Rearview Mirror towards Reality
What‚s that supposed to be, what‚s program?
Reality isn‚t bygone; to me, it seems to be hidden in the here-and-now. So what‚s the
point of a rearview mirror, which defines per se „what lies behind us,š regardless of
which gear we‚re in, Drive or Reverse ų and not even a hasty change of course lets us
And why „towardsš?
„In the Rearview Mirror: the Realityš would be wrong, since by no means does reality
present itself so clearly, not even in retrospect (regarded in the past, peering into the
past). At best, the way to get there can be sought in the mirror. „Objects may be closer
than they appear!š is a warning sensibly posted on the rearview mirrors of some
American cars. And that might be it, what fascinates us, what the „Americanš in us
would like so very much to see. Possibly, the automobile transfers us into an energetic
form of non-consisting, purity on an experimental basis. If everything is forever and
everywhere, then it must, at the same time, be very close.
But we are not yet so close to this „state of lightš as we imagine in our dreams. In an
over-zealousness approaching religious fervor, we hope that a new age has actually
dawned, one that enables us to link proximity and distance and to experience reality
in a never-ending simultaneity. But the newness of the simultaneity remains, in oōur
heads as in our formulas, vague and immature. So we flee to definitions and metaphors
of transition ų creating a „liquid ageš ų of emergent fluidity, amorphousness and a
dissolution of material. We dwell precisely upon this materiality, distorted into an
idealized quasi-nostalgia. Wistfully, we gaze into the rearview mirror at our own
material make-up, our traditional, historically coherent context and search without
any orientation for an actuality we believe we have lost.
There seems to be no other way to explain our melancholy contemplation of iron, the
most concrete of all materials fashioned by the human hand. When IKEA sells iron
spoons with the proviso that they may possibly decay (rust), then we have found the
evidence we seek. When an adolescent oriented toward disorientation considers this
spoon to be an example of cool Industrial Design and buys it, then it can be no wonder
that magazines like „Wiredš stylize former „Ludditesš into „cybernauts.š
In my day, at least, it was still the Myth of Evil that was attached to iron (Blade
Runner). Understandably, we „demographically insignificant Generation X dinosaurs,š
obsessed with hardware, demanded access to the means of production. Autonomy by
means of unexplained conditions of ownership and alienating the „evilš material to a
new purpose were both our maxims and dreams. More impressed than influenced by
the early Heroes of the Industrial Culture (Throbbing Gristle, SRL), we felt both
compassion for the steel workers and identification with their access to hardware, as
well as fascination for the immediacy and directness of the production machinery.
This was precisely the background from which Contained came into being. A
conglomeration of adventurous ideas, carved out with passionate obsession in the heart
of a steel works (Voest Alpine), mostly due to me but never borne forward by me alone.
For 54 months, this construction of man and material (with considerable wear and tear
on both) grew rampant like a malignant tumor at a location which I, bourgeois junior
high school boy that I was, took to be at a maximum distance from my family home and
my origins, and the place where life could be felt most directly.
Thus, the rearview mirror also serves a totally banal function, a recollection and a
consideration of the possible powers of this malignancy: there can hardly have been
another place like this one, in which the confrontation of industrial artists (from the
builders of machines to the constructors of ideologies) with the background to which
they referred was a more direct one. Nothing dragged the petit bourgeois roots so
ruthlessly out of earthy sensuality and into the light. Nowhere else is it so delightful
to rummage through things as they already are without ulterior considerations
regarding problems of art ų in one room, an elk‚s head nailed to the wall, a souvenir of
geographical arrogance (mass tourism), invokes a presumption of taste, the cultural
lives and doings of go-kart racers and dog trainers suggests a degree of civilization.
Where else are the giddy ceremonies of a world which so openly celebrates both itself
and the circumstance of its demise ų the extreme romanticism of a „back to cultureš
that has long existed only on the death beds of the museums?
That‚s why the rearview mirror is very simple to construct!
Friends are invited and set out, unprotected, for a period of 10 days, to expose
themselves to the locality and to react with their various means and strategies to that
which they find. Thereby, the work of the men of steel and that of the children of the
city of steel are called into account, just as the feeling of strangeness which arises out
of the impossibility of an understanding of life without art.
(The results are presented in a small series of presentations, an exhibition, a round of
discussions and a video series.
/there is no such thing as paradise/