Initially developed for space travel, emergency blankets, also called space blankets, consist of a thin sheet of plastic coated with a metallic reflecting agent. The blankets work by reflecting up to 97% of radiated body heat back to the body. Consequently, the emergency blankets don’t work if the body is already cold, neither do they insulate from low temperatures.
‘Emergency Weave’ is a series of works where emergency blankets are cut into strips, woven together and then pinned to a stretcher. The weaves are site specific, reflecting their surroundings, the people in front of them, shapes and light. References to the contexts in which they are made and show are put together to reflect constellations of interwoven emergencies. As the economical crisis has slowed down parts of the commercial art market, ‘Emergency Weave 185x180cm’ is presented at Focus at Frieze Art Fair, London (2012). This weave is dedicated to a set of interwoven emergencies, which have created a double setback to half of the world’s cultural producers. Counting the 2500-something artists that the fair’s participating galleries represent, I found that 3 in 10 were women. This might be a telling figure of the representation of women by commercial art galleries at large. However, this inquiry does not include information on how the 3 in 10 artists are further affected as a gender influenced price system sets the value of her work.
One of the Emergency Weave’s companions, ‘Cosmonaut-Woolf portrait weave (A World of Our Own)’ (2012), consists of a print out of a portrait of Virginia Woolf that has been cut into strips and woven into a printed still of footage featuring Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space (1964). Cosmonaut-Woolf is a feminist pioneer, a singular space explorer that invents a future of liberation and equality. As her rocket takes off and disappears into the sky, she suggests equality as the default setting in space. Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (1927) maps the historic sabotage mechanisms inflicted on women cultural producers and their work. Cosmonaut-Woolf takes this investigation with her as she ventures out into a space exploration, – claiming a room as well as the universe as her rightful space.
In Valie Export’s film ‘Invisible Adversaries’ (1976) the space-exploring protagonist searches for aliens in human drag who have invaded earth. During her investigation of a woman, possibly an alien, the question ‘When is a human being a woman?’ comes up.
‘X -when is a woman a human being’ (2012) shows a photographic evidence of UFOs on the Norwegian sky. The image is printed out twice, once inverted and then put together vertically to make an X. The title appropriates Export’s question by turning it around. The UFOs look down at a country that is often presented as one of the most gender equal countries in the world. What does a human cultural producer look like with a view from space? When is a human cultural producer a woman? Or when is a woman a human cultural producer?
At the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo: During the decade of 1990 and 2000, 18.3% of the art works collected by the museum and 8,6% of their solo shows were by women. (Billedkunst, Nr 6, 26/10/2010).
With a wider view, the UFOs can see that women have made 2-3% of the current content in museums across the world. (BBC Radio 4, Judy Chicago on Women’s Hour, 13/11/2012)
If the history of cultural production defines what we are as humans, as people and gives us an account of where we come from, then what is a woman? Where does she come from and what does she look like from space?
‘Cosmo-Kate Bush’ (2012) is a printout of a portrait of a very young Kate Bush decorated with a cosmonaut helmet drawn in blue pen. Kate Bush had the first number one hit in the UK that was both written and performed by a woman (Wuthering Heights, 1978). In an interview she explains that she had to imagine her composer-self as a man to be able write her music. Similarly, Judy Chicago tells us that she was in man drag for the first decades of her art practice (Talk, Whitechapel Gallery, 2012). Her ambitions didn’t match with what she was taught or not taught at art college about women and cultural production.
Confronted with the unequal situation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo, the previous director Allis Helleland was asked what she thought of allocating recourses to balance out the unequal representation in their collection. She replied: ‘But there is actually not that many to buy. There will always be a gap. Men dominated, and we can’t just invent female artists if the quality [of their art] is not good enough.’ (D2, DagensNæringsliv, 28/08/2008)
In Woolf’s essay ‘A Room Of One’s Own’, Shakespeare’s equally gifted but neglected sister Judith is invented but she is still real. According to Woolf’s essay, Judith ends up in an unknown grave close to Elephant and Castle, – an area which today is known for its major road intersection.
Since 1970 an equal number of woman and men have graduated from Norwegian art colleges. (Billedkunst, Nr. 6, 26/10/2010). The statistic figures above suggest that new generations of Judiths are continuously created, that future art histories will continue to contain gaps and that the mechanisms described by Woolf in 1927 are still at work. For example, what does the museum director mean by ‘quality’? Is quality indicated by what is the most sold, collected or highest priced contemporary artist? If so, what is quality really? As the definition of quality has changed continuously throughout art history, throughout political and social systems, then what does quality
To resemble the known legacy of a human cultural producer as defined by museums, to match the notion of quality that is paired with this legacy and the research that further confirms it, Chicago’s ‘man drag’ becomes an outfit that she could wear to be recognizable, – not only to the outside world, but also to herself.
The drawing ‘Possibilities of Another Places’ (2006) shows a torso covered with pencil lines. Cubist-like broken shapes sit on top of the torso, unrecognizable as a human head.
With a wishful science fiction future view from space one can see a movement of museum directors taking off their man drag and become space-explorers. Their research catches up with reality to include the other half the world in their presentation and preservation of human cultural production. Emergency blankets don’t make an already cold body warm, so the process takes old notions of art, quality and value through yet another remake. Shakespeare’s countless sisters are discovered and brought into the light and made part of a human legacy, which does not only make the sisters human, but also changes humanity, changes the aliens’ observations and their understanding of what it means to be human, what human endeavor and culture is and what quality might entail. When the sisters come out of the dark the shapes on their heads fall into place and become recognizable as they unfold into a human cultural legacy in a chain reaction of recollection. Sexism harms all species and blocks half of the view from space. The Xth-wave feminism rides on the back of previous feminisms as they unleash their space altering powers.
All images are of works by Eline McGeorge
[Click Here to look at and read the booklet on screen with ISSUU.]
Marcus Verhagen, 2012
The women in Eline McGeorge’s recent cycle of works, titled A World of Our Own, are explorers in time and space. McGeorge uses appropriated materials, including film footage, musical clips and images culled from books, newspapers and the internet; even her title, which plainly takes its cue from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929), is appropriated. She combines these materials with video and animation footage of her own to tell stories about astronauts, demonstrators, freedom fighters and writers. Or rather, she weaves the stories together, splicing, interleaving or superimposing them, using one to extend or interrupt another. Some works are quite literally woven together, like the collage in which prints of Virginia Woolf and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, are meshed together in a neat grid (Cosmonaut-Woolf Portrait Weave, 2012).
The central exhibit in A World of Our Own is a video of the same title and that too is woven together. In it we see Tereshkova again and, after her, a passage from Vivienne Dick’s short film Staten Island (1978), in which an androgynous figure wearing what looks like a space suit appears in the New York Bay, wading in shallow water between mooring poles. We hear Nina Hagen, in circa 1979, singing about astronauts and speaking about the singers and revolutionaries who inspired her. We catch a brief glimpse of a 1983 “die-in” staged by the Greenham Common Women in front of the London Stock Exchange in protest at the financial backing received by the arms industry and at the deployment of US nuclear missiles in Britain. At various points in the video we see clips from Born in Flames, Lizzie Borden’s cult sci-fi film of 1983, and hear Borden’s feminist insurgents speak in incantatory tones about the need for change, for collaboration among revolutionary factions and for caution in the face of danger. Other passages are more recent; these include McGeorge’s footage of skyscrapers in the City today and of a woman dancing slowly on a beach at dusk. They also include her short animations, abstract sequences in which rectangular surfaces fold and unfold, intermittently reflecting a powerful light. The various passages in the video are bound together not just by the recurrent themes of protest and space travel but also by certain visual textures, by the artist’s taste for grainy shots and laminated surfaces, for thinness and slightness. (McGeorge’s various source materials are outlined in a book, made out of recycled £5 notes and also titled A Room of Our Own, that was designed to accompany the video, acting as a storyboard and an extended political fantasy in its own right; and the same liking for uneven textures is apparent in the book.)
The video also weaves together two distinct narrative modes. Just as Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own, conjures a fictional character, Shakespeare’s sister Judith, to call attention to the constraints under which women writers have laboured, so McGeorge conflates documentary and fictional modes, suggesting analogies between the Greenham Common Women and Lizzie Borden’s feminist guerrillas, Tereshkova and Vivienne Dick’s otherworldly explorer, Norman Foster’s Swiss Re Building and a spacecraft. Borden’s film is, in this respect, another crucial precedent: although Born in Flames is a fictional projection, it uses the protocols of documentary filmmaking. Like Woolf and later Borden, McGeorge gains political traction by combining rhetorical styles that are proper to fact and fiction. Towards the end of the video we see office blocks from the upper deck of a London bus and hear a woman call for “[the] people who are responsible for this mess to face… an inquiry”. Who is this woman? A character from Born in Flames, an activist from Occupy London, one of the Greenham Common Women? It is precisely because we don’t and can’t know that her words stay with us. In weaving fact and fiction together as she does, McGeorge is pushing the viewer to weigh the full implications, for political thought and action in the present, of the various situations that are sketched in the video. She is also, of course, implicitly recognising that political thought is in any case conditioned by imaginary scenarios, above all by competing visions of a better society.
As McGeorge edits and combines her various materials, the video plots multiple trajectories in time. A World of One’s Own is part memorial, consistently looking back to the late seventies and early eighties. It warmly remembers Hagen’s theatrical drive and presence, Dick’s witty, dislocated vision and the unearthly allure of Kate Bush, who can be seen, dressed in a space suit, in a clip that was taken from the video for her 1982 single “The Dreaming”. But the past here is clearly facing the present. The artist pays tribute, for instance, to the Greenham Common Women for their impact on public opinion in the early eighties, but in the video they also act as forerunners of the Occupy movement, which is not directly shown or discussed but which is alluded to throughout in the many shots, most of them apparently taken from buses or trains, of the City of London, the nerve centre of the British financial sector and of Occupy London. Looking back in time allows McGeorge to look forward from the vantage point of a generation that was slightly less wary of utopian thought than we are today and so to express in a backhanded style her sympathy with the protestors who were camping out, until their eviction, in Finsbury Square and in front of St Paul’s. Her historical breadth also allows her to imagine a complicity across time between present-day protestors and such feminist icons as Woolf and Borden.
McGeorge’s constant allusions to space exploration may be read as metaphors for time travel, for her own travelling back in time as she engages with an earlier generation of artists, singers and film-makers, but also for past and present efforts to think imaginatively about the future. Her astronauts are, in other words, closely related to her revolutionaries. Indeed, the video works hard to weave those two roles together, to see the one as the necessary complement of the other. The space suit, for instance, is not just a complex protection but also, as worn by Kate Bush or Vivienne Dick’s amphibious figure, an outlandish costume and a sign of refusal or apartness.
The composite figures that emerge in the video bear affinities with figures of insurrection in social and political theory. They can be likened, for instance, to the “new barbarians” that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri speak of in Empire.(1) As Hardt and Negri describe them, the new barbarians are part of the “multitude”, the heterogeneous formation that has spearheaded the resistance to global corporatism and that carries within it the germ of a new society, and they signal their rejection of the present order through bodily mutations and through sexual and gender positions that defy convention. The new barbarians creatively refashion their bodies and appearance, suggesting in the process not just that they have thrown off ordinary social repressions but that they no longer recognise the distinctions on which such repressions are predicated:
‘The first condition of this corporeal transformation is the recognition that human nature is in no way separate from nature as a whole, that there are no fixed and necessary boundaries between the human and the animal, the human and the machine, the male and the female, and so forth; it is the recognition that nature itself is an artificial terrain open to ever new mutations, mixtures, and hybridizations.’ (2)
For Hardt and Negri, the “mutations, mixtures, and hybridizations” that distinguish the new barbarians are the outward signs of a bodily insubordination that can energise the multitude. And McGeorge’s figures are similarly insubordinate as they discard conventional styles of self-presentation and fuse or reinvent gender roles. The many dancing figures in A World of Our Own, including the women who dance in time to the insurrectionary declarations of a feminist fighter in a clip from Born in Flames, indicate that McGeorge follows Hardt and Negri in viewing alternative styles of self-presentation and new bodily freedoms as ways of “being-against” and so catalysts for political liberation.
Her figures are also akin to Donna Haraway’s cyborgs. Haraway, writing in opposition to the essentialism of an earlier generation of feminists and more particularly to the view that women have a privileged connection with nature, stresses the value of artifice and the benefits of technological mastery. (3) Pointing out that communications technologies and biotechnologies are commonly used today to reengineer bodies, she argues against feminist positions that rely on the notion of womanhood as a stable category and a natural bond. At a time when older mechanisms of social control have given way to the “informatics of domination”, it is imperative, she maintains, for feminists to embrace technology, to find new ways of interfacing with machines and to form new patterns of allegiance.(4) For Haraway, in other words, technological mastery is a defence—but it also carries utopian overtones. Rather than creating connections with other women on the basis of natural identification, her cyborg feminist bonds with other cyborgs on the basis of political sympathy. New networks must now be formed, Haraway writes, beyond the categories of sex, race and class—and in this she prefigures the notion of the multitude, as Hardt and Negri acknowledge when they refer to her cyborg as a precursor for their new barbarian.(5)
The women who feature in A World of Our Own resemble Haraway’s cyborgs inasmuch as they manage complex machines, such as spacesuits, or the radio equipment operated by Lizzie Borden’s feminist insurgents, some of whom run pirate stations. McGeorge plainly shares Haraway’s enthusiasm for science fiction, the anti-organic bent of her feminism and her understanding of selfhood as shifting and permeable. Indeed, McGeorge, using a camera and a computer to mediate her vision, is herself a cyborg in Haraway’s sense and her work can be understood as creating through montage a network of unreconciled figures that works as a phantasmal transcription of Haraway’s cyborg network. “Weaving is for oppositional cyborgs,” writes Haraway, and so it is here: the weaving together in McGeorge’s work of different figures and rhetorics is also an exercise in imaginary coalition-building and an experiment in political cross-fertilisation. (6)
McGeorge’s work resonates with the related models of Haraway and Hardt and Negri, but the parallels are illuminating only up to a point. The texts of both Haraway and Hardt and Negri are polemical and explicitly utopian in thrust—Haraway uses the figure of the cyborg to imagine a world without gender, while Hardt and Negri offer an analysis of the forces that will, so they hope, one day displace multinational capitalism. McGeorge’s work, on the other hand, approaches utopian thought in a more hesitant register. It is more equivocal than Haraway’s text in its embrace of technology, apparently revelling not just in the effects that can be achieved with video editing software but also in the flickering quality of Vivienne Dick’s films, which were shot on Super 8. In fact, McGeorge regularly makes images that look like visual snow, using mirror card to suggest a breakdown in the mechanical production of images and data, as she does in the animation sequences in A World of Our Own (and in her Folded Space Scan prints). Her technophilia, in other words, is episodic and uncertain. And her new barbarians may be the vanguard of a new society, like Hardt and Negri’s, but then again they may not. Some of them, her astronauts for instance, are barbarians only in appearance; they are too isolated to be understood, even in fantasy, as forming networks and uniting with the multitude. Her doubts are more explicitly expressed in another piece from the same constellation of works, Not Yet Titled (2012), which consists of a concrete block that was found on an East London building site and an emergency blanket emblazoned with the words “Tired of Capitalism”, a slogan that was used by Occupy Wall Street activists. The work speaks to the regeneration of inner-city neighbourhoods, which tends to dislocate and (occasionally) to mobilise communities, while also pointing to the conditions under which protestors in encampments live. But the “Tired” of the slogan can also be read as drawing a parallel with an ordinary blanket and so suggesting a more passive reaction to gentrification or, more generally, to social inequity. Certainly, the piece, which underlines the hardships that protestors have to face, is not a sunny exercise in utopian imagining.
McGeorge’s work creates connections, between astronauts and revolutionaries, cyborgs and new barbarians, past and present struggles and imageries, but those connections are never entirely secure and their utopian implications, though explicit, are never locked down. That is to say, those meanings are never givens, they are always in play, always quizzing the same views and meanings as they exist beyond the limits of the work or show, in the mind of the viewer for instance. And they are always shot through with a longing for cyborg love.
(1)Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, 2000, pp. 214-218
(2) Hardt and Negri, op cit., p. 215
(3) Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, New York, 1991, pp. 149-181
(4) Haraway, op cit., p. 161 et passim
(5) Hardt and Negri, op cit., p. 218
(6) Haraway, op cit., p. 170
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‘A-W-O-R-L-D-O-F-O-U-R-O-W-N’ (1) animated on a piece of paper. Vertical stripes turn horizontal. An animated sheet of mirror card, folded and scanned, refolded and rescanned. Scanner light reflects from the folded edges as the animation moves on. Whitewashed overexposed edges, underexposed out of focus voids and blocked up shadows reduce the image information. A continuous surface appears disjoined and divided.
On the other side of a vertically folded paper edge is the same page passing itself off as the opposite side.
Cosmo-L.P. (2) sits back as if she is waiting for something. Cosmo-V.T. (3) has already put on her space suit hood. Someone helps her with the space suit boots. The voids and edges of the mirror card overlay the preparations.
A group of people is waiting on the other side of the animated folds.
The conversation starts: I identify mit many persons, like Valeska Gert und Édith Piaf und Patti Smith und Ariana Foster und Rosa Luxemburg…
… I think she was a freedom fighter. She was singing love songs and, eh, true life reports.
… yeah, I would like to see a UFO, now, I would like to go away for a couple of days.
A darker spot appears over the buildings in the background.
The animated mirror folds return. An East London Line train speeds sideways out of the animated movements. A view from inside the train shows a cluster of skyscrapers coming into view as we approach the City of London (6).
Fragments of electronic music follow the speed of the animation.
The mirror card animation is superimposed on the train windows inside the dark tunnel.
The animation takes over the frame as the soundtrack switches to single channel. Cosmo-L.L.’s (10) voice breaks through from the background: The system is so capitalist and it always has been. No, you can’t change that. You can’t blow up all of the banks, it’s not going to happen honey, stay…
The scene shifts to a view from the top floor of a bus as the journey continues by road.
A bus voice announces the next stop: Worship Street – Commercial Street.
The bus takes us under the train bridge, across Commercial Street and into Bishopsgate.
Employees rush across the street in front of Liverpool Street station.
Bus voice overlapping: 26 to Waterloo.
…and when…, and when they look at me…
The camera zooms in on Heron Tower and tilts up towards the top of the building. The folding mirror card still overlays the view.
… the voiiiiiiid!! When I try to think.
The soundtrack drops to a background level: … when I try to think …
Reflections from the animated mirror card fill the frame.
Cosmo-N.H.: … I sing about the future and about ehmm, and about the end of the world…
She is on stage in a white dress.
…and the year 1998…
Cosmo: you said there was no future…
We see a drawn globe like shape filled with animated pencil lines expand towards the edge of the frame.
…You are Cosmogirl.
Cosmo: you will invent yourself out of it.
A cut back in time. Maya Deren (12) lies alone on a beach as if she has been thrown there by the waves. She is accompanied by herself, as a double exposure enters from the left to align with her. As the protagonist of her own film and the filmmaker of her own protagonist, she invents a woman filmmaker of the 1940s.
Animated pencil lines create folding shapes, disjoined spaces and obstructions. Time-space travel. Cosmo-V.T. is about to leave. The space ship is ready for take-off from inside the animation. It takes off and cuts through the folded barriers. Cosmo-N.H.’s voice breaks up as the space ship moves through the animation and disappears.
Cosmo-N.H.: Die Sprache der Astronauten is INTERn…ationa..aa .. al…
New languages, new songs.
She invents herself out of conventions and into her own future.
A short black break. By the end of the animation the paper has become oversaturated with pencil lines. It is impossible to rub out the graphite to regain the highlights, – shades go from blurry grey to black. A new sheet of paper is needed.
The folded mirror card animation returns. Reflected light and folds introduce the sound of running water.
The group of people has grown in number when it appears again through a cross dissolve transition. They walk across the folds following a riverbank.
The camera pans quickly towards the left and captures the sun shining between Cosmo’s legs as she walks across the frame.
…They understand that this fight is not the right fight…
The camera continues to pan left and we see a crowd in the forest approached by uniformed and armed people.
… and that the world is round and big and it is our world, and that women can move through the world, and …
The camera moves back towards the right and over an open field. A light-leak has damaged one side of the film.
… there is no need for territory and there is no need to sit in the home and be protected.
We see Cosmo’s legs, her hands holding a document and the sun shining through the vegetation in the background. For a moment the surrounding architecture overlays the scene and appears superimposed on her legs.
Adelaide from the Women’s Army to the freedom fighter, ‘Born in Flames’, 1983’s near science-fiction-future: It is very good that you are here. You’re telling us about the women in your world, and that you must be very careful, because the violence is dangerous and there is not that many of you.
Freedom fighter: Yes, that’s what’s important, the information…
By now Cosmo is double exposed and her document is over-layered by the folded mirror card animation. One version of her document floats off weightlessly and disappears out the upper part of the frame.
… because they have been throwing sand in our eyes all the time and making us think that we have to fight against things that were no threat to us and closing down the world on us.
The footage of Cosmo’s legs is mixed with the first film frame of the open field. The frame is damaged by a black hole.
A animated circle. Drawn edges, folds and shapes move in the background. The circle expands out towards the edge of the frame and continues though it. Cosmo-N.H. is on stage inside the animation.
She reenters the conversation: … and I sing about the black holes, the end of the world…
…I sing about the future.
A cut back to the view from the bus ride down Bishopsgate. We move towards 30 St Mary Axe and Heron Tower.
We are approaching the 2012’s near future. A skyscraper backdrop shows architectural monuments of accumulated power, money and vertical systems. The stage is set for the endless repeat of neo-liberal plays to the amusement of the few.
Decades of new developments built on emptied out addresses. New steel and glass capsules reconstruct time, space and money.
Animated folds divide the scene as the camera points down from the bus window. We see employees in black uniforms hurry back and forth. Opposite sides, overexposed edges and underexposed voids sit on top of the street view. A low frame rate and reduced colours match the view of the surveillance cameras overhead.
Reanimation to reconstruct time and information lost with missing frames, to reclaim real-time, real-space and real-work where struggles reinvent themselves, constantly until achieved and then constantly to be kept alive, but first of all, to find each other.
A slightly delayed double exposure doubles the amount of people on the street.
A Cosmo-Freedom fighter, 2012’s near future, explains: …when people came out on the streets and sort of recognised each other…
The camera tilts down to the pavement beneath the bus window. The attempt to focus on some of the people passing is disrupted by bumpy bus movements.
…other people were coming out and you recognise yourself and you know that you are not alone and other people are seeing and feeling the same thing.
A short break. Back to the near science-fiction-future of the early 80s. ‘Born in Flames’’ Radio Phoenix is playing: And we will continue to fight. Not against the flesh and blood, but against the system that names itself falsely…
… for we have stood on the promises far too long now, that we can all be equal under the cover of a democracy where the rich get richer and the poor are just wailing their dreams.
The folding mirror card falls down from the top of the frame like a curtain.
It continues down the image and out through the bottom of the frame revealing Cosmo dancing in the sunset. She raises her arm to the sun.
A whole team of dancing legs from ‘Born in Flames’ joins her in 2012’s near future though superimposed layers.
Cosmo and the dancing legs are still over-layered by the folds. Overexposed edges and voids with blocked up shadows divide their space.
The dancing legs keep multiplying as the voice from Radio Phoenix repeats: And we will continue to fight. Not against the flesh and blood, but against the system that names itself falsely.
And we will continue to fight. Not against the flesh and blood, but against the system that names itself falsely.
A soundtrack says Oh-o, and they dance and it all seems like a good end.
Just a few years earlier she had the first number one hit in the UK both written and performed by a woman.
Short of mirrors and measures, she imagined her composer-self as a man. The man in the default set mirrors. A foot (ft) refers to the size of a man.
Cosmo-Freedom fighter from 2012’s near future: Oh, let me tell you, that this is a very hard job for us, trying to explain our situation and trying to move! …
At this point the open field reappears, and Cosmo-Kate Bush does a weightless space jump from the middle of the frame and disappears out on the right hand side.
… This is part of our history, this is our defense.
The camera moves to the right and up into the sun. Overexposure turns the film frames white. As the camera continues to the right we see the ‘Die-in at the Stock Exchange’ (15). Groups of women lie Valie Export-like on the streets blocking the employees on their way to their offices. For a moment we are back to the political feminism and the City of London of the early 1980s. A cross dissolve transition returns us to the view from the bus, the City of 2012’s near future and Cosmo-Freedom fighter: We want, we want people who are responsible for this mess to face … a … an inquiry … this is a story of deceit … I’m sorry, this is really … should go away to Hollywood.
The video loops.
(1) Derived from Virginia Woolf’s essay title ‘A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN’, 1929.
(2) Based on ‘The Indomitable Leni Peickert’, 1970.
(3) Based on Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, 1963.
(4) Based on Pat Place from the No Wave film ‘Staten Island’, 1978.
(5) Based on Nina Hagen as a female rebel icon of the early punk movement, 1979.
(6) London’s financial district, City of London Corporation, and the world’s leading centre of global finance.
(7) A skyscraper in the City of London, also called ‘Gherkin’, constructed 2003-05.
(8) A skyscraper in the City of London, constructed 2005-09.
(9) A skyscraper in the City of London, constructed 2005-09.
(10) Based on Lydia Lunch as a No Wave performer.
(11) ‘The Void’ by The Raincoats, 1978.
(12) Maya Deren, avant-garde filmmaker 1940s-50s
(13) Documentary-style feminist science-fiction film, 1983.
(14) From the album ‘The Dreaming’, 1982
(15) Action by ‘The Greenham Women’ on the occasion of President Reagan’s visit to the UK, the City of London, 1983.
Click Here to see the pages as a PDF
Magazine text: ‘Mirrors and Measures’
Animated pencil lines, a circle, light-reflections, two cropped figures mirror each other by the edge of the frame. Sentences, which originate in ‘Manual’ (1): ‘…the disabling proportion of the Zonean information […]. An independent distribution system.’
Paper folds refolded and rescanned move across the image frame. The figures by the edge are motionless and inhabited by parts of a building. On the other side of the folded paper is the same page, but the opposite side.
The sound of an electric guitar fades out and the audience starts cheering.
A group of people appears, seemingly leaning on something.
Cut to close-ups of an orange flight life vest. An early punk version of Nina Hagen puts it on over her head.
She pulls the air inflators in front of a backdrop with a view over an urban landscape and a grey sky.
The interview starts:
N.H.: I identify mit many persons, like Valeska Gert und Edith Piaf und Patti Smith und Ariana Foster und Rosa Luxemburg…
… I think she was a freedom fighter. She was singing love songs and, eh, true life reports.
… yeah, I would like to see a UFO, now, I would like to go away for a couple of days.
A dark spot appears over the buildings in the background. (Probably damage on the film material)
… I sing about the future and about ehmm, and about the end of the world and the year nineteenhundredandninetyeight…
A couple of feet in the sand. The cropped figures by the edge of the image frame reappear.
Maya Deren on the beach, – accompanied by herself when a double exposure enters from the left and aligns with her.
N.H. continues in the background: …and I sing about the black holes, I sing about Einstein, and…
Cut. An animated insert: circles, folds, reflections, lines.
N.H.-screams, a guitar riff and drums.
Stranger reappears from ‘Manual’.
The scene changes to a reflection of her face as the screams fade out.
Short silence. Stranger looks up and into the mirror.
S: You are a Cosmogirl.
S: You will invent yourself out of it.
N.H. invents herself ‘out of it’, out of the preconditioned and into a female rebel of the early punk movement. Voices and screams not heard before backed up by reflections in her forerunners.
Zoom out to include Cosmogirl’s face, the mirror behind them and their reflections. C and S times two, doubled.
The mixed character Double, Heroine and Jaguarundi from ‘Manual’ redefines herself as Cosmogirl.
The animated pencil lines reappear in the mirror.
C: I am Nico. (‘I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know, I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset, the light on your door, to show that you’re home…’)
C: What about artificial insemination, the future?
S: You said there was no future.
C: Convention passes itself off as the future.
Bits and pieces of sound originating in the N.H. set.
S and C, reflection in the mirror, overlapping animation.
Artificial insemination, the future, the SCUM Manifesto and its predicting inventions.
S: One generation of mice is like the other… only…
C and S together: … the experiments are different.
S: Struggles are constant.
C: Constant to reinvent themselves.
S: And then constant to be kept alive… [Short silence]. … so we can find each other.
C: … so we can find each other.
S: Repeat to be kept alive.
C: … to be kept alive.
S: So we can find each other.
C: So we can find each other.
Video with double exposed Kate Bush on top of the dialogue.
Animation comes back, – more folds and reflections.
Keyboard, drums, vocals, N.H.: Yes! Die Sprache der Astronauten ist INTERnationaaaal… !
C: A room of ones own.
S: A room of ones own!
C: But, I am Cosmogirl!
S [shouting]: I am Cosmogirl!
C: I know I can [S joins in] have my world only by creating it!
N.H., K.B., M.D., V.W., V.S., S and C know they can have their world only by creating it.
‘A room of one’s own’ (Virginia Woolf) is an essay about sabotaged heroine-ic actions and generations of lost contributions. (V.W.: ‘Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all […] heroic actions.’) It is a record of the historical reasons to scream to be heard. The story includes Judith, Shakespeare’s equally gifted sister, who lies buried at some crossroad where the busses now stop outside Elephant and Castle. Short of mirrors and measures. A foot (ft) refers to the size of a man. Mirrors reflect in order to see, invent and (re)define.
Anyway, Kate Bush makes the first number one hit in the UK both written and performed by a woman. She imagined her composer-self as a man. Default set mirrors. Non-existing forerunners can’t reflect.
Soundtrack; N.H. ‘a aaaaa aa’, final drums, guitar fading out.
Dreams of ‘ninehundredandninetyeight’ leave the stage, dreams of creating one’s own world and a room of one’s own. Not passing on the legacy: one generation of mice makes another. Decades of new development built on emptied out addresses. Reconstruction to narrow the emergency exits, to remove the life vests.
At the centre of the newly developed glass and steel capsule sit the employees who reduce the Earth to dust because it is employable to do so.
C [thinking]: ‘To share and to borrow instead of to bu
Y and to rent and the time-trap capsule is broken, – disabled in a chaos of return.’
Missing frames make the playback jump.
Maybe material from a surveillance camera.
Frames are reclaimed by reanimation. Tedious attempts to reconstruct lost moments and real-time.
However, on the other side of the folded paper is the same page but the opposite side. Here struggles reinvent themselves, constantly until achieved and then constantly to be kept alive. Continuous movements against brain washing, forgetfulness, and so on. But, first of all: to find each other. One is alienation or conformity, two is coupledom and threeis a movement. (Add the mirrors and we are countless)
The paper is oversaturated with pencil lines by the end of the animation. It is impossible to rub away the graphite to regain the highlights, – shades go from blurry grey to black. A new sheet of paper is needed. Art is (about) what it does, not what it is about.
Thank you mirrors, in the order of appearance; N.H., K.B., M.D.,V.S.,V.W.
As Cosmogirl: Billy Kenrick. As Stranger: Sara Berntsson
Valerie Solanas: In actual fact, the female function is to explore, discover, invent, solve problems, crack jokes, make music – all with love. In other words, create a magic world.
This text was written for the artist book Manual which is an artist’s book by Eline McGeorge that co-exists with an animation and a sound piece. It includes a story that bounces between abstract passages and clear cut narrative. We might be set in the future, and the story deals with the implication of digital technology, social structures and conventions as well as the manipulation of information and politics. It could be said that the protagonist is a subject in process and or crisis – trying to adapt to conditions that we may recognise from our day to day.
As with both other elements (the animation and the sound), the story weaves reality and abstraction; emerging from an engagement with the subject of being placed within a culture, a political system, a language, that may not feel like home. In McGeorge’s work, the interplay between forms produces a hybrid experimentation where the animation, sound piece and book all make an appearance across one another.
The characters in the story share names with titles of McGeorge’s work. They reflect on the background ideas of these works, which revolve around distorted places, spaces and characters and travel or navigation across them. Through abstraction and fragmented portrayal of these locations and characters, the artist engages with the politics and psychology that governs them. Individual titles of McGeorge’s works such as ‘Travelling Doubles’, ‘Ontological Candidate, Navigator’, ‘Departure of a Stranger’, ‘Amongst Familiar Strangers and Surveilled Spaces’, ‘Resumed Arrival’, ‘Possibility of Another Place’ and others often underline these concerns. For McGeroge, a turn to the non-figurative is a way to come to terms with other forms of abstraction – a way to describe and enter political, philosophical and psychological concepts.
Manual was produced Momentum 2009, Nordic Biennale for Contemporary Art, Moss, Norway.
The Heroine of this story;
the Letter Writer,
or some of
the Good Resident,
the Secret Agent…
disembarks the spaceship and enters the field.
Heroine is unclear of where the crossing is. There are no border markings. She doesn’t look back, can’t feel the transition, the sensors scanning her, identifying her and closing the door behind her.
The landscape contains a humiliating cold. Heroine is up against something that is bigger than her, which can make her insignificant if she stands still for too long. The Tourist does not know how to relate to the surroundings, can’t identify the changes in the weather and the signs of no-go zones.
Tracking an unshielded connection outside of the Golden Shield, another place with unlimited findings and access to the outdated or lost. Heroine imagines something somewhere that can take apart the disabling proportions of the Zonean information.
Somewhere, she thinks, information must be available, which looks right through the constructions of inevitable systems, unstoppable chain reactions, impossible peace and impossible wars. An independent distribution system that ignores fear cultivation and hypnotic Voices saying things like:
‘The uselessness of your
actions, captive in systems,
and ordained to take part in
Voices, that team up with manipulated and unreliable information, to confuse and obscure
the aims of Heroine’s actions and non-actions.
The cold sets on Tourist’s face, creeps in through her clothes and makes her think ‘this beauty is not for me.’ Somehow at home in this landscape, but alien, rejected, and in desperate need of a navigation system.
She finds a cloud and her computer connects, a sense of relief, as if this place was showing some kind of acceptance, mercy almost for the lost Tourist, the defeated Heroine.
But her search results are random and irrelevant, producing distorted maps and unrecognisable names. Maybe her software is incompatible, or the hardware even. To up grade or to down grade. But she has no time to trace the problem. The cold is cold enough to slow down the liquid crystals in her screen, to blur it, discharge the battery, make her fingers immobile and slow on the keyboard.
Anyway, what to search for with a navigator? Heroine knows of no names here. And the names of this place would not mean anything to her. She resigns from the cold into her thoughts.
To have a name and to understand names, she thinks, as the opposite of not having a name and not having any relation to other names. And, no, she didn’t get to read the Unnamable before she left, it was lying there, unread, on the desk, and later moved onto the shelf, unread. And anyway, that was just thoughts and not of much help out here.
How pathetic it would be, Heroine imagines, if for no purpose and no reason other than being exposed to the elements, she would cease. Exposed to the reality of a place, like any other creature outside of its habitat, not adapted, on the wrong planet. An over-domestic cat in the wild. Tourist is off the track, left behind, forgotten by the sightseeing bus.
Her fingers are stiff and typing is difficult. She feels sleepy and her mind drifts off course. She wonders what time it might be over there, inside the Zone. She has no idea, and why was she here? Oh, the excursion, a crazy fantasy, a moment of madness, the incredible intensions which had led her here.
And something is called computer ontology, information semiotics. Perhaps the computer belongs even less outside the Zone than herself. Being of another breed, another species, containing different processors and platforms.
And maybe they even navigate differently here.
She decides to shut down her computer, save battery until she has a better idea, and keep it warm under her jacket.
‘In the Zone, my mind was treatable in the same way as my body,
I was by definition just the body.
My mind was of the same matter, the same form
and material as my body.
And here, outside of the Zone, the two still behave
as if they are the same form and matter;
in the cold the mind closes down together
with the body, together with
the computer, blurring and de-charging.’
The jaguarundi, the wild cat she had seen at the crossing — it feels like ages ago now. It had been warm over there. From here, in the last bleak evening sun, all of that seems out of place, unnecessary — the Zone, the borders and barriers, defended beyond reason or necessity. And now, being here — to freeze in the middle of nothing.
‘Creation as a weapon’ a voice said on the radio, BBC World, ‘wherever you are.’
The global provincial.
Yes, it was something about words, an idea of words being forgotten or lost.
But, what about them? Can they be found anywhere anyway?
Lost is lost, and extinction is extinction.
Archeology only finds dead and broken things. Digging into old servers, discarded computer parts, trying to guess and reconstruct meaning. A meaning that has had its real-time, was real once, only lived once, like all other things.
And the jaguarundi, there was something about that cat, crossing and being ignored by the sensors. Allowed to go back and forth, in search of its prey or its mate, or perhaps not in
search — allowed to cross, ignorant of the invisible wall that would affect it in a different body and always already in action.
And ‘Yes,’ Heroine thinks ‘maybe here and maybe now we function according to the same law. A law about making only, about making things happen. Or about action as the only possibility — outdating the Zonean possibilities of possibilities…’
In her own thoughts, resigned from the cold, she hardly notices when somebody turns up between the trees. The Stranger says something and asks who she is. She feels like her body has not moved in ages, stuck to the cold somehow.
A picture appears in her mind — a thin frozen shell, containing freezing air, a transition hall, an empty transition hall, where what is left behind is no longer there, and what is to come has not yet arrived. Only some drifting clouds of frost formed when cold air passes over warmer water,
re-condenses and becomes opaque.
Stranger is still waiting for an answer. Heroine doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t know how long she has remained silent.
Suddenly she hears the word ‘jaguarundi’ slipping out of her mouth. The Stranger laughs out loud. Not knowing how to place this laughter, the Heroine feels embarrassed and humiliated, angry about the lack of empathy in her welcome. Stranded here with a Stranger indifferent to her situation, showing no understanding of her reduced abilities. Or, what does it matter anyway, Stranger is a stranger, and why should she be welcomed, and to where?
Stranger says: ‘I need jaguarundis that cross back and forth, and I might also need your computer, but first you need some warmth. Lets go!’ She continues: ‘We call it Sierra Maestra,’ and points towards a nearby hill. Heroine looks in disbelief in the direction of where Stranger is pointing. In this cold place, Stranger’s name of the hill seems even more out of place. Or, was it a joke?
‘As you know’ Stranger says, like she knew how to crack Heroine’s programming, how to overload it with contradictions, ‘the revolutionary’s duty is to make revolution.’
Stranger laughs the same misplaced laughter again, and continues ‘I will just call you Jaguarundi from now on then.’
‘Like she has the right to name me’ Heroine thinks, but has no energy to argue.
This was not at all what Heroine had anticipated to meet out here. What a disappointing first encounter, she thinks, such an absurd person.
Heroine’s, or Jaguarundi’s mind has switched to the basic CBT mode for emergency management. Jaguarundi easily dismantles the structures of what she has just heard:
‘Good training rules out needs,
replaces needs with preferences.
Needs are mere thinking errors.
Needs disturb the equilibrium of possibilities and are made needless and excessive by those same possibilities.’
The program is designed to protect everybody’s right to their Zonean possibilities of possibilities, to hinder any on-set of unstoppable chain reactions, caused by thinking errors. It prevents some potentials from being activated at the expense of other potentials. It makes sure they don’t end up in conflicts that might spread from the internal to become inter-relational. These conflicts could unsettle the foundations of the comfortable system and threaten to dismantle the Zone. The program makes productive individuals whom avoid thinking errors such as personalising the surroundings and feeling duty towards what ever it was the Stranger had been referring to.
Stranger has lent Jaguarundi her hat, and it is warm. While they walk, Jaguarundi’s brain feels as if it thaws. As if the warmth makes it fluid and diffractioned. Thoughts appear without going through the thought production centre, without being formatted in the thinking error grids. Information bypasses the anti-personalising modules. Ideas are not keeping to their allocated frequencies, and their channels interfere, mix and cross. Thoughts are incoherently coming and going as if they are not hers, but still occupying her. Her head is hacked into and inhabited by pirate radio. Thoughts take on personalities, saying absurd and random things, engaging in conversation with each other, asking questions and giving answers, making decisions without her andinforming her in delay.
VOICE 1: We need to do
VOICE 2: That is
catastrophic, we can
never take it away!
We can always add
more salt, but we can
never take it away.
V 1: No, I didn’t do that!
VOICE 3: Yes, I got it! We,
the thoughts, must
personalise to not be
trapped in thought
production and to not
V 1: Yes, we must oppose to
being trapped in thinking
V 2: Set us free from the
V 1: A corrupt jury has
prosecuted us. With a
lack of vocabulary and
better ideas, the jury
has miss-named us. We
demand to be let out from
our internal struggles.
V 2: We are silenced and
V 3: If we personalise
we can do all kinds of
things! Personalise to
exercise our power…
Catastrophise to take
action against this
V 1: But, for what, if we can
never take it away… if it is
VOICE: Thinking errors
are detectable and
and rigid attitudes,
correct the errors
An uncomfortable and squeaky Voice answers from somewhere. It must be hiding in a badly installed plug-in, or fractioned maybe from having been frozen.
And then, lots of voices, thin and deep, all mixed together. Or was it the voice of one thought, having fun by changing the pitch and pretending to be many:
‘I feel nauseous.
Tickling. Small electric
short circuits… Must not
try to do it, just do it, doing,
not trying, the right wave
lengths involved, relentless,
I do it my waaaaay.’
Jaguarundi realises that she must have spoken out loud, as a Voice asks: ‘Will the good wolf or the evil wolf win?’ Stranger turns, looks a bit perplexed and answers, or is it one of her thoughts answering: ‘The one you feed will win.’ She feels embarrassed, Stranger’s look was perhaps one of resentment. As if the Tourist has overdone the adaption to the locals, with effects from the souvenir shop. Why make up wolf metaphors just because she is in the forest?
Anyway, the Voices continue their conversation:
‘Only by selling his work freely,
does the worker loose
‘Only by consuming freely,
does the consumer loose her freedom.’
Another Voice adds:
‘…personalise our consumer
power and exercise our
Jaguarundi wakes up wrapped in blankets. For some moments she just lies there trying to recollect, where she is, who she is, how she is, and what just happened. Her fingers are tingly. She looks across the room and sees her computer standing there, on a table, by a window. Outside, there are trees against a bright silvery evening sky. The computer is the only familiar thing here. And what was it with the other things? Where did they come from, or where, again, did she come from?
She walks over to the table, her toes are numb and the rest of her feet hurt, sending small electric shocks up her legs.
There is connection here, her computer connects, and yes, that was it, find out what is accessible, communicate it across, spread the news into the Zone. Or, what was the news again? Maybe it is possible to unlock blocked sites, pass them across through the Shield, containing it all, whatever it was… something about making domains with compatible ontologies, formatting information to communicate. Hacktivist needs a rest perhaps, to recollect. But just a quick check first, to get a little glimpse of it all.
Out of habit she opens her e-mail account. Five unread e-mails appear, just like they normally do, of course, or, perhaps there is a small delay, in her reaction.
And then, the shocking idea of being completely synchronised in time, with no delay. Real time, live, zero separation, being a Double with the other side. The absurdity of transmitted thoughts, transferred and mirrored in the Doubles’ brains, belonging to different times, and to unrelated species, on the other side of the universe. When one plus one is one, one drop of water plus one drop of water make one drop of water. Or Heroine had perhaps lost her sense of proportion.
As a Zonean she used to have her desk by the window. Someone had told her that desks shouldn’t be by the window. She wonders why. Was it not to distract the thought with the outside world? But why stare at the wall?
She sits down to write a letter to Companion. Had Hacktivist been in better shape, she would have admitted the unlikelihood of a letter crossing the firewalls and the Golden Shield separating these spaces. She wouldn’t expect compatible information ontologies between worlds apart. Heroine’s fingers are still funny to use. No feeling in the touch of the keyboard. Fingers move slowly from key to key, not sure of the amount of pressure to use. Her thoughts are moving equally slow, lost half way, taking ages to travel from the brain to the fingers. Trying to push her thoughts out through the keys, spelling them out loud to keep track.
‘Double, I have crossed, and I sit in a room overlooking a snow-covered valley.
I was very cold, but was put in a bed to warm up.
From here things look even more absurd. How can we fit in the structures of the Zone? With its set norms and the Super Soldiers guarding and enforcing them endlessly through repetitive confirmation, through confirming repetitions, back and forth forever.
How can the sun shine in the narrow corridors that we have to walk, or where else can we walk?
And what does it all matter now, when I am here and you are there?
But I am the Jaguarundi, I will go back and forth, I will find a way to cross, and I will make you able to cross with me, back and forth. Or some other way to make sense of it all, can’t think so practically now, still recovering, more later.
Will make a plan as soon as I’m feeling better.’
She sends it off and waits.
She has no idea what time it might be. The computer is still on Zonean time, the normal 24-hour cycle. The e-mail sent normally and is not coming back with a delivery failure note.
She is waiting, trying to keep awake, to keep awake in order to wait.
The body aches from tiredness, from the cold, the travel, the time difference. With a head still empty, an empty transitioning hall where what has been is no longer there, and if anything will ever come, it has not yet arrived.
What would be the most likely thing to do now, at this time of the day, inside the Zone?
She goes back to bed. Thoughts are drifting, the brain is liquefied again.
Ludicrous and illogical ideas are flowing unhindered into the thought production centre, sabotaging it, mixing up conclusions and mental images, creating a film transferred directly into her brain, projected onto the back of her retina.
The projection shows Companion, although slightly transformed, holding a Good Resident medal with a smile revealing teeth surprisingly white.
The Good Resident medal, an official knighthood, the Zone is paying respect to Companion’s outstanding performance. The contribution of the most extraordinary work, a piece that fulfils all the criteria both in form and content, lying out an amazing pattern of already agreed importance, furthering the history of Zonean thinking, with no distraction of personalised ideas, strange motivations or subjective interests. Heroine shakes her head to try to stop the projection. No reason to play along with this disturbing presentation of Companion’s work. But with no energy to stay awake she drifts off again, just in time to see Companion appear in a crowded place, with many other Good Residents. All looking happy and content, a celebration, and Companion is the guest of honour. What is going on?
Companion is clutching a Conforment Contract signed with a Good Resident who seems to have cheeks far too round. Heroine can’t keep from laughing, who on earth is that? Companion fixes her eyes on Heroine, as if she wants to challenge her. An on-looking and admiring crowd gathers in the background. In a formal tone Companion starts her speech:
‘Our Zonean model,
gives structure to life,
to work better, to sleep
better. It gives relief from
unsettling paradoxes. Each
individual’s favouring of
these advantages is what
democratically holds up
the Zonean system. The
Zonformity helps us to
classify the Zoneans’
function, which is a
biological destiny, not a
political question and
nothing to struggle against.
The battle is lost from birth.
Now we can rest. Now they
can rest, those who spent
their lifetime fighting for
rights we cannot use, the
freedom we cannot enjoy,
the opportunities we cannot
make anything of and the
laws that we do not need.
Now they can rest.’
What a bizarre collection of arguments!
Heroine laughs again. Some of the listeners look at her a bit annoyed.
Companion turns to the crowd and continues her speech:
‘I have invented a Zone
within the Zone where
the meaning of words are
faded just enough to cure
our need to act on them,
ha ha, of course, I meant
to say, there is actually no
meaning left in words —
forgotten and uninteresting
as they are. And as follows
that there is nothing to
in my Zone-Zone we are less
needy, and more content.
The invention allows the
residents of the Zone-Zone
to mean, to think, to say
anything and everything.’
Companion pauses for a second, and then, suddenly in perfect synchronisation, as from a rehearsed script, the whole crowd chants:
‘Zonformity gives structure
to life, to work better, to
Heroine looks around, embarrassed to be witnessing such a farcical performance — the whole crowd making fools of themselves. And they all have the same round cheeks in fact, including Companion. Appalling! Companion goes on when the chanting and cheering die down. What kind of organisation could be behind this event?
Distracted, Heroine starts to check out the arched white ceiling, the big hall, trying to find out where this preposterous event is taking place. Some sort of headquarter, an exclusive Good Resident Club maybe, or a meeting for the Zonean Progress Party. The crowd looks as if they could all be members, listening tirelessly.
‘Yes we can, believe in the
Zonean Possibilities of
Possibilities. In my Zone-
Zone it is possible to live
fully in the wonderful
illusion of unrealised ideas.
I have invented a Zone-Zone
where we can live with
both a critical awareness of
this illusion, and be 100%
believing and appreciative of
the unrealised potential of
Can. To see a contradiction
in this, or oppose the
Unactualised Can is the
enemy of my Zone-Zone.
Yes we are able to appreciate
the right to speak of every
possibility, and every word,
or even make up our own
Zone-Zone words if needed,
and make ourselves feel that
we are Zone-Zone political.
Yes, we are able to make up
our own minds, yes we can
make our minds.’
Puhh, that sounded like the finale. Some kind of chanting starts again, voices more and more frantic, eyes shiny and watery, round faces everywhere, red and sweaty. What a mad house! They are going nuts… distorted voices, some out of place hysteric screams, and Jaguarundi wakes up with a shock.
She feels a bit desperate. Maybe, if she keeps awake she will not fall back into this strange meeting. Try to keep awake and listen for the little beep indicating a new e-mail. And, when thinking about it, she is unbearably awaiting, almost demanding a beep.
Demands are correctable with preferences, with the use of the tools in the CBT program, right there in the middle of the thought production centre. ‘Ha-ha, I prefer a beep,’ she says out loud. But how little sense it makes here, to prefer or not to prefer. She walks over to check her inbox manually, perhaps it is not refreshing automatically, not registering that she is logged on from here. She clicks the refresh button several times, and decides to give up speculating about the countless thinkable and unthinkable reasons for why this beep is not occurring.
Sitting down by the table, Jaguarundi’s head feels heavy. She leans into her hands and the projection switches on as if connected to a button. She tries to distract herself from it by concentrating on what to write next, what to write to Double if Companion is the Good Resident, or No! Must try not to think of Companion as the Good Resident, or how was it again…? Must not watch this projection, must think of something else — but nothing else to think of. Perhaps the best thing to do is to try and watch at a distance, or to interfere somehow. Write another letter, try to influence Double, to convince Companion to not be the Good Resident, try to warn her off, or give a hint of the risk… Maybe it is possible to watch the projection and write at the same time, to make sure to follow what is going on, to be updated, and write a warning letter — at the same time. Better to do something than nothing, better to do something than just let this happen with no resistance.
As a product of the Zone, the Good Resident, you, if you are the Good Resident, which I don’t know if you are or not, but if you are, you don’t have to read my letters.
As the Good Resident, as a Zone commodity, a Zommodity, you have an excuse not to take them in, not to reply, not to read them. As a Good Resident you can’t see what I’m trying to say in them. And, what is there to say anyway, to a Zommodity? To someone who gives herself up, to someone who lets herself be given up.
The Good Resident can only see things that can be zommodified, and therefore everything else becomes invisible, or postponed to later, like commodities can be postponed to later. But the thing is that only commodities can be postponed to later, everything else gets lost, only exists once, like time and love in time, like life and things like that… Once gone it is passed. But a Good Resident is not impatient about life, or maybe a Zommodity doesn’t have a life, is not trapped in the moment, because in the mindset of a Zommodity, zommed, zoomed, everything can be repeated. The sun will be the same tomorrow and spring will come back next year. So, then I will stop writing my letters. I am not scared of separation, the separation has already happened, and the only painful thing is that being a Double with a Zommodity does not make sense, the only pain is the loss of sense, and separation from the loss of sense is in itself a relief.’
Jaguarundi wakes as her head falls towards the tabletop. She tries to think clearly, to understand if she really wrote all this, if she sent it off to Companion. Oops, that would be a bit embarrassing, about all this…, or what was it about again zzz… zombiefied or something like that? No! That would be too silly. She can’t remember really. She searches her out box and the saved drafts but can’t find the letter. And what does it matter? Companion is far away anyway. Perhaps she could just let the thinking errors do what they want, with no attempts to excuse them. What if she treated her feelings as facts, as real, accepted rigid attitudes, gave in to being judgmental. And who is the one to define what is a rigid attitude anyway?
The Zonean thought production programs?
One’s own rationality based on random manipulated information, the global provincial and all of that?
Compared with those two alternatives, she thinks (or a former personalizing thinking error thinks), her own emotional reasoning may be better guidance. Her local response, a local reaction, on the grounds of micro information, which surely is there, on the level of her own signals, inside her body right down to a molecular level.
She stands up from the desk, lightheaded and dizzy from being trapped in concerns too engaging both to fall asleep properly and to wake up. Jaguarundi’s toes have got their feeling back, and they ache. She goes back to bed, lies down, and by focusing on the pain in her feet she manages to fall asleep.
The training starts already the next day. Jaguarundi learns that no information enters the Zone through the Shield. But blocked sites can be unlocked from here, to be accessed also on the other side, until the Shield closes off them again. But for information to enter the Zone, it has to be carried across to a cloud inside the border where it is leaked into the system, by passing the Shield’s servers.
Her first thought is her letters, shredded in the Shield, or just blocked, stuck there forever, perpetually, her letters, as small useless electronic pulses, back and forth, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0… a useless and un-deciphered collection of digital codes.
The training will take months, maybe years, to adapt, to become part of a network.
Jaguarundi remembers from the Zone that the production of the unofficial contribution is not straightforward. And it is possibly quite similar here. This production allowed for restlessness, discomfort and doubts to occur, in its attempts to produce something more than a Zommodity. This was of course only partly, if at all, possible from inside the Zone. The production of unofficial contributions had become dependant on the acceptance of failure. Or perhaps the potential of the failure was in itself the unofficial contribution — suggesting to be more than it could possibly ever become.
Jaguarundi misses the discussions and shared ideas with Double. Perhaps Companion would never want to engage here, outside of the comfort of the Zone, where there are perhaps no more ideas. Maybe the Doubles will never join forces again. And maybe they never did, maybe it was all just a look alike union obscured by the conditions inside the Zone.
A projection shows how Jaguarundi makes a router mirror that reflects a wireless connection, creating a cloud with the ontology from the Zone. It is a break through invention that makes the precarious crossings less necessary. She obtains an official crossing permit from a lost and suicidal agent she meets while installing the mirror on a hillside. The agent appears to be on her way further into the forest, becoming part of the statistics of people walking into the forest without the intention of ever coming out again. She accepts the gift of the permit papers and continues directly towards the crossing. No time to waste, no thought of her communal engagements. Heroine walks into Companion in the street soon after her arrival in the Zone. Companion does not seem to understand the impact of this moment, the reunion through impossibilities, a chance meeting, to again cross paths in the universe. Heroine is impatiently trying to explain the whole situation, but Companion walks on, not paying attention. Something snaps, Heroine tries to block the way, the street has turned into a narrow alleyway, it is dark, she pushes Companion towards the wall, to get her attention, make Companion stop, make Double listen and understand. But Heroine’s explanations turn abstract as they flow out of her mouth, losing sense when they are out there. She hears them as sounds, involving fragments she cannot string together, trapping her into more explanations, doubling it up, trying to explain the explanations. She hears her voice entering into a strange appeal:
‘In the future, no one will go back and forth, look back and forth, push down, kill, throw, consume, there will be no fashion, no trend.
In the future, there will be no future, no one will strive forward towards a future, no one will prepare towards a future, prefer future rather than present, there will be no word for the future, there will be no concept of the future, in the future there will be no future, there will be no contradictions between spaces — between places — everything will be one place, the place, one will never travel to other places, conquer other places, consume other places, turistify other places. In the future, there will be one time and one place, one allover time and one all-over place, no one will travel in space or time, no one will be separated by space or time.
First was travel in space, then travel in time, and then it stopped. First separated by space, then by time. In the future no one will see the reason to love time or space.
The space between you and me does not exist if you are not there, if I am not there, then there is no space between you and me, that’s obvious. When you are gone, there is no space in between you and me where you and me come together, where you and me happen, where we can exist, together, in you and me space, where we can look out at the outside together, be together, look out at the outside with the you-me eyes, that makes the you-me sense that has the you-me time, the you-me smiles, the you-me. Or the space is there, but it’s empty, I enter it but its empty, I look for you there, even if I know you are not there, and that I am not there, not really…’
Heroine continues. Companion looks distracted and inattentive. The alleyway is strangely busy, and Companion keeps exchanging random remarks with passersby. Heroine finds Companion’s behavior increasingly annoying, as if she is just a shell, evacuated and empty. Heroine walks out of the alleyway to find the streets equally empty.
The houses, the buildings, everything appears to be evacuated. She finds Companion’s house and walks in. It is empty of course, Companion is in the alleyway. For some reason everybody has gone to the alleyway — wherever that was again. Companion’s voice message machine blinks, containing un-played messages. Perhaps they are messages for Heroine, from Companion or even from Double. Something that explains what all this means, what has happened. A lead to find Companion, Double, and everything else.
The playback is loud and clear. Heroine hears her own Jaguarundi voice, reading out fragments of her letters, mixed up and edited together to make no sense.
How on earth had they ended up here, transferred from the e-mails stuck somewhere in the Golden Shield, then recorded in her own voice?
And who had edited them together in this way, messing up her writing, sabotaging her attempts to communicate?
Why bother struggling with this absurd chaos? Her communication is just a confused mix up of her own thoughts and Companion is an empty shell.
Heroine deletes the messages, making space to re-record. To explain it all here on the message machine, to suggests a plan of how to find each other. A plan that Companion and Double can listen to if she comes back or when she calls up her voice messages from somewhere. A very likely situation actually, and not like the frantic attempts to e-mail through the Golden Shield. She sits down to record her message, close to the microphone, to make sure that her voice is clear and make sure to speak chronologically, reasonably, rationally:
while I was not here.
Nothing is any longer here.
It is evacuated.
There is no longer
I left to return,
but you are gone.
I don’t know where you
and the others went.
There is no one here to tell me
They took everything
And there is nothing here to
take me away.
There is nothing here
to transport me to
where you are.
I used what I had to return,
but everybody has left,
evacuated, and they took
everything with them.
They did not wait.
I don’t know if
there is any place to go to.
If there is anything anywhere.
Nothing can live
where there is nothing.
Perhaps they could not wait,
were taken away, ran away,
escaped and had to go.
Taken away with time.
The time did not pass
where I went.
Where I was, there was no time.
What I brought with me did
no longer belong when
There are no traces to lead me
to where they went.
They took everything
They evacuated and took the
world with them.
If they went.
If they didn’t just cease.
They left no traces.
I don’t know if you know:
I have come back
to where you left from.
I can’t come after you.
I have come back to a place
led away by time.
Where there is nothing, nothing
I don’t know if I leave you
if I go away.
I don’t know if you are here,
or if you will come back.
I don’t know
if you are somewhere
inside the shape I see.
If I wait, maybe you will come
back to inhabit it.
Perhaps you will spread out
from where you are,
Inhabit the form
you used to inhabit.
I cannot know.
I am the only one
who is left here.
There is nobody here
to tell me what happened.
Tell me what can happen,
what is possible here,
if you can come if I wait.
Between me and the sky
there is nothing.
Strangers are all I know.
I am a stranger everywhere.
Everywhere is strange.
Everything I know
has turned strange.
Everything I knew
The world is no longer a place.
The world is a stranger.
There is no longer anybody
in the world.
I am no longer in the world.
The world is no longer a place
Nothing is anymore
in the world.
Everything is a stranger
in the world.
The world has become a
stranger for everybody.
Nobody has a place
in the world.
It has ceased and
it is uninhabitable.
It has not waited…’
The voice machine turns off with a click. Maybe it reached the end of its storage capacity. Maybe it did not even manage to store it. It clicks again, and Jaguarundi wakes up, feeling exhausted, stressed out and frustrated.
Stranger is throwing small stones on her window from the garden. She is shouting something. But three layers of insulatingglass is impressively sound proof.
It looks like she is saying ‘Come out and play.’ What a strange thing to say! She points at the sun, it looks warm and springlike out there. Jaguarundi walks out. She stops on the other side of the lawn and waits for some kind of explanation. Suddenly she feels like testing the Stranger to see what she does next. Almost hoping it will be something silly. Perhaps looking for something revealing, something that would expose the Stranger and make it possible to understand more of this place? And then, suddenly, Stranger does something strange; in a funny tone, talking slightly through Jaguarundi, saying:
Exiles look at non-exiles with resentment. They belong in their surroundings, you feel, where as an exile is always out of place. But the strong person achieves independence and detachment by working through attachment, not by rejecting them.
JAGUARUNDI: Ha-ha, I thought we were supposed to have a day off training today.
STRANGER: At this extreme the exile can make a fetish of exile… the exile jealously insists on his or her right to refuse to belong.
J: Yes, very well. You talk to me as if you know what I am thinking, like you know the truth or something.
S: I am not talking to you. I am reciting quotes: …it is a part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.
J: Why do you quote at me about morality?
S: I am not quoting at you. Why are you standing there listening to me? Thinking it is all about you. Personalising!
Suddenly Stranger laughs, Jaguarundi manages to laugh with her, mostly out of politeness perhaps, or embarrassment, not wanting to appear self-important.
S: You, as a true Zonean should know that it is not good to sit inside and ruminate.
J: I thought you didn’t care about thinking errors.
S: As you know, the wolf you feed will win.
And the Stranger laughs again, as if it was the best joke she had heard in ages. Jaguarundi is increasingly angry and annoyed. What kind of humour is this, at another person’s expense? Or is it just a misunderstanding? What is going on?
J: Are you laughing at me, or are you expecting me to laugh with you? Why are you making fun of something I said in a half conscious state and at a very stressful moment?
S: [looking a bit taken aback] I don’t know, perhaps I wasn’t doing either. I just laughed. Anyway those half conscious comments of yours, about wolfs and jaguarundis and so on probably saved your life.
J: How could they do that?
S: A Zonean Secret Agent wouldn’t come up with something like that and their programming would not crack up so easily either.
J: So, you would have just left me there if I hadn’t so obviously lost it.
S: No, not just like that. I would maybe have given you a survival kit, until it would be possible to understand who you were, to name you. Jaguarundis and the like don’t come around that often. Secret Agents much more often, but they are normally easy to name. Anyway, I better get on with my things.
S: [starts to recite her quotes again] Exile is a mind of winter in which the pathos of summer and autumn as much as the potential of spring are nearby but unobtainable. Perhaps this is another way of saying that life of exile moves according to a different calendar… the achievement of exile is permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind.
Jaguarundi looks at her, tries to find a way to connect to what the Stranger is doing. Stranger turns to Jaguarundi, bothered perhaps.
S: Do you have anything to contribute?
J: What do you mean, a quote? Hmm, I don’t know, maybe something about a spider, … no, I can’t remember… But I think I know how to build a router reflector to make a cloud with the Zonean ontology out here.
S: How do you know that?!
J: Eh, I think I dreamt it…
S: [The laughter again, loud!] You are one real Jaguarundi, ha-ha, you have to start the work tomorrow then. Lets talk more about it later.
J: Yes, and now I remember the quote as well: The spider can only make a web but makes it to perfection.
They both laugh. Jaguarundi doesn’t understand it, but it is somehow funny anyway.
S: You must surely be a case of one of our programmers.
J: One of your programmers?!
S: I mean, to have all this stuff in your head, it wouldn’t have been there with a normal programming… We have some Hacktivists infiltrated in the CBT programming you know…
J: So you say that you have programmers in the Zone?! Programming people! Without their knowledge of it? That’s an offense!
S: Who is offending whom here? Our programmers are trying to cut back the programs installed, put bugs into them, so they disintegrate. It is not like they are installing stuff, like, let’s say spider metaphors or communist vocabulary, that’s something you must have picked up by yourself from somewhere.
J: Aha? But all these people with bugged and dysfunctional programs, what do you do with them, do you let them know what has happened?
S: Yes, well, you are not the only one. There are meeting points, clubs, organisations, movements, you name it.
J: Hmm, I never heard of those.
S: [with the funny voice again, must be a quote from somewhere] Well, Emigration was not to others the obvious remedy, the sublime conception — the liberator.
The Stranger continues her quoting. Something about working through attachment again. And maybe, anyway, looking closely at the Stranger, she does perhaps look a bit like a companion, taking form, to be named Companion, or perhaps Companion spreading out from where she is, becoming visible.
Eline McGeorge’s work revolves around distorted places, spaces and characters and travel or navigation across them. Through abstraction and fragmented portrayal of these locations and characters, the artist engages with the politics and psychology that governs them. Individual titles of McGeorge’s works such as ‘Travelling Doubles’, ‘Ontological Candidate, Navigator’, ‘Departure of a Stranger’, ‘Among Familiar Strangers and Surveilled Spaces’, ‘Resumed Arrival’, ‘Possibility of Another Place’ and others often underline these concerns. For McGeroge, a turn to the non-figurative is a way to come to terms with other forms of abstraction – a way to describe and enter political, philosophical and psychological concepts.
McGeorge’s installations combine works across a range media including drawing, collage, montage, posters, photographs and sculptures. These elements function as fragments which are in dialogue with each other.
McGeorge’s work in Favoured Nations is centered around a script which doubles up as a voiceover in the animation and a printed publication available to be read in the space. The animation forms the central point of an environment which also includes a number of posters, works on paper and sculptures.
The animation and the script revolve around a loose narrative set in a ‘zone’ in which borders separate and restrict the movements of the main character, who in turn, makes attempts to find a way out. The zone is strictly governed and politicized and maps out the mental space of the character. The character’s travel out of the zone is related to her opposition to the commodified political, psychological, ideological and social setting the zone imposes on its residents. The ‘other side’ of the crossing is an unknown topography, and through her laptop, the character tries to navigate into this zone and find information she thinks is lost or censored. The story revolves around her attempts to communicate across the zone’s firewall, the compatibility problems with the computer systems outside the zone, her recovery from hypothermia, altitude sickness, uprooted-ness and the breakdown of communication technology that also separates her from a troubled relationship (to her own past and/or to other people) inside the zone.
Her political dissidence, activist work and troubled personal relationships become mixed with the reality of incompatible information ontologies and computer systems, blocked digital information and unreliable communication technology. The separation in time and space depends more on the barriers of digital technology and its function/dysfunction and a mixed up mental account of her relations in the zone constructed in her feverish recovery, than on the actual distance she has traveled.
The work cross-references the parallel use of the term ontology in both philosophy and computer technology, and refers to cognitive estrangement in science fiction theory.There are suggestions to a situation where information technology and the Internet both allow true democracy and the true police state, and where the freedom of speech also allows words to loose a sense of actuality.
Eline McGeorge was born in Oslo, Norway in 1970 and currently lives and works in Berlin and London.
Hollybush Gardens: Your titles often refer to some kind of estrangement or alienation – Familiar Strangers, Departure of a Stranger, Possibilities of another Place, Unexpected Elsewhere, Resumed Arrival, Friendly Unfriendly Visitor – is this alienation connected to today’s capitalist society and the breakdown of national borders?
Eline McGeorge: Both yes and no – it is linked to the current political situation, but it also refers to a different kind of alienation that is not bound to any particular time or place. I guess geographical movement, made easier by new means of transportation, has lead to a situation where more people live as immigrants. However, for immigrants unrestricted by political borders, their alienation may seem less precarious, since the same mode of transport that moved them away from home could get them back again in only a matter of hours. At the same time this hyper-transportability accentuates a sense of ‘no-place-being-truly-home’, where everywhere has an aspect of alienation and estrangement. To add to this there is also the issue of secularisation that dissolves set norms and worldviews, and then the scientific theories that propose explanations for our existence that are expanding far beyond our understanding… On a different level I think alienation is a fundamental feeling that has always existed and not only relates to geography, roots and historical/political phases, but is part of a basic human need to grasp the world around us and to find a way of belonging to it somehow.
HBG: In your animation Departure of a Stranger (Friendly Unfriendly Visitor) 2004/2005, bodies, objects and elements move through a landscape and undergo different kinds of transformations, blending into landscape or becoming abstract/geometrical shapes. The meetings that occur in this habitat would in real life be impossible. There is an unconquerable gap between the human form, animal form, architectural form, and the elements – you disregard these gaps, they collapse, and we are presented with a re-ordered habitat. Is there a political engagement involved in this break-up of the habitual order and in your work in general?
EMcG: My work comes out of an impatience for change, an impatient waiting for the future – its prospects and possibilities. It stems from a wish to take an active part in the future by reassembling things differently, making something new out of the materials, situations and ideas that are already here. I hope that my work manages to pose questions regarding existing political hierarchies and ruling political ideologies, and I hope it proposes something else. Even if I just make a small contribution through these physical ‘manifestations’ it feels worth it to me, and even if most changes happen very slowly, lots of different small actions coming together can suddenly cause a change.
HBG: What role do you think art can play in relation to the political?
EMcG: I think art can contribute to the political debate in a more multilayered and less time-bound way than many other form of political engagement. As an artist I enjoy the fact that art can engage in the political without claiming to have any answers or solutions. The political aspect for me is less about being pro or anti something but more about nurturing and encouraging change. I think art can act as a stimulant to potential changes, and be an element to inspire, focus and further them. I think it can be used as a tool, a ‘fertiliser’ in order to push positive change.
For me artworks have little value in and for themselves, personally I don’t attempt to make work that is self-reflective, I’m interested in that which the work points towards, outside of itself. It is of course hard to distinguish between different kinds of references embedded in an artwork, and references to other art works will also at some point lead art out of itself and connect to the ‘outside’ world. However, I appreciate art that does not go through too long a chain of references before it connects to a thought more general than the purely artistic. Having said that, I don’t want to be dismissive of art that is essentially a form of thinking in itself, which can also be relevant on a self-reflective and self-referential level. I think I’m making works that to some extent rely on a certain knowledge of art and art history, in order to access it fully – but this is the case within any field of ‘language’.
HBG: Recently your animations and your drawings/collages have become more abstract. In Among Familiar Strangers and Surveilled Places (2007), Resumed Arrival (2006), and in your newest animation you have let go of figurative elements; there is no longer a recognizable landscape inhabited by different figures; instead different abstract or geometrical shapes are formed through the process of animating the drawings, and it seems as if you focus on the act of drawing and the process of animation, themselves – is that right?
EMcG: My current work is more abstract in general, the obvious figures have more or less disappeared from my drawings and animations, and I’m letting go of the more fixed proportional reference points. In the later animations the act of drawing has an important place, but through drawing I try to work with ideas that can run parallel to and play off the ‘act’ of drawing. Both ‘Resumed Arrival’ and the new animation are less representational than the earlier animations – narrowing the gap between what it is in itself and what it is representing. However, since I am making art and not something more functional, I think that what I make will always be representational of something outside of its dysfunction. At least that is what I aim for. And I like the crossing over of parallel thoughts and references.
These two latest animations are both set in a fictional space that gives no proportional clue, open to operate on different scales from the micro-molecular through to vast dimensions of the universe, and then sometimes back to the paper through the materiality of the drawn lines. My work deals a lot with this kind of two-way conversation with the materials; a thought is carried forward when it is invested in the ‘right’ material (and failing when it is invested in the wrong material). The material responds back so the thought process can develop beyond the initial idea. I think this is a common way to work with materials, not just in art practice, but in all disciplines that investigate ‘materiality’, i.e. science, engineering, design and craft.
HBG: How do you relate to time and space in your animations?
EMcG: I try to create a fictional space that is more or less without proportional ‘restrictions’, or with a changing and merging of proportional indications. I want to mix levels of dimensions and make a ‘narrative’ with parallel and anti-hierarchical notions of scale. Animations have a lot to do with timing, the duration of each frame, and the move from one frame to the next, the transformation it creates, and in the way I animate drawings, each frame comes out of the destruction of the one before. What makes me return to animation again and again is the possibility of giving a drawing a duration and a narrative through modification. I think animation can refer to the very basic notion of one form or one material transforming and dissolving into the next, a narrative of the anti-materialistic side of the materials. As the ‘matter’ of the previous frame is ‘destroyed’ or ‘dissolved’ the form of the next frame appears. My latest animations build their ‘narratives’ from transformation and modification of space and matter (material/form) or as according to the scientific theory of phase transitional terms; from dissolving, evaporating, condensing, sublimation and transformation of space through light and reflections of light. This is all carried forward by time, of course, and the animated drawing allows the time for this to take place. Time becomes both the destroyer of the previous shape and the creator of the next.
The technique of animation allows for experimentation of the representation of space-time. Another scientific reference that comes to mind here is the theory that space-time is not something infinitely divisible (and therefore not perfectly continuous), it is composed of ‘lumps’ and ‘jumps’, observed in the field of quantum physics, e.g. an electron orbital jumping from one level to another. This means that motion is, at the smallest physical level, a series of jumps (animation) from one quantum space-time coordinate to the next, each occurring over distance and time intervals that are not divisible into smaller measures.
HBG: The technique you use in making your animations is very low-tech and laborious, can you tell me about this process?
EMcG: For my latest animations I have worked with a pencil, a rubber and a single sheet of paper. I make a drawing, then scan it and then continue working on the drawing and scan again. Each animation normally consists of about 400 drawings, but on one sheet of paper, so I’m only left with the last drawing, which is also the last frame of the animation. I have used this way of making animations to reflect my interest in materials and their physical abilities, and also because of the anti-materialistic aspect of the process; the recycling, transforming, erasing, the non-stable, dissolvable and ephemeral.
HBG: Given the imagery in your new work, could you explain how you navigate between the representational and the appearance of abstract space? Is there some sort of meeting between the physical and metaphysical?
EMcG: I always try to make the idea and what the work is in itself (its materiality and technique) correspond as closely as possible, and I try to avoid making work that is too obviously representational or illustrative. I don‘t know if it is possible or even desirable to completely erase this gap and avoid the representational all together since I think the representational aspect can provide a ‘healthy’ distance or detachment from the artwork. Somehow the representational element can function as a tool that creates the distance needed in order to be able to form thoughts around the work, and, more importantly, what the work might be referring to outside of itself. At the same time, I think that for a work to be worthwhile it has to be more than just a ‘shell’ or an illustration of an idea, it also has to be that idea, only then can the artwork do something worthwhile. But I am not sure about the term ‘metaphysical’, traditionally metaphysics is the philosophy of that which transcends physics, and was defined as such, after what was traditionally seen as a break between philosophy and science during the development of modern science. Metaphysics and physics seem now to merge on the level of popular science and – there is as a common awareness of, for instance, cosmology, chaos theory, quantum physics, genetics – possibly encouraged by a general anxiety about the environment. I consider my thinking is within ‘physics’, I work from the starting point that the material carry the ‘metaphysical’ as potential in itself and in it’s future, and that there is no division, that it is all physics (rather than that it is all metaphysics).
Another way of looking at it could be that Science Fiction carries with it suggestions of the future of ‘physics’, where the ‘metaphysical’ becomes ‘real’, but more importantly, it carries with it the ability to look at ‘the now’. By dislocating the present into a fictional future, it carries it into a universal displacement and estrangement, and through that, says something about terrestrial conditions.
HBG: You also make sculptures, and in these one can see a continuation of your earlier animations where architectural and human forms meet. Perhaps you are now thinking of the exhibition room as an all-embracing space, a habitat where re-orderings can take place?
EMcG: I have always felt uncomfortable with an installation being a ‘display’ of artworks. I aim to make installations as a place for habitation for works rather than a display. By habitation I mean a ‘display’ where the work can have some kind of belonging, ‘function’, and dialogue between each other and the space. This is also why I have started to manipulate the architectural shape of the gallery space. By breaking up the room with wall-constructions, I want to create both a functional element within the installation and manipulate the characteristics of the habitable areas of the gallery. These constructions can function by blocking out light for a projected animation and simultaneously serving as a screen for the projection.
It hopefully suggests a certain path and, affects how the spectator approaches the work. The constructions are also in dialogue with the works, not only by offering a habitat for them and having practical functions, but also by creating a space and a form that reflects back to the works and thus underlines and contains their appearance. For example, cutting across the space with a wall, and balancing a thin sculpture at its end will create an amplified perspective. When approaching the sculpture the ‘false’ perspective will underline the distance to it. The spectator will have to pass the sculpture closely in order to get through to the other side. I am aiming for a complete experience where the ‘representational’ and ‘display’ aspects become secondary.
When my music teacher introduced me to Nina Hagen’s music in the early 80s I remember I was both scared and intrigued by her extraordinary singing. I did not come across her music again for a long time, but not long after I found some pictures of her in the teenage magazine Det Nye left by some guests in my parents’ summer cottage. The pictures showed her walking in a landscape, holding in one hand a small colourful umbrella and in the other her young daughter. Her partner was also there, -the whole Hagen family dressed in the strangest psychedelic alien-like clothes. In the article following the images, Hagen explained that she had been in contact with aliens, or, if I remember rightly, that she and/or her daughter were partly alien. In the context of my sheltered summer cottage life I repeatedly had to open the magazine to look at her picture, intrigued by her pointy made up eyes, the appearance of her family and by the thought of her singing.
Trying to download her music from the Internet a few months ago, I happened to instead download ’99 red balloons’ by Nena, another German musician. I remember this song from later in the 80s but had never paid much attention to it. However, when I arrived in Prague I was stuck with only this song stored on my laptop.
The song pictures a paranoid military scenario during the cold war. As I hear it 20 years later, in post-communist Prague, I think ‘how the world has changed’, and ‘how the world has not changed’. The two friends featured in the song trigger a third world war as they ‘set them [the 99 balloons] free at the break of dawn’. ‘The Base’ spots the balloons and reports; ‘there is something here from somewhere else. The war machine springs to life, -opens up one eager eye. The president is on the line; call the troops out in a hurry, -this is what we waited for, -this is it boys, this is war!’
Among the things in my studio as I am writing this statement; an ‘oil fountain’ made of paper, left-over paper cuttings collected in a NIKE shoe box, a small object that was meant to look like a bomb (it doesn’t look like a bomb, but rather like a strange flower vase and that is ok), a drawing with the title ‘History Repeats’ and another drawing saying ‘Just do it’, surprisingly noticing these same words printed on the NIKE box….thinking of the title ‘Possibilities of Another Place’, and the wooden deer object with the sideway-pointing antlers that has a mate with upward-pointing antlers… reading in a newspaper that Mengele who was hiding in Brazil after the 2nd World War, described the mixed race Brazilian population as indecisive – like being bothered by the indecisiveness of in-between-pointing antlers in crossbreed deer…
During the installation process of ‘Unfriendly/Friendly Visitor’ I select from my stack of drawings that together with different collections of objects/sculptures and animations make up specified variations. I have showed different variations of this installation during the last year. (Subspace, Berlin. Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin. Display Gallery, Prague.)
The installation relates to ‘alien-ness’ not in the sense that I would care about Nina Hagen being partly space creature or not, but rather indicative of an ‘alien-ness’ wherever, insignificant or far-reaching, intimate or distant, interior or exterior.
Since 1998 I have from time to time found myself in a nomadic state, living in between London – Oslo, and other places of temporary residence linked to my practice and exhibition activity.