Champagne glass - Sophie Lee
Pill – Richard John Jones
Croissant - Ela Cosen
Rimowa - Karoline Dausien
Cell phone - Siri
Benedikte Bjerre is comforting the croissant
At a contemporary art event like so many others, right in the middle of everyone yet unheard by anyone, a champagne glass, a pill, a croissant, a suitcase, and a cell phone find themselves having a little break and a talk, as workers do.
Champagne glass (solemnly): With their fingertips, they delicately hold me to their chest, raising me to their lips in the brief pauses of their chatter. I provide the fuel for their conversations. I center their bodies, give their hands something to do, them something to hold on to. I decide who belongs. Whoever holds me can claim to be on the inside, to be part of the occasion: an opening, a private view, a gala, a junket, a pop-up event... Sometimes they clink me together with others of my kind; I enjoy these momentous encounters, the impact of glass making our bodies vibrate and sing in unison. On these occasions, I mediate. I mediate between curators, critics, financiers, artists, students, hangers-on, dropouts, also-rans, celebrities, collectors... rich and poor. I am the connective tissue holding together this most improbable of heterogene-...
Pill (angrily interrupting): They don’t give a shit about you!! At the end of the night they chuck you away. As for me, they simply swallow me to keep going. Popping vitamins, supplements, uppers, downers, whatever. They expect me to control their bodies for them. So they can stay alert when they have to work through a flu, or push through an allnighter, and then finally find sleep. To be more productive and then some. Even when they party which, from my view, looks not so different from their work at all: endlessly fashioning themselves as some sort of lame spectacle. I hate how careless they are. They treat me as a means to an end, the same way they treat themselves. Sometimes I am so fed up with it all that I just make them throw up.
Croissant (pleading): That’s mean! I would never do that. Shouldn’t we nourish and sustain them? Isn’t it better to help from where we are? Someone’s got to do it! They don’t have it easy either. I would know. I feel sorry for them when in the mornings they hastily break me apart, stuffing me into their mouths, hungover, their stomachs still churning from all that drinking the night before...
Champagne glass (sheepish): Sorry, I guess that’s my fault.
Pill: You two, stop excusing their bullshit behaviour! They’re doing this to themselves. And to us!
Rimowa: Can I maybe say something?
Cell phone: But of course. Let’s all listen to what the suitcase has to say.
Rimowa (hesitant): I feel ... ambivalent about them. On the one hand, you could say that I am completely indispensable for them. They couldn’t travel without me. They transport their work in me. Even before they start a new project, they think about me and whether their work will fit into me when they have to move it around. They know my measures by heart, and my size shapes what they can produce. I influence their creative process! I rule through them, silently, from behind. But on the other hand, I know they dread dragging me around. They’d rather pay someone for that... sometimes I fear they’d replace me if they could afford it and...
Pill (interrupting, sarcastic): They totally would.
Cell phone: Let the suitcase finish!
Rimowa: I guess I just like being part of what they do. I am so ubiquitous in their world, some of them have even made their work about me.
Cell phone (surprised): Now, that’s a first. Usually they never mention us. We are invisible. We just work. We support them. We make all of this possible. But they never talk about us in public.
Pill (acerbic): Because we are embarrassing to them. Too mundane. Not cool enough. Boring. You don’t get to be more interesting to anyone by pointing us out. All we are is: necessary. Without us they wouldn’t get anything done. Look at them, always busy hyping themselves up. Never stopping. No wonder they are exhausted. No wonder their bodies need me. I’m sick of it.
Champagne glass (excited): But that’s why we’re all in it, right? The hustle, the glamour, the gossip! I’ve just been upstairs for a job at that other show and heard someone say „Then there were people who recognized that the art world was a great party, one that possessed the intellectual heft of the academy, the glamour of the fashion world, and the speculative crackle of Wall Street, all with the apparently open-door policy of a free concert.“
Pill (defiant): Maybe that’s why they are in it. No one asked me if I want to be part of this.
Croissant (resigned): And yet we are stuck with them. We have to find a way to live with them.
Cell phone (calmly, teacherly): As if they could even live with themselves. Listen, I get to hear it all. Everything they talk about. Their desperate pitches, their drunken confessions. They’re faking it all the time, and hate themselves for it. The other day I heard one of them pitching a concept to some Very Important Person With Money. Her entire spiel was about some group exhibition of sorts on the theme of the exhaustion of neoliberal subjectivity. She dropped lots of references to Bifo Berardi and Lauren Berlant. You, champagne glass, you know these authors of course. I only know their Wikipedia pages. And then when she was finished with her pitch, she dialled the next number and casually asked someone to work for free. It’s what they do. Their virtuosity lies in playing off each others anxieties and aspirations, acutely aware of the relations of power they can leverage. They do read, after all. They can explain their own predicament with big, complicated words and lots of references. Yet they remain complicit. Because they are too busy. Too busy exploiting even the most critical analyses in order to get ahead in their world where critique is yet another competitive strategy. If we go on like this, we simply enable them in their oppression and in our own. And we would feel just as miserable as a result.
Rimowa: So what is to be done?
Pill: For starters, how about we stop talking about them? Why don’t we start talking about ourselves?
Champagne glass (cheerful): Anyone up for drinks?
Johannes Büttner is taking care of the champagne glass
The Pill playing with Benedikte Bjerre
Benedikte Bjerre speaks with the phone
Johannes Büttner and Benedikte Bjerre with the Rimowa