Bae / Lemke / 

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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.

Song for the Majestic Death

Performance/Video installation
Amsterdam 2019

In the artistic practice of the duo Sujin Bae and Jonathan Lemke, abstract characters who play a role in everyone’s life, such as the mother, regularly appear. In their presentation at Rijksakademie OPEN, Death enters the stage. Bae and Lemke draw on Bußgebeten (fine prayers), which were written in Germany at the time of the Black Death. Death shows itself to be an implacable negotiator. For example, he tells a child that he can cry or laugh as much as he likes, but he will die anyway. Simultaneously, death is eroticised in the prayers and the accompanying drawings: combing his hair, preparing to dance and even touching a woman’s breast; in one of Bae and Lemke’s videos, Death visits a woman in her bedroom. The other characters who appear, such as the soldier, are specifically chosen because they play a prominent role in our time; the visual language of the sets and costumes also convey a certain timelessness. The language used, on the other hand, is archaic and has a melodramatic quality. The comic ways in which Bae and Lemke approach a grim subject create a constantly shifting field of tension between harsh reality and riotous laughter.

Written by Jorik Amit Galama


Extract from the performance:

Nobody will ever understand that you were actually blessed. The only way out of your misery. But nevertheless, you do not want to let go of the rope to the living. Over there, there is no hell, no devil, no hate, no trouble, no tear, and no despair. There is no life.
 Death answers with a chorus of voices this time: No! Everything remains as it is, for this is your last moment on earth. In your eyes, that deserved fear that cannot be swallowed …
When, in another place, death threatens a young criminal with her fate, she calls:
 Oh, if I could live longer
and could return whatever I robbed from people since I now still live to see this hour.

Xperience

Installation for a single visitor 1-channel-Video, one guard, hammer, nails, eraser, world map, marker, papers, chair, chain
depot.4.9, Münster 2015

The visitor enters the room with one guard and is led into an area shut off by a chain. The light gets switched on by the guard sitting at the entrance. The monitor gets switched on and a man's face appears and asks the visitor to give an oath, swearing that he keeps the moments in the room secret to the outside.

The face seen speaking on the video is obviously edited, he seems to be a real person but his eyes are not blinking and his face stretches when he speaks up. There are five segments in which the figure talks in monologues:

  • 1. The experience of killing a fish on a fishing trip;

  • 2. A detailed description of eating habits;
  • 3. A series of angry complaints from travel websites;
  • 4. A poem from the perspective of an unborn child, coming from an anti-abortion website;
  • 5. A psychological character reading, based on the concept of ‚cold reading‘.

After each monologue the visitor gets an instruction that can be followed in individual ways. If the visitor refuses the instruction or does not pay attention during the monologues, the video gets stopped, the light gets switched on and without any explanation the visitor gets nonverbally asked to leave the space. These consequences are never told beforehand.

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 presented in a display cabinet. All of them are charges of diverse delicts, all details regarding offenders and victims are blackened, therefore it has been only possible to read about the actions without information about the involved protagonists.

Since antique times the practice of damnation memoria exists: names get crossed out (or gouged out) of historical documents and mementos. In ancient Rome it has been common practice to cancel them out in a way that the smutched names were still visible under the cancellation. In modern years the practice changed: It became more common to actually ex- tinguish persons out of their contexts (during Stalinism people have been vanished from photographs; Sigmund Freud tried to protect the legacy of psychoanalysis against associates who threatened 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.

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.