text written for cell project space, london after the cancellation of ‘parallels’ because of Covid, 2020

There is no way to poeticise this situation, this is not an attempt to. People are suffering and it is
manifesting itself in innumerable, implacable forms. There is a direct urgency; the acute active
being in this moment which paradoxically makes us stand still. And in this stand-still our
movements are different and other. We know where we go because we go nowhere.
A patchy interference.
The it that is when the other is not.
The occasional intermezzo.
We encounter from afar someone whom we now relate to in a circumference. The margin of
distance which we keep from others have grown, and so gesticulation becomes broader as our
small and simple gestures lose weight in conversation.
But this is not an analysis of movement, it is a reorientation of being. Being alone, being with
others and behaving so as to be for others allowing them to remain.
Art is a fickle matter in my mind in this being. This is nothing new but perhaps it is heightened
here, in the now. I have struggled to know the urgency of art as a need, as an essential for a
while. Not the art already made, not my art, in particular, but all art being made en masse, in
abundance, everywhere, now.
I feel it sometimes as a matter; suffocating, even in the best of circumstances and now just as
much, in the worst. I take escape in it whilst simultaneously finding it circumstantially futile. But
then the growing abundance has made the last years a steady incline of an attitude of satiation.
A wave is just now curling into an arched form only to break hard and soft into an activity of
exponential frequency.
The swell, as well is a swelling volume that expands the room and at the same time, reduces it
to nothing.

In the past I have oscillated between the urgency and the indifference. But now I have become
untethered to the anchor that always held me from exiting the realm of reverence for the art.
There is a differentiation to be made here. No matter how difficult and contested the case might
be to make, there must be a caveat to this emotional state of exhaustion. This is the personal, in
which things are felt that risk being misunderstood, not understood, rejected or rejoiced. I am
not looking to offend or assemble.
There is too much of everything and I am too tired of all of it (tired is a poor adjective but I don’t
know how else to describe it, except to say it brings upon a kind of dull tiredness, an apathy) to
discover the new. Tired from exposing others to my art, tired from exposure to others art.
Because it has become so much and because it is everywhere and houses everything it has
also become reduced to barely anything. This opinion probably fluctuates and were I held
accountable to it as a definite I would surely eat my words and perhaps my works at a later
point. But I leave it in here with the proviso to opt out eventually.
This is not to say that my output is more valuable than any other.

I am a new mother.

This has to be said. Because the new and seeming infinite zest for motherhood is a removal
from everything. Because it opens up a space for being in a room so vast for me and so
cramped for others that it is a kind of tardis of self. Your outlook changes.
This is not to say that my circumstances make me more purposeful than any other.
The projection of the image of the self onto the self, is itself an image. Of all that, which is on
show, it is that which is not on show, through its absence, that which it is. Even a wide and
voluminous form it is a flat surface. A representative deliberative body.
Methods vary and develop. Motherhood is a change of circumstance, a welcome noise that
accompanies any future dialogue; the not-so-silent partner.
But these were circumstances that existed before and during the making of this work and exists
as a chimera merging with the circumstances of now, in the context of the crisis.
The work that was to be on show were movements which resulted from a collaborative process
representative of personal parallels. A relationship shown. The decision to not show the work
was a result of responsibilities to not gather bodies in a space where closeness resulted in risk
of repercussion. So the work which was intensely personal in its delivery recoiled in the impact
of the reconsideration into an echo of sorts of its original idea.

Within the disparity of moving from physical to digital we lost a lot of voices which could have
been heard. The impact of seeing the personal, in person and the implications of the eventual
impatience with something slow and gradual released into a cascade of information could be
speculated on. And in the many-worlds that may have materialised as a result of us following
through with the work in physical form, there may be repercussions echoing ad infinitum.
But here we are, in the one in which we are in, in which the decision was made to stop
something going ahead, something which had been gaining momentum for months, at a time
when it was an individual responsibility rather than a reprimandable one, to stop and make a
choice.

And there is something to be said about the loss of opportunity, the loss of labour and the luxury
of loss without devastation as consequence. But this is something I leave to others, much more
able-bodied and acute voices on the topic of loss since I live in abundance and feel entirely
aware of the luxury in which I watch my daughter develop without lacking or needing without
receiving.

But personally I don’t know how to react. I have, at times the aching sense of guilt of my
position, I have a roof and a floor with ample space in between and food and family and the
generosity of others and the belonging to a welfare system which offers me support.
I have, at times, a present frustration of being elsewhere when I miss simple pleasures of home,
a domesticity which nests nuggets of longing. And leaving many many far more complex
emotions aside, ones that arise when being safe in a state of crisis where so many suffer.
Where analysis of my own empathy and action and reaction is occurring from a metaphorical
armchair of comfort, a place of privilege in which I can consider my relation to art in its relation
to calamity.

It is a time of paradoxes. Where every element of home-life is shared as a kind of support
structure onto which the system of care leans. And in this structure I am not sure that the joinery
of life and of art production is a chimera I can stroke the hairs of. (Please see above caveat)
Because I am not certain of anything at this time, I am no expert even of my own attitudes.
And so the very blunt resulting thought is not a result at all, just a way to end these typed out
thoughts is to say that I don’t know how I feel about this video and this work in the context of
which it is released. Perhaps there are some symmetries in possible worlds, both in the one
which we choose to show the work and in the one in which we don’t, because I was uncertain
before and I am uncertain now, on different grounds but rooted in the same systemic
ambivalence.

This was not the preferred medium of the reception of this work, but this work exists entirely on
the basis of the state of our current existence. And so there would be no video without the virus
and this text would have been superfluous without the video. It exists in a bind in which what is
said is a comment on the commentary of current situations, a quagmire of a gesture. A trope in
itself of what I am not sure I am digesting with ease in this new life; art.

Sanna Helena Berger
U.K, 1 may 2020

Ego & Orchestra Monologue

I wasn’t going to write this text. This ‘curatorial text’ for which I was sent a template and a deadline. The deadline is 8am, the morning of the show, this morning. It is now 07.46.

The following is written in these subsequent 14 minutes as my daughters favourite show about a girl and her duck friend echoes through our borrowed home in Berlin. I just wrote a whole section about coffee that I deleted. I stopped drinking coffee some time ago, it was both the best thing I’ve ever done and a massive mistake. 07.49

Last night, when the ship became damp and cold, I went home to finish the monologue that I am about to  deliver and found two philosophers on my sofa. They wouldn’t want me to call them that and I do it with tongue in cheek and lots of love because of the conversation which was to follow. 

It came to be, after pleasantries, about art. The gauche question of what it is. What makes art art and which variables are deciding factors. It was more complex than this but 07.51 – somehow also not, it was refreshingly simple. Because when was the last time you had this conversation with someone? Not with your peers I am sure – this doesn’t happen. The topic is such a faux pas you’d feel contrite even broaching the subject. These conversations only ever happen with people who are not in the arts and often you end up having to explain by comparisons. And some of that did occur, but with a tongue twister which awakes the palette – a formula for refreshment. Parallel to this conversation, my partner asks me if I will write this curatorial text or not, having overheard that it needs to be at the printers at 8 and I lie flatly down on the floor and say no. My daughter’s aunt and her girlfriend asked me why not. And I fold into tired excuses of priorities and say that part of the work is a written monologue, yet to be finished, and that this needs to be my first one. A monologue which will turn any additional text superfluous because it says it all. In tangled syntax and dense vocabulary, the antithesis of this text and they ask me why I don’t simply print this text. I respond by saying that I want it to be experienced in the moment and I have to laugh at myself for believing, for a moment, even for the sake of argument, the fallacy that anyone digests this dense monologue and labyrinthine rhetoric as part of the performance, even with a projected subtext which is added for just this reason, to a text which is just about this circumstance. Asking for too much, for a captive audience in a fluttering social scene. I say I don’t want to print it because it retracts from the experience. 

But they rightly argue that this makes the work inaccessible and ambiguous and (I fill in from here) by that elitist and exclusive. My instinct to prioritise the work, not a curatorial text about a work where no curator has been involved, not allowing a little transparency in the circumstantial  process as a comfort to my surrounding, even as a tangible safety matter, a piece of recognisable appendix to art, the text, to cling to and spend some time with in respite from the social situation, reading-maybe-not-reading. I have the audacity of critiquing a system whilst wading knee deep in. This is what the show is about. I will use my last 3 minutes to describe it as plain as can be. Before not looking it over and handing it in. 

I am utterly confused (sometimes angry, but pleasing) about the urgency to have a self as corresponding counterpart to one’s work. If you are the artist, you are still, even though an archaic trope, expected to, if not sparkle, at least have a residual shimmer of a visionary in you.  If in sound, a virtuoso. But  when one is working after 2 hours of sleep because your daughter has a chest infection or when you nearly break open your relationship by overloading it with wild expectations of capabilities of working together as partners whilst parenting, or when you feel the night before your opening the day after, like going home to break open a bag of dill crisps and watching an unbearably bad film in bed instead of keeping making, keep making for whom, keep making why? Keep making mute points in an already oversaturated market of marketable objects in which you sell nothing and so forever poor you land back in moments which have much more a sheen of uncleaned kitchen counter realism than idol. It is about separating the ego from the making whilst making an edition of the self as sculpture, bypassing the object d’art, going straight to the self. You are looking down at the many me’s which I have made instead of making objects to which I have to be an accompanying accessory to make the work a success. But then come the complexities of wanting it both ways. Wanting and shunning simultaneously. Becoming paradoxical, contradicting one’s own morals, making work instead of eating crisps. It is exhausting to attempt to exude allure as a… 08.01 Oh well. 

I will forgo my urge to save the monologue in my backwards attempt to kill my idols whilst clearly desiring a performance of considerable virtuosity and print it here… 

08.02 

Here two extremes are defined. We rendez-vous in an apex of a contradictory critique. An ask for trust in a situation of maximum distrust; theatrics. 

What will eventually turn into a thematic maxim in a biography, motivated by the sciences of conventional form equating maximum appeal, is at least in this very now, à la mode.

My agency stems from the refusal to play the game before soon-enough tiptoeing at the periphery of that same game and shortly after plunging straight in. 

Is my conviction a mere echo, oscillating into the distance whilst I nestle deep into the folds of presentation? These are my morals, bursting first like a pop rock party in my mouth but quickly turning into a sickly sweet sensation and leaving a tacky residue making me reach for refreshments. 

Is it possible to conceive of a new way to show the representational self? Manifested without the grand self-curatorial deception, which might set us free from the opulent illusion that the luxuries of exposure is a measurement of weighty matter. The aim of that game is to find foolproof moves where the appeal is to quickly grow luxuriant and facilitate fascination. 

Concepts that I have difficulties succinctly sharing stop. I worry of becoming long winded. I become unstuck, substituting language, using falsely naive images, tuning into the totality of aesthetics. Which provides perhaps an excellent descriptor of the privacy clauses I accept and reject in the hopes of centering the impotent spot where the active and present subject remains in earshot from the never inattentive or unaware intensely present, present. 

To see without being seen is never coming in first or last position, never becoming critical or instrumental but observant sans presence, with no apparent opacity as a subject, never an object, but a sphere made for scanning. 

The preconditions of a strategy of always wanting more but never developing the practice of representation makes the interaction a simple confrontation. A respite from the occupational tête-à-tête of the perceived profiles, mingling tight-knit on a site which defines a place only from one’s own point of view. 

A view which makes the space part of a sum of places which one sees in an accumulative row of squares according to one’s profile. Hardening the loose matter of seeing into a puzzle piece of the curated context, a near immediate  retrospective of toing and froing with proof. 

The essence of experience passes over the tongue, palatable immediately, but through this its documentation, permeates in a lingering existence of aftertaste. 

It awakens the palette with the thrill of desire for the Self to be seen, documented in its seeing. 

If bottled, its flavour would fizzle quickly, inextricably and unpredictably, small yeasty bubbles would rise to the surface and when opened, and drunk, it would creep into the corners of the lips and dry, like microscopic stalactites. 

Here lies culture. 

But it is difficult to not try to yield to the universal standards of good form. Even the standards of the counteragents to convention. As these spaces are even more decodified than the simple old rules of establishment. 

Look for signs of belonging in the movement, at the very moment, which even as it occurs is an entirely fragile and almost-already-passé moment. Where the median of the divided body shouts ego in a general toppling gesture. Fetching a ladder to get up the back of a very high horse, the maximum effort occupied by myself to both erase and blend effortlessly, seamlessly and without passings of judgement on hidden promotional tools and efforts, is on show here. If heard, the need for this attention can most economically be described as the need for presence. It is both saturation and plentitude of the self. A want and need and disgust for the same want and need.

Soon a sigh of relief as ubiquitous omnipresent sound envelops bodies, a relief because intricate dialectical extremes make mute points but practically all matter vibrates.  

Listening is more than just iconography. Hearing practises the mind from not seeing. It reduces the noise from the brutal imbalance typical of this kind of monologues pretending to be dialogues.  

Acts like these which densely carry on compel the attention of others only momentarily, whilst the execution is entertaining, but should not keep long since to no avail we naturally come to resist sensations which removes the private dimensions. Where instead I speak rarely, prefer whispers which challenge the ear to the express purpose of listening. 

Here I favour echoes which bounce off the alight illusion of a captive audience, the recoil off and onto bodies. The oscillating repetition hides in the folds of this close contact. Instead of my voice, position yourself within the noise of the least aesthetic, wide-ranging, sonorous, incantatory meaning which makes the most eloquent matter. An orchestra. 

An entirely inconsistent agency which is thrown off balance by multiplicities, the blended body, the entirely unoriginal body. A saturation of presence to come to terms with, a general doppelganger, hidden at the front, in plain view, is a want to make the material vibrate with prestige whilst both surrendering to and abhorring the representational image. The scene of underlined reflection is the admittance to doting on false idols but, Ah! Here is the relief, the confessional woman at large, also inextricably small quietens. 

Ego & Orchestra

Ego & Orchestra by Sanna Helena Berger is a still life coming into motion. Embodying the banality of the demand to articulate an artist-persona as a marketable soft object. Sculptures assume the position of representation and navigate the maze-like egocentral economy of image. The reflexive diorama then moves into an orchestral act. An arrangement that begins with a solo where later bodies become percussive in this score made for a ship. 

The narrative subtext takes on an aerial view, breaking through the metaphorical fourth wall of these scenes where we come to cultivate our allure of the in-person-presence.

It is both a critique of and confessional submission to the tangled tropes and perpetuation of the artist-persona et al. Confusing, angry but pleasing, one wants it both ways.

Ego & Orchestra is a sculptural installation and performance by Sanna Helena Berger

Performed by Luisa Alfonso, Veronica Bruce, Ewa Poniatowska, Gloria Regotz & Shade Théret 

Sound in collaboration with Samuel Hatchwell

Next Page »