Susanne Weirich: Silent Playground, 2005

The scene repeats itself, but it is never the same. This is true about life, and especially for the computer game. In Susanne Weirich's installation the computer game becomes video performance. While the user interface, camera movements, and human images of the displayed game continually get closer to the filmic image in their realism, Susanne Weirich, conversely, filmically stages an imaginable game scenario.

Her interest since early on has been concerned with spinning the themes and aspects of literature, art, cinema and the everyday consumer world further. Classification systems of world images, archives and recording techniques reappear in her work, often with an ironic twist.

And, likewise, she is preoccupied with defined game arrangements like those found in the interactive tarot game Die Glücksprophezeiungsmaschine/The Fortune Telling Machine (also done with Inga Busch and Susanne Lothar) or in Elle ne perd pas le nord/She's Not Going to Lose Her Way, a baroque parlor game dealing with the topography of love.

In Silent Playground, a hotel suite supplies the ambience for the movements of the actor Inga Busch. As the game figure "Heather" she runs through the corridors, sweeps through doorways, sits herself down, looks around, and plays a game within the game. Thus the hotel room becomes a tangible analogy of the artificial and impersonal characteristics of so many rooms found in computer games. The interior is a display of references and tools; any and all details can be of significance, can be instructions for how to proceed. Furniture, mirrors, game consoles, energy drinks, slips of paper or origami pieces become instructions on how to reach the next level. But to do so, we still need something else in the suitcase. What is true in life is, in the end, not true in the game: The inescapability, the relentlessness of time. This flight from one's own time and environment is innate to every type of game. And whereas the played film marks out the path of escape in advance, the computer game at least holds open the possibilities of how the events might develop. As a result, the staged scenes in Silent Playground are also a regression on the filmic directive: You should visualize this image only. The prize is: One absorbs the structures of such games all the more lucidly—the temporal, spatial, camera-technical. Susanne Weirich's installation is staged as an experience of differentiations which oscillate from personification to persiflage, from the reduction to the excessive enhancement. Steven Poole has called the storyline of narrative computer games, in ego perspective, as "totally amnesiac": Since there are a multiple of ways leading to one goal, there can be no reference later to something that the player might possibly not have experienced.

This is also the impression of the scenes in Susanne Weirich's work: At times déjà vu, at times a surprise, without a past; up ahead only the next level, the next scene, the next twist in which the story continues—or a temporal setback because we have overlooked the most-important clue and the opponent has ended our virtual existence.   

But it is just the start. The same space, a new life.

Daniel Hermsdorf

(Catalog text, exhibition: "Playrooms" at the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, 2005)