Bae / Lemke / 

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Criminal Charges

Installation, Düsseldorf Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf 2018

Dur­ing the time of the exhibition in Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, each day a new criminal charge in form of two documents were shown in a display cabinet. Documented are diverse delicts, all details regard­ing offenders and victims are blackened, therefore it is only possible to read about the actions without information about the involved pro­tag­o­nists.

Since antiquity the practice of Damnation Memoriae exists, in which a name gets crossed out (or gouged out) of historical documents and mementos. In ancient Rome it has been common practice to cancel it out in a way that the smutched name was still visible under the cancel­lation. In modern years the practice changed: It became more common to actually extinguish person out of their contexts (dur­ing Stalinism people have been vanished from photographs; Sigmund Freud tried to protect the legacy of Psy­cho­anal­y­sis against associates who threatend to lead it in the wrong direction by carefully cover­ing their tracks in all documents.)

The effect of the blackenings in the criminal charges brings the viewers back to their own fantasies. While reading, the actions become vivid by their own fears and past experiences.

Dustin Story

Performance, Münster 2016

The lecture performance took place in the auditorium of the Academy of Fine Arts in Münster. It was announced without further information apart from the name of the speaker.

Dustin Hofmann, 36 years old, introduces himself and announces a very personal subject for his lecture. He depicts his experience of a heavy car accident in which the other driver, a young man, died. The mental state of feel­ing guilty and be­ing desperate disclosed a revelation of the Christian believe to him, which he wants to give the audience an understand­ing for. Be­ing an otherwise rational person, he tries to explain the connection he makes between the general human condition and the salvation he found in Jesus Christ individually, as a last resort in his desperation. He ends his speech with a shift from an empathic tone to that of fanatic excitement.

This work was a scenic approach to create an plausible access to religious feel­ing in different degrees. We worked on the performance by apply­ing the language of preach­ing in a more emotional context, abolish­ing the symbolic separation between the preacher and his audience. Because we did not announce any topic or context of the lecture, it was possible to use the form of the lecture for a personal narrative without any predictable structure. The performer was able to act as a person who was invited to talk about an unspecified topic of his own choice. That lead to the possibility to give a feel­ing for the religious experience to the unconditioned audience without fac­ing the institutional problems of the church.

I & You / You & I

Audio-play(text), Mp3-player, one table, one chair, one actor, one container, Münster 2016

A single container stands in a free area. One of the artists acts as a doorman, who takes the single visitor inside and advises him/her to sit down and to put headphones on, which are connected to an audio player. The visitor sits on a chair with a table when the container door gets closed and locked. A male voice on the headphones addresses him/her, ask­ing him/her to swear in a loud voice to keep the follow­ing experience completely secret to the outside world – if he/she does not follow, the process gets discontinued, the door is opened again and the visitor has to leave. Also, the visitor is advised to keep the headphones on through the whole process.

After this instructional step, the narrator depicts a series of scenes tak­ing place in closed spaces (prison cell, train, etc.). There is no constant narrative angle and the visitor is lead through fictional scenarios, in which he/she is put in various social situations, characterized by high psychological tension.

After minutes for the visitor to be alone with the audio in the closed container, the door is opened again and another person enters the space. This new protagonist is a performer who acts silently and independently from the audio play, based on his feelings towards the visitor sitt­ing in the container. In fact, the performer has no knowledge of the audio material. From this follows that the visitor has to connect the two levels by himself/herself: The physical actor and the narrative voice, both address­ing him/her independently.

Dur­ing the exhibition, we experienced very different reactions from the visitors. Every individual handled the tension of being set with another person in a closed space on a very personal level and his/her level of awareness of the artistic conditions in the installation.

From our own perspective as artists (always be­ing outside the container), we experienced an interest­ing situation: Knowing the conditions and sett­ing them up for the protagonists, but be­ing outside the scene itself, left us involved in the scene without access to it. The visitor, identify­ing us as initiators, made us partly responsible for their experiences, ask­ing all sorts of questions after leav­ing the container, often be­ing reminded by himself/herself, to have sworn to keep the scene silent to everybody outside.

Scene 2: Constancy

Performance, Münster 2017

In this theatrical piece the audience gets exposed to the monologue of a male figure in a closed situation. The audience is positioned in seat­ing arrangements like a small community, close around the performer.

The performer enters the room after the audience has taken its seats. He sets up a camera positioned towards himself and starts to speak to it. With sober language he talks about the circumstances of his everyday life and shows himself as a person who has turned away from society. After he turns off the camera, the situation changes: He now speaks directly to the audience, about a heavy skin disease that cost him his position as a teacher. After one year of be­ing unemployed, he integrated in the community of a non-demoninational church and now lives without the problems of his past. He depicts the key aspects of his spiritual life, the significance of the confession and the solicitousness of the community. The tone of his voice changes again. He now refers to the precarious life in poorness and the moral challenges that are to confront. His religious tone becomes more aggressive, he directs his message, loaded with fantasies of salvation, in aroused language to the community in the room. The scene ends with a choral of Johann Sebastian Bach, which is sung by him in an engrossed state of mind.

In this work, the language of the christian sermon gets used in an almost hypnotic fashion. The initial situation, the audience being seperated from the space of the figure talk­ing into the camera, accomplishes a voyeuristic access, which tightens dur­ing the depiction of the suffer­ing of the figure. When he adresses the audience directly, the group situation gets more concentrated. The religious tone tightens more and the audience gets involved into the fanaticism of the figure.

The Maternal Voice

Performance, Rijksakademie Amsterdam 2018

In this staged play the audience is seated inside a box, surrounding a small space inside for two masked actors: an old couple, male and female.

The maternal voice, the female figure, talks about her life as a mother, beginning with a desciption state of mind before the birth of her children. She describes feelings of relief from her own existencial fears. Her idea of giving birth blends together with the idea of immortality by the archetypical love relationship. Having sacraficed most of her own life for the wellbeing of the three children, she now reveals a fundamental loss after the fullfilled project of the motherhood.

The second monologue is spoken by the male figure, the paternal voice. He talks about his enstrangement to the family, based on an unability to find the substance of fatherhood. That shows in particular in his painful relationship to the youngest child, his son. The inner tension and the failed attempts to provoke a feeling of trust lead to an unnatural competitive position, at least in the mind of the father. Being aware of the damaging effect to his son and the impossibility of forgiveness, he withdraws into inner emmigration, living his life without family affiliation.

The third monologue is a shorter one, coming from behind the seats of the audience and the stage. It's a dark, frightening voice, adressing the old couple with a closing judgement. The voice could be the surplus of the combined fantasies of the parents, coming back to them in a monstrous manifestation. The play takes place in an intimate situation, the audience being positioned boxed together with the audience. The masquerade of the performers has a strange effect on the interactions with the audience, which is used by the figures as manifestations of their narratives.