Graz

Klub Zwei

Neue Galerie Graz

In this exhibition, one could choose between a “film program” that included movies by John Cassavetes and Ridley Scott, among others, and a “TV program” that consisted of Klub Zwei’s film Hotel Room Movie, 1995, and reedited material from television. The opening scene of the television program in which a director comes on stage and apologizes for the delay is taken from Opening Night, 1978. This is immediately followed by an excerpt from a recent American advertisement for cheap costume jewelry. While the “golden” earring appears in the image, the “decorative plastic components” are praised in the voice-over advocating the beautification of the Russian everyday. It only becomes clear in the following segment that the audiotape has nothing to do with the simultaneous videotape. The confusing mixture of visual and audio effects, and of images drawn from American and Russian popular culture, in this and the following scenes thwarts any attempt at a coherent interpretation.

The film Hotel Room Movie relates Yasmin Zain’s journey to New York, where she has never been before, but about which she has rather concrete ideas. Whether there is a difference between the image of America transmitted to Europeans, above all through television and film, and the image one would acquire from living in America is a complex question. The video appropriates “typical” images of New York and uses a soundtrack that consists of the tapes Yasmin plays on her cassette deck in her hotel room. Similarly scenes from Opening Night are shown rather than any footage of the protagonist. Thus Gena Rowlands instead of Yasmin Zain travels by taxi through the city and finds a room.

But who is Yasmin Zain and what is her role? That is the second theme of the film. And even before the credits have rolled by, we observe Simonetta and Eva in a Viennese Café discussing this question. Both women are conscious that in conversing they construct the primary role. We hear “Magic America” by Blur and we see Klub Zwei in the process of filming. Then the letter from Yasmin appears on the screen, in which she asks the producers about her role—“who is she, say who am I?" Much as America is the sum of all the existential representations of it, the actress’ role becomes a site of projection, an image that will only eventually become concrete.

Again and again Klub Zwei questions filmic conventions: the identity of the actor, the lack of correspondence between image and sound, the narrative structure, and directorial authority. At certain critical moments, it appears that the artistic product is subsumed by the mere illustration of theoretical considerations, at others, that perspectives of democratic models of production have been opened. Much will remind one of the familiar gestures of self-reflection in film history—those of Jean-Luc Godard, for example—though there are also some entertaining or sentimental passages that seem far removed from a dry, avant-garde esthetic. Above all, Klub Zwei never gives the impression of trying to tell us how to make a film "correctly”—it merely communicates a fundamental skepticism about apparently self-evident rules of production.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Franz Peter Hugdahl.