Superfacesurface: Malerei in Wien #3 Titania Seidl

Turning away from the window, she read:

“There’s this one that I can’t find. I know had it for years, just sitting there, I never thought about it, let alone looked at it. But it must have been there. Now I can’t find it anywhere, it breaks my heart, and I can hardly remember it, but let me describe to you what it is that I do remember.

It was all in tones of mauve and black, with very few white accents, where the stage lights hit the lens. The whole thing was maybe half a minute long. And yet it took me days of patient waiting until I had it in its full length. It must have been very small, they were all smaller back then. Low-res and even then it didn’t even fill a quarter of my CRT monitor’s bulk. It was made up out of colored, moving squares interconnected by a web of interference. Dark shapes moving across a mauve background in low contrast.

It started somewhere in the middle and ended before the climax. I don’t remember the sound, whether it was clear or not. I have listened to so many different versions since. Not to mention my relistenings of this original. The movement of my right wrist being transferred into my sweaty palm, into the tip of my index finger pressing down on the beige plastic through a layer of discoloured sticky grime, made up of skin flakes, grease and printer’s ink. Passing through the length of the grey cable into the box and being translated into the visual effect of a triangular

button being pressed, repeatedly. The original relationship of sound and image has somehow been distorted by how I internalised it so completely. I know that I could make out some of the words, I must have done, otherwise how would I have been able to find those other versions? But maybe the words came to me later. What I remember clearly is the exact beginning somewhere right in the middle of that riff and then there was his voice.

I remember studying the images until I the shapes gained definition. I filled in the blanks – at first I could make out the bodies moving from one side of the frame to the other, four people but two almost invisible in the back. There were reflections on arms, torso, legs, was he wearing an outfit of patent leather? I know the body underneath this outfit will be covered in layers of intertwining flowers, butterflies, dragons and flames later, but I also know it wasn’t at this point. His boots were coming up to his knees I think, the shape of their heels I’m sure about, it’s imprinted in my mind’s eye against the violet stage, they were high cone heels as you would find them on dress sandals nowadays. It was all the more difficult for me to see what was going on, exactly, because he never once stopped moving, he never stood still in his delivery. His bangs bounced up and down onto his cheeks and his long hair was bound up in a ponytail, interspersed with thin braids. He was exaggerating the drama of the performance and everything about him was exaggerated.

Every time I brought it to a stop, I searched this mess of interference for the arch of a perfectly plucked eyebrow, his long lashes or his defiant gaze. I knew they were in there, hidden behind all the static, invisible but present. There were moments when the dark figure to his left came into focus, stoic and hardly moving at all. I could stare at this midnight blue figure outlined in a shade of electric grape against the lights without having to press pause, while he never ceased to move on the right side of the frame, his mane eclipsing his face.

I can still see him raising the microphone to his lips that were painted in yet another shade of blazing violet and in the next frame it melted into his mouth and they became one as his voice wailed in ecstasy. His voice acted out the expressions that I couldn’t find in the moving squares and the glitches between them that represented his face.

I would watch it by myself and practice making the same sounds. Sounds I knew nothing of, I couldn’t understand a single syllable, but I could make my voice match his perfectly, or maybe there had been a similarity there from the start. I taught myself which consonants to place between the vowels, never knowing where a word began and ended in his string of verse punctuated by gasps and breaths. I practiced where to place the emotions. I made his voice my own. I traced it up to its highest highs and down to its lowest lows. It was like repainting an image you’ve fallen in love with but whose origins, context or intention you know nothing about. I could still sing this song, I’m sure, but I know nothing about the words, their meaning escapes me, like an ancient incantation.

And then it was over without warning, too quickly, so I pressed play again.

Only now that I’ve been searching for it I wonder who had recorded it, what kind of device did they use? Was it longer, originally, or did the battery fail? Is it still stored on a small tape in someone’s basement, or is the file my copy originated from on a disk somewhere? And when they were performing, did they pause to think that decades later someone would be thrown into desperation, unable to find the record of a moment in time she’d never been part of?”

She turned back to the window, indifferent, and looked at the droplets of water flowing down the window pane against the gray skies.

Fotografie Neven Allgeier
Text Titania Seidl