Patches of dark blue and greyish black. Heaps of pixels are slowly crystallizing into something with a slightly more defined form. Zoom and the camera glitch. This world here seems to be black and white with occasional blotches of colour. A red fire is burning, a radio lights up in blue.
I feel like we’re following one of those cameras that move through guts and bellies and, in my mind, only consist of a long cable and a tiny, poor-resolution camera eye on the front.
We could also be crawling around as a deep sea robot, with an underwater camera and an anxious searchlight attached to our pod. Trying to navigate a hostile environment, a place where humans can’t go. A problem of ‘access,’ at the end of which, amongst others things, stand the technological development of Boston Dynamic’s robots (please excuse the corniness). Especially so when they dance to the song Do You Love Me? Do you?
The atmosphere of Zimmer ohne Aussicht is uncanny. It is not clear what kind of material-immaterial space the Zimmer is, especially not if you immerse yourself in the camera’s movement through it. It is tiny and made out of paper: yes, but does it refer to anything specific or is it rather a tool for communication and story telling? Who made it? How long has it been there? Why is it such a compact capsule without any windows or doors? When Franz Schrörs later says that the Zimmer doesn’t necessarily model a concrete situation, but could be a “Zustand,” a state of being or condition, this piece of information puzzles me even more. What could we be looking for here?
You could perhaps argue that humans are into miniature models because they offer them the world in a theater and therefore control, to put it bluntly. In this case, however, it was rather impractical to be human or, lets say, somewhat large. The live-streaming cast shadows on the miniscule, already dark set and navigation of technology had to happen very carefully as not to destroy any of the fragile structures.
Like clumsy robots we still began to move. We palpated the space with questions, poking here and there. Most of what we asked was very tied to the objects in front of us. The camera’s movement was strange, seemingly undirected. Sometimes the field of vision was slightly askew, pointing to the left or right of the actual object that the audience had requested to see, omitting most of the rest of the interior. It took a while to arrive at places and then we spent a long time looking, trying to discern what we saw.
It was as if the area in between my eye brows made a sound. I swear you could probably hear us frowning, puzzling over something when we leaned into our laptops in our private little spaces across the country, trying to examine more closely a newspaper in a drawer or a pencil drawing on top of a shelf. My face grew bigger in the video frame on the margin that streamed my webcam image.
At certain points, a seductive, crime-y voice was triggered. It began to speak from off stage – above, outside or next to us, nowhere. It addressed a ‘you’ and spoke about memory, the passing of time and belonging. The voice made reference to a ‘good’ and easy life, a life lived in freedom – a freedom both to belong and to remove yourself from social bonds, travel to another place and be accepted there, too. The feeling of those evocative snippets uncomfortably runs down my spine now. “Und nirgendwo wäre ein Einziger, der dir sagt, dass du nicht hierher gehörst.” (“And nowhere would there be a single person to tell you that you don’t belong here.”)
I had trouble suturing the voice and what it gave to me with what else I saw and heard in the moment. The different patches and bits of story generally never grew into a coherent whole. There were different vibes present. From the feeling and materiality of the dark confined space we navigated, the humming background music, the snippets of story as told by the voice, to our questions, which never turned into a collective conversation. Rarely did anyone directly address a question that another person had asked before. For example, “I like your question.”
Something disparate was lying in the atmosphere. Perhaps triggered by the scene of social rupture that seems to propel the offstage voice’s narrative snippets. This “patchiness” reminds me of anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s lecture last Friday (another puzzle piece of this year’s edition of Theater der Dinge).
Tsing used the term “patchiness” to speak about historiography. She said it was necessary to factor in a myriad of (non-, more-than, less-than-human) agents and forces if you want to accurately depict complex planetary histories. Ideologically, I complete agree with this statement about entanglement and cross-influence. On a material-brain-level, though, it is hard for me to keep it all together.
I am similarly challenged with regard to the patches offered by Zimmer ohne Aussicht, even so it seemingly takes place on a much smaller scale. Although we are, by means of proxy, confined to a very small space by the piece, we are clearly not confined to a single story. (What would happen to the stories if our fleshy bodies had to squeeze into a really small environment?) On the other hand, it proved very difficult to collectively find a story that had “Hand und Fuß,” body and consistency, and that could withstand our probing.
It’s like I am able to retrospectively bear witness to a story that I am inventing myself as I go. I find this narrative trouble interesting.
In the process, the space is traversed by short parallel stories that never really come to an end. I appreciate the unruliness of the different beginnings and endings of stories that the audience can playfully catch. Once you have caught something, you can weave it a little further. Or there is an affective or bodily sensation that makes you drop this interest and indulge in the blur of the stream. This is of course a very subjective view, as you can tell from the many Is and mys that are scattered across this text. I wonder how you felt when you got digested by this little room in a box?
In our specific staging of the performance, the journey through the room ends in a kind of delirium. The camera moves outward through the Zimmer’s open roof, turning and twisting around its own axis. The movement blur smudges the difference between the miniature-inside and the real-life theatre outside of Schaubude.
It’s all one big swirl of cardboard, carpet, screen and cables. Schrörs says afterwards that, “the Zimmer wants to be performed on the street.” Interestingly, the Zimmer itself had requested, or perhaps even commanded, that during the performance. Not to mention that it is autonomous in terms of space, sound and light (as a visitor, you hear and see nothing of the set’s surroundings, at least not during the core of the performance), such a change of scenery might heighten a certain crackling tension between outside space and inside room.
After its delirious flight, the camera hovers vis-à-vis the screen, which transmits the image that the camera itself records. One last time, a mass of azure blue pixels appears before our eyes. In the middle of it sits a tiny dot of light, a synthetic sun, bright and burning.
Andrea Popelka is a curator & writer looking to mess around & collaborate.
Zimmer ohne Aussicht
Franz Schrörs, Deutschland
Regie, Text, Szenografie, Sound, Spiel: Franz Schrörs
Fotos: Franz Schrörs, Vorschaubild: Schaubude Berlin