Julien Rosefeldt in Review (2004)


Published in Neue Review #7 (Berlin)

Co-written with Ilya Gridneff

“…It’s not the large things that send a man to the madhouse, …
No, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse …
not the death of his love but a shoelace that snaps with no time left … ”

-Charles Bukowski, The Shoelace

Julian Rosefeldt’s two video installations recently presented at Kunst-Werke under the as yet unfinished “Trilogy of Failure” depict two different men in multiple states of being, constructing and deconstructing their domestic surrounding. The alter egos of each character in the works, seen simultaneously, form a comparative cinema – a viewing of divergent states, side by side. It is a doubled split where alter egos exist as dependent actors within correlative constructions, their opposing personas in dialogue with one another, co-enacting their personal meta-narratives.

The Soundmaker is a video triptych where an agitated, fidgety man, meticulously composes a sculpture of banal home furnishings in the centre of his apartment. The cacophony of sounds we hear – of pacing, being busy, noises of dwelling – are seemingly recreated, artificially, in the confines of a sound studio by the same man sitting, surrounded by microphones and small props. A tightly woven tension between the cells of acting (apartment) and re-acting (sound-studio) binds the screens of action in the appearance of a linear
constructive and reconstructive game.

The sound studio character intensively follows, mimics and amplifies his “ lived” domicile actions with the sonic props, echoing his choreography in the apartment set – everything seems in causal order. The continuity of the triptych spatially reconfiguring throughout the loop, creates migratory fields of action. And indeed appearances are deceiving for occasionally the sound studio character slips out of synch with the movements of his alter ego, suggesting a hidden layer of unseen production. These interchanging videos resituate on peripheral screens while the soundmaker in his sound studio occupies the central screen. The performance of the soundmaker in his studio percolates through the screen(s) of lived action posing the question as to who is following who. A subtle panning and distance of sounds heard in the space makes audible off screen sonic reproduction alluding to more re-constructions beyond the scope of the frame.

When the soundmaker has the ability to leave his flat/set after all this agoraphobic neurosis the filming continues, zooming out to capture the crew and even the camera man from within a mirror. Rosefeldt’s interior monologue continues in the real world of this constructed set/world he portrays. The ‘real’ representing the ‘fake’ representing the ‘real’ – not to mention the sonically enhanced world beyond the lens.

Another layer is added as the gallery viewer was given a birdseye view of the actual set from the Soundmaker’s dwelling, positioning them where the camera once stood when revealing his action to be a staged set. The fabricated traces of his domestic constructions seen with in this installation, a simulation of lived space marked by a dirty pot, spinning turntable or fan blowing a newspaper’s page, forces the viewer to recreate his experience but now through the character’s absence.

In the Stunned Man a domestic setting is also employed for a stuntman-actor, building and violently destroying the work of his alter ego. Two screens, side by side, immediately set up a bi-polar relationship between the mirrored fields of action. When on one side the man calmly walks through the door, the mirrored man crashes through the ceiling, nonchalantly dusting himself off as if all is normal.

The pendulum like sway of the slow moving camera – a nod to Hitchcock’s‚ Rope – follows the Stunned Man pacing backwards and forwards through his comfortable abode. Spilling the noodles he prepares on one screen catalyzes a destructive chain of events – a Kung Fu attack onhis kitchen space, followed by a Buster-Keatonesque, slapstick, corporeal smashing of his surrounding. Falling to get up again. The nullification created by the mirrored video reaches a peak, a literal breaking point, when he dives through the bathroom mirror only to land in the same space of his alter ego now gone from the apartment. His flight for emancipation leads him into a new sequence of the same, a perpetual repetition.

The loop continues when both men re-enter their alter ego’s apartment with a new mirror in tow, ready to reconstruct their space in a seemingly limitless cyclic ritual of destruction and reconstruction. Rosefeldt absurdly and playfully toys with our will to predict and situate coherent systems bound to fail or present new problems. In a moment of apparent calm – where both screens appear to be identical mirrors of each other- the expanding shot slowly reveals an abrupt interruption of this apparent symmetry by an injection of the absurd. When the camera pans by the home office the Stunned Man sits working indifferent with in the wild jungle of pot plants devouring his work space. The cyclic disruptions created by moments of continuity deviations do not throw the loop off course but work as distractive mechanisms with in these meta-narratives interrupting the flow of linear expectation.

Where in Stunned Man a dry humoured, slapstick-like comic futility captures the marrow of our individual, daily rituals, The Soundmaker reveals itself slowly as an out of synch-repetitive, co-(in)dependent chain of events revealing a domestic reconstruction. Rosefeldt uses these neurotic actions within an asphyxiating mise-en-scene to mirror the space we routinely occupy without question, governed by our own rules and quasi-rational codes. The sets constructed around ourselves unraveling our daily narratives – the way we make coffee, the way we organize our objects, the complexity involved in choreographing these banal domestic activities, combine under the objective camera lens. The perspective from the two parts of “TheTrilogy of Failure” create a necessary distance to examine the illogic of the everyday. Through these simultaneous viewing of multiple states of an individual the plurality of character is exposed. Rosefeldt offers the position to see ourselves from the outside, as characters in our internal micro-script.

Over chocolate and citron ice cream with the back drop of a typically Berlin construction scene, an empathetic resonator of sorts – bursts of hammering and drilling, Rosefeldt discussed these works as an exploration of the entrenched unsettled and irrational experiences within our everyday events, he said: ”What you see are normal human beings…it could be anybody…it’s rather the schizophrenic kind of loop in which we find our daily lives.” And it is the multiple routines of daily life and in them a persistent ambiguity as to the reason of their unfolding that perpetuates an elusiveness causal understanding. The multiple ways of being, differentiated through proximity and the accumulation of variances is what mirrors Rosefeldt’s Trilogy of Failure. Like Bukowski’s Shoelace, he cites the daily random interferences bringing with them a new situational awareness of the everyday.

“Suddenly you start to laugh about something that has nothing to do with what just happened and it just comes into your brain and I think everybody knows these kinds of situations … it happens to me that I stand at the bus stop and just start to laugh, that I am suddenly forced to be there with six people waiting at that place which is defined by that thing for my life to go on, and all these kinds of strange things.”

Published in Neue Review #7 (Berlin)