BROKEN ENTERTAINMENT (A PERFECTLY OPEN MOUTH)
by Jackie Grassmann
I - Making the opening
Enter, enter! Don’t be shy.
One world, one sky
Get right up here
Come on, give it a try
Hey, come on over here, I said
See all wonders captured
Ladies and Gentlemen step right up
I’ll promise nothing less than the sun, the moon and stars
Hurry, hurry before the big show begins!
A star will upset and swim into your purple eyes,
but don’t worry you’re not alone with your desire
all mankind is prey.
I - BUILDING THE TIP
Cheering sits in the pavilion of my ear, like a perfectly fitted cherry. A label with golden swung lines, bearing the promise of exciting past times, stings my eyes. Paul Spengemann is inviting. Hello Universe, I am greeted at WAF Gallery’s front door...
My feet are cold and bloodless. Why is it, I wonder, that every summer we seem to forget how winter feels, as if the cozy, yellow, enshrouding beams of the sun eradicate all remembrance of hibernal discomfort? Every season a surprise. Goldfish mind. The bare exhibition space prompts an unnoticed shiver when standing in its pale grey white. Is that all there is? Is that all there is? I start humming in my head, the famous US Jazz song, my colleague Nana Dahlin sings so beautifully, hers the only right way. Spengemann presents us a gallery unfurnished, denying us the company we sought. The only hope left now for entertainment is the opened hatch at the edge of the space. And finally: undefinable noises are emitted from the hole, then some peculiar music. The party must be downstairs this time. It moved to the cellar, the stash, maybe the subconscious.
The time you were late for the movies and had to stand outside the screening’s door, jealous of the promising bluster from within the darkness behind it.
I descend, of course.
II - FREEZING THE TIP
Downstairs, backstage. Daylight is barely claiming existence. Cables lying on the old wooden floor, some speakers and a yellow laser light on the spotted wall. Is that all there is? my thoughts sing again. No portal to Berghain, nor Burning Man, or Tomorrowland. An awkward silence is surrounding me that is underlined by a rather obtrusive whirring. An invisible hand is drawing a star for me on the back wall with the cursor, a sound clearly recognisable now. The mouse scratching over the desk, tipped by a forefinger. A star, then two, a half moon. Smiley! And I do smiley vaguely instantly. The initial abstract form becomes a character. Just a few lines it takes, to imagine a whole cosmos. I stare at the night sky within us.
Every time someone grins at you cheekily, pointing at your perfectly open mouth. Wading in another universe, you forget the present world.
III THE PITCH
Playful but melancholy music sets in, from the small Italian record label Heimat der Katastrophe (Home of Catastrophe) that Spengemann has unearthed. The smiley starts crying. Next something like a crooked European Union flag is formed, then wild chaos. Shortly after, a one-toothed mischievous jack is pranking me; he disappears at the top side of the screen and re-emerges from the bottom. I laugh, feel consoled, like a kid with grazed knees, whose parents won’t stop clowning.
Walking the Viennese Prater in winter, your breath turns into little clouds and through the haze, the figurines of the amusement park, that just looked sad, pale and in need of renovation, suddenly seem saturated and full of life. Here in the cellar, Giraffes, galaxies, you name it, dance across the stonework. Even the projector has landed a part. He struggles heavy as the mirror pointer tries to retrace every laser point. When an army of stars invades, he lets them tremble in exhaustion.
Spengemann deliberately eschews a Hollywood-scaled illusion, even if he hints towards their means. Instead, he leads us directly behind the scenes. The stage is changed into a simple entrance. We’re witnessing the making. The humble, delicate celestial-body-play throws us into a dialectic of entertainment and disappointment. Every time the train track changes, I am reminded that I’m an easy prey. Entertainment, David Foster Wallace warned, can be a paralyzing monster, its perfect seductive illusion unfolding a lethal force. We’re trapped in infinite jest, addicted to distraction. Neoliberal endgame captivity. The interface always needs a crack, letting us peak through the surface. Broken entertainment that is, and Spengemann knows it’s a true treasure. Fuck high gloss events.
The moment the music stops, and you realize your bottom eyelid margin has filled up with a little liquid from a few lasers drawing shapes. In fear of salty water, silence sits firm.
Oops, gotcha! I guess. Slightly ashamed I lower my gaze.
IIII TURNING THE TIP and THE JAM
The celestial residents constitute the very first shape there ever was and always had people’s imagination running wild. That’s where the gods reside, it beholds our biggest unknown: infinity. It’s the chest for fortune telling and the target of our greatest yearnings. First there was dust. Then there was the smiley. And last emojis came. Sitting on the cellar floor for one bit too long, you’ll find the whole epic poem of human mankind in Spengemanns 12-minute work.
Spengemann reminds us that the artist’s life is akin to that of funfair exhibitors. In the best-case scenario, they're postmodern magicians, working from behind the curtains, showing us the trick, the joke, we’re usually missing. What we witness is therefore, a movie’s exodus from the screen, trying to striptease cinema. Indeed, reminiscent of early experimental and structural film, Spengemann does use the laser light as pure material. The dust sparkling in the room. Strobe effects rumple our heads. Yet it dances along the borderline and jumps easily between abstraction and figuration, between simple light and a story. It can do both at the same time. Playing with causality. In the fairy-tale of the Sterntaler, the stars fall out of the sky, turning into coins on earth, as a reward for a girl acting generous. Sterntaler’s alleged gain however implies a deep loss for the sky, relinquishing some of its members. What if the stars could remain in the sky and be gifted simultaneously? Proliferating Doppelgängers – like the stars do in Spengemann’s work. Dream about it, will you?
V THE BLOWOFF
Because, if that's all there is my friends,
as it says in the jazz song, then let's keep dancing,
let's break out the booze and have a ball.
This isn’t the apocalypse I was hoping for, Adam said
It might be the better party though.
Disillusioned, still dreaming.
La cave de plaisir.