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THE END / LET US ALIGN OURSELVES WITH INTERNATIONAL SENSATIONS « MAD Blog
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THE END / LET US ALIGN OURSELVES WITH INTERNATIONAL SENSATIONS

It’s my last day and I’m determined to do a few things. First, to the Hauptbahnhof to experience the Alter Bahnhof Video Walk by artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. This, as I understand it, is a “handheld-device” guided walk through the old train station. Gunnar Richter told me to do it, and I will do what he says.  Although I am kind of repelled by the queue (I’m delighted by people queuing up for art but I don’t want to do it myself) and also when I see people walking around with ipods in front of their faces it doesn’t look that fun, don’t we spend enough time staring at the screen? I didn’t come all the way here to stare at a screen! Part of what I have loved about being here has been that I’ve been snipped-off from my electronic veins, forced to engage IRL with my fellow man…but I’m gonna do it.

Do people wait in line for an hour to have an ipod based art experience?  People do.

le queue

this better be good

At first overlaying real life with an ipod is annoying, and uncomfortable, my big backpack, feeling that I am in the way of commuters who actually have somewhere to go, etc.  But the female narrator’s voice is both warm and blank and I melt into her story and into the dual reality she creates, aided by a technically brilliant soundtrack which merges reality and recorded sound. The story is both of the Hauptbahnhof  as a place, and, as all good art must be, about a singular tragic love affair. The history of this location as a place of deportment for thousands of Jews during the Nazi era is revealed very specifically, and the enormity of that devastation is set against a personal story, the tiny devastation of a love gone wrong, and these stories play out harmoniously against each other. It is a kind of walking cinema which I get totally engrossed in, the finale is a dance between a man and a woman which artfully embodies the trauma of a big love gone wrong and is the most powerful “dance performance” I’ve seen lately, and I’m staring at an IPOD! I am heartened by the success of an interactive experience that successfully authors such an enrapturing and emotionally stirring experience through the use of this tiny dumb thing.  Electronics are, for a moment, magic again.

track 3

Now I need to find the Susan Philipsz’s “Study for strings” outdoor audio installation, which is also somewhere here at the Hauptbahnhof.  My heart is sort of a paper bag hanging out of my chest at this point as I walk along the train platform and take in the vista of the surrounding green mountains and feel the presence of others who were here before me who also saw this tableau as they were taken away. The past is alive, in color. I walk to the end of the platform and wait there, having no idea if anything is going to happen, I haven’t checked the schedule and I think “Study For Strings” only plays every hour? Just then the sound of a cello, and then a violin from way over there, as if in response. There are 24 speakers installed invisibly all around the platform, sounding the piece, creating a precise sonic universe which starts slow and sparse and builds up faster and faster until it seems to fill the sky. I lay down, head on my jacket, my body beside the steel tracks, I want to listen with all my attention and I do, the sounds cut sharply through the still atmosphere and make a whole world. Until a lady shakes me softly and tells me to move because a train is coming, and then she tells me in English. “Study for Strings” was written by composer Pavel Haas while he was imprisoned, more on the story and the piece’s concept is here.

Philipz writes that “Expanding and extending the recordings into the space has the effect of abstracting the individual notes from the composition as a whole,” and I feel that this mirror my experience at Hauptbahnhof today, and maybe my d13 experience altogether, as things that seemed monolithic to me are in fact made of parts, and all of civilization is made of micro-gestures. And if there was ever an art/life divide, this is absolutely the end of it.  And that is good.

For example, I finally get into Theaster Gate’s house, where he has transformed a historic house into an uplifting communal life project:

my new home

let's get schooled

Why can’t life be like this all the time?  WAIT MAYBE IT CAN!  More on Gates’s work at d13 here.

This is my last Blogumenta post, but the things I saw and felt at d13 will be trickling down my heart and intellect for who knows how long. As you know if you’ve come this far with me, my experience was expansive but also shallow, I valued quantity over quality and I saw as much as I could. I feel like I squeezed a few year’s worth of cultural provocation and vitality into a few packed days, and I’m still dizzy. So much got under my skin and I hope it stays there, melts into my blood and makes me more awake and engaged. I am spending a lot of time on the d13 official website, where there is a ton of supportive media, you should spend time there too, there is more there than we can ever get through, but the impossible need not be futile, REMEMBER?

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