|PETER GESCHWIND : INSIDE OUT YOU TURN ME
Text by Dennis Dahlqvist originally written for the exhibition catalogue "Moderna Museet Projekt", Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1998.
Peter Geschwind's action sculptures are irresistible: just like a good trip on LSD they bring out totally unknown sides of their addicts. During the Stockholm Art Fair in March 1994 a great deal of time was spent dispersing hordes of young people away from Geschwind's rattling "globe" which stood shaking at the entrance. One kid reacted a little differently from the rest: instead of hopping about in delight when the "globe" slammed into the wall, the boy looked at the sculpture with the same devastating intensity as Peter Fonda devoted to an ordinary orange in the film The Trip by Roger Corman (1969). For several hours, this "turned on" child had his eyes glued to the globe - a colourful, besotting ball that clearly explained for the thoughtful little boy how everything is connected to each other.
A few months later Geschwind had his first one person show, which caused a great commotion on Ynglingagatan in Stockholm. The exhibition consisted of a pair of "loose legs" clad in a pair of boot-cut Levi's and a pair of Adidas sneakers which the artist had placed inside the Wennergren/Williams three-sided advertising pillar on the pavement outside the gallery. This macabre joke was very successful; the opening public had to look twice before they finally twigged to Geschwind's realistic illusion.
The next day the local police got a desperate call from an upset lady in a flat above the gallery. She said that there was a live person inside an advertising pillar on the pavement and he´d been there all night! The police promised to come as soon as they could. After repeated calls, all in vain, the paranoid lady broke down and decided to take matters into her own hands. Armed with a hammer she ran down to the street to see whether the legs belonged to a living person. At just that moment the police arrived and two sturdy constables picked the massacred "loose legs" out of the advertising pillar. Fortunately the whole thing was witnessed by a few lads in a nearby pizzeria, who convinced the police that the "look-out on Ynglingagatan" was a work of art that did not need to accompany them to the station.
These incidents from 1994 explain some of the power of attraction of Geschwind's sculptures, which capture the observer's interest through the sort of "effects" that one normally finds in competing media with a far greater public: American TV detective stories, video games, action films, soaps, home pages or music videos. Geschwind's Handjob from 1995 is a hand-woven little bee that buzzes around a daisy in full bloom but never manages to land - a both entertaining and meaningless way of spending time. Even though art lovers are getting better and better at buzzing around, the bee offers no release; a "stone-age" video game where one is never up-graded to the next level but only gets pains in the elbow.
Geschwind's low-tech aesthetic comes from the late '70s - hobby rooms, tech labs, the first
Soda Stream from 1996 is an at least equally hypnotic eternal machine. From a bucket of water in the middle of the floor a 300 meter-long garden hose winds around the whole gallery. The hose ends in a used soda-stream bottle with a joke head - a less qualified actor has landed the lead part in Geschwind's drama. A little electric pump in the bottom of the bucket makes the pressure rise; the "soda-stream man" gets more and more full, finally loses his balance, falls over and throws up all he contains into the bucket.
Soda Stream uses the same captivating intervals as our most common soaps. Each demarcated scene accelerates towards a final release only to collapse and begin all over again from the beginning. (This is what makes it completely impossible for us to get up out of the sofa in front of the TV.) The hose is a kind of flexible set design, it makes people feel at home - that is, it makes them ready to repeat their ingrained consumption patterns. At an exhibition in Los Angeles the hose "represented" a well-known flower-power drawing; next time it may be Impressionism or the Eiffel Tower.
Moving Trash from 1998 is a series of terribly frivolous special effects that seem to be on the run. The sculptures haven´t much to say but are at least as conspicuous as the latest computer animations on the net. In the middle of the wall is an enticing pile of junk and when a visitor slams the door a little too hard, the sculpture begins to fall headlong towards the floor. After half a meter the precious object fortunately halts and begins laboriously to climb back up the wall.
A little further away lies an abandoned old packet of Ahlgren's candy cars. Suddenly the bag up and runs over the floor, crashing into the wall; you turn around and see a pair of upside-down legs sticking up out of the floor. The pair of legs immediately begins to spin at high speed. The sound of a pinball machine stream out of the soles of the bright red Converse basketball shoes. The legs belong to a break dancer who has lost control over a head spin and is in the process of "breaking" right through a concrete floor.
Geschwind's sugar sweet Honey Monster from 1998 is afflicted with a similar problem. Instead of keeping only to sugar-coated Puffed Wheat, Quaker's little mascot has popped a few ecstasy tablets. The monster can´t stop dancing to the mechanical funk coming from a pair of old Sentec speakers. His feet move automatically and his smile feels terribly forced; it is a scene that seems lifted direct out of MTV's The Grind, where zombie-like party kids dance to flat hit list music hour after hour. "You have to fight for your right to party!"
A few of Geschwind´s sculptures can be taken to be crazy toys - a misconception that is quickly corrected when the works are shown together. At the art fair in Stockholm in 1998 the artist synchronised ten action sculptures; the result was about as fun and relaxing as hysterically zapping between ten of our most common cable channels. When our most popular TV crimies, action films, soaps, cyber programmes and hit lists flicker by out of the corner of our eye we only have time to take in their essence. From such a hallucinatory kaleidoscope a few well-known labels are crystallised: Levis, Adidas, Husqvarna, Converse, Ahlgrens, Quaker, Sentec and MTV. A series of flashbacks from the shadiest, murkiest back alleys of consumption society, where the product mongers fight over our attention in order to sell a whole load of things that we can find in our nearest dustbin.