curricula vitae

her / In 1986 S had a brief encounter with a person not significantly older than him self. They instantly clicked, took long walks together and sat at the edge of the woods talking during the only three days she was in the region. They spoke German with each other and for those of the readers who are not familiar with German, it is one of those languages where—different than in English—every single subject and object is gendered. Love, death, sculpture, bottle, tree, weather conditions and even shit are masculine or feminine and some things like a child for example, a car, the end, a room and the eye are neuter. Spectators, refugees, authors, consumers, players, artists, losers or students and other unspecified groups of people are spoken of as groups of only males. Over the time the two spent together, all these groups of only males turned into groups of only females through her consistent and solely gendering of everyone feminine in her speaking. The male omnipresence in their native language started to crumble through that same language spoken consciously and intentionally different by her. S remembers the moment he realized what she was doing and how startling and what a thrill it was to witness her changing his imagination and perception of past and future worlds through her use of language. He forgot her name but he remembers her as one of his best teachers. /

nothing / Thomas says he remembers. Until he was five years old, no one in his family had realized that his vision was really weak and that he could hardly see. It made it difficult for him to connect. He couldn’t recognize things or people unless they were no further away from him then his outstretched arms. Even his feet materialized only when he squatted down to put them into the shoes, which also only took on shape the moment he touched them. He was convinced that all things where more or less made from the same soft matter assembled in various but very similarly vague, contoured and colored clouds. All the ingredients for all and everything nascent were always present everywhere. A thing decided what to be, hard or soft, vivacious or inanimate, only a moment before he could touch it. Sister, mother, refrigerator, cherry tree. Everything had the potential to be anything. All arose from a pool of wafting matter. All vanished back into that same pool. He does remember but can only think and talk about it in the language he developed subsequent to the experience. Even if he takes off his thick glasses to visually see the things more or less the way he saw them earlier, he can never again experience the world the way he did. What he describes in retrospect—due to a lack of another language—as a blurry or unclear vision, mist or fog, he remembers to have simply been the way things were. Things were not blurry or obscure. And by saying that, he finds himself curiously handicapped by the fact that he can’t describe or even think about his former perception without comparing it to the perception of the seeing man he is now. He also has to acknowledge that he regularly forgets to mention that the world he lived in not only looked different but was a fundamentally other place. And whilst trying to find words to specify this other place he again has only comparisons to offer. “How do I think and speak today about an experience I’ve made before I had the language I use to speak about it today?” This is why he actually doesn’t think that he remembers anything at all, he says. /

body / When B was sixteen years old, she took what emerged to be the last walk with her grand-uncle Heinrich before he died. He was a very soft and generous man in his nineties. What had fascinated B since she was a small child was the fact that his frail body constantly shook. A grenade had detonated right next to him in the First World War, killing two of his comrades and leaving him spiked with shrapnel and with a so-called agitated paralysis for the rest of his life. B’s granduncle couldn’t hold a cup or glass or spoon without spilling half of what was in it on the way to his mouth. The few times she witnessed him falling asleep on the sofa in the small kitchen of the one-room apartment he shared with wonderful grandaunt Anneliese, his sleeping body kept shaking. Sometimes it shook so hard that the sofa started to beat against the wall and one of them had to squeeze a few folded napkins between sofa and wall to stop the banging. Every fiber in his body was twitching since 1916. Now, 1980, B and Heinrich are taking a walk along the edge of a park or forest exchanging the wisdom of a sixteen and a ninety-year-old. And while they are talking, B sees Heinrich’s jittery shadow in the flat afternoon light passing over a multi-colored, patchy background of autumn leaves covering a dirt road outside the city of Dortmund. And eventually—it happens at that moment—she’s able to see him as a nervous swarm of cells, every single one of them individually constantly jumping for their lives, still trying to escape a grenade. Jumping sort of backwards towards the grenade in the past. Caught in a loop never able to let go of shock and trauma as long as they remembered. /

mirror / I lie in a ditch hiding. Over me tower birch trees with yellow leaves. And there are some pines. It is a mild early afternoon and I can smell the mushroomish scent of autumn all around me. What am I hiding from? I crawl up the slope to find out. In front of me stretched out until the horizon lie vast grasslands. Wild oats gleam in the sunlight. I’m at the edge of a forest somewhere in Midwestern America. Is it the Dakotas or Nebraska? I don’t know. I don’t have the slightest idea how I got here and what I’m supposed to do. A group of about 35 bare-chested Indians are approaching in wild gallop on untamed horses dragging a dust cloud with them. Now I can hear their screams. The thunder from more than one hundred hoofs plowing over the grasslands rolls into my head. The horsemen are very close now and I can see their distorted faces. Distorted by the impact the bouncing horses’ bodies have on theirs. When the horses’ front hooves hit the ground and the rider is pushed deep into its back, his lower lip gravitates downwards a bit and reveals some of his lower teeth. The same is true for the face of the horse. From where I watch it looks like a choreographed rhythmical baring of teeth. Like a rhythmically forced frown. Horse frown followed by rider frown. Horse rider horse rider. Not all riders are young men. I’m fascinated by the bouncing of the looser flesh and skin of some of the more matured men. The gallop has become slow motion by now. There is no sound anymore. I see foamy saliva flakes flying off the lip of the horse closest to me. Its rider swings an axx with a blade of white stone. I return horse and rider’s frown. From somewhere a lance comes flying at me and thanks to the deceleration of all motion around me I manage to duck down behind one of the birch trees. The splintering bark flies around my head and I see the iridescent yellowish neon-green of the exposed bare wood. I smell the cut wood. The warrior lifts off from the back of his horse and comes flying at me with his white axx cutting through the air. I roll over to the right with my arms over my face and then one of my arms flies out and I manage to grab one of his ankles and his trajectory pulls me up and my weight pulls him down. The warrior turns around now and I see the white blade flying towards my face and I catch the forearm under the hand holding the tomahawk and I jump up and twist the arm and the axx away from me. the scene at the edge of the forest halts. What if, I think—and while I think it I realize that I’m quite good at lucid dreaming by now—what if this could be a place to change the narrative? What if this is the time for me to let go of my privileges in my own colonial dream? / Rider and horses start moving again. I hear no sound. The horse closest to me spits foam. Its rider swings a tomahawk with a blade of white stone. I stand up and step out of the ditch. From somewhere a lance comes flying at me and I only see it the moment it pierces the right side of my torso and runs into me with the sound of tearing paper. My frown meets that of horse and rider. The rider comes flying at me and a white blade splits open my forehead like a flash. No pain but a funny taste. The lights go out. /

mirror / In the midst of the housing complex built in 1970 lay a playground with swings, monkey bars and a sandbox on one side and an artificial rock formation with a slide on the other. On top of the rocks stood a square blockhouse we children referred to as fort and at its feet two wooden triangles we called teepees. We were about eight or nine years old when we played Indian a lot. Surrounded by windows and balconies like on the stage of a modern suburban amphitheater and under the eyes of the adult bystanders who—not individually but as the grown-up part of society—had provided us children with the set design and the structure for the narratives of conquest and extermination. Contrary to the invaders and their victims in the genocide following Columbus’s landing at the shores of the Americas that modeled for our play—a history we had no knowledge about yet—we could choose teams. The white team used to win. Being in the red team was more fun. We got to scream and dance, we got to be almost naked. We got to smoke the fake pipe and paint our faces with squashed elderberries or dirt. We got to be the good guys who died unjustly, beautifully wasteful protecting freedom and land. We were attacked, vowed vengeance, ran, lurked, hid, fought and we died. We fell in slow motion, rolled down the grassy slope with distorted faces, jolting legs twisted, muscles tensed, trembling, relaxing, rising again to collapse again to then collapse again in a last gasp. The dramatic performance of dying produced beautiful intensely vivid bodies between surrender and revolt. The smell of summer skin, sweaty hair and squashed foliage, our naked skin on the cool grass, being dragged around so very alive in the embodiment of imagined despair and death. The excitement of chasing and being caught, the rough touch of the capturers, their naked knees on the captive’s chest, bare arms clutching squirming skinny waists, being tied up and teased. These explorations into the erotics of domination and surrender made our summer days. Our play was generated on a fictionalized historical terrain that concealed a non-fictional reality where very gruesome developments had taken their course, influencing individual as well as collective realities until today. The conquest of an inhabited continent, the vanishing of millions of indigenous people and their culture, said to be an inescapable necessity for the colonization and “development” of the “New World,” surfaced and found manifestations in the exciting fantasies of children playing genocide in a developing suburb of Zurich in the seventies. It must have been here in the summer of 1972 that we started to learn how to be white. /

him / There was a mummified body of a South Asian male in a glass box. Melanie witnessed a small boy looking at this corpse. That was in London 1994. Melanie stood with her back against a thick white pillar close to the head end of the showcase. The mummy was naked, resting on its side in a sort of fetus position on a low pedestal approximately 40 cm elevated from the floor. The boy was about ten years of age. He wore a dark blue school uniform with shorts and white knee socks. He squatted on his haunches to look at what was displayed. He observed the object in front of him with great curiosity, bending further down and forward, almost touching the glass with his forehead. The shiny bronze skin of the mummy was still intact in most places. From where she stood Melanie could see the face of the mummy. The hair on the head as well as the thin mustache were orange. The eyelashes long. From where she stood she could see the boy through two layers of glass. She only saw a tuft of his light blond hair behind the back of the mummy as he moved slowly around the box, remaining in a squatting position. He came around the mummy’s shoulders, around the back of its head and finally crouched in front of its face. From where Melanie stood she could see the boy’s back now. It must have been only now that the boy realized what he was looking at. His head sprang up with a little jolt and his slender back hardened and stretched in one jerk. Falling backwards onto his hands and kicking once or twice with both of his feet he leaped away from the showcase. He came back onto his feet, staggering, supporting himself with one of his hands against the glass box. His head sunk a little bit and a tiny shiver went through his lower back before he vomited onto the glass. It was a small amount of yellowish spew. The teacher came and led him away. For a moment Melanie could see his watery eyes in a haze of disbelief. The museum lights reflected as white circles on the greenish glass surrounding the mummy and made the small pool of vomit sparkle. /

things / M wants the things he makes and his installations named thing-coalitions to be some-things that are not yet objects of his knowledge. Detached and sometimes even radically free from representation they are first of all no-things or ideally even un-subjects. M doesn’t want them to remind him of anything. Or at least not immediately or not anymore after he’s known them for a while. They are nothing, really, but the force of their detachment executed as form. / For M these things work as exemplary devices for the defamiliarization of that which is or has become familiar or been taken for granted. Instruments to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known, inducing a different state of perception. Maybe. M (and any future beholder), the things and the space they share enter a collaborative triangle assigned to question recognition and memory. / Avoiding to recognize something is one of M’s approaches to working with memory. Understanding memory as an institution that makes him repeat and even loop certain perceptions, comprehensions and experiences, M is often worried and affected by the institution of what he calls the membership idea; groups and societies that emphasize attributes, preferences and value propositions to unify under and identify with. From these unions arise the concepts of the kin, the exotic and the monstrous other. The binary concept of the unknown and the known are bound to the idea of a collective knowledge and memory of belonging that is very often a collective teaching of exclusion and apartness. This teaching is what M tries to talk back to through his attempted non-remembering in these things and installations. / M often works with found material. When he’s attracted to things in the material world he notices a drawing force coming from these things. Like the magnetic pull of an atom’s nucleus or the centrifugal force that spirals a galaxy. M is convinced some things choose his company. / Every body (person, plant, furniture, image) comes with an impulse to seek alliances that enhance their vitality. Material can consent or refuse to work with anyone, anything. Some minerals come together to form rocks, others assemble to make my bones, is how he remembers Jane Bennett putting it, in her beautiful book “Vibrant Matter” from 2010. / When working with things M tries not to use force. He’s paying attention. If things fall apart under his hands, that’s where they fall apart. Things are always assemblies of smaller things that are themselves assemblies of even smaller things. Material itself is a coalition of different components and information. A number of particles gathering in constellations to be and to effectuate something larger than themselves. Falling apart is an immanent property of assembled things. / Each distinct element carries on to agitate its own plots, forming particular groups and serving other masters, wills and functions. They remember their own histories, purposes and agendas outside of this particular constellation. They have their own actual, past, potential and secret lives and are always on the move. Rephrasing Jane Bennett again, M tries to take the ‘vitality’ of non-human bodies seriously, the competence of things such as food, artifacts, weather conditions, photographs, electricity, trash, a dead bird etc. to not only work for or against the will and design of humans but to also act as forces with their own trajectories, weight, densities, coerciveness and tendencies. M has learned to understand all things as actants, a term that Bruno Latour introduced in his book Politics of Nature from 1999: “[…] an actant is a source of action that can be either human or non human; it can do things, has sufficient cohesion to make a difference, to produce effects, alter the course of things. It is any entity that modifies any other entity in a trail, something whose competence derives from its performance.” / Ephemeral cold melting metallic and contained organic shape-memory electric old porcelain wood-like wire cotton-weave rubber-band polyethylene inside-out etc. Each thing disputes with its own system-internal lack of imperativeness arising from the surprising and rebelling or contradictory role that other parts or elements play within it. In enlisting multiple things to produce larger things or situations, the larger ones must come to grips with the tendencies of the smaller ones to move in other directions and act on behalf of other aims. That inner cluster of inconsistent motions and motivations might be one feature that attracts M to things. / Material resistance, appeal and ugliness, insignificance and strangeness are gestures of the attracting thing-power; the ability of natural and artificial things to exceed their status as objects and to manifest traces of independence and aliveness. Stubborn materials speak out and form coalitions to resist the notion of a fundamental homogeneity and division, against entity and separation as the allegedly natural and original states of thingness. With the help of these things, M tries to disrupt the perpetuation of a notion of strangeness alleged through the binary thinking of known and unknown. The things he makes and his installations are open-ended inter-relational un-gendered trans-material connections constantly changing and collecting information by interaction with multiple and possibly very different others offering a glimpse onto lively bodies that are not parted into objects and subjects. Sometimes. Maybe./

nothing / In 1983, they chose to be homeless for six month. Homeless was the word other people used to describe them. They understood the city to be their home with themselves being street-people. They lived in the park and on the flat roof of the 5-story parking garage next to the train station. When it rained they took shelter in the basement of a newly built and yet uninhabited apartment building not too far away from art-school. Without electricity and windows, the space they spent these nights in was pitch dark. It was so dark that they thought of it as a cube of absent light. They made it a game to walk around in this darkness, to stand in the middle of the space with their eyes open observing what they could see without seeing. “We can see something in complete darkness but we find it extraordinarily difficult to express what we see. Even to our selves. In terms usually associated with visual phenomena, we see nothing. After a few minutes we experience difficulty sensing whether our eyes are opened or closed. We start seeing huge glowing color-fields and shape-shifting forms of various brilliancies and hues floating in front of and behind other glows and groups of glows that look like things whose names we don’t recall. Shreds of lights pierce the colors and moving shadows, clouds of new and changing tones, swarms of shapes followed by their trembling afterimages, flashing diagonal and criss-crossed. A deep rusty red flares up with its afterimage’s bright green swirling glow. Vibrating lilac opens into Fra-Angelico-blue, fringes out into auburn, lime and white dots or sparks falling. Warm orange glides into pink and reads as turquoise. Flat colors flicker into deep spaces without grounds and beginnings and ends. Prismatic eversions waft simultaneously in front of our faces and all the way in the back of our heads. This here must be the end of the field of visual perception. The absence of visual experience results in an overkill of cognition. This cognitive sphere surrounding us is not a phenomenal field. It is not a field of physical experience. It is seeing nothing with seeing eyes. It is shooting through the spinning galaxies between retina and brain. This un-experiencing extends beyond our eyes. Various effects such as fatigue and a great lightness of body overcome us. Bodily coordination is poor and we have difficulty maintaining balance. We float, feel as if pushed or driven. There is the taste of cinnamon and rose not on our tongues but deep down in the chest as if a sweet dust of spices is settling onto our pericardium. We experience dizziness, headache and temporary depersonalization. Image, taste and the nervous noise of the blood rushing through the capillary networks in our ears loosen their connections to the words capturing them so insufficiently. The perception of time is disturbed. Lived and perceived duration have fallen out of sync. All is full of nothing, difficult to describe and impossible to document except trough stuttering telling.” /  So their account. 9 years later they will come in contact with a Tony Smith sculpture from 1968 called “Die”, a hollow steel cube with the measurement of 182.9x 182.9x182.9cm. The box “in human dimensions”—as Tony Smith would say—“not an object nor a monument” will let them remember the basement. Thanks to their experience of seeing nothing they will be able to see how the absence of light inside the cube will make this very cube disintegrate from within, inflating it into nothing. What will look from the outside like approximately six cubic meters of emptiness held together by six 3 cm thick rusty square steel plates, actually contains a rapidly expanding infinite black hole. /