Shiny, shiny ...

Imploding Portraits Inevitable

The mirror has always been seen as a medium of both truthfulness and deceit. Moreover, if held up to someone, it is supposed to lead to self-awareness. Today with a few clicks on a smartphone one can reflect, transform, distribute, send and share their outwards appearance and inner feelings of self-worth.

Celebrities, drag queens, models, critics, curators, art-collectors, or poets: they all laid their very selves bare in 3 minute close- ups. Behind the camera back then was Andy Warhol, shooting portraits of their most intimate moments. 

Shiny, shiny...
is the first part of the Imploding Portraits Inevitable series of performances, which confront the current media-guided self-optimization with its own history's avatar. Post-processed wraiths from the Factory produce their own screen tests in a game of deceptions, a puzzle of glaring full-totals and extreme close-ups. Light and shadow appear to defend their bullheaded independence to the sound of a Velvet Underground feedback that's coupled to the now, while far at back we hear faint voices of Chelsea Girls. Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable has turned into an imploding anti-spectale.

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Shiny, Shiny...

”Shiny boots of leather“ are something you’ll be looking for in vain in Liquid Loft’s latest piece, which kicks off the larger Imploding Portraits Inevitable cycle. This is not to say that Shiny shiny… doesn’t pick up a fair amount of bits and pieces from the surroundings of Andy Warhols Factory, their resident band The Velvet Underground and even Warhol’s historic multi-media spectacle The Exploding Plastic Inevitable – turning them into something indubitably contemporary, fundamentally rooted in the here and now. Shiny boots of leather, invoked in the imagination of all those who have the song Venus in Furs present – are just as absent as further too one-dimensional “props”, which could be employed to reconstruct an ominous past.

The actuality of Shiny, shiny… is of a completely different kind, not only informed by the here and now (that which the actors create in situ), but especially through the feedback loops that constantly split this present and, in a manner of speaking, multiply it. Split and union, individuation and superimposition are here as mechanisms, to be acted out on different levels. This does not only concern the self- staging subjects who, at the same time are externally set in scene or the iconic images and media-doubles, constantly produced in the process. The reversed process equally signifies the becoming-one, at first with oneself, and then with the group, the dropping out of the group of the involved subjects and ultimately their remaining in floating, undefined constellations. The split also marks the unique relationship to history that carries the piece: This does not exhaust itself in retro re-enactments of vanished pasts, not even evoking their moods in a pastiche like summoning. Shiny, shiny follows the alternative route based on the conscious application of the fracture. It puts contemporary modes of self-discovery and representation at the center, and allows things that are possibly gone (but which we never experienced first-hand) to linger on in a beguiling way.

But first things first: What faces us (and itself) at first, are six performers, or rather their media-projections. Six actors, entwined in a game of continuous, constantly fractured yet stubbornly continued self-staging which perpetually yields split-products and surplus media. There are, to begin with, the characters that are created by the performers – immediately recognizable to the adept as enhanced revenants from Warhol’s factory. They, however, transcend these roles, as can be easily made out, by repeatedly reworking and rearranging their props (wigs, Sixties’ retro-clothing, etc.) gaining a distance from them. Left to their own devices by the larger than life father-figure of Warhol, they are required to produce their own “screen tests”. Operating with two mobile cameras and a number of spotlights they create extreme close-ups of themselves – which, combined with glamorously lighted long shots, generate their own video feedback - all born from its own technological nature, without any major external intervention.

At a next step these live-images are projected onto a partitioned screen behind the performers, which simultaneously creates an animated self-referential scenery made of the ongoing performances, that seemingly gets burst open by the feedback effects. Next to this video screen is a further projection, where silhouettes, shadow play and splashes of color live a life of intensive light. Just like, on a general level, the whole scenery is ruled over by a world of shadows and swathes of color, where the actors constantly interact not only with themselves, the group, their images (and the duplications – or multiplications in the feedback loop), but also with the shadows cast across the room. This gives rise to an extremely manifold figuration where real and virtual, the physical and the projected inevitably start to mix.

As far as the sound is concerned Shiny, shiny…is shaped by a use of material which, in the same manner, doesn’t allow things present and past, seen and heard to be in congruence. There are, on the one hand, the obviously fake soundtracks – the noise of breathing, for example, which one of the performers can be seen in acting almost synaesthetically in the camera close-up, or white noise coming in subtly at the very beginning, rising in level and enshrouding all of the stage-setting in a pulsating drone. On the other hand there’s the music, produced by Andreas Berger, playing its part in tying the whole setting together concisely. An impressive version of Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs, shaped with contemporary sound-processing tools pushes itself to the front repeatedly and in a variety of versions. And in the shape of the instrumental track to The Gift, the sound goes beyond every song-based foundation, only to be brought back to the human, the dialogue-like through the distorted sing-song of “Mama, look at me now.”

“Mama, look at me now”, like the other fragments of dialogue that determine the sonic happening, has its source in one of various Warhol movies, more specifically the films made by Paul Morrissey: Flesh (1968), Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). For the most part it is verbal self-reflections or verbalized “posing” that characterizes the fragments of sentences uttered by Joe Dalessandro or Geri Miller. Frequently these dialogues linger like some Jive-Sound as faint echoes in the multi-media permeated room. This way it doesn’t matter whether you can place verbal cut-outs like “fornication”, “copulation” or the looped commonplace: “she’s gonna be a big star.” What matters is that, however broken – the connection between these snippets and the bodies in the here and now and their sometimes bizarre contortions, which tell about an (ultimately futile) attempt to incorporate them.

In all this Shiny, shiny is not for the least part also about incorporating the hip formulas, the Sound from back in the day into a contemporary bodily reality without pining for a bygone era or drowning in nostalgia.

The noble approach of self-affixation the actors base the reflections of their identities on repeatedly drifts into an overtly symbolic need to scratch themselves. Something itches – maybe because the costumes don’t fit, or the amphetamine comedown sets in or maybe because something is fundamentally wrong with these self-images – because all the produced pictures are no longer able to capture this self? None of this can be said with certainty. But in a consciously ambiguous way the self-imposed compulsion to permanently produce ego-images or to practice media-guided self-optimization gets exposed. What remains are layers of feedback loops towering above each other, accompanied by blinding light and semi-melancholic swathes of colors – “different colors made of tears…

Text: Christian Höller
Translation: Oliver Stummer