The Hat Effect – for Beginners

In a letter to the editor Sabine Graf disguises herself as an art critic. She is angry. Her letter is full of scorn. Something has pissed her off completely: our performance in Saarbrücken.

The editor of the Saarbrücker Zeitung believes Mrs.Graf’s second face. Her letter is published in the cultural sector. Had the medium been paper, I wouldn’t have given a farthing for her bitter words. Today’s edition of your newspaper holds tomorrow’s portion of sprats. In digital times, articles live forever and pop up like pimples on an adolescent’s face, or, who knows, on Mrs.Graf’s ass.

If you go read her words, you might wonder if one needs a university degree to become an art critic for the Saarbrücker Zeitung, or if watching MTV does the trick. Otherwise I cannot explain the lack of any attempt to look more deeper into our performance then a sneering comparison with Lady Gaga. Everything is possible. Maybe the editor of her newspaper simply loves the pimples on her ass. And while we are at it, her ass I mean, I would like to help her wipe it a bit more.

To do this, I need to explain our working method. Mine is sound. The first sound comes and takes me to an other. I decide, hear, feel what is next, so that audience and I are in the same circumstances: the one of the unexpected. This sound is not a decor, carpet or cloud to Angie Yeowell, nor is it a score or additional music. It is the sonic reality in which she moves. It is an inseparable part of her forty-five minutes existence. I am, she is, we are. It is as simple as that: existential grammar.

Angie’s working method when preparing a show is similar. She sees images. She doesn’t care about a storyline, but follows her intuition. One image brings another. The same intuition brings her titles: The Red Queen Effect. And takes her to another title, because she needs to go one step further: The Hat Effect. In Saarbrücken a lot of elements were a result of this preparation. The performance space in Saarbrücken confronted her with unexpected components: chairs, tables and a grand piano that had to be used. There was no way to transport those somewhere else. Our guest room suggested an other one. I will tell you why later.

Our performance was full of different actions, images, situations, sounds. Not every visitor might have used this information to see and hear his own story. Mine is just a possible example. To publish a story line like this before our show in Saarbrücken doesn’t make sense: it cuts of the imagination of those who like to follow their own narrative.

Hear, hear…

With just a little bit of imagination and knowledge every first year art student would have recognized art movements Angie’s performance related to. Russian constructivism, for its non ceremonial use of materials like plastic and iron, Pop art, for the use of colourful every day life references like sprinkles and surrealism for the sequence of images that only at first glance don’t seem to connect. The grand piano and the tables offered her the possibility to say hello to Pina Bausch: tables got set up around the central piano in an unseemingly precise order in a bright lighted room. But this encyclopaedia knowledge takes you to small talk over a glass of wine amidst floating noses.

With just a little bit of curiosity added one would have reflected on the change of the title. The Red Queen Effect – “run in order to remain on the same place” – is taken from “Alice in Wonderland”, a book written by a mathematician. The Red Queen Effect can be applied to people who follow career, but also to evolutionary processes: If you don’t work or struggle hard, you will eventually disappear in time. Yeah, it is quite a linear straight forward routine.

So this is your opening scene. Two rows of spectators facing each other, a positioning we know from the British Parliament, await a clearly handicapped person who has problems walking and designing (her life) at the same moment. This person could be Alice after long long years of running without getting forward, and even longer years after she left Wonderland. She is not a child anymore. Playing with childhood memories don’t bring a cure, neither does dipping her thoughts (the microphone) in bile (black fluid). (Haunting music fills the room, interrupted by unrecognizable pieces of daily life sounds).

The sequences lead up to the crucial part of the performance, where the protagonist takes of her hat. New elements are added, elements that could help to comprehend the story. But these elements open also the way to a third level of understanding. The hat stands for a way of living in which many thoughts are brought together under one vision, or under the reign of one red queen. The yellow balls that fall from under it represent nicely formed, rounded off ideas, convictions, theories, ideologies, opinions. These abstract values result from education and moral pressure, hardly from experience and contemplation. So off they roll. More yellow balls are in her suitcase. She puts them in her mouth and spits them out. Yes, also the words that start to grow like potatoes in the head of Mrs. Graf are spitted right back in her lap. Who needs small town repression? (The music becomes more fragmented, every new sound marks a possible beginning or end).

This performance was not a lecture. But on the third level of understanding themes enter in which we express our vision. You remember Angie took of her hat; shortly after she read fragments of the synopsis of “a midsummer nights dream” a play about illusion and life, about being mislead and about finding love. Great and very small drama’s evolve around one word themes like love, anger, hate, desire. The poetry of language and movement give expression to the big themes of life, but also show by themselves that life is worth living, because it is beautiful. (Music is a sound track from a Walt Disney Movie). (It was not played that evening).

Liberated from hat and (part of her) costume, Angie throws in her punk attitude and hurls all the art books against the walls (there were thousands of them in our guest rooms). Well, not really: she decides against a neat well prepared performance and enters into chaos. But still, a nicely designed chaos, because she had to follow a pattern, the pattern designed by her personality and her talent. (At this point the music comes from everywhere and nowhere, there is no more plausible relation between different sound pieces).

Message: liberate yourself from oppressive rules and follow your intuition and use your talent.
Message on a meta-level: You are the center of the universe, the universe is the center of you.

The protagonist plays the inside of the piano (she pulls the strings); I play the sounds from the motorway that cuts the town in two. The light is out. The protagonist disappears in the selva of life. Fade out. Darkness. Hesitating applause. A “thank you” to indicate it is over. Everyone applauds. Georg Dietzler comes to us, his eyes beaming with delight: “You could have continued for another fifteen minutes.” A young couple comes up to us, asks for our autograph: ”Thank you, that was so good, we never see this in Saarbrücken.” Poor them. If people like Mrs.Graf continue to control the art scene, they will probably decide to leave town, and go some place else, where the climate is less suffocating. But also Georg will be in danger of finding funding, or at least risks to be forced to book performers that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

The Hat Effect

I mentioned a certain part of Mrs.Graf’s body. This was intentional.
Maybe you have noticed it or not, I used the word to describe one of the most beautiful parts of a female body three times. This was a reference to the positive description by Mrs. Graf of the video “amore mio” by Stoll & Wachall, in which three ladies backsides are to be seen.

I also used the word, because of the name of a character in “a midsummer night’s dream”, “Nick Bottom”, whose head, when he enters the stage, is transformed into a donkey’s.

But I must also admit, that all the information I gave above are a result of my fantasy. Almost none of the “art” references mentioned in my article were intentional. The episodes in our performance up to its titles came from intuition. It is up to the visitor what to make of it.


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