Peter Geschwind / Gunilla Klingberg

Künstlerhaus Bethanien

It is a stock complaint that the aesthetic of MTV videos, with their quick cuts and random narrative jumps, may be robbing viewers of the last shreds of their attention span. While this adolescent-targeted format seems like eye torture to some, others find the techniques of pop-music videos instructive. Swedish artist Peter Geschwind, born in 1966, edited his one-minute video loop Sound Cut, 2002, to the beat of a Dead Kennedys song. He analyzed the angry, inflammatory punk rhythm, the shape of the melody, and the various articulations of the song (verse, refrain, bridge, solo) and used these elements as a blueprint for his video. The individual image sequences, filmed in Geschwind and fellow Swede Gunilla Klingberg's Berlin apartment, were thus edited according to the criteria of the music: For a fraction of a second, you might see a vacuum cleaner moving across the floor, or cupboard doors slamming in the kitchen, or an object falling to the ground. The instruments of daily household life are animated to the beat of the music, but Geschwind leaves out the unifying element of its acoustics. Only the visual drive remains in place, a mute dance of things. The viewer becomes engulfed in a maelstrom, experiencing the fast cutting between images as a noiseless rhythm. This remove from the level of sound is what ultimately transforms the video into a documentation of pure speed. Everything is motion, albeit controlled by the assigned music pattern and thus orderly. Geschwind has extended musical textures into settings where objects take on quasi-sculptural presence.

In acute contrast, Klingberg, also born in 1966, insists on a visual slowdown in her video installation Nonstop Unfold, 2002. Using a hidden camera during a promotion event at an IKEA store, she taped various displays. She then mirrored the footage left to right and top to bottom, so that the image forms a quartered kaleidoscope comparable to the early works of the filmmaker Ken Jacobs. What results is a repetitive flow in which the housewares appear merely as ornamental motifs. This roundelay is accompanied by a sound piece Klingberg created by using a microphone and a guitar amp to produce an endless loop of feedback—purely abstract noise.

Geschwind and Klingberg are concerned with the technological reuse of images, but also with the cultural connotations of the images to which they have recourse. With Geschwind, private space suddenly becomes uncanny, the site of some poltergeist-like apparition; Klingberg uses the aesthetic of commodity culture as material for a psychedelic video journey. By dissolving the iconography of consumer goods in this way, her video becomes a kind of Rorschach test for the observer, who must take the red chairs reflected as fourfold fragments and mentally reconstruct their familiar form. It is a task for the imagination, and by means of it the viewer learns, via displacement, a thing or two about product placement. For at the heart of the works of both Klingberg and Geschwind, disordered things appear as commodities in their deconstructed form—which works as well for the seduction techniques of the music video medium as for inanimate objects seduced into dancing.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.