When the pool is raining, your sense of orientation may start to play tricks on you. You may no longer know what is “above” and what is “below.” This is an impression recurring in the filmworks in “when the pool is raining,” an exhibition that is another episode in our series of exhibitions, stage performances, and filmwork, built around the figure and narrative trope of a “wormhole.” For instance, at some point, in “Time Flies,” a two-channel video installation, you can see a young man swimming in a pool at nighttime. His movements and the lights of the shimmering water line up with the right-hand screen, which catches a rain shower, filmed from the above, somewhere at a corner of Vienna’s Gumpendorfer Straße.
We are Maggessi/Morusiewicz, a Vienna-based duo of researching artists, collaborating since mid-2020 on several projects in which we play the roles of visual artists, researchers, writers, and curators. In the “wormhole” series, we think of ways in which cinematic engagement with time may be disrupted through thinking of film language (of editing, in particular) as a time-and-space travel technology. We are interested in the idea of designing and applying artistic-research methods through which we would “exhaust” images, thoughts, and situations by repeating artistic gestures: of editing film, of sewing textile, of drawing, and of translating them to different media. We are curious about staying in a process and moving through it, as if it was a wormhole: while conceptualizing this project, we found this term to be an inspiring starting position and an inexhaustible frame of reference. We think of wormholes as many things that are in-becoming. They can be literal holes in wood or fruit, which are in the process of being burrowed by worm-like creatures. They can be figurative holes, such as meandering digressions in a conversation, which turn out to be both detours and destinations-in-the-making. Wormhole-like can be the trajectory of your navigation through digital space, like in those moments when you open one Wikipedia article and, while reading through it, click on an embedded hyperlink, find something surprising on the second page, click on another link, get distracted, click on a few more links, and then continue endlessly jumping from page to page, without necessarily remembering why you started in the first place.
Inspired by the loopy temporality of wormholes, we started developing wormhole-shaped and -temporal material objects, film installations, and trains of thought, many of which relate to film archives. We got interested in the shape-shifting possibilities involving the medium of film, turning and twisting it into various forms and formats: a performative sound sculpture, an immersive room installation, a strategy of critical reading. In this way, we aim to re-direct the immediate attention away from the visual image and toward other film elements, both diegetic and non-diegetic. Displayed on multiple screens, in orchestrated dialogue or out of sync with sound, our filmwork demonstrates the strategy of remixing, which consists in generating self-standing audiovisual content out of multiple sound, text, and film samples, which can be either found or made. In this way, we build fragmented and changeable narrative shapes for temporally-troubled spaces of in-betweenness, as regards media, contexts, genres, and presentation methods.
Like all of the previous “Wormholes” series episodes, this exhibition is heavily filmic: one of the primary characteristics of our practice is combining found footage with original material, through which we remix poetic fiction with scenes of idiosyncratic daydreaming. In our filmwork, we merge footage that we shot with samples from over a hundred films from a few sprawling contexts, such as (1) pre-AIDS gay-art porn films and (2) sci-fi films of the Cold War era, made in the US, the former Eastern-Bloc states, and Japan. We chose to focus on the first group because these films, directed by Jack Deveau, Wakefield Poole, Angel Rivera, and Fred Halsted (to name just a few), open their predictably sex-centric plots to surprising moments of narrative errantry, while showing their characters perform daily-routine activity, such as walking dogs, cooking breakfast eggs, taking showers, or sitting around and chatting. While contributing to the films’ portrayal of erotic bliss, they also normalize non-normative sexual activity through manifesting the quotidian quality of explicitly pornographic sexual encounters despite the fact that “homosexual acts” in the US only started to be decriminalized. The second group features films that are interested in time travel and do it through CGI-light retro ways, which are more patient and slower than their contemporary counterparts, whose protagonists swoosh through wormholes in the blink of an eye, without zooming in on this radical experience. For this reason, we reference dozens of films from the 1950s–1970s, paced more slowly so as to make time for lingering images of blinking flying saucers, pensive astronauts, confused space monsters, and leisurely-paced tarantulas, all of which are easily abstracted from their otherwise linear plots.
In this exhibition, we create a fragmented conversation between multiple converging time-spaces, diegetic and non-diegetic. The resulting miniature narratives are anchored by the filmwork’s soundtrack, which mixes the original tracks, written, performed, and produced by Seth Weiner/Sadie Siegel, with field recordings, storytelling fragments, samples from audio tracks, and ambient sound recorded during our working sessions. The soundtrack, in turn, dialogues with the screening’s material setting, composed out of textile artworks: quilted screens and sitting cushions with embroidered patterns referencing images from our filmwork. While the screens highlight the way images are constructed, thereby offering the viewer visual tools with which to desiccate the image’s composition, the cushions invite them to comfortably linger, which is a quality that we cherish and invite you, the exhibition’s viewers and the readers of this text, to cherish as well.