Close Huddle – Risk Management and the Melancholy of the Interieur.

Society demands responsibility in return for protection. In the Contemporary the playing field emerges as a complex grid of relations. Designed environments have become too intricate to be calculated numerically, the only strategy left is gamble, chance, game theory. In an agent-based simulation, the players motion, human behavior is calculable through stochastics, parametersized in individualized fictions. Our living rooms, as our timelines, profiles and boudoirs are learning cubicles, playing fields of probability for the 120 yards of desintegration.

Can there be joy in doubt? Two women sit next to each other, on a small sofa, in an empty room. No indications point towards the time period or context the scenery is set in, the space remains unspecified. They are dressed in uniforms, affiliation without reference, nothing spectacular. Like extras that entered the main stage by mistake, they marvel at the tremendous empty space.
Addressing different directions in the room, fragments of speech are distributed, generating a sequence of samples. In this disrupted communication, the statements, that seem like replica of phrases from advertising, tech magazines, health- or lifestyle booklets, drift through the space. Ethical and social questions have become part of the register.

In the beginning the two shredded monologues seem to simply accompany each other in their independent progress until a shift in balance occurs. Let’s just put our minds together. Shall we? One thread takes over the other. While one character takes control, the other clings to her, twining her own statements and motions around the other. The initial scepticism crumbles, they merge, attune, align.

What Close Huddle depicts, is a highly uncanny setting, in which we encounter mind control not as a dystopian fiction but as actualized nature, as a distinct futurity, inscribed in our every day experience of the contemporary. First we had depression, now we have trust deficit. The two characters and the space are mutually dependent. As actors in a networked environment, their subjectivities have become obsolete. Constituting a condition of double contingency, the characters form archetypes of a society in collective paralysis, where ethics have become object to probabilities of group dynamics. We find ourselves in a world in which as much as the outsides, our trust has vanished. The spaces, landscapes and relationships we produce have become perforated, counter-dependent, brittle.

Optimism opens options. Trust can be enhanced by the hormone Polipeptid Oxytocin.

Changing place from time to time, their gaze touches the walls, the ceiling, as if they were looking for something definite, an impulse for further action. They sense something, a voice, maybe a scream, through the ceiling. It is close, palpable, but it can’t matter to them. Everything surrounding the stage as enclave has vanished and exists merely as backstage, irrelevant for the script and the lived reality inside the space. The furniture and the walls remain indifferent, nothing lurks below the sofa, no information that matters enters through the open windows. It is perfect proof of a functional attunement, the categories of subject and environment have collapsed into a mere network of dependencies.

There is no innocence in you. How can I trust us? The scene has turned to a simulated space itself, a stage without props, designed for its own production. Trust decreases the collective error rate. Our design emerges from counter-dependency and if the outside has disappeared there is ultimate protection.
Can we trust in a future beyond conversation?

Text by Anna Gien

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I warn you, you will make a powerful enemy of me

Will art overcome the greatest odds?
Will it turn shadow to light in a place of broken rules?
Will it foster warm chills of change?
Will it paint our mirrors?

A detached voice echoes through the void of the deserted architecture. A reminiscence of a sensation, a thought, a lost thread, familiar somehow… It sounds like a question, raised once again, in a a different language, in a different place, towards a different body. As she walks up the stairs, histories drop from the fuzzy seam of her russet dress, detangling from the unfolding plot, being grasped and woven into the architectures of memory.

The presence of the flaneur sediments, condenses into a dusting that covers once again the tags on the walls. In its motion through the halls, the figure seems anachronistic, a model configuration, extracted from another coding, time and space. Wandering through the emptied out containers of context, it constitutes a performative cartography, a reverse process of mapping in a space not yet occupied. Along with the outline of the rooms, the layers of narration produce its material, its scaffold, from their own resonation.

In I warn you, you will make a powerful enemy of me ekphrasis becomes dreamwork. The piece glances at the processes of appropriation and translation as an essential junction of artistic practice. Its protagonist is a precarious subject, staggering between experience, memory and narration.
The setting is the malpais of a deserted house, a non space, whose history is about to be superimposed, rewritten, appropriating the subversive potential of art. Real estate does indeed overcome the greatest odds. Semiconsciously W.H. Auden’s words, taken from his poem Musee des Beaux Arts, are scattered over the hallway, exposing the apathy of the imagery towards human sensation and suffering. In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster is exhaled in a merely automized stream of consciousness they become inscribed into the wallwork of the deserted villa with its questionable history. Agglomerating the fragments of reference, the dusty halls resemble an inverted White Cube in which the distortion of narratives is transitioned into the proposed architectural space. Keeping a safe distance towards the walls, towards the brackets, this environment remains a mould, a blueprint of significations.

The protagonists walk is labor indeed, dreamwork as a stroll through the interstices of appropriation. What is yet to come, what is left behind? She encounters the unconscious, stuck in the cracks of the coating as an afterimage, an echo withdrawing from her perception. Still, her gaze hovers through the space as if she was searching for the lost threads, a futile approach of forensis in a bedimmed scenery. As soon as a hint, a memory condenses, it dissolves again and we are left behind, fumbling for the nexus.

Along with the pulsing of her steps the textual layering transitions, incorporates another voice from a different thread: Ungaretti’s Finale, in a colportage of translation and repetition crawls up the stairs, gushing forward into the rooms. And time and again the voice hovers through the withered space, an insisting mantra, invoking the Sea, the Sea… that no longer roars, lo longer whispers. The Sea, that appears as a phantasm, a dream not yet remembered, pends from the ceiling as a topos, continuously materializing in different languages. Beneath the stratum of significance in some moments a blurred insight culminates into an altered meaning. Like the tagging on the walls, that appear as a trace, unsettling the orientation of the self and the other, the here and the there, the now and the then. Between this diffuse grid of textual shreds, art in its practice and experience appears as a trading zone, an amalgam of interferences, urging the play of difference. If at all, from which perspective can we speak about these images, that we encounter as proliferation, as mise-en-scenes of entangled subjectivities?

While we progress hand over hand, pulling the strings together, the space stays a distant spectator of its own construction and experience. Indifferently observing the mounting, removal and re-organization of its layers, as Brueghel’s sun shines as it had to on the white legs of the drowning Icarus dissappearing into the water. What remains is indeed the roaring and whispering. Ceaselessly it piles up the shredded particles to new mounds of meaning, through which we tumble along to the reverberation of our own steps.

Text by Anna Gien

heretofore

What is the firmament if not an illusion? In Maurice Blanchot’s The Writing of Disaster (1980), one night a young boy discovers, that out of a sudden, all the stars have disappeared and all that is left is a gaping empty sky. The inside and the outside of a world, oriented towards a distant, imaginary horizon, have equally collapsed. Surprisingly Blanchot’s character is not scared due to this event, but senses a strange feeling of comfort – the need for belief, for orientation towards an outside, an Other has vanished.

„You have made my stars disappear“ is the defiant manifestation hurled from the disrobed speech in heretofore, a desperate appellation towards an implicit Other. It is a peculiar setting, a female protagonist behind glass, decisively articulating a monologue in an altered, dark and dwelled voice, addressing an audience that remains invisible. A glass window opens up the view to the inside of a recording cabin, a conclave in which the statement is being produced shut off from its recipients. Their reaction is integrated artificially, as the postproduced, echoing murmurs of the masses and the anonymous lights of the cameras, flashing up like shooting stars in the backdrop of the scenery.

The relationship between the I and the Other is incorporated in this interplay of perspective and production. Functioning as a mise en abyme, the setting represents a spatial montage that reduces the complex apparatus of gaze at the bottom of the medium as message, to this scenario. Who is she looking at, who is she speaking to? What are we gazing back at? The subjective view through the camera at the speaker is extended and duplicated by the frame of the window, the reverse gaze of the protagonist is directed towards the outside of the cabin and into the camera. The implicit audience, that is present as marginal acoustic and visual reaction, is shifted to the center of the image. The entire scenery is shaken by partially erupting flashes of lightning, flickering over the tinkered firmament, that is there indeed. The stars are present, gazing back from the backdrop apathetically. Exposed to a merely aggressive, multiplied spectator, that remains impersonal but dominates the choreography, the speaker is constantly interrupted, blinded by the lights.

Within this junction of gaze, the configurations of the speakers and the audiences identity, the plot and the context of the speech stay enigmatic, vibrating in a constant state of oscillation. In a gesture of erosion and overdrawal heretofore is a Re-enactment of a political speech, stripped from all specific references, content and narrative. Its subject is its own production, in an enacted analysis through the looking glass.

In this video piece Gabriele Stellbaum refers to Richard Nixon’s Resignation speech that he held in 1974, in a conciliatory address on national television, stating that he was leaving not with a sense of bitterness but with a hope that his departure would start a “process of healing that is so desperately needed in America.” The set up of heretofore embodies some central elements of the original Sujet that was created to serve as a stage for a dignified farewell of the 37th President of the United States. Stellbaum alters the scenery in various aspects, first of all by revealing the „forth wall“, displaying the setting as a recording cabin and exposing the frame within the frame. Secondly she exchanges the male speaker through a female one, inverting the coding of the event and rendering the viewing habit tangible through its disruption. The voice, that has been altered by an accelerated speech during the recording, followed by a decelerated play-back, creates an other moment of irritation. By reducing the statements dramaturgy to a mere scaffold, gestures and references turn into utter shrouds. Linguistic markers of identity such as the addressed „You“ and the supposed „this nation“ turn into semantic props for a play with a script narrating its own production in which the missing stars are the only orientational constant, the only fixation point left.

The scene turns into an autoreceptive spectacle for enacted pathos, gestures appropriated from a well known iconography. The stubborn, infantine habitus underpin the desolate approach of making a stand for ones pride in the moment of resignation. It draws a line to gestures and behavior that seems familiar from a contemporary political context, of which Donald Trump is a picture perfect example. The explicit reference to „Fake News“ incorporated in heretofore serves as a disclosure of the relation between identity, alterity and its production, that drowns content and precise argumentation in a shimmering potpourri of specularities.

Despite the emphasis, the unyielding refusal of an actual resignation, there is an evident glimpse of bitterness, of irrefutable pain. A notion of solitude creeps through the urgent countenance in this ardent effort to reach out to the absent public, the gaping black sky.
The empty firmament does not create a feeling of comfort in this case but the opposite –
a desperate need for its re-production, a childish insisting on bringing back the stars in to their proper position.

Swaying in a slow waltz to the round dance of lost signification, the protagonist is hooked in a spiral of self-endorsement. Has she found new allies? Keeping each other in suspense, they dance along on the abysmal parquet of what used to be stable and fixated. The framework of relations to the outside and the self collapses to the indifferent, perpertual tune of the music. Slowly the camera circles around the oval office – one of the most fierce and firm representations of national identity. Like a satellite it orbits around a planet, whose outside has vanished, in the very moment that the first rocket rushed into the skies delivering an imagery of the world as a blue taw, hovering through outer space. The perspective had been irreversibly inverted.

We stare back at the world from the black void. The stars have disappeared again, there is no firmament, no beyond the horizon, and all that matters is what is being produced on the glass surface.

Text by Anna Gien

Undoing the Linear“ uses space as an independent parameter for composed soundscapes and choreographed actions. The performance focuses on noise, sound and ambient resonance. Soundscapes are generated through the performer via manipulated acoustic feedback, body movement and ambient resonance. The metric pace of the protagonist defines performative layout. As the central instrument the wheeled concert piano connects memory and expectation in reference to John Cage’s legendary composition 4’33”.
Thanks to Julia and David Regehr

The expression “Once in a blue moon” refers to an event that almost never happens.The scientific term “Blue Moon” is used to describe to a rare occurrence in the lunar calendar when two full moons appear in the same month.

Gabriele Stellbaum’s film “Blue Moon” begins with the view of an autumn tree which is seen through an open kitchen window on an upper-floor apartment. Small birds flit here and there outside. Inside the kitchen, in front of the window, a woman sits at a table with a cup of tea. She appears withdrawn and occupied by her thoughts. The sudden ringing of a telephone off-camera interrupts her solitude but she doesn´t react to the call.

Next the film cuts to an outdoor shot of leaves tumbling onto an old, deserted, slow-moving children´s playground roundabout. As the roundabout slowly spins round, we listen to an answerphone message left for a “Mrs. Griffin.”

In the following scene we see the woman, perhaps Mrs. Griffin, dressed in a winter coat walking along a path in a mysterious forest in autumn. She is carrying a strange-looking black bag over her shoulder and she seems to be headed on a mission. She stops at a bench, unpacks the bag and starts to assemble a leaf-blower. She starts up the machine and begins cleaning the forest path she is walking along. She blows all the fallen leaves along the forest path. She appears intent in her task of clearing the path of all its leaves. The leaves are shown blowing in slow-motion and also in reverse. Her act appears absurdist in its physical impossibility.

In the final sequence of the film, the camera cuts to inside the top deck of a double-decker bus, where we observe Mrs Griffin sitting in the front seat, riding home through the forest in the late afternoon light.

“Blue Moon” is a short poetic film. It features few words. It has a strong musical component, and its atmosphere builds in a series of intriguing, complex and increasingly dreamlike sequences.

The Flight of a Humming Bird

“The Flight of a  Humming Bird” creates a metaphoric journey into the life of a middle aged female activist. From her first political aspirations to prepare for an upcoming revolution to radical thoughts she struggles in the search for meaning in activism. She seems finally lost in hiding while she seeks shelter in other countries.

“ill-timed moments” captures a short episode in the life of a middle aged woman brewing coffee in a her tiny kitchen. A small but unexpected incident leads to an intense liberating reaction. One by one she is destroying her old tableware. With an enormous focus she is taking herself out on the broken dishes, stamping them to small pieces with her feet. Her agitated clean-up action ends with smashing her head into the kitchen cupboards. The melodic sounds of her performance play a crucial role in this video.