Artnet online magazine, 2.05.2005
Lost in Narration

by Petra Henninger

The sophisticated narrative structure underlying the video work Silent Playground only becomes apparent at second glance. One needs to look carefully and take time to understand what is happening on the six different screens in the six different rooms suggested by the doors. But having made this effort, Susanne Weirich’s installation in Galerie müllerdechiara takes us irresistibly under its spell. The setting is a hotel. Everything begins in room number 720, the Presidential Suite of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Berlin…
Five of the six sequences begin with the character Heather (or a variation of Heather) pushing open a door and entering into the suite. The sixth sequence shows Heather in an endless corridor of the hotel making finely choreographed occasionally robot-like movements. In each narrative she appears in a different wig. Her costume also varies, but can be seen on hangers in other scenes. With the help of objects and the actions of the fictive protagonist, a complicated system of references gradually emerges, which ultimately weaves together the different narrative threads to produce a whole. On a meta-level, individual elements are combined into a new pattern that seems to simultaneously project back onto lower narrative levels.
For example, Heather, in a striking performance by the theatre and film actress Inga Busch, repeatedly makes an appeal to this higher level. When this occurs, the steadicam tracks over the character. Or Heather looks around anxiously for something that neither she nor the viewer can identify, occasionally even looking directly into the camera. Self-reflexivity enters the story when Heather suddenly meets herself in a video game. Accompanying the scenes is a thudding soundtrack that Susanne Weirich cut together from different computer games. In a sequence at the back of the gallery, there is also music.
The first association that comes to mind is David Lynch’s Lost Highway – and not only because of the expressive wigs that Inga Busch wears. Slavoj Zizek has described the narrative structure of Lost Highway as a Möbius strip and Susanne Weirich seems to have had this in mind while constructing and combining the different narrative plateaus in Silent Playground. She has skilfully combined the narrative threads with the logic and setting of survival-based computer games such as Project Zero or Silent Hill 3, which are characterised by blackouts, uncanny locations, noises, and motifs of searching. Heather is also searching for something, although she doesn’t seem to know what it could be. Nor is the viewer any the wiser, and therefore moves on the same level as the character.
The artist’s original idea was that, by opening the doors, the viewer could have an influence on the outcome of each scene. This proved too complicated to realise technically. Although the omission of this detail is regrettable, the fascination held by the stories – which, following the binary logic of computer games, end both happily and sadly – remains unaffected.
The whole installation costs €15,000. There are also limited edition film stills, which are on sale in groups of three for €1500. On view until May 7, 2005 in Galerie müllerdechiara, Weydingerstr. 10, 10178 Berlin.