Text by Boris Kremer

"Capitalism is dead, consumerism is king." (1)
Aldous Huxley

"In some cases, when we looked at heart rate and blood pressure, [we saw] something you"d expect to see in fighter pilots going into combat or policemen going into dangerous situations."(2)
British researcher David Lewis on the effects of Christmas shopping on men.

When referring to advertising, particularly on TV, we wallow in murky psychobabble: we feel "persecuted" by it, it "hypnotises" us, and we suspect "subliminal suggestion" or quite simply feel "Pavlovian". Consuming, rather than the result of "the ability of large numbers of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information" (3), is predominantly described as a mass disease, or else an innate behavioral trait ruthlessly exploited, of course, by the Machiavellian, profit-driven advertisement machine. Sounds familiar?

Truth is that the constant information flow distilled by advertisement creeps into our consciousness, triggering off latent emotional responses, a phenomenon echoed in the frenzied pace of Peter Geschwind's works. Evolving from a background as a musician, Geschwind has been gearing up his proto-adolescent aesthetics with cartoonish installations widely known for the ironic puns they regularly deliver. Working with everyday household items such as cereal boxes, soda bottles, plastic buckets, mops and scissors, Geschwind's attention is directed at what they "really" are. His gaze zooms in on the "Being of things", summoning up Huxley"s mescaline-induced visions of a bamboo chair, the folds in his trousers, or a row of books: "... they glowed, when I looked at them, with brighter colours, a profounder significance... they seemed to be on the point of leaving the shelves to thrust themselves more insistently on my attention." (4)

However literary this description might seem, it serves our purpose: With Geschwind in command, things come alive. While movement for his manic props was achieved using mechanics, in video the editing technique does the trick. Geschwind's decision to use moving imagery and sound must then be seen as an extension of his sculptural works, just as much as it announces a formal return to the artist"s origins. His recent music clip Sound Cut has a crowd of brand products go bonkers: a ketchup bottle drops, scissors click, next, a box of washing powder skates the kitchen floor, chased by a roaring vacuum cleaner in a racy sequence not unworthy of high-end animation films. Clearly, the production is at odds with Hollywood standards: constructed of looped single shots, it uses natural, barely enhanced sound and was unmistakably shot on custom DV. The frantic succession of whimsical events nevertheless manages to induce a near psychoactive reaction in whoever has a close look.

Edited to the rhythmic chart of a Dead Kennedys song (5), this hilarious clip both exorcises and ridicules our often conflictive, but strangely human relationships with the objectual world. How often have you caught yourself pleading with a renitent bottle cap, trying to reason a defunct dishwasher, or cursing a humming fridge?

"What the rest of us see only under the influence of mescalin[e]", writes Huxley, "the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time. His perception is not limited to what is biologically or socially useful. A little of the knowledge belonging to Mind at Large oozes past the reducing value of brain and ego into his consciousness. It is a knowledge of the intrinsic significance of every existent." (6)

Geschwind's works always achieve to mediate some of this significance. No matter the form they are likely to adopt, his animated goods take on a life of their own, compelling us to contemplate them in new, unsuspected ways. Many of these objects appear to be engaged in senseless and repetitive, manic activities, likely to disturb, unnerve or even slightly frighten viewers. Unsurprisingly, a full loop of Sound Cut induces an effect not unlike the one unravelled by David Lewis"s research. This kind of heightened, near psychotic experience of seemingly petty things is obviously a dangerous state of consciousness when permanent. But distilled through art works such as Geschwind"s, it introduces a fresh look on the world of the objects that surround us, a world under the curse of the humming fridge.

Boris Kremer

This text is based on an essay previously published in BE 9 Magazin on the occasion of Peter Geschwind and Gunilla Klingberg"s joint exhibition at K¸nstlerhaus Bethanien, in June 2002, as part of their Berlin residency on a grant by IASPIS, Sweden.

(1) Quoted from: Brave New World Revisited. Harper & Row, Publishers. New York, NY, 1958.
(2) Quoted from: Associated Press, December 14, 1998.
(3) Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, ibid.
(4) Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, Chatto & Windus Ltd., London, 1954.
(5) A four-stroke rhythm is based on beats per minute (bpm), the Pal video system on 25 frames per second (fps). The footage was edited by translating bpm to fps: 1 second is worth 25 frames and more or less 120 bpm. 4 frames then becomes one click, so with a structure of 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. frames it is possible to edit the footage by counting the frames, comparing it to the shape of the sound waves of a given song, in this case a tune by the Dead Kennedys. (Technical notes provided by the artist)
(6) Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, ibid.