19 01 06

return impossible – there is only transformation

Elisabeth Steger

You remember me ? I am the sponge within this website – a Cyborg sponge.
One of my mirrors is the computer. "The Cyborg is transverse: cy cultivates multiple and flexible perversions" is written in the manifesto for the dada of the Cyborg-embrio Hans A. Scheirl, an Austrian artist whose cheerful performance in tqw on 16th of December 05 I enjoyed very much.  And: "in times of leaping transformation theory, fiction, documentation and art are inseparable". After text number one -dead lines refer to life- I went on.

It is an awfully normal Tuesday of the year when I turn towards "How society and politics get in the picture". The exhibition hall of the Generali Foundation is empty, except the woman at the entrance, a man who is looking after the computers and the works which are shown. I am the only visitor. It' s always strange to be all alone in "holy halls".
At first I head for the tables put at the wall which is dividing the room.
Bureau d' etudes has created a lot of big maps to different topics. I am annoyed that there are no possibilities to sit down. Looking at the cartographies asks for bending or crouching down.
A table cries for a chair, I think. Magnifying glasses are installed to scrutinize the detailed plans – but no object to put your body down. Maybe my critic arises because I am located in an age of transformation. To put it into bad words - everybody is talking about wellness - I am in a midlife crisis. But I do not want to harp on about little failures and rather honour the work which is surely made by great efforts with my body-work as visitor.
A long time I reflect on „face cachée del'europe" – relevé cartographique partial et provisoire de l'autonomie en Europe" and  proudly  discovering  PTC (publiXtheatrecaravan):  an outlined quantity stands for the noborder-network :  défense des Refugies et Immigrés – and as a part of this quantity the publiXtheatrecaravan is marked. This precarious "We" to which I belong: centre européen de recherche et d'action sur le racisme et l'antisémitisme. Should I say : belonged to ? PTC is gone! Gone into exhibitions, cartographies, theory books, websites, files, photos, diaries, collective and private memories ...

The fish in the aquarium which are part of <labour/free time> from Maria Eichhorn are a next moving mirror. The artist asked the workers of a former branch of the Generali in Berlin to give some objects of their daily life to an exhibition. This way the fish get into an art collection. Coming closer to the fish pool I recognize the animals swimming right on to me. Probably hunger is the motivation for that behaviour. They are searching for some food and

I am hungry too ( don' t be afraid: I did not eat them !).

Before the visit  I had a talk with a friend about a video done by Martha Rosler and so I am curiously searching for it, finally find it, but the tape does not run. I am too lazy to complain, go back some steps and look at the collages of the artist. She mixed up together cuttings of living room catalogues with newspaper cuttings of war pictures. The photos shown are the end product of this process. The war which is normally seen on TV, in the distance, is brought right into private homes ( back to the roots ? ): soldiers are no longer fighting abstractly in high technical war machines to bring democracy to an invisible/unknown country  but are very concretely fighting on the sitting room carpet of a normal living room.

Right in front on the floor there is another living art work: in a more or less quadratic piece of earth which has the extent of a standard little garden <baby' s tears> are growing ( in German this plant is called <Bubikopf> - so the whole point of the art work functions in English, to American circumstances ). This usury practising plant – it covers the ground very fast – overspreads the whole square except the middle of it: in the sign of a plane there is a lack of growing, of life – the earth remains naked and bare.

Adrian Piper has set up to boxes in which you can sit in as a single person.  One is painted black – the other one white. I remember the video which was running in one of them ( I do not remember which box it was ):  while a black voice is singing about freedom and de-escalation you see a few minutes of a live sequence of  TV news in which a few white police men brutally beat up one black man who is lying on a street. A car is passing, slowing down and driving on again. The tape is running endlessly. Next to the visitors seat the artist put a box of paper handkerchiefs, so if you want to cry or you have to cry things are prepared for your needs. The work reminds me of Judith Butler' s book "precarious life – the politics of mourning and violence" - and also of a policeman in Vienna, a few days ago during a demonstration against detention. He was acting like an animal or an uneducated boy when he stamped his foot on the public floor to perform his authority in front of some activists.

I also want to mention a former work of Adrian Piper which I like very much. Sometimes  I carry it with me, most times I forget the little protection thing, the material reminder that there exists a virtual "feminist union".  My calling card No. 1 – reactive Guerilla performance for dinners and cocktail parties. It says on it: "Dear friend! I am not here because I want to smile  at anybody or to be the smiling object of anybody. I am here alone, because I want to be here ALONE. This card is not part of a extensive flirt. Thank you that you follow my wish."

Apropos "smile": A few days ago I talked to some young girls who where sitting right next to me in the tram. First they did not want to believe me that I am able to perform miracles           ( through smiling ).  Maybe it turned out well. One of them was very annoyed about the Harry Potter movie – this one which is said to be technically revolutionary. She told me that her older sister suns herself in knowing the film because she is in the right age to see it. I tried to give her some consolation and told her that she did not miss very much. The movie is mainly a reproduction of stupid stereotype ideas about boys and girls: The boy as the hero, fighting dragons– the girl as the caring one. Under the table - like Louise Bourgeois would say. But that' s another show.

So let' s go on and leave "society and politics" ( or rather a view on it which is confined to a fragmentary selection of the shown works ) and look to some more performing arts.
Mumok/Vienna:  "After the act – The (re)presentation of performance art". When I first read the title on the poster I continued spontaneously the raised sentence in my thoughts: After the act – there is another one. A friend whom I met there called my attention to the first sentence in the program: "Performance artists who refrained from documenting their performative work are mostly forgotten today". He meant, the message is clear: it is speaking about fear – the fear about getting a place in the paradise of art history.
I was not surprised to meet the creators of Bukaka there. Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz did a life spitting performance after  the "Poor theatre" lecture of Sam Gold. Knowing their books – and I  think this knowledge helps to understand a lot – I want to bear on one: in the wild theory part of  the "anti-technologies of resistance" they are writing about the refusal of normative documentation.  "Documentation is the main way to archive hegemonic cultural memory " ( Bukaka spat here ). The duo did a very well planned thing, contradictory like life itself. Maybe you could call it an undesired intervention, but my scientific request is too small, to make serious classifications. The hitch will be very well documented. Video cameras are in use nearly everywhere and in any case at an art symposium like "after the act". And this text also "records" the event.
The aggressiveness of such acting – spitting at boring or unintelligible lecturers and grasping to the arms of organizers who work on a "false" historical view -  causes a lot of aggressiveness in the audience ( in addition to the symposium itself ).  That' s the way it goes in principal. But it is interesting to take notice of the waves in the public and to see and hear what others think about the whole thing. We had a small afterwards-talk in a circle in front of the entrance door of Mumok - while smoking cigarettes. All of us were infected, angry and/or sad.
"Help and violence makes a whole. And the whole have to be changed" ( B.B. /didactic play )


Elisabeth Steger