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PERPETUAL PRECEDENTS FOUR BY THREE


PERPETUAL PRECEDENTS, FOUR BY THREE

In 2014, P/////AKT invited Kunstlicht, a journal for art, visual culture and architecture, to moderate their exhibition series Perpetual Precedents. On that account, three artists and writers, Artun Alaska Arasli, Marianna Maruyama and Bart Verbunt, were asked to write a text on all four exhibitions in the series. Varying from literary and experimental pieces to art critical essays, Kunstlicht aims to offer an independent and critical reflection, and articulate a productive framework for P/////AKT’s exhibition series. Furthermore, in choosing this serial approach - four times three texts - we allow for the writers to shape their own approach in art writing, to experiment with different modes, and to take a stance toward the exhibition series. In the summer of 2014, the texts will be compiled in a publication. The three texts presented here are on Ingmar König’s exhibition Detourist. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them. May 2014

MARIANNA MARUYAMA (California, 1980) is an artist based in the Netherlands. Through writing, audio recording, drawing and play, she looks for ways that sound and movement facilitate an understanding of position. Orientation and voice, specifically loss of position as it relates to loss of voice are dominant themes in her practice. She studied at Oberlin College (USA) and the Dutch Art Institute and moved to the Netherlands from Japan. ARTUN ALASKA ARASLI (Ankara, 1987) is an artist, curator and writer based in Amsterdam (NL). He graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2011 and won the Rietveld Prize with his graduation project I Am Hungry. He had exhibitions in e.g. Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof in Hamburg and 1m3 in Lausanne. He currently studies in the class of Dutch artist Willem de Rooij at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main and runs the artist-run contemporary art space Amstel 41 in Amsterdam. BART VERBUNT (Oosterhout, 1983) is a writer based in Amsterdam (NL). He is one of the editors for the online magazine hard//hoofd and co-founder of De Ruimte, a bar and cultural podium in Amsterdam-Noord.


DETOURIST ARTUN ALASKA ARASLI

Detourist lives up to its name. Therefore, not surprisingly, the only coherent way to write about it is indeed to detour. After all, while reading is a linear event in time the works in this space, presented all at once, engage in a relationship that seems ancient and much deeper than the most intense interchange. This is not just a simple matter of genuine co-existence: it is as if they began existing at the same time, spawned from a singular Big Bang. Regardless of its primordial, unified nature, the exhibition shows us that there is no one route through meaning. Meaning, according to Detourist, is nonconsecutive, unreliable, exchangeable. One needs to literally see every single work in the exhibition to be able to formulate any interpretation (and then consider several interpretations all at once). On their own, all the works are relatively distant. They seem to be suspended in a limbo of not-yet-constructed meaning, waiting eagerly for a decipherment. König greets us with a welcoming but highly eery video loop projected on a beam immediately upon entering the exhibition.1 It looks like an unidentified sea creature burning in lighter-fluid (but in reverse), rising to its full from the sand (or is it sinking?), replenishing and reconstructing itself as it almost burns away; it is a self-contained prelude to the rest of the installation. The strength of this exhibition only derives from it being experienced initially in a linear fashion – due to our physical and temporal perception. Since the viewer cannot be at two places at the same time, the big wall in the midst of the space, that divides it diagonally, routes the viewer, forcing him to choose a path to follow, making a whole tour out of the affair. (Soon it will become obvious that it is irrelevant which side of the wall one chooses, as nothing makes any sense until every work is looked upon, and exists in a sort of 3D architectural plan in one’s head.) Around the corner on the right side an enormous rectangular print hangs on the wall, lit partly by a black light on the ceiling above it. It is constructed like an old map or a scroll, with beams on short sides, and indeed, it resembles an altitude map of a rocky region or a weird landscape of geometrical and color-based representations. On the opposite wall, in the far right corner of the exhibition space there is a small, white ventilation grill that almost escapes attention. But it is absolutely vital to encounter the object, despite it raising skeptical questions as to whether it is placed by König or not (since the exhibition space adopts it almost too well). Although all works in the space strongly refer to and support one another, the encounter with the grill is a quantum leap; it introduces the confusion necessary to bring forth a different type of alertness. Thus, equipped with this watchful nature, the free-standing wall (which until that point exists in the mind as either a proposal for a container or some sort of a separation wall) is a spectacle. The individual beams attached to the wall structure, from the angle of the white ventilation grill (and en route to the huge text/wall piece), start to merge into each other; the spaces in between them suddenly go from being identical, to being the size of only one beam. And just at this moment, another small set of beams becomes visible on the short side of the wall. If one wished to downsize this grid to the size of a singular beam as well, one could simply keep walking in a circular motion around the wall, but the beams abruptly stop and the adjacent sides are empty and harshly pale. A huge wall-piece that is an abstracted film still with subtitles reads: “Snakes and birds. / Ain’t nothing here.” This element, again, demonstrates so well the ability of König to operate on a both micro and a macro level as an exhibition-maker. Yes, it is quite abstract: from a distance it is only dominated by it’s own abstraction and resembles nothing. But from up close it is like the desert landscape to which it refers. Standing out in relief it makes one’s mouth dry immediately. Its precision is almost dumbfounding and its success more than well-deserved; it refers to physical perspective, sure, but equally, with its contradictory statement it forces every work in the space to negate it referentiality and simultaneously embrace it in a constant, rapid state of flux (similar to that of the diurnal climate change in a desert). After all, snakes and birds cannot be nothings. They are merely not the things that the character uttering the words is looking for. 1 – Again, the concept of linearity throughout the exhibition is, with the exception of this video, nonexistent, and to talk about it is precarious; but that’s only because everything is so cleverly placed. The video is unmistakably (and quite literally) the beginning.


Each piece can adequately exist at the heart of this constellation as the center piece through which meaning radiates like expanding ripples on water, reaching out to other pieces. Yet at the same time the real center is: a) in equal mental distance from each individual piece – in the center of them all, not attached to a singular work and thus, intangible and b) amorphous, subjective and ephemeral. Suddenly, the black light above the print that resembles a map helps to illuminate a certain color that is not visible to the naked eye (or it perhaps eliminates a shade of blue, or both), making and/or breaking mountains. It becomes a matter of perspective to see a singular piece of wood on the central wall-sculpture as opposed to multiple beams, and also a matter of a simple, small step towards shattering this mirage. Suddenly one is a tourist detouring endlessly in the exhibition space and – uncontrollably– in time, exchanging one perspective for another, trying to digest Detourist’s quantum bits for our almost inadequate, binary understanding.


INTERNAL DIALOGUE MARIANNA MARUYAMA

Ingmar König’s installation Detourist is in conversation with itself. According to König, the work was made specifically for the show, but throughout are references to elements of earlier works by the artist. What kind of conversation can happen here when viewers who aren’t familiar with this earlier work are faced with something so self-admittedly self-referential? Is it possible for them to also listen in? How does one enter into such a dialogue? Looking at the exhibition text leads one even further astray, but this obfuscation could be an intentional strategy to cover up conceptual shortcomings. When the phrase ‘in-between states’ and words like ‘fragments’ and ‘interrelatedness’ appear, there is a distinct possibility that either the work itself is under-developed or over-thought. The gap between the interpretation of König’s work by the exhibition makers, and the way the work speaks for itself, is clear in the most striking piece of the show, a highly textured mural on the far wall of the gallery. The painting actually opens up a wide space for contemplation - the scale of it and the heavily worked surface is enough to draw in viewers who may begin to ask questions about image and perception. There are a few clues to pick out the possible references here. Centered lines of white text towards the bottom of the wall and the proportion of the painting, refer to a film still. Yet it doesn’t seem essential to know which movie this work references (in fact, the movie is Natural Born Killers). Perhaps it is even enough just to appreciate that an image from the screen has been transformed into this temporary, hand-painted mural. But the text about this work (in particular) is overstated with emphatic claims of its limited temporality because of the fact that, “it will cease to exist when the exhibition ends.” Is this remarkable? Installations in an exhibition are usually deconstructed at some point, even if they will be reconstructed later in a similar way. Artist and curator Eona McCallum writes, “As for the idea that ‘the work is gone when the exhibition is over’, indeed this could apply to any site specific installation or live performance. Any new commission could be said to be made ‘for the show’ but the intentional destruction of the work afterwards only seems relevant as a gesture towards evading commodification of the artwork and participation in the market. Typically, practices that seem to play with this notion of ephemerality, if one thinks of works such as Richard Wright’s murals that are painted over when the exhibition closes or Felix Gonzales-Torres’ candy piles that are taken away by gallery visitors but continually replenished throughout the exhibition, variations of these works have been produced in response to commissions from private collectors and made to exist in similar forms at different times.” With König’s work, these gestures against commodification are neither apparent nor intended. There is no communication between the content and the formal choices of the artist. Going back to the other parts of the exhibition, we can see that König makes use of fundamental dichotomies: indoor/outdoor, complete/incomplete, temporary/permanent, and hidden/exposed. He seems especially interested in this last opposition. He writes that it is not important if his viewers can’t find all of the things he puts into his work or into the exhibition because he doesn’t aim to provide linear explanations. He intends to make some elements “hidden but findable” and holds firmly to the notion that his work should be anything but obvious. But here it seems to be a way of covering up an unclear conceptual practice. Parallel to this type of evasion, McCallum compares some artists’ decisions to prohibit the documentation of their work to hype-generating strategies in the market: “In fact, as with any PR strategy that goes against the norm by withholding information about an event or product, it may well be the case that the hype created around works and exhibitions that are intentionally not recorded visually will surpass that of exhibitions that don’t call for such restrictions, producing an exaggerated volume of written and verbal mediation and eventually a stronger likelihood of long-term acknowledgment in the art field.” So returning to one of the first questions posited, is it possible to listen in on this conversation König is having with himself? He is, without question, excited about what he is working on, and convinced of it. But is that energy transmitted any further? König appreciates the (varied) limits of perception. Maybe he is attempting to question how we ‘know’ things by subtly intervening in unexpected places - a wall vent that


appears to be part of the original gallery architecture, but is, in fact, part of the work, illustrates this practice well. Attentive viewers will look and think, using their intuition and perceptive capacities. Unfortunately, none of KÜnig’s questions have been vocalized; they remain hidden. *Thanks to Eona McCallum and Ingmar KÜnig for engaging in generous conversations with me. Eona McCallum is an artist whose current research at the Dutch Art Institute is concerned with the infrastructure of the art field. Based in Brussels, she is a regular contributor to the journal gnommero.


SCRIPT BART VERBUNT

John en ik zijn gigantisch, hij op de voorgrond, ik iets erachter. Het gras onder onze voeten is groter dan het gras hier in de berm. We kijken allebei fronsend het kader uit. Boven onze hoofden staat “John’s World”. De serie gaat over ons allebei, misschien hebben ze voor deze titel gekozen vanwege John’s verdwijning. De acteur die hem speelt, lijkt niet op hem. ‘Hij lijkt wel op mij hè?,’ zeg ik tegen Donny. Ik wijs naar mijn acteur. ‘Alleen zijn haar is wat dunner.’ ‘Volgens mij klopt het precies,’ antwoordt hij. ‘Volgens mij niet. En ik kan het weten, het is mijn haar.’ ‘Wat je wilt Wayne. Gaan we nu naar het bureau? Ik moet nog wat uittypen.’ ‘Ja ja, rustig aan, ik zie mezelf niet elke dag op een billboard. Ik wil nog even langs de Saloon. Ik heb honger.’ Ik geef de autosleutel aan Donny en stap in. Terwijl hij de weg oprijdt, kijk ik naar mijn haarlijn in het make-upspiegeltje. De inhammen lijken dieper. Het is jammer dat rechercheurs geen hoeden meer dragen. Vlakbij de Saloon word ik gebeld door de hoofdinspecteur. ‘Wayne, er is hier net iemand komen binnenlopen die zegt dat hij Woody heeft vermoord. We zijn hem nu aan het verhoren. Kun jij als de sodemieter naar de studio?’ ‘Shit, Barbara, ik ging net lunchen. Kun je niet iemand anders sturen?’ ‘Ik vraag het niet nog een keer.’ Ze hangt op. ‘Sla hier maar rechtsaf,’ zeg ik tegen Donny, ‘iemand heeft Woody vermoord.’ ‘Dat is de regisseur van John’s World.’ ‘Dat weet ik.’ ‘Zou de serie nu nog verder gaan?’ ‘Geen idee.’ Ik kies het nummer van Edmunds, de producer. Hij neemt meteen op. ‘Edmunds, met Wayne, gecondoleerd. Ik hoorde het net, vreselijk nieuws. Kun je me vertellen wat er is gebeurd?’ ‘Waar heb je het over?’, zegt hij. ‘Over Woody, hij is vermoord. Wist je het nog niet?’ ‘Woody zit tegenover me, hier.’ ‘Hey Wayne, ouwe rukker.’ De stem van Woody. ‘Woody, ik hoorde net dat je bent vermoord.’ ‘Klopt niks van, ik ben springlevend. Wie zei dat?’ ‘Dat weet ik niet, hij wordt nu ondervraagd op het bureau.’ ‘Het zal wel een doorgedraaide fan zijn. Even iets anders: kom je langs voor een borrel? Ed en ik willen graag het scenario voor het nieuwe seizoen bespreken. Ik heb een ideetje.’ ‘Bedankt voor het aanbod, maar we hebben het razend druk vandaag.’ ‘Oké, de plicht roept, ik begrijp het. Ik bel je volgende week, dan kom je er niet onderuit.’ ‘Jij ook niet, Woody.’ Ik groet en hang op. ‘We gaan toch naar de Saloon,’ zeg ik tegen Donny. ~ Hij hangt op en loopt naar het aquarium in de hoek van mijn kantoor. ‘Ik was dus met Steven naar de kroeg,’ zegt hij. ‘We hadden een ideetje. “Waarom wordt John niet gegrepen door iets bovennatuurlijks, of door een monster?”, zeiden we tegen elkaar. En dat is blijven hangen Ed. Het prikkelt me.’ Ik haal diep adem, onderdruk mijn woede. ‘Dat is belachelijk.’ ‘Waarom?’ ‘We maken geen horror. En Steven heeft het stuk al voor Johns verdwijning geschreven. Waar is hij trouwens? Ik krijg hem niet te pakken.’ ‘Hij zal wel met een kater op bed liggen. Maar dan herschrijft hij het. Mensen houden van zo’n paranormaal sfeertje.’ ‘We hebben het budget er niet voor, special effects kosten geld.’ Hij tuurt naar het aquarium. Wat is daar godverdomme te zien?


‘Een monster dat uit de grond komt,’ zegt hij. ‘Waar heb je het over man?’ ‘Zoiets.’ Ik sta op om te kijken. Hij wijst naar de waterplantjes die heen en weer deinen in de stroming van de pomp. Mijn nekharen staan overeind. ‘Ben je godverdomme gek geworden? Het gaat niet gebeuren.’ ‘Ik wil het.’ ‘We hebben geen budget.’ ‘We verzinnen wel wat, het gaat om de suggestie.’ Hij staart nog steeds naar die waterplanten. Mijn blik valt op de kristallen karaf op mijn bureau. Een stomp voorwerp. ‘Het gaat niet meer zo Woody, ik hou het niet vol. Ik heb kramp in mijn kaken van de stress. Sara zegt dat ik lig te knarsetanden in mijn slaap, volgens mijn tandarts bijt ik mijn gebit stuk.’ Hij wendt zich naar me toe, bekijkt me van top tot teen. ‘ Volgens mij moet je vaker neuken.’ Ik kijk hem aan, hij glimlacht. Ik draai me om en loop het kantoor uit. ~ Na de lunch gaan we naar het bureau. Ik ga meteen naar de kamer van de hoofdinspecteur. Ze tuurt aandachtig naar het scherm van haar computer. ‘Hey Wayne,’ zegt ze zonder haar blik af te wenden. ‘Heb je een momentje?’ ‘Natuurlijk, Barbara.’ Ik wacht zwijgend, ze leest een minuut door. ‘Het gekke is dat hij zijn bekentenis niet heeft ingetrokken,’ zegt ze. ‘Wie?’ ‘De moordenaar van Woody. Of althans, de man die zichzelf heeft aangegeven voor de moord op Woody.’ ‘Dat is gek. Ik heb Woody’s pols niet opgenomen, maar door de telefoon klonk hij kerngezond. Wat is zijn verhaal?’ ‘Hij heeft hem vermoord, verder komt er geen zinnig woord uit. Hij is onder de invloed. Drank, zo te ruiken, maar ook iets anders. We doen nu bloedtests. Ik houd ‘m vooral vast omdat hij zo verward is. Hij wil trouwens ook niet weg.’ ‘Wie is het?’ ‘Hij heet Zinfandel, Steven Zinfandel.’ ‘Dat is Woody’s scenarioschrijver.’ ‘Dus je kent hem?’ ‘We hebben elkaar een aantal keer gesproken. Hij houdt van Bourbon.’ ‘Aha.’ Ze kijkt me onderzoekend aan. ‘Ik heb wel eens wat met hem en Woody gedronken.’ Ze knikt. ‘Eén keer hadden we ‘m behoorlijk hangen.’ ‘Ik begrijp het. Misschien kun jij even met hem praten. Jullie zitten meer op één lijn, denk ik.’ Ik ga akkoord, zeg gedag en loop naar de cellen. Ik kijk door het raampje van Stevens cel. Hij zit in kleermakerszit op het bed, gezicht naar de muur, handen op zijn bovenbenen. Wanneer ik de deur opendoe, springt hij op. ‘Ik heb hem vermoord Wayne, ik heb hem vermoord.’ Hij loopt naar me toe en pakt mijn arm vast. ‘Ik had ‘m net nog aan de telefoon. Niks aan de hand.’ Hij kijkt me aan. Zijn ogen zijn bloeddoorlopen, zijn gezicht is grauw. Toch ziet hij er niet meer dronken uit. Hij schudt zijn hoofd. ‘Je begrijpt het niet, Wayne. Ik heb hem vermoord.’ ‘Hoe dan?’ ‘Ik heb hem vermoord,’ zegt hij luider. Ik vraag het nog eens, hij begint te schreeuwen. De dienstdoende agent sprint de cel in, Steven ijsbeert door de kleine ruimte en blijft schreeuwen als zo’n gestoorde profeet die je wel eens ziet preken voor het station. ‘Laat hem maar, hij wordt vanzelf moe,’ zeg ik. We lopen de cel uit en doen de deur dicht. Ik drink een kop koffie met de agent en stel hem een paar vragen. Hij heeft Steven niets anders horen zeggen dan die ene zin. De keren dat hij door het raampje keek, zat hij in kleermakerszit op het bed.


Ik ga kijken wat Donny uitspookt. ~

Vlak voor ik de auto in wil stappen, gaat mijn telefoon. Het is de art director. ‘Hey Ed, alles kits?’ ‘Het gaat nogal slecht Martin, ik word gek van Woody.’ ‘Ik weet hoe je je voelt, sterker nog, daar bel ik over. Woody wil dat we een enorm monster van multiplex maken. Ik heb ‘m gevraagd of hij eerst schetsen wil zien, maar dat vond hij niet nodig. Hij heeft een foto van een waterplant gestuurd, ter inspiratie.’ ‘Godverdomme, wat een klojo.’ ‘Volgens mij snuift hij te veel.’ ‘Ja, het loopt uit de klauwen.’ ‘Wat zal ik doen?’ ‘Niks, ik ga morgen met hem praten. En als dat niet helpt, zeg ik tegen de zender dat we een nieuwe regisseur moeten zoeken voor seizoen twee.’ ‘Oké, Ed. Sterkte ermee.’ Ik hang op, ga in de auto zitten, staar door de voorruit. De hangende takken van de treurwilg bij de parkeerplaats gaan zachtjes heen en weer in de wind. Ze lijken op tentakels. Godverdomme. ~ Donny geeft halverwege de bocht gas en haalt over rechts een taxi in. ‘Heb je wel eens geschoten?’, vraag ik hem. ‘Alleen op de schietbaan, Wayne.’ ‘Laat mij maar eerst naar binnen gaan, misschien is hij er nog.’ ‘Oké, Wayne. Maar je kunt op me rekenen.’ Ik hoor de zenuwen in zijn stem, hij blijft geconcentreerd remmen, sturen, gas geven. Die houdt zijn hoofd er wel bij. Ik klik de beveiliging van mijn pistool. Donny parkeert pal voor de deur van de studio, we springen uit de auto. De beveiliger staat op ons te wachten. ‘Volgens mij is de moordenaar weg,’ zegt hij. ‘Maar ik weet het niet zeker, ik ben meteen naar buiten gerend.’ Hij heeft rode vlekken in zijn nek, op zijn shirt zitten grote zweetplekken. ‘Heb je zijn hartslag gecontroleerd?’, vraagt Donny. ‘Dat was niet nodig, hij kan onmogelijk nog leven. Ik heb nog nooit zoiets gezien.’ ‘We gaan naar binnen,’ zeg ik. ‘Kun jij ons wijzen waar we moeten zijn? Wij gaan voor.’ Hij knikt. Ik trek mijn pistool, ga naar binnen. Donny en de beveiliger volgen. We lopen langs de receptie, de hal naar de kantoren in. Met de loper van de beveiliger open ik één voor één de deuren. Ze zijn leeg, ook het kantoor van Edmunds is leeg. Alles ziet er normaal uit. We controleren de kantine, de toiletten, slaan de hoek om. Op de deuren rechts hangen bordjes, “John’s World 1”, “John’s World 2”, “John’s World 3”. Ik zwaai ze open en loop onder dekking van Donny de ruimtes helemaal door. “John’s World 4” is de huiskamer van John. Ik herken het vertrek uit de serie. Het is soberder dan zijn echte huiskamer. Studiolampen steken boven de muren uit. Daarachter zie ik de balken van de stellingen, de betonnen vloer, bedrading. Ik zie John voor me. Ik mis hem. ‘Kunnen we verder?’, vraagt Donny. ‘Ja, hier is niemand.’ “John’s World 5” staat open. We kijken vanuit de deuropening naar binnen. Wit zand bedekt de vloer, een lamp op statief is omgevallen. In een donkere vlek midden op het strand ligt een gestalte. Donny en ik stappen naar binnen. We speuren de ruimte af met onze pistolen in de aanslag, daarna lopen we naar het lichaam. Ik schrik. Het lijk ziet er vreselijk uit. Darmen puilen uit een gat in de buik, één arm zit nauwelijks nog aan de schouder vast. De helft van het gezicht is kapot geslagen, één oog is verdwenen in de rode brij. De andere helft is herkenbaar. Het is Woody.


SCRIPT John and I are huge, him in the front, me slightly behind him. The grass under our feet is bigger than the grass in the ditch. We both look out of the frame with our brows furrowed. Above our heads it says “John’s World”. The show is about us both, perhaps they chose this title because of John’s disappearance. The actor playing him doesn’t look like him. ‘He looks like me, though, doesn’t he”,’ I say to Donny. I point at my actor. ‘Except his hair is a bit thinner,’ ‘I think it’s just right,’ he answers. ‘I don’t think so. And I should know, it’s my hair.’ ‘Whatever you say, Wayne. Are we going to the station? I need to get some typing done.’ ‘Ya, ya, slow down, it’s not every day I see myself up on a billboard. I want to stop by the Saloon. I’m hungry.’ I hand Donny the keys and get in. I check my hairline in the sun visor mirror as he drives up onto the road. It seems to be receding. Too bad detectives don’t wear hats anymore. The chief inspector calls when we’re almost at the Saloon. ‘Wayne, someone just walked in claiming he killed Woody. We’re questioning him now. Can you get your ass over to the Studio ASAP?’ ‘Shit, Barbara, I was just getting lunch. Can’t you send someone else?’ ‘I won’t ask again.’ She hangs up. ‘Take a right here,’ I say to Donny, ‘someone killed Woody.’ ‘That’s the director of John’s World.’ ‘I know.’ ‘Do you think the show will continue?’ ‘No idea.’ I dial Edmund’s number, the producer. He picks up immediately. ‘Edmund, Wayne here, my condolences. I just heard, terrible news, can you tell me what happened?’ ‘What are you talking about?’, he says. ‘Woody, he’s been murdered. Haven’t you heard?’ ‘Woody is sitting across from me, here.’ ‘Hiya Wayne, you old wanker.’ Woody’s voice. ‘Woody, I just heard you were killed.’ ‘Bullshit, I’m alive as hell. Who told you that?’ ‘I don’t know, he’s being questioned at the station as we speak.’ ‘Probably a screwball fan. By the way: why don’t you stop by for a drink? Ed and I want to discuss the script for the new season. I have an idea.’ ‘Thanks for the offer, but we’re swamped today.’ ‘Ok, duty calls, I understand. I’ll call you next week, you won’t be able to dodge the bullet then.’ ‘Neither will you, Woody.’ I say goodbye and hang up. ‘We’re going to the Saloon after all,’ I say to Donny. ~ He hangs up and walks over to the aquarium in the corner of my office. ‘So I was in the bar with Steven,’ he says. ‘We had an idea. “Why isn’t John grabbed by something supernatural, or by a monster?”, we said to each other. And that stuck, Ed. It excites me.’ ‘I take a deep breath, suppress my anger. ‘That’s ridiculous.’ ‘Why?’ ‘We’re not in the horror business. And Steven has already finished writing the section for John’s disappearance. Where is he by the way? I can’t get hold of him.’ ‘He’s probably in bed with a hangover. Then he rewrites it. People are into the whole paranormal vibe.’ ‘We don’t have the budget, special effects cost money.’ He stares at the aquarium. What the hell is there to see? ‘A monster from underground,’ he says. ‘What are you talking about, man?’ ‘Something like that.’ I get up to have a look. He points at the aquatic plants bobbing up and down in the pump’s current.


The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. ‘Have you fucking gone mad? It’s not happening.’ ‘I want it.’ ‘We don’t have the budget.’ ‘We’ll improvise, it’s the suggestion that counts.’ He’s still peering at the aquatic plants. The crystal pitcher on my desk catches my eye. A blunt object. ‘This isn’t working, Woody, I can’t keep this up. My jaws are cramped because of the stress. Sara says I grind my jaws in my sleep, my dentist says I’m ruining my teeth.’ He turns towards me, looks me up and down. ‘I think you need to get laid more often.’ I stare at him, he smiles. I turn around and leave the office. ~ After lunch we head to the station. I immediately go to the chief inspector’s office. She’s peering thoughtfully at her computer screen. ‘Hey Wayne,’ she says without looking up. ‘Do you have a moment?’ ‘Of course, Barbara.’ I wait silently, she reads for another minute. ‘The funny thing is, he hasn’t withdrawn his statement,’ she says. ‘Who?’ ‘Woody’s killer. Well, the man who turned himself in for killing Woody.’ ‘That’s odd. I didn’t take his pulse, but over the phone Woody sounded healthy as a horse. What’s his story?’ ‘He killed him, that’s the only coherent thing we’ve been able to get out of him. He’s intoxicated. Booze, by the smell of it, but something else, too. We’re running blood tests as we speak. I’m really only keeping him because he’s so confused. Not that he wants to leave.’ ‘Who is he?’ ‘His name is Zinfandel, Steven Zinfandel.’ ‘That’s Woody’s screenwriter.’ ‘So you know him?’ ‘We’ve spoken a few times. He loves bourbon.’ ‘Aha.’ She gives me an inquiring look. ‘I’ve had drinks with him and Woody on occasion.’ She nods. ‘One time we really got drunk.’ ‘I understand. Perhaps you can talk to him. You might be more on the same wavelength.’ I consent, say goodbye, and make my way to lock up. I look through the window of Steven’s cell. He’s sitting on the bed with his legs crossed, face to the wall, hands on his thighs. When I open the door, he jumps up. ‘I killed him, Wayne, I killed him.’ He walks towards me and grabs my arm. ‘I just spoke to him on the phone. Everything’s fine.’ He looks at me. His eyes are bloodshot, his face ashen. Still, he doesn’t look drunk anymore. He shakes his head. ‘You don’t understand, Wayne. I killed him.’ ‘How, then?’ ‘I killed him,’ he says, louder. I repeat the question, he starts shouting. The cop on duty bolts into the cell, Steven paces up and down the small room and keeps shouting, like one of those crazy prophets you sometimes see preaching in front of the train station. ‘Leave him, he’ll tire himself out,’ I say. We leave the cell and close the door. I have coffee with the cop and ask him a few questions. The only thing he has heard Steven say is that one sentence. The times he looked through the window, he was sitting on the bed with his legs crossed. I go see what Donny’s up to. ~ Just as I’m getting into the car, my phone rings. It’s the art director. ‘Hey Ed, how’s it hanging?’ ‘Hanging in there, Martin, Woody’s driving me crazy.’ ‘I know how you feel, better yet, that’s the reason I’m calling. Woody wants us to make an enormous monster out of plywood. I asked him if he wants to see some sketches first, but he said he didn’t think that


would be necessary. He sent me a picture of an aquatic plant, to inspire me.’ ‘Goddammit, that asshole.’ ‘I think he snorts too much.’ ‘Ya, it’s getting out of hand.’ ‘What should I do?’ ‘Nothing, I’ll talk to him tomorrow. And if that doesn’t help I’ll tell the station we need to find a new director for season two.’ ‘Ok, Ed. Good luck.’ I hang up, get in the car, look out through the windshield. The hanging branches of the weeping willow in the parking lot gently sway in the wind. They look like tentacles. Goddammit. ~ Donny steps on the gas as we turn the corner, and overtakes a taxi on the shoulder. ‘Have you fired a gun before?’, I ask him. ‘Only at the shooting range, Wayne.’ ‘Let me enter first, he might still be there.’ ‘Ok, Wayne. But you can count on me.’ I hear the nerves in his voice, he remains focused, braking, steering, giving gas. He’ll keep a cool head. I flip the safety off my gun. Donny parks right in front of the doors of the studio, we jump out of the car. The security guard is waiting for us. ‘I think the killer has gone,’ he says. ‘But I’m not sure, I ran outside immediately.’ He has red blotches in his neck, his shirt is drenched in sweat. ‘Did you check his pulse?’, Danny asks. ‘It wasn’t necessary, he couldn’t possibly be alive. I’ve never seen anything like it.’ ‘We’re going in,’ I say. ‘Can you show us where to go? We’ll lead.’ He nods. I draw my gun, enter. Donny and the guard follow. We walk past reception, into the corridor leading to the offices. I open the doors one by one using the security guard’s master key. They’re empty, Edmund’s office is empty, too. Everything looks normal. We check the cafeteria, the restrooms, turn the corner. The doors on the right have signs, “John’s World 1”, “John’s World 2”, “John’s World 3”. I swing them open and Donny covers me as I clear each space. “John’s World 4” is John’s living room. I recognize the room from the show. It’s more sober than his actual living room. Stage lights peek up from behind the walls. Behind them I see the beams of the set scaffolding, the concrete floor, wiring. I picture John. I miss him. ‘Can we continue?’, Donny asks. ‘Ya, there’s no one here.’ “John’s World 5” is ajar. We look in from the doorway. White sand covers the floor, a light stand has toppled over. A figure lies in a dark stain in the middle of the beach. Donny and I step inside. We scan the room with our guns drawn, then we approach the body. I freeze. The corpse looks terrible. Intestines protrude from a hole in the abdomen, one arm is just barely attached to the shoulder. Half of the face has been beaten to a pulp, one eye has disappeared into the red mush. The other half is recognizable. It’s Woody.

(translated by Evelyn Austin)


Photography: Charlott Markus

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