihre Rollen zu verlieren,”  FOCUS Magazin, no. 18 (2021),

35 Elisabeth Kagermeier, “Warum Querdenker nun prorussische Propaganda verbreiten,” BR24, March 25, 2022,,T10vAvf; “"Querdenker" für Putin,” Tagesschau, March 4,2022,

36 Pörksen, Schulz von Thun, Die Kunst des Miteinander Redens, 19.

37 Ibid. 93, 97f.

38 Ibid. 55.

Picture by Ronald Smits