On the road to nowhere, S. Schaschel (English)


Sabine Schaschel, 2009

Monograh, Service après-vente, HEAD Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design – Genève

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
(Talking Heads, Road to nowhere)

Scarcely anywhere is driving more beautiful than in the movies where life unfolds on the road to nowhere. In the American Road Movie the main characters seem to be detached from the past, suspended in a sort of perpetual present, attempting to delay the arrival at their destination as much as possible. The goal is not getting to your destination, the act of driving and the many experiences during the road trip are far more important. It is not surprising that the Hollywood film industry has used this film genre over and over again in a time in which freedom, breaking with the existing order, autonomy and individualism have almost reached revolutionary proportions since the Roaring Sixties. The Road Movie combines action with at times mindboggling speed or ever more frequently with a psychotically slow moving pace. The automobile represents a constrained space that houses and a vehicle that moves the psychological shell of the travelers who move parallel or face each other in the plot, get into conflicts or continue their endless trip to loneliness.

Road Movies are an important source of inspiration for the artistic production of the collectif_fact. The uncanny, inexpressible, unforeseeable and mysterious events that the characters in the Road Movies face while driving are recurring themes in the computer-generated videos. For example, in Reliefs (2005) a camera sweeps across various digital levels of space. In a parking garage at night, which is only partially lit by the adjacent street lamps, we see rows of parked cars, but also two that must have collided and ended up upside down on their roofs. The camera dips over the edge of the parking garage to the level below, a forest – all of a sudden we are on a street covered with fog – and finally we land in a shopping mall with colorful store signage. Again we encounter two entangled cars. An icy cold wind sweeps through the deserted nocturnal set, and the observer has this lingering feeling that he is about to witness an atrocity. The video composed of several fragmented scenes does not make any obvious connections – there is no urge to create a plot. The atrocity does not exist. The computer-generated images that have been transferred to a general, almost generic level primarily work by minimizing mimicry. In their reduced form they give us room for a variety of interpretations and emotions. In bubblecars (2004) the theme of cars on a deserted street at night resurfaces. Below the street lights they tumble through the air in slow motion toward the observer. The flickering noise of a defective street lamp emphasizes the highly explosive, tense mood. Again, visual ingredients of cinematic catastrophy scenarios have been condensed to trailer length. In The Chase (2008), the artists finally realized a true implementation in the form of an absurd chaos scenario. While in bubblecars the cars were still flying around in virtual space, in The Chase they are stacked on top of each other by fours in the historic Kaufdorf junk yard. The black-and-white color of the top three cars and their flashing red-blue lights suggest that they are police cars that ended up on top of the car that had been chased. This is the visual essence of countless Hollywood car chases and often absurd and masterfully choreographed accidents… and it seems that even the road to nowhere must end somewhere.

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