A Situation in the Machine

By ZHANG Ga

February 1, 2011

Part of the catalog text for the exhibition of And All the Questionmarks Started to Sing at Guangdong Museum of Art, China. March/April 2010.

The Funeral Machines

Verdensteatret finds destruction a form of construction. In their latest work, And All the Questionmarks Started to Sing, the death motif is amplified with blatant frankness: activating dead objects and frozen images in the realm of the living. The seemingly bizarre impulse is in fact the drive to make the clumsiness of the animated a source of new potential, the stiffness of the puppetry a departure for innovation.

Death has wheels. Duchamp placed a wheel on a stool to declare the death of retinal art; Tinguely spun out wheels to decompose art based on solid forms; Müller carved out a mental wheel that turned the mind upside down. Funeral Machines has many wheels: wreaths that embellish the unseen dead and halos that reel over a limbo of transience. But the funeral machines are transcendental apparatuses, devices that grind the living into the dead in illuminated transparency and prolonged rhythmic undulation.

Death is a dark room. The funeral machines envelope a space wherein images emerge and fall apart like the specters in Hamlet. It is a laboratory that attests to the creation of moving images, witnessing the physical process of building pictures: how they arise, take on solid form, and twist and wind into constellations and compounded imagery. In this space of ethereality, kinetic metal sculptures are buttresses that hold the transient, allowing it to perform and to project. Light is directed onto and through miniature glass figures held by mechanical arms. The figures are manipulated in front of the focal point of a lens and projected onto the wall. A small platform between the light and the lens becomes a tiny stage on which the glass figures perform attached to the tip of small robotic arms. This platform is the hot spot or the gravitational point of the instrument / sculpture. The combination of light, glass objects and lenses engenders a mesmerizing micro-theater within the room-sized macro-projection, creating an immersive universe both minimal and maximal, in which the hybrid of a moving-still image manifests its optical prowess and resonates with a grand landscape of immersion and absorption.

A situation in the machine ignites a chain reaction of new situations, like the unstoppable destruction of Homage to New York leaving debris and ashes as its perpetual memory, like the futile laboring of the Chocolate Grinder unto which the Bachelors devote much fantasy only to spill in a pleasureless orgasm, like the much lamented Danish Prince's uncontrollable predicament and the grave of schizophrenia.

But for Verdensteatret, a situation in the machine is not only what makes spectacles, or a machine that is a sculpture, a composer, makes pictures, makes sound, but also a delicate desire for intended instability. Although frail and precarious, it promises curiosity and excitement, for who would resist the temptation of a situation that is curious and exciting?

A situation in the machine is a declaration.