N° 37 Kunstschnee will Schmilzen

Lothar Hempel

25 April - 13 June 1998

Surviving survival, Lothar Hempel's rigged rooms

"A loose group of film-makers starts to improvise around the idea of making a movie. They start with a basic idea: the victims of a plane crash are stranded in icy mountains. Forced to accept their situation they soon have to face up to the next step, surviving survival. There are discussions and arguments and the group falls apart into subgroups. Each sub-group starts to follow their own ideas. In some ways their fictive situation is analogous to that of the film- makers, who quickly fall out, unable to find an area of agreement. Each one of them has begun to develop his or her own ideas. So we are left with a situation where the initial constructs (communal survival for the characters and the making a of collaborative film for the film-makers) fade further and further away from clear focus, to be replaced by a series of interim networked solutions. It seems that our group of filmmakers had the possibility to realise almost anything they wanted, their project could have gained fantastic dimensions. Yet the film cannot be finished and the leftovers of all their different narrative approaches begin to form a whole new set of beautiful, isolated and disfunctional events." (e-mail message from Lothar Hempel to Liam Gillick, March 1997)

A scenario has been created. Now we have an outline. A précis of the circumstances surrounding the potential creation of a number of situations. A series of events and a number of props that may or may not be in sync. Together they create a map of the "forthcoming" that could not be brought into existence without the creation of provisional settings and an artist's acknowledgement of the potential of potential. And faced with physical elements meeting time-coded sequences, we should all be capable of becoming involved, after all, we've done it before.

So, sitting in a temporary rigged booth, high above an aching sports arena, crouched with a rifle. Warren Beatty watches his own unravelling. He's on the cusp of the kind of total knowledge that is always illcast on a face like his. About to be pressed into an effective and ultimate assassination without ever pulling the trigger. It was a set up of course, it always should be, organised by people less intelligent than his cinematic self, but always smarter and more focused. The whole thing played out in a perfect realisation of flexibility. Within that shed. That great contribution to modern architecture, the multi-functional shed. What elements would you need to play out such a scenario? No illustrations just the key elements. Flat sheets and image lines. The supply of a place where the cinematic meets the presence of a viewer caught within a sequence that leads only to more sequences. And within our eyeline there is polished ply, painted stripes and Formica finishing soon to be flecked with parts of a politicians chest cavity. A chest that is host, for a nanosecond, of a projected bullet, hot and intense. Here, in a shed, a scenario will play itself out. At the moment of impact flesh and bone can deflect and compress a bullet, but the price of that deflection is still death, if the shot is a good one. If it went straight through then everything might be OK, so it is better here for the bullet to compress, to move fast enough to arrive at skin, but be soft enough for chaotic distraction when met by bone, muscle and ligament. And rigged up with a small charge, chest protected by a small metal plate, the actor can rise from the dead with a sly smile on his face, a whoop from the crew and a nod from the director for an injury well received and another death defeated.

But back to that view. Stuck high within a lighting rig, then crouched and moving fast. Holding back for a moment, then moving once more. I see you and you don't see me and we see what they both see but not what the victim of the conspiracy can see. And you always know that cinematic scene, shifting through the near-roof crawl onwards towards the evasion of some dramatic irony. Think back to the build up. Earlier on, standing down by the river dam. An actor playing a character who is trying to reconstruct the moment when someone had accidentally become victim to a wall of water. The scenarist as victim. Stand listening to the description while the act starts to play itself out. There goes the warning klaxon and here comes the water, just the way he described it. And why is the Sheriff, who was going to help me out, standing so still and holding a gun on me. And why is he at a slightly higher position up on the rock than he was when we started this conversation. Whip him in the face with your fishing rod. Catch an eyelid with a trout hook. Fishing equipment, nyloned and flexible. Purple and yellow blended. Tweaked and engineered and now useful for selfdefence. You'll have someone's eye out with that Lothar. Standing down by the dam in tartan with canvas patches. Scenic chaos linked by the brown plastic that vacuum forms both the dashboard of the jeep and the lectern control panel of the dead/non-dead politician/actor. Here we have a front and a back. Beyond set design and incorporating only some of the necessary elements. An aesthetic where the look and feel of a number of events can be placed together in order to provide a matrix of guidelines. We can read the combinations and then at the moment of realisation the individual parts fall away once more to be combined and recombined infinitely. Lothar lets his distractions distract him. And then again, playing a locked role, moving in and out of the foreground. And why not a dam, a horizon line, something from close up, something glimpsed from far away. All brought together, loosely and in earnest.

And can we enter some of these time/design/death/conspiracy spaces every time we travel. The "what if" compacted into the "hope not". Stacked in a holding position, circling with a solid cloud base at 100 metres, topping out at nearly five kilometres. Now you see the city through the left window, now through the right. Caught in a dilemma again. Landing blind and taking off with some feeling. Feeling the harm that the heavily filtered air is doing to our bodies. Wondering about the way Aeroflot pilots raise their hands together in best wishes to each other yet toast only when the glass is encircled by silencing fingers, so that the clink is muted by their flesh. Watching the door that hides those who watch the dials from within the creaking plastic that lines the aluminium superstructure. The potential of potential. Wondering what would it look like from the edge of a ragged section as the plane pulls apart. What do you do when the characters are all playing the right parts? People pushed together in a cinematic casting that is always as good as it can get. Lothar is sitting in Heathrow, waiting to be seated next to someone he really needs to be with. Watching the cast members take their places. The orthodox and the vague. They will soon be exercising at the back of the plane. Drinking and stretching. What a way to go. Keep talking. Looking in the mirror of the bathrom. Glancing away from the clarity of a fluorescent lit face. The black shirt bears armpit stains that create contour lines of anxiety. White mixtures of pale deodorant have left rings. So that was last Tuesday; that was the disturbed lunch, racing heart beat and loaded conversation. And this latest line comes from today. Will you be able to survive with the others? Already marked. The make-up department's version. You should only look this way much later in the forthcoming trauma. Some people start at the beginning, others begin half way through.

Liam Gillick

March 1998

Translated by Annabel Howland