This Situation is Excellent
Städelschule Rundgang
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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Link to Rundgang coverage on Kuba Paris
© The Artist, Photos: Amy Ball

This Situation is Excellent

No recollection. I have no memory of that last scene. What was it? I’ll wake up to remember. Ahh yeah, a character sitting in an office chair. Was there a desk?

It’s a film. We’re watching a scene of some kind. The protagonist, or the person who assumes they are the protagonist, is in the middle of a four lane underpass, near the central station in Berlin, walking with - and subsequently against - the flow of traffic, directly down the meridian line with little room to spare on either side, fingers out and nearly brushing side view mirrors. Stead fast. Bright lights in their eyes and at their back, the constant flow of traffic noise so loud it could be lulling. There’s a slight bend in the tunnel and the end appears - bright white light. Walking on through the dark and the noise until the very edge of the shadow - a sharp line caused by the contrast between the darkness of cover against the whiteness of a clear day; and then abruptly turn, back again. Who taught them this compulsive behaviour of turning back?

The film cuts. Back to the character in the office chair. No, not like that, it’s more like we follow the protagonist back into the darkness of the tunnel and the camera slowly fades to black, then artificial black for some moments, followed by a fade in, from the exaggerated dark of the tunnel to the white of a clear day that is billowing in through the windows of the room where the character sits in the chair with wheels at its base - with weird straight posture and a confident sense of purpose - which is very unclear to us, especially to you. They’re without a desk still but their body suggests it’s there even more so now than before: hands splayed out in front of them at 90 degrees from the shoulders. Looking closer, camera zooms in, fingers and thumbs moving like on a keyboard. They are with a computer, it’s just not there. It’s very bright, very white. Suddenly from somewhere comes a voice: “This situation is excellent”. The fingers and thumbs barely stop their dance to notice but I can promise you they did.

Then it clicks in, while looking at a clear river flowing under a small foot bridge, it finally clicks. Pan out! Pan out! Where are we? Sounds of trees rustling in the wind and heavy current so loud it could be lulling. The bright white day on the soft forest bed covered in pine needles, we see shadows cast from the trees and the character from the chair and the protagonist from the tunnel, sitting in stripes of wiggly dark then light, then dark then light again. Choppy and quick like old Disney animation, it gives them vertigo: this is why they are sitting. Suddenly from somewhere comes the voice of idiots:

Idiot 1: What is that?
Idiot 2: The river.
Idiot 1: How beautiful.

“Run river, run river, run river. Say it so many times and you won’t be such an idiot” the character and protagonist say under their breath.

“Don’t tell us you know beauty you motherfucking plastic surgeon. Don’t even look at it and definitely don’t ask us to confirm, for you, what’s beautiful. If anyone knows, anyone at all, they couldn’t muster the language to explain it to you, you moronic half-whit. You poser, nevermind someone who actually had any real world experience. We’ll go no further wasting our precious breath or jotting wrist capacity at the words to attempt to communicate beauty to you, you romantic 1960’s desert squatting van sleeping 100% organic bamboo cotton free loving joke of an authentic person.”

Nothing has happened and that is just excellent so long as that never changes until eventually it does.

Snap, cut: back to the underpass. There’s no fade from black to white or visa versa this time - its abrupt like a swift punch to a foul gut. Just as soon as you realize we are back here again, out of the forest, that sacred forest of squiggling light and dark, you notice, we all notice, our protagonist is now standing still - parallel to the traffic at the thinnest point of the meridian line. They lean forward from the waist, only just a few degrees from their erect and perfectly vertical legs and then GOOD LORD. The camera rapidly fast forwards, as if an in camera edit, out of the tunnel - because the strap got caught on the mirror of a passing transporter moving away from the protagonist, or what’s left of them - and suddenly here we are in Greenwich, where none of you have ever been before. And yes - fucking hell - when I said meridian line I meant prime meridian - the Royal Observatory is to your left, the park to your right. “My, what an outstanding effort to preserve such architecture” you conclude as you stroll through the maritime town, past the Cutty Shark, the Gypsy Moth, imagining you are, in some distorted history, a descendant of a Henry, until you arrive at the visitors centre - the faux columned stone building at the end of the plaza, where you’re aim is to gather more information about the Royal Borough. But you are distracted, by a Zulu man in traditional dress pan handling his traditional music. How you know that he is Zulu, or that his dress is traditional, or that the rhythmic music billowing out of his instrument made of a gourd is traditional is unknown to us, but trust you - it’s traditional. You think to yourself as you inconspicuously count the coins left in your left pocket, “this situation is excellent.”

In comes the chorus consisting of passersby you hadn’t noticed until now. “One, keep these things on track”, they say; “two, fool your emotions and you’re the fool”, they holler; “three, always question your motives”, they scream from the gallows. They sing in a traditional Zulu dialect - which you of course do not understand, but you do, of course, understand.

The body stopped to act as they wished it would, the way it could always be willed to before. Out of exhaustion and constant self doubt (she knows, it’s unprofessional) grew a deep and heavy sensation she could only understand to be loneliness, and as she looked down at her wretched soft fingers moving about the keyboard, she could not remember what she was doing there. She thinks to herself, “wake up, then you’ll remember,” and in a effort to get that blood a-flowin’ she musters all of her remaining energy, or what ever the substance was that allows her to do something at her own will in such a state, and reaches for the camera to the left of her screen. When did this lens crack? Wake up, you’ll remember, but this time nothing changes and that’s just excellent - she cannot, for the life of her, remember when that lens cracked.

“That’s perfect, don’t move a muscle.”

Idiot, I’m not in control of my own body and despite desperately wanting to move, right now I cannot. And that’s when she realizes her hands are tied behind her back, not bound by any material but bound by her own inability to unclasp her right hand from her left wrist and her left hand from her right wrist - so in effect they are bound, but it’s difficult for her, let alone for you, to tell who bound them. “My hands are tied,” she says in a soft voice and finds some humour in that, “see - it’s not all bad” he says, “they don’t know you like I do”. And that’s when she realizes the camera with the cracked lens (the origin of which she still could not recall), he is pulling it out of his enormous jean pocket. “That’s perfect, don’t move a muscle,” and he comically steps behind her through the loop of her arms, spreading her apart to make room for himself. As he places the camera softly on the flattest part of her skull, he leaves her arms to wrap around the backs of his legs with some sense of purpose which, to her, is only now becoming clear. As he glides her around the room smoothly by the wheels of her chair, the rolling camera still firmly balancing on the top of her head, she realizes she can start from the beginning. But this time, as our new protagonist, she’ll maintain her memory of this outcome, so when it’s her on the meridian line she’ll refuse to lean into the oncoming traffic and instead walk out of the tunnel the very first time into the bright white light of a clear day and leave him, our previous protagonist, sitting in the room with bright white light from the clear day billowing in through the windows as he sits on a chair with wheels at its base, computer-less with his hands bound behind his back, all the while thinking to herself “this situation is excellent”.