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… 


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