Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Diaries



search: "April Elizabeth Lamm" at artforum.com

Monday, December 3, 2007

Il Tempo del Postino: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno's Opera in Manchester

Il Tempo del Postino
A Group Show
(12-14 July 2007)

It is only those exhibitions that make a difference that really make a difference.

To experience this difference, one needed a ticket to Manchester. Not on an airplane so much as on a luft-schiff, a hybrid machine transporting us into the 4th dimension.

Co-captains Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno had given themselves a mission: how can we curate “time” instead of “space”? After some three years of investigation and in search of a genius loci in which to experiment, the idea landed back on earth at the Opera House in Manchester to become a part of the world’s latest biennale, “The World’s First International Festival of Original and New Work.”

Curator Johannes Cladders believed that the best art exhibition conveys itself through theatrical means, no labels necessary: the art space should function as a stage for the silent theatrical play taking place in the mind of the beholder. Parreno and Obrist have capitalized on this notion, moving art into the theatrical realm, and in doing so have given us a stage in which an exhibition can evolve into new forms, not only encouraging slowness, but demanding it.

As we took our seats, the “opera” began by putting the finger into the wounds (Wunderpunkten) of subjective time, i.e., the fickleness of memory. To the right of the stage and in front of the curtains was a grand piano upon which snow was falling. One could hear the staccato performance of an invisible pianist in search of a tune half-remembered and half-forgotten.

Up front and center was a magnifying glass in the place one would expect to find a microphone (only it was about the size of a single-household residence of a lonely gold fish). Lit up from within, a man appeared behind the looking-glass, the ring-leader, apparently, Parreno’s ventriloquist, who informed us of the recent past and recent future to come.

At last, the “opera” could begin. The curtain lifted. And then it fell. The music swelled, filling the house with the waves of operatic expectation. And then the curtain began its dance, an inanimate object slapstick created by “situationist” Tino Seghal, his actor this time being the curtain itself, the signifier of the beginning and the end of any performance. With the beginning of the “opera” beginning before the beginning, the timing was even further muddled by the ushering in of the ushers. Last-minute guests hoping to board the time-space machine? Walking down the dark aisles with a guiding light in hand, slowly but surely, the gradual crescendo and echo of several auctioneers began, the kind of auction your grandfather would have attended in search of a used John Deere. But the auction wares were not to be seen: the maximal volume of the auctioneering was accompanied a minimalist visual: a large screen which gradually evolved from total darkness to blindingly light, a crescendo indicating a cinematic trope: the enlightened moment when one “sees the light” after being plunged into the darkness of death. Here Doug Aitken had presented us with a pandemonium of prices accompanied a vacuum of visuals.

The cacophony was called to a brutal stop, yielding to a moment of “moving” silence: Tacita Dean’s film of John Cage’s silence, 4’ 33”. Maybe twice, maybe three times, the old man in the film makes a move, crossing his legs the other way, mimicking the minimal motions of the audience. He sits in a dancer’s rehearsal studio with mirrors along one wall. In the mirror’s reflection, a figure counting down the time with their fingers is barely perceptible.

A lovely moment of transit, Dean’s silence was just what we needed after the sound-flood (Stimmeüberschwemmung) of Aitken’s auctioneers. And now the “opera” could begin, in medias res, the aria of Cio-Cio-San (Madam Butterfly) and Lieutenant Pinkerton was divided amongst four geishas and two lieutenants – surround-sound in the aisles and on stage was fragmented and shared, discombobulating, but tear-jerking nonetheless.

Too numerous to describe at length here, similar works of wonder were created by Trisha Donnelly, Douglas Gordon, Olafur Eliasson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, Carsten Höller, and Koo Jeong-A, whose monstrously swaying severed tree was the most minimalist albeit the most potently symbolic of the potential in slowing down the time in an exhibition. Indeed, “Il Tempo del Postino,” (the time of the postman) the title given to this operatic encounter of a 4th kind, was punctuated by a repeating “chorus” – Liam Gillick’s snowed-on piano – and the comic relief of Pierre Huyghe’s 3 acts: the foibles of the offspring of Big Bird wedded to Snuffalufagus and a furry brown bat-monkey midget. Intermission was intermingled with the beginning procession of Matthew Barney’s interpretation of Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings: Act II was infused by Barney-esque mythology and the elaborate ritual – involving acrobatics and wrecked cars– required to induce a shaggy-haired bull into copulating with a machine.

Even if the bull refused to cooperate and copulate, who would have thought that an evening at Manchester’s Opera House could trigger a tsunami of thought whose repercussions were yet to be experienced by the rest of the world, frequent travelers on luft-schiff art?

One left the opera house with a kind of perma-grin tickling the mind; that unexpected titillation when one notices that the bearded man buying bananas next to you at the supermarket is wearing bright red stilettos.

April Elizabeth Lamm

(*written for German translation; originally published in Monopol, September 2007)

Friday, November 30, 2007

REVIEW: Simon Starling at neugerriemschneider

Simon Starling
Linienstrasse 155
November 11 – January 13

Within a milieu of quiet conceptualism, of thoughtful works in silent spaces where whispering is par for the norm, Simon Starling’s latest show heralds a booming breakaway. A mind-twisting work titled after its maker, Wilhelm Noack oHG is both film projector and film projection. That is, the film projector itself is a twisted work of art conceived of by Starling and produced by the Noack family firm, and the film is a 4-minute history of its maker and makings. Dark and loud, clangs and bangs of industrial metal-working pierce the room whose bass note remains the mechanic purr of an oversized projector – a spiraling staircase, shiny and new, very possibly a machine rendered after a mental rendezvous with Maholy-Nagy and Jean Tinguely. And though the black-and-white film is nostalgic, it never crosses the border of being maudlin. Here Starling’s continuing fascination with re-building what has already been built appears to be a reflection of a Real beyond the airy ethereal of a virtual production line stretching from Boise to Bombay. And if Fischli and Weiss’s Der Lauf der Dinge [the way things go] is the product of child’s play revived (two boys home alone with matches), then Starling’s latest production is an adult homage to the aesthetic mechanics of the “hard” in a hard-drive technological montage.

REVIEW: Matthew Barney / Joseph Beuys at the Gugg

Matthew Barney / Joseph Beuys
Deutsche Guggenheim
Unter den Linden 13/15
October 28 – January 12

Nancy Spector’s pairing up of Joseph Beuys with Matthew Barney might very well have been a curatorial dash into sudden death. In Germany, the revered shaman artist who created the notion of “social plastic” and boldly proclaimed that “everyone is an artist” is bestowed with an untouchable aura. Whereas the legitimacy of creating a connection between the vitrines and drawings of the couldn’t-be-more-different artists is questionable – and possibly too literal –when Spector posits Barney’s Field Dressing (1989-1990) up against Beuys’s Eurasienstab [Eurasian Staff] (1967/68), a mind-spinning re-evaluation of the odd coupling occurs. While Barney assiduously climbs the walls and intermittently shoves Vaseline into the orifices of his bare body, Beuys engages in layering fat into the corners of the room and placing copper rods into felt-covered poles. By placing the documentation of these performances in rooms where one could watch both of videos at once, the viewer was allowed a space to analyze the motivation behind their shared devotion to rather elaborate (and personal) mythologies. The parallel egress from this world into that of the divine conveyed here reveals an uncanny passage in time – a promisingly unorthodox curatorial decision granting us an exodus from mundane juxtapositions.

REVIEW: Andreas Slominski at MMK, Frankfurt

Andreas Slominski
MMK Frankfurt
Domstrasse 10
23 September 2006 – 28 January 2007

Devilishly delightful 500-kilometer taxi rides are a dime a dozen in India. But taking a taxi from Hamburg to Frankfurt? Andreas Slominski did. Then he handed director Udo Kittelmann the bill. Even cheekier: Parked at the entrance, a tire was removed and the meter kept ticking. The menacing metaphor was not lost on anyone; he’d parked at the entrance to a famed Hans Hollein building, which Slominski decorated with a billboard-size set of Christmas lights. A taxi without a wheel is, after all, like the left-behind suitcase at the airport, a ticking bomb, a concentration of panic and anxiety. The evidence of further rigorous mischief inside included a truncated ski-hut (Where are the skis? 2000), a Wheelchair to Surmount the Staircase in Odessa (2000), a soccer ball cautiously patrolled by the guard (Football with Child’s Skull, 2000), and behind a dark wall was the Device to Frighten People Lingering in Parks at Night (2000). It was here, knowing the impish Slominski for his traps, that I warily entered the pitch dark room to inspect a glowing globe and this metal “thing” underneath it which resembled -- in the dark -- a deadly weapon. I nearly wet my pants for fear. But nothing happened. And if such a device were actually put to use in a park, then one would logically see an extra moon. An extra moon? Yes. Scary.

REVIEW: Peter Piller

Peter Piller
Barbara Wien
Linienstrasse 158
26 January – 31 March 2007

For the first time ever, Peter Piller has taken a detour onto the road more taken. And in the context of Piller’s work, which one might describe as that invisible decisive moment of decision-making, this “more taken” road is actually the one less taken. The road not taken by Piller until now was that of showing his own photographs, which he has done here at Barbara Wien and in fine constellations of pure poetry. Those of you who do not know your Robert Frost, at this point – and who do not know Piller’s better-known work– have no idea what I am talking about. You see, Piller is famous for his blick (not far from a “blink”) and not for that moment of “when” to press the button on the camera, but rather that moment when a found photograph becomes one worth exhibiting, when it makes a statement, without ever having made a statement. In the series called Dauerhaftigkeit (2005/2006) taken from the archives of a textile mill in a small town in the Netherlands, one finds that Piller’s chosen photographs are not so much “photographs” as “snapshots,” more than likely shot by the mill workers. Furthermore, not only are they snapshots, but failed snapshots, accidental shots of the ceiling or of a tree’s branches winter bare. The fact that we, as gallery-goers, carefully examine each of these “works” on the walls, making connections where there were none in the mind of the “photographer,” who is not so much a “photographer,” per se, as rather a person with a camera in hand (and then further the distinction that Piller makes, even when he becomes that man with a camera), yes, one finds these forks in the road exposed – man with camera, archive, artist, gallery – and that is exactly what has made all the difference.

REVIEW: RothStauffenberg at Esther Schipper

Schipper & Krome

Flipping through fashion magazines, one finds that timepiece advertisements regularly beg for more than just a moment’s thought, with taglines such as “Elegance is an attitude,” “I am yesterday, today, tomorrow,” and “Time is forever.” Regardless of the philosophical prattle of the text, the watches themselves are invariably set at the pleasurable constant of ten after ten o’clock. Seemingly senseless, 10:10 appears to represent an aesthetic bliss.

The same unnamable mechanism is at work in RothStauffenberg’s most recent installation Schall und Rauch (Noise and Smoke), which in fact incorporates images of watches at this bewitching time. The title is derived from a line in Goethe’s Faust, “Names are but noise and smoke / obscuring heavenly light,” and such is the artists’ take on text itself; instead of issuing a press release, the artists submitted a series of images, forcing the viewer to rely on their eyes (and mind) alone.

With interludes of Mozart and Beethoven, what we see plucks the strings of our emotions without unnecessary schmaltz. In the films Bliss (2002) and Bliss II (2004) emotional swells are created through a sequence of blurred images that wondrously flow together in a three-sectioned split screen. Like a theatrical production, the lights go down after the film to spotlight the world clock Paris/ London/ Turin/ Miami (2003), whose hands are fixed at ten after ten as the second hand ticks away persistently. Fade to black again to spotlight a film still, whose time-code (and title, 01:24:18:11) acts like a call number in a card catalog accessing an archive of images too numerous to be fathomable.* The photograph 00:56:44:04 (2004) depicts several hands grasping onto a man who has fallen down the stairs. It is a moment (a “time-coded emotion,” if you will) evocative of the emotional intensity of a Géricault or Delacroix painting.

Titillating and sensually intellectual, the images that RothStauffenberg use are of yesterday, today, and tomorrow without becoming hackneyed. But in Schall und Rauch, the marvel is at how the artists have created a conflict between the Scylla and Charybdis of image and exegetic text.
– April Elizabeth Lamm

*Capturing a moment in film-time, each “time-code” represents 1/24th of a second of some 300,000 images in any given 120-minute film.

REVIEW: Carsten Nicolai at the Schirn

Carsten Nicolai
20 January-28 March
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
www.schirn.de (www.antireflex.de)

Review by April Lamm

In the winter, thirst acts as my personal barometer. When I get thirsty, I know soon it will snow. Those at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, might be studying this phenomenon in a special room at the end of a long neon-lit hallway, division ‘personal abnormal perception’, subdivision ‘private weather forecasting’, topic ‘winter and the consumption of drink’. Those familiar with the promiscuous collaborations (art, music and science) of Carsten Nicolai will understand immediately what I am getting at.

In Nicolai’s exhibition at the Schirn, older works are put in the context of new in two chambers of reflection -- one light, one dark -- divided by an antechamber mingling the two. The white room called ‘reflex’ makes one feel like a white mouse in a laboratory witnessing the products of a man in deep thought in deep space. While the Wellenwanne, the Telefunken, and Milch works (all 2000) involve the realisation of making sound visible, Reflex (2004) is a cube askew which one can walk into to experience what could be called an ‘acoustic’ James Turrell.

One would think that thought might take place more fluidly in the light, but Nicolai’s exhibition proves otherwise. The darkness of the ‘anti’ chamber reveals mysteries wondrous and inane, less illustrative of the artist’s desire to show the unseen and more illustrative of the wide wild landscape of thought taking shape in the viewer’s mind alone. Void (2002) titles a series of sound traps in the form of sci-fi chrome-plated glass tubes placed on top of the hat racks at mission control. (Ground control to Major Tom.) The questions invoked—‘can sound be stored in a space? What can be perceived when the sealed tubes are opened?’—hark back to the witty seriousness of Duchamp’s Air de Paris (1919) or Robert Barry’s Inert Gas Series (1969). While the Nebelkammer [cloud chamber] (2002) is a machine making visible the invisible cosmic radiation penetrating our lives, the Portrait (2004) is a simple ‘painting’ composed of strips of magnetic tape which have recorded the ‘portrait’ of the sound of a room.

My friend the poet Fred Seidel once said, ‘Everyone talks about the silence of light / But no one talks about the sound’. Nicolai seems to be working on the research team trying to figure out why. . . why we stopped thinking about moonbeams. And though one might be overwhelmed by the nearly religious aesthetic of minimalism, Nicolai is a maverick whose patterns of interference, error, and coincidence might help us reach that planet on which we escape our wish for coherence in a cosmos where the lacework of a snowflake can never be predicted but will (mysteriously) always have the symmetry of six sides.

REVIEW: Nairy Baghramian at Galerie Nagel

Nairy Baghramian
Galerie Christian Nagel
24 June – 6 August

Once upon a time in a land far from the familiar, on a Mediterranean beach, Rock Hudson disappeared behind a striped cabana to change out of his wet swimming trunks. Was it Monaco? Nice? Cannes? It was there, in any case, that he met Grace Kelly, an heiress and a southern belle. And though he was not the thief that she believed him to be, she longed for his life, the aura around him, longed for the adventure of stealing diamonds. But to catch a cat like Rock required more than just the flourish of a chiffon-covered shoulder and a polished Texas twang.

These were my first thoughts while meandering through Nairy Baghramian’s sculpture Vierte Wand/Zwei Protagonisten (Fourth Wall/Two Protagonists) (all works 2005), whose faded yellow stripes reminded one of canopies and colonnades, of wicker-work under a portico lined with ferns. In theatrical terms, the ‘fourth wall’ is that invisible space the actors look to as if the audience were a wall onto which they projected a faked reality. This was the first scene of a play enacted in our minds, sehnsuchtig for those Technicolor Junes, of beach front views we found difficult to afford without the remorse of guilt.

As reality would have it, Rock was no rock but a Cary (Grant). Nonetheless, along the corridor were trap doors with (if one bent low enough to see) golden teeth, a painful twist on a motif. A place of escape or invitation to the world beyond the looking glass, these Klappen mit Goldenen Zähnen (Traps with Golden Teeth) offered a glimpse into the impossible, and such absurdities have flourished in galleries seemingly for centuries and yet … never quite enough.

Beyond these narrative traps of seeing and not seeing, of hiding and of the flamboyance of being on stage was the peek-a-boo of Teestube (Tea Salon), something of the belle holding up her billowing skirt by a thread while floating through the ball room. This sculpture, or rather this living breathing creature, this eminent beauty in balletic pose, was to be seen through the glance in a mirror, curtseying behind a fan, in the spotlight without ever appearing to want to be. Here the latent poetry of 1950s Cologne was to be found behind a paravent, not seen directly but from the reflected periphery, something one could sense without seeing. What others might see as a shameless flirtation with hypocrisy, seemed to me allusions to affluence leaning less towards a literal critique of the Vanity Fair than to nostalgia for the noble sublimity of convening at tea. Indeed, the capitalist critique inherent in the show’s title ‘Die Geister Mögen das Flanieren’ subtly gestured towards a telethesia of graceful discontent.

up next

My Dinner with Andre

I come here often just to ride the elevators.
– Marcel Duchamp on “Anonymous”

Some of them were where some others of them were. Some of them were where no others of them were. One of them was where not any other of them, of that kind of them, had been, and it was a thing that was important to any one to have seen that one, to have heard that one. – Gertrude Stein on “Anonymous”

When I returned from the summer pause, referred to in German-speaking countries as the “summer hole,” I found a note on my desk at the Ministry of Leisure instructing me to have dinner with Andre. Andre? Andre who? Oh yes, Andre Gregory. The theater fellow who is friends with the artists of the Anonymous show, the subject of our most recent investigations.

Over dinner, Andre told me all about the exhibition, the movement, the quake in our wake. In typical Andre over-the-top let’s-go-get-naked-in-the-forest kind of fashion, he told me that the exhibition planned was all about making Relevant art, about creating and instigating a dialogue that would usher in a moment of what he called “Accidental Anarchy,” leaving the Spectator alone with their very own thoughts about the Spectacle to be seen. It was a moment of philosophy made naked, a fearless feat in the face of a world where Googling had become substitute for further-thinking, where the gaze greedy for more information revealed a tendency towards less thought.

But that’s just my morning’s memory of our evening’s conversation, and it’s difficult to rely on my breakfast transcriptions, though I was hired, after all, because of my elephantine memory. What I remember best were the gesticulations he made with his hands as if he wished to give Gestalt to the Geist he was trying to express. I didn’t really follow him at first, and it was difficult to fathom what this “Accidental Anarchy” might entail, or what “Relevant Art” might be. But in my work for the Ministry, it is one of my primary duties to investigate matters that might give cause to an uprising or a disturbance of the status quo in the well-oiled Creatocracy machinery.

The investigation, you see, began many moons ago, after concern had been expressed by my supervisor, Mr Rainbow, after a number of press releases, e-flux-s, and briefs that had come in from a number of agents in the field about an exhibition scheduled to open in the winter of 2006, and, curiously enough, the pictures sent along to accompany the c.v. of the Anonymous curator were the faces very few would recognize from the past, the faces of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Comte de Lautréamont, Martin Heidegger, Leila Khaled, and Hakim Bey, among others. A trickster was amongst us. Was there a real person behind this ever-changing façade or was this truly a movement of a group of artists who wished to play havoc with the marketing mechanisms of the Leisure sector?

It took me quite some time to figure out who these “Anonymouses” might be. The project smelled like a leftover from the leftist-neo-Marxist generation, those engaged in a struggle against the encroachment of neo-liberalists, and though Andre was willing to talk to me about the show, at first he was unwilling to tell me about the artists involved. Based on a few slips he made over schnapps – Merlin or Mirwin, it seemed he slurred – eventually it dawned on me that the authors who once published with Merve might be a good place to begin the search for this potentially volatile faction. Concern had even been expressed that they had instigated the riots of the Parisian banlieue in the summer of 2005 and the Ministry wanted to avoid any repeat scenarios at all costs.

When I was young, one of my greatest ambitions had been to write a book for the Merve Verlag, a prêt-a-porter paperback for intelligence-on-the-run. The Merve Verlag was a distinguished publishing house whose author list comprised part of the sector whose files might have been marked by the stamp of “dangerously smart.” I had my suspicions of such fantastic categorizations confirmed one day when I caught my first glance inside one of the Ministry’s vaults dedicated to the works of “ideas and non-ideas with many words around them,” finding there stacks and stacks of the white books with colorful banners. Many such tomes often ended up being allocated to the dark recesses of the Bureau of Rejected Philosophy, and many never saw the light of day thereafter. The science fiction undertone of their titles titillated my sixth sense:

Zeus in New York: Heidegger and the Cybernetic
Voyage to Another Star
Divertimento für Gilles Deleuze
The Seeing Machine
The Aesthetic of Disappearance
The Unreal Monument
The Problem of Artificial Intelligence
In the Future No One Will Be Famous

Whilst peering over them, poring through their pages, making lists of those that I wished to dedicate some time to later, I bumped into their current carekeeper, Mr Auterraum, a lovely species with a six-pack torso and spectacles like Waldo. It was enough to send me into a tizzy every time he came near.

“What are you looking for, Frau Lamm?” he inquired, pushing his tortoise-shell glasses up the sharp slope of his nose. His German accent only added to the complete and utter disarray of my very being.

“Oh, my, Mr Auterraum, I’m very starry that I’ve disturbed you by your vork… I mean I am very sorry to have disturbed you. I just thought I’d have a look at the Ministry’s distinguished collection of endangered books and knowing you to be, well, to be who you are, um, well, maybe you can help me find a vork, work, I mean, that I have been looking for, yes, about … worldwide conspiracies in the music of pop.” (I was working undercover, after all.)

“Pop music, you say? You mean music composed and then played backwards by Manson and such?”

“No, not exactly. More like conspiracies on the dancefloor, Michael Jackson and how the Afghans used his Thriller to coordinate the great coup of Raji Raji….”

“Oh yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean. Let me see here. No, no, the Merve sector is all wrong. You’ll need to head to the Children of the Weathermen sector for the plethora of works on that theme.”

I had just begun to follow him when he turned hot on his heels after receiving a message on his handy, muttering something about “the dust devils, the dust devils,” he needed to tend to the dust devils first. He then vanished down the hall.

ADHT, I could only presume. Rather a bad case of it. Baffled, I returned to the stacks after having settled the mini-debate with myself (internal, subjective, and irrelevant to the story?) as to whether or not I should pee first before returning to the list-making after having dodged that sexy beast Mr Auterraum and his odd theories of dust devils, whatever they were. Speaking with him was like taking a stroll into a black hole and not knowing whether you’d come back again. On tenterhooks that he would return, my fingers moved across the pages impatiently and the need to pee made me all the more anxious when I came across an untranslatable sentence from Heidegger:

Das Bedenklichste in unserer bedenklichen Zeit ist, daß wir noch nicht denken.
[roughly translated: The most thoughtful thing in our thoughtful time is that we don’t think yet.]

Trouble had arrived, but I had the feeling that I was approaching my target as so many of the press releases we had received at the Ministry had spoken of the need for thought. I pulled to a full stop. I closed the book and began looking for further clues to the quandary of naming Anonymous in other books. Sortis Shakespeariani, was the game, and waving my finger magically through the air, I landed upon a title which spoke volumes to my urgent need of an immediate answer: Immediatism. Synchronicity. Perusing its scant pages, I immediately began taking notes:

Fully realizing that any art ‘manifesto’ written today can only stink of the same bitter irony it seeks to oppose, we nevertheless declare without hesitation (without too much thought) the founding of a ‘movement’, IMMEDIATISM. We feel free to do so because we intend to practice Immediatism in secret, in order to avoid any contamination of mediation. Publicly, we’ll continue our work in publishing, radio, printing, music, etc., but privately we will create something else, something to be shared freely but never consumed passively, something which can be discussed openly but never understood by the agents of alienation, something with no commercial potential yet valuable beyond price, something occult yet woven completely into the fabric of our everyday lives.

I was convinced that these statements had certain uncanny parallels to those I had read from the manifesto-in-progress, the “Notes towards the Anonymous Movement,” that slip of paper which Mr Panama covertly handed me in the elevator of the Waldorf. The author was most certainly one and the same. Back at the Ministry, I began my report tenuously and even at variance with the subject at hand, for though I had found the author of the Anonymous Movement at last, I wanted to delay Mr Rainbow’s knowledge of my knowledge, keeping him in the dark for a brief moment in time. I decided it was best that I should play dumb and so I began:

A Night of Work on Useless
 Solutions for as yet Non-Existent Situations
A Memo for the Ministry of Leisure
12 April 2006

“An obvious matrix for Immediatism is the party. Thus a good meal could be an Immediatist art project, especially if everyone present cooked as well as ate. … rituals of conviviality like Fourier’s ‘Museum Orgy’ (erotic costumes, poses, and skits), live music and dance—the past can be ransacked for appropriate forms & imagination will supply more.”

And that was that. It was enough to throw him off my track, to get him off of my back at least for a week, so that I might enjoy the sojourn into knowing the unknown. But further investigations led me into a muddle: whether or not this Anonymous Movement was some sort of Chinese Tong or secret society, whether or not they moved in circles of “democratic shamanism” escaped me. I had booked a flight for Juniper Hills, California, to speak with the Town Council about further agreements. It was there that my search for Hakim Bey ended in the gutter. Bey (after a bitter divorce from Sylvie Lowen, a real estate tycoon of Vanuatu island) had been sentenced by the Ministry some 20 years hence and, never having come to trial, had disappeared presumably in the ever-swelling bowels of Guantánamo.

Some weeks later, a rather convoluted constellation of conversations led me on another path completely. It was an ordinary Wednesday in Paris, but as everyone knows, Wednesday night séances at Alejandro Jodorowsky’s were a treat not to be missed. It was there that I discovered another clue that led me to the dark heart of Serbia and Montenegro via Venice. After having tea with Onan the Magnificient (just to get the number of the man I was really after), I met up with Branislav Dimitrijevic in Belgrade who told me all about the work of the Anonymous artist/curator who put together the “International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show)” in 1986, an “anonymous genius” who made a series of copies (shoddy copies made perhaps after reproductions found in books) of those same artworks that had appeared originally in the Armory Show of 1913—Cezanne, Gauguin, Brancusi, Matisse, Kandinsky, Leger, Picabia, etc. Our conversation lasted til the break of dawn, and, unfortunately, the only thing I have penciled in my notebook is the question: “Can an art collection become an ethnographic collection—simulating the status of artifacts?” I thought I was hot on the trail, but no…. This was not the person we were after. Dimitrijevic put me on to a lady in Croatia who put me in touch with an academic named Ana P, who seemed to know all about these Anonymous Movements involving artists like Mangelos and Jo Klek.

Jo Klek, in turn, talked about the antecedents to the antecedents. In 1934 at the MoMA, there was an “Anonymous Art” show and others had taken place in Harlem sometime around the turn of the millennium. But none of these Anonymous authors was the author that I was looking for. The only conclusion that I could come to was that Anonymous had become a brand that takes on non-Anonymous characteristics by necessity. All attempts to reach a final destination were but so many hijacked detours into tomfoolery. Ever elusive, Anonymous would remain Anonymous.

The piles on my desk, the phone calls from Mr Panama requesting more secret meetings in elevators, and the enigmatic memos of Mr Rainbow were beginning to tax my inner yogi. He had sent me a memo outlining the possible dangers of the Eighth Dwarf (“short, black, rubber?”) of whom Andre, of course, had never heard. The surfeit of sources for speculation, however, was yet another cause of worry at the Ministry in dire need of a clear report. After all, we were just one cog among many working towards a greater Creatocracy. The conundrum of Anonymity continued to present confirmation that our task had only just begun.

– April Elizabeth Lamm

An excerpt from a taped conversation between Annie Hall and Woody Allen, very similar to the conversation held between April Lamm and the Anonymous curator one hot summer night in the revolving restaurant at the top of the TV tower at Alexander Platz:

Annie Hall: Well, you’re what Granny Hall would call a real Jew.

Woodie Allen: Thank you.

Annie: Well, she hates Jews, she thinks that they just make money, but let me tell you, man, she’s the one, I’m telling you, is she ever.

Woodie: So did you do those photographs in there, or what?

Annie: Yeah, yeah I sort of dabble around.
(I dabble—listen to me, what a jerk?)

Woodie: They’re wonderful, you know. They have they have a quality.
(You are a great-looking girl)

Annie: Well, I would like to take a serious photography course.
(He probably thinks I’m a yo-yo)

Woodie: Photography is interesting cause you know it’s a new art form and an
aesthetic criteria that hasn’t emerged yet.
(I wonder what she looks like naked)

Annie: Aesthetic criteria? You mean whether or not it is a good photo or not.
(I’m not smart enough for him. Hang in there)

Woodie: The medium enters in as a condition of the art form itself.
(I don’t know what I’m saying. She senses I’m shallow)

Annie: To me, it’s all instinctive, I just try to feel it, and not try to think about it so much.
(God I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a schmuck like the others)

Woodie: Still you need a set of aesthetic guidelines to put it in social perspective.
(Christ I sound like FM radio, relax!)

On the Monuments of the Mind of Christoph Keller

A Trip into the Monuments of the Mind

“The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you’ve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap.... Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.”
--Chuang Tzu

He was an oxymoron, keeping going and staying put. Like a motorhome. He was between worlds, a hinge-man.

I encountered him in my travels through time, in the era of difference, slightly before the era of sadistic children, in the winter of the year 2003. Having passed through the low earth orbit space junk, having dodged the some 8000 objects floating 320 to 800 kilometers above the earth, I met a man connecting with these objects, receiving their signals.

Though he once called himself a hydrologist—measuring the circumferent distance of lakes in the mountaintops of Chile—he now called himself an artist, measuring the mental distances between his mind and others from the foot of a small hill in Berlin.

In his name one could see a Denkbild of contradiction. If a pictograph of Christoph Keller existed, it would depict a travelling man—patron saint of travelling, Christoph—no longer travelling per se, but rather sitting in a place of storage, a cellar—Keller—watching television. That is to say, his travels were no longer those of the body, but those of the mind’s eye, no longer his, but those of many others. His suitcase remained unpacked, his travels were selected through the powers of a telecommando, a remote controlling of some 256 possible journeys to places which did not resemble in the least the cellar in which he sat. Like many others living in the dark city, he was most fond of the round tool which enabled him to put his troubled travelled mind to rest: a satellite dish. Not a plate of edibles, but instead an apparatus whose features included “remote sensing” and “high gain antennae.” Connected to his far-away-seeing box, his satellite dish accessed the world of moving pictures. Undenkbilder.

This cellar-dwelling traveller seemed to have a blatant disregard for the well-trodden path, for the perimeters of his chosen profession. Instead of producing objects to be seen and awed over, objects to be eventually stored in the cellars of museums, kunsthalles, galleries and the like, he made objects which were then transformed into representative letters and numbers, and stored in name alone. There were places that held objects with signatures, and places that held the idea of objects with signatures. Patent number P 34 71 262.4 symbolized a paradox-picture machine: neither here nor there, not even truly rundum, because of the resulting rectangle. The machine produced representative contradictions in the laws of the physical moving world. In the pictures the machine produced everything that went fast goes slow, and everything that went slow goes fast. Slow things were blurred. Fast things were sharp.

“Time turns metaphors into things and stacks them up in cold rooms, or places them in the celestial playgrounds of the suburbs.” -- Robert Smithson

Outside of his window looking onto a wall, the only worlds of motion were the reflections of a sun, reflections of an object which he couldn’t see. (“Ich habe versucht, am Grauton der Mauer zu
erkennen, ob Sonne scheint oder Regen ist.”) Patent number P 44 24 571.8, a.k.a. the Helioflex (1997), followed the motions of the sun and channeled them into the shady lower stories of vertical structures, middle-format high-rise apartments and neon-lit bureaus. This mirrored Plexiglas satellite dish, 68 cm in diameter, resisted wind speeds of up to 120 km/hour and featured a “light-dark sensor.” It was a satellite dish with eyes detecting the fluctuations and graduations of light and its absence; a satellite dish that replaced the undenkbilder of the moving pictures with pure light. “Licht das einen wegbläst,” said Keller of his way of tackling the social inequalities of vertical architecture. “Licht für Lebensraum.”

Then there was light, but no motion. His mind had been numbed from the moving pictures channeled-in from the satellite dish. But being the hinge-man that he is, he left his now-well lit cellar and went to a dark one not far from his home on a hilltop. In the cellar of the Charité hospital, he found some 4000 un-archived films. Nearly a century of film-footage documenting some monumental moments in medical history, he found out the answers to questions such as “What happens to a dog when his brain is removed?” or “Can one prevent homosexuality in rats?” “What did amputation look like at the turn of the century?” In Keller’s film Retrograd (1999), he interpolated the historical fragments of knowledge with fragments of interviews of scientists working at the Charité now. Much of the talk was of a certain “objectivity” in the films serving the history of knowledge, and not art.

Going further along this path of celluloid history, the straddle of a giraffe, the waddle of a porcupine, the gallop of a horse, indeed the movement of the entire animal kingdom was the subject of the scientist Konrad Lorenz. Animals “in” art and “as” art. They are animals on the go-go, heading nowhere further than the confines of a loop. It’s as if they were placed on a treadmill, away from the flock, the herd, the bevy of safety in numbers, on behalf of our curiosity. On 40 monitors—the same bilder-boxes for undenkbilder—Keller created a space for his “Encyclopedia Cinematographica” (2001).

“I am convinced that the future is lost somewhere in the dumps of the non-historical past.”
--Robert Smithson

In a travel wagon, one would expect that it might be high time for this mind-traveller to hit the road. But the Expedition Bus was on a meta-journey, its wheels high in the sky of epistemology. To be seen were several ethnological documentaries recording the invisible journeys of the mind of a shaman. In order to combat evil spirits, Shamans journey to the heavens above or to the underground below to wrestle with troubling demons. Ethnologists are the makers, in this case, of non-travelogue travelogues. An acceptable format used in the gathering of knowledge about differing cultures, we believe these films document a certain reality. Oddly, they function on a level somewhat in the way that we believe in a photograph of a piano concert. Separate screenings of the same film were projected onto the driver and passenger sides of the front window. The landscape the passenger saw was slightly off from that of the driver—presenting the idea of a time lapse. No longer films with a beginning, middle and end, the installation marked a passage of time connoting the interval between something said and something understood.

“Repetition, not originality, is the object.”
—Robert Smithson

Return journey. Roundtrip. Retrospective of a transhistorical consciousness. Remote sensing of not so remote worlds read through wireless signals. Reading the world through pictures—hieroglyphs—reading the world through 1s and 0s—computers. Reading the past through history. Some believe that we can read the world through a matter-less substance called Orgones, a libidinal energy to be found in us and all around us in the atmosphere, in every place we see, touch, and don’t see. Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) believed that we could channel this energy for the good of humanity, and even to cure cancer. “What Einstein was seeking in his own way—a single principle, a unified field theory to explain everything—Wilhelm Reich had already found. The libido theory was a weapon against both the death drive theory of his intellectual hero Sigmund Freud and the atomic energy of his second hero Einstein. Healthy sexuality, supported by orgone accumulators, was the bulwark against the assaults of life-threatening radiation.” However, just before his death in jail, he locked his research up –in storage—not to be revealed to the world until the year 2007. Here again we have a cellar of secret knowledge awaiting a release of its secrets.

“Stoop if you are abcde-minded....”
--James Joyce

In the spring and summer of 2003, this specimen of man, known for his fascination for round dishes with mirrors and magical powers, took up the sky as his playground. Though he was a creator, an inventor of many things new, he was also a re-creator who relinquished the idea of making something “new.” He went to the top of a clocktower on the island of Manhattan, and to an area called Long Island City (which was neither island nor city, but a borough also known as Queens). There he reenacted the Cloudbusting Project, carefully following Reich’s set of rules, including:

Rule # 4: ”In cloud engineering, you do not ‘create rain,’ you do not ‘destroy clouds.’ Briefly, you are not playing God. What you do is simply helping nature on its natural course.”


Rule # 6: “Do not let workers draw Orgone energy any longer if they become blue or purple in their faces or feel dizzy.”

His experiment seemed to work. His obedience to the rules in creating this large penile contraption made of shiny copper and natural wood which would suck the orgone energy out of the clouds, made it rain, made it pour. He made many an island Manhattanite unhappy, as unhappy as the long-island inhabitants of Queens.

He brought his cloudbusting-object back to Berlin and began working on his experiments once again, this time with the aim of bringing more light to the gloomy November days which fell languorously into the hands of darkness at the early hour of half-four. On the rooftop of the Galerie Schipper & Krome, he aimed his cloudbuster in the direction of the tv-tower of DDR dreams on Alexander Platz. Inside the gallery he placed a large satellite dish in the corner of the room in which the rooftop apparatus was projected live. On a crude wooden pedestal he placed joysticks controlling the cloudbuster’s movements, right and left, up and down. No longer the weather master, Keller put the idea of “helping nature along its natural course” into the hands of others looking into a live-fed film of Berlin’s cloud-blanketed sky.

No longer bound to the confines his cellar, to a museum, to a patent office, or to the windows of a non-travelling bus, Keller’s journey continues into the Himmel—into the sky, into heaven—into the Zukunft, the “to coming” and the “to going” of the beyond. Mingling weird science with conceptual art, one would encourage the young artist to go on, to keep on going on, in his experiments for a non-abcde-minded world.

April Elizabeth Lamm, December 2003

Operation Snowball

“A Little Snow” had brought Ulrike Kuschel great fame and envy amongst her friends. Although the idea was simple enough to provoke a knee-jerk “I could have done that” in a crowd of “never would have done that” amateur critics, “A Little Snow,” after appearing on the front cover of Artforum, was a succès de scandale. Neither heaps nor the shoddy after-effects of a blizzard that had swept over Berlin, it was thought that Kuschel had faked these spartan winter landscapes with the help of a computer, or the know-how of an environmental architect. It was thought that Kuschel might have manipulated her viewer into believing that they were seeing a harmless bit of snow in a harmless environment, when they were actually seeing a harmless bit of snow in a not-so-harmless environment (the site of a massacre, the last cigarette kiosk before Sachsenhausen), or that Kuschel had manipulated her viewer into believing that this harmless bit of snow was actually chemically infested and quite purposely placed on the ground in seemingly anonymous places, that this snow was actually the evidence of a governmental plot against its own unemployed citizens, or one of the more absurd side-effects of the unpopular employment-creation measure. No one could believe that they were seeing actual snow, the wee bit, part of mother nature’s B-side, in actual places, with no specific rhyme or reason.

The success came as no surprise. After all, Ulrike Kuschel, e pluribus unum, was one of a group of ladies who lunch in East Berlin nearby the offices of the Ministry of Leisure. There were several agents at the Ministry who had a nodding acquaintance with her work, but it was I who was given the order to explore in depth the possible dangers to our society of workers and farmers. The fruits of my espionage were summarized by my supervisor Mr Rainbow in a few bullet points. Her photographs indicated (in no particular chronology or order):

* Uncovering seditious interiors via the exposure of prosaic exteriors (conspiracy plots to bring the Superpower under the rule of the unknown Sub-Power)
*Uncanny situations in familiar settings (man with a rake in a garden)
*Subversive celebrations of economic apartheid on the 2nd of May

The dirty work Mr Rainbow had later requested of me was performed quite naturally by my fellow citizens one day as I was watching her take photographs on Walhallastrasse. Eavesdropping on her with my trusty directive laser microphone, I could hardly believe my ears:

Can I see your identity card?
You are photographing every house, I saw you! You simply cannot photograph all of these houses. Who are you photographing for? I’m going to call the police….

My fellow citizen’s attempt to use these naïve interrogative scare-tactics on Kuschel were in vain, for she remained completely unfazed and continued to shoot. The crux of the matter, however, was the Ministy’s desire to understand the hubbub surrounding a series of subjective notations on archival images from German history. Ulrike Kuschel, you see, had been recently denounced by the Party of Professionals for a violation of ordinance no. 2789462, which everyone and his brother knew as shorthand for the “defecting from the law of what you see is not what you see.” The rule was a tried and true one in the sector of art production – and the art apparatchiki were heavy-handed in their enforcement of the regulation meant to encourage labor and craft. Indeed, it was an ordinance meant to eliminate unnecessary time spent on poesy and accidental intention.

But just as it seemed that her suffering could grow no worse – the doctors diagnosed an acute phase of cultural combat fatigue – Kuschel’s troubles were lifted like an iron curtain when a private patroness (known for allocating the bulk of her inheritance into the Trust for Anarchic Meaning) took to collecting her work. But that was after the Wall and before the Invisible Fence. Nonetheless, Kuschel had made no request for transfer, and continued to assiduously amass a body of work undecipherable to the nobs at the Ministry whose fire and fury revolved around perpetuating a past and the flurry of Operation Snowball.

– April Elizabeth Lamm

My Dinner with George

My Dinner with George

As part of the governmental effort to boost productivity within the cultural sector, the Ministry of Leisure had given me the covert charge of “having dinner.” It was the idea of the minister himself (who cleverly noticed that my nighttime activities were slowly taking precedence over those in the day) that I should write a weekly report recording my dinner conversations, as it were, with pop stars, poets, artists and post-theory philosophers. The idea had come about after one of our daily departmental unwinding sessions in which we had screened Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre” (1981), a film in which two frustrated New Yorker playwrights meet over dinner to discuss the meaning of life.

Serendipitously, my first mission, my first “meaning of life” over dinner, happened to coincide with a dinner for George Michael given by a film producer friend of ours from London in town for the Berlinale. He had said he wanted to invite me particularly so that I could meet George’s beau Kenny, who was opening up a gallery in Texas soon and wanted to know everything about “the art part” in Berlin. George had chosen life. Surely he would have some insight into the meaning of it.

I was no rookie to the job, as some six years ago, the Ministry had hired me as an agent whose sole purpose was to record the blurring boundaries between art and life. They had been having difficulties of late distinguishing between the two, and in order to avoid a rash decision of new hires to take on the recent flood of work, they decided to double-up the shifts of those already in service. You see, the Ministry of Criminality had been consulting the Ministry of Leisure more and more often because of what they called an “incremental discrepancy” of arrests whereupon the defendant proclaimed that the crime committed was in service of art. I knew of just such a case where an artist was arrested on the spot for possessing a strangely manipulated camera along side a map with key spots in Berlin mysteriously circled. He was driving a 70s model Fiat which screeched around the corners no matter how slow he was driving, making him appear the bandit, even if he were on a simple shopping trip. On one Sunday, this artist happened to purchase a toboggan—the kind with the eyes cut out—and for kicks, he was wearing it whilst driving home from the flea market on a dusty corner of Kreuzberg, when suddenly, he careened in the middle of an NPD street protest on Torstrasse and found himself trying to explain this finagled camera and the map on the passenger seat to a squad of machine gun bearing riot control police. Such were the cases causing my minister unnecessary grief.

I was by no means new to the business and blurriness of art. Having given up the intellectual cache of being an art critic, cupidity had led me into trading in the coveted editorial position at one of the world’s most fashionable art magazines for a stable position with a pension at the Ministry, without a whisker of doubt.

I had come from a long line of “diners” and dialogists, after all, so taking up the Minister’s offer seemed quite natural. My mother had trained me well to follow in her feted southern belle footsteps whose hoop skirts had traveled from the Kremlin to the refineries of kumquats in China as part of the Committee to Charm the Worker’s Party, an odd and failed effort of a few blue bloods with a fading interest in Chairman Mao to bridge the boundaries between capitalism in communism through a series of balls. Or at least that is what she told me. There were no pictures documenting these events, and though occasionally I believed it to have been merely part of the Simpson family folklore, there would inevitably appear some gentleman from the past who would pop in for tea and I would overhear them reminiscing about the good old days in Peking. With this history, it seemed only natural that she should become involved with voodoo and black magic while secretly working for the cause of the Black Nationalist Party. Though she was a white girl, she had somehow managed to get away with calling her black friends her “brothahs”and “sistahs” (quite literally actually, since the Simpson family was well-known for having more than a few butterscotch-colored children along the line). I had indeed seen a few newspaper photographs of protests from the Black Nationalist movement where my blue-stockinged mother would appear front stage and off-center next to Panthers and priests on a political mission.

It was no surprise then that while I was penning a quick note to my mother, wanting to brag about my dinner with George the night before (and ask if she hadn’t thrown away my Choose Life t-shirt), multitasking, checking my mail inbetween sentences on Word, while playing “stupid cupid” (as George would say) with Dexter and Jorn on the phone, I discovered my mother’s mail. Subject: Dinner with Amiri Baraka.

Per post electronique from the beaches of Hilton Head, she wrote:
“Dinner last night was more fabulous than I had expected. It turns out that Baraka isn't Muslim at all. What too much bourbon does to the brain, I tell you. Who knew? I guess I knew, but I had forgotten. He's still very passionate and fiery at 70, and he announced that he isn't religious at all; he believes in Good, not God. After a rather intense reading of his poem ‘Somebody Blew Up America’ we went for drinks at Big Bamboo then dinner at Mag’s. I came home very tired but elated. What a treat.”

Baraka? My head was aching from too much of the bubbly pushed on us from the overly eager sommelier of Bocca di Bacco. I had dined with George Michael, pop star and author of the lyric, “guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm” on the same evening that my mother had dined with the author who once wrote “don’t tell me shit about the tradition of slavemasters / & henry james.” Suddenly anything I might say seemed, well, fluffy. Hanging on like a yo-yo between Word and Yahoo, I was stumped. After all, she had just dined with LeRoi Jones, not only the last poet laureate of New Jersey, but also the last poet laureate of New Jersey. The white woman who’d grown up in the Bible Belt south and whose mother Blanche referred to the local Leroys (note: y instead of the royal French i) as those “other” people, my mother had dined with the poet, the Beat poet who made poetry a racy thing, the stuff of riots. LeRoi Jones was the one whose open sesame call out to all the brothers who were prohibited from entering certain honkie’s stores went like, “the magic words are: Up against the wall mother fucker this is a stick up.”

My mind was racing to make connections where perhaps none existed. Faint memories of the things George had said, in a rant (obviously suffering from a vile hangover himself) came back to me in flashes, seemingly meaningful because of my quivering state of mind. George was not just a pop star. He was a man living in fear of being murdered. He mentioned something about his phone being tapped by the CIA simply because of a music video he once made in protest of the war in Iraq. We all just sat at the table, indeed, just like the dumbfounded Wallace Shawn listening to the wild stories of Andre Gregory, stories of being naked in the forest with Polish women, of being buried alive, and like Wally, all we could do was say, “Wow. So what happened next?” Though I cannot record it directly, I remembered vaguely something about him saying how the system of Apartheid was a system of labor control, just as the death camps of the Nazis, just like Intel, Nike, Levis... something about how you can go to China and exploit the workers at about a dollar a day who can make jeans just as good as here. Blah, blah, the G7 building alliances with the elite and providing the local police with tear gas and guns. It was all a blur and it seemed that the only words I kept repeating in the taxi home were, “He’s so politically engaged.” I knew then that the Ministry had reason to worry that one of their stars was indeed overstepping the confines of our department. Were they also worried that because George had offered up his songs on his website for free that he was a potentially dangerous, albeit retrograde, commie? George drank Diet Coke. The rest of us drank Louis Jadot.

I remember his mentioning something about a cheap paperback of Nostradamus being in his toilet, sure, but was this really reason to worry? Toilets and prophets and pop stars with power. This was all well and good, but my duty to the Ministry required that I come up with an explication of the blurring of pop and life, distinguishing between the dangers and the doo-dads.

Out for a coffee, I caught sight of the Berliner Zeitung in the hands of a handsome man eating spaghetti on Ackerstrasse. There he was again, front page of the Feuilleton, George entering a limousine. The headline: “Ich war die männliche Kylie” (I was the manly Kylie). Transfixed and wobbly, I kept walking, but my eyes and mind were somewhere between last night’s dinner and “did he say that last night too?” when suddenly, I collision crashed into my friend Florian, whose basket of strawberries went flying under an ice cream truck. Bending to help him in a fit of laughter, “Oh heavens, Flo, what have I done? I’m so hungover, please forgive me.” Behind my sunglasses and baseball cap, under what a friend of mine cleverly calls “celebrity disguise,” I told him that I had just had dinner with George Michael last night and made fluorescent gestures with my hands. “What did you say? Dinner with George Michael... uh-huh. Did you win that? Oh God, I’ve got to run. Listen darling, I once had champagne with Elton John. Ring me and we’ll get together and I will carelessly whisper to you the whole dirty story.”

These gay men and their quick wit. I could barely put two sentences together and here was Flo on the street talking to me and his handy* at the same time, totally nonplussed about the strawberries in the street. My thoughts were somewhere else, still trying to concentrate on what George had said last night ... about having Nostradamus on his toilet seat, I mean next to his toilet seat, and what could that mean? And what was all the fuss about George in a public toilet and didn’t that make the rest of his restaurant-going life really difficult? Never again could he innocently ask the hostess, “Excuse me, but could you show me where the toilets are?” without getting some sort of crass smile as an answer. Wasn’t there some discussion about the extinction of sea turtles too and a twenty year window before the big Flood came to wash us all away? I remembered the day a friend of mine once told me as we were walking through Europe’s largest conglomeration of new parents –Prenzlauer Berg-- that more than one billion trees are used to make disposable diapers every year. Passing by a woman in a batik dress pushing a stroller with shock-absorbing rubber wheels, the song line of George’s kept running through my head: “If my best isn’t good enough, then how can it be good enough for two?”

It dawned upon me that the pop star might indeed be in dire need of a rendezvous with the poet. After all, George was afraid and Baraka fearless. Both had been oppressed, one as a black man, born in 1920, and the other gay, born in 1963, both of whom had cut their slice of the pie with a cookie cutter gone awry. (Such were the ways of hangover speech. Little made sense, and every detail of the remembered dinner seemed an epiphany.) While Corey Hart might have been the “Boy in the Box” who could never surrender, George was the boy in the closet who was oh-so-something else other than Boy George. The dinner-chore duty began to annoy me, if only because I was responsible for writing it all down and was the Minister really going bother reading this anyway? Perhaps if LeRoi had been sitting across the table from George he might have schooled him in the ways of creating a violent revolution and there would be more than enough fodder for my report tangling the cords of cosmopolitan lore. Could the father figure, preacher teacher teach anything to the man who had once written “It is better to have loved and lost / Than to put linoleum in your living room?” George was a swinger. Words like “jitterbug” for him were par for the norm.

I knew that I had to find out more details from my mother’s dinner, and if parallels were to be made, then an insight into being a missionary pop star might be revealed. I rang my mother in the late afternoon, knowing that I would reach her at the very beginning of cocktail hour, the time when sense was still making sense. Feeling inadequately armed with knowledge of LeRoi’s poems, and knowing her to grow impatient with my constant reply, “No, I don’t remember that poem,” I googled “Baraka,” whereupon I found evidence of an unwilling prophet: “Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts.” Denying the prophetic vision of LeRoi’s poem written when George was still a toddler, “Monday in B-Flat,” was a tune still worthy of the pop charts:

I can pray
all day
& God
wont come.

But if I call
The Devil
Be here
in a minute!

There I sat. I could not do otherwise. My head was bursting now, and my ice pack melting dangerously over the scriptbed of my new legtop. Googling further, I found out that Baraka, too, had words to the wise-weary in our love-torn world. George, the man who now lived in an “open” relationship with his lover Kenny, had certainly given a thought or two to the vicissitudes of love. It had been reported in the Daily Mail that George had slept with over 500 men in the seven years that he had been together with Kenny. I wondered how open open could be without causing the heart to close.

& Love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards
see, what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
Who understands it?
I certainly wouldn’t like to go out on that kind of limb.

Matters of the heart could be lengthy and backwards and given the pressures of being and existence, I thought it best to put the issue on the backburner. The deadline was approaching for the sobering report about how in 1213, the King of England seriously considered converting to Islam, and that we’d all soon have less to worry about round here as soon as I could place the radical poet next to the pop star (Ich war der männlich Kylie? Was?) at a dinner party, yes, soon someone would hear a song on the music box and they’d “shoot the dog” in office.

April Elizabeth Lamm
* “Handy” is the German word for mobile phone.