The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
by Djeff Babcock and Aryan Kaganof
All I had was bullshit. I was living, like everyone else, for bullshit trinkets. I felt like a mirror which had been shattered, but which through some divine force was able to at least keep all the broken pieces from falling to the floor.
The street lamps flickered on.
The darkness swelled, pulling me inside its cold dead legs.
I walked down the stairs of the subway. The Berlin underground was cold and dead and felt like a conveyor belt in some huge factory, pushing the sausages to their final destination. And they all followed this direction in an ashen trance like blind turds.
The interior of the metro station at Hermannplatz is a hollow concrete mausoleum shrouded in routine and habit. If one was to step back to look at it objectively, and was then forced to guess what the purpose of such a worthless space could possibly be, one could only speculate that it was designed for slaughtering pigs or for storing stale excrement.
While I was waiting on the subway platform, that was unusually absent of blind turds at the moment, I noticed a mysterious voice wavering through the space. I listened. It was someone singing a kind of old gospel song. The voice was very high and sweet. It was actually a bit eerie, because I hadnít heard anyone sing like that- in such an uninhibited and expressive way- for so long, and especially not in the Hermannplatz underground which was always as silent as a tomb, even when it was stuffed full with blind turds.
Of course the singer, who was male, turned out to be some out of place black Amerikan exile, lost and wandering through this demolished graveyard that they call Europa. A voice like that, so authentically sad and lonely, was one of the few good things about the yanks.
The train careened into the station and came to a grinding halt. The doors opened and a terrible voice screamed something on the intercom system. I stepped in, sat down and looked at the faces around me. Frustration and nervousness and dislocation were the only sensations I felt. They no longer believed. Who could blame them? The atmosphere itself was virtually slaughtered, it was all wrong. As I looked into those grim mugs I detected two distinct types of faces- those which were smashed, and the cruel faces of those that did the smashing.
Generally when I listened to the conversations around him in the bars and in the trams all I heard was shit. The inhabitants of Berlin were basically butchers, it was pure Romanism- an awful display of hedonism devoid of any of the wisdom or style of the Hellenistic Greeks or ancient Egyptians. This was an orgy of gluttons- it was Caligula senza amore.
Downtown Berlin had all the charm these days of a pit-bull match.
As I said before, through this misery I felt I was following my destiny. For me destiny wasnít something which just happens, it was something which was earned and therefore it demanded a sacrifice and a sense of openness. I felt that many lost their destiny by betraying it. Many just gave up in the face of battle and chose for an easier existence. They took false lovers, a profitable career or a comfortable life-style and avoided learning what they had to learn, refusing to sacrifice, and fearing change. They carefully constructed their lives to avoid any risk. In this way people would end up following lives that had nothing to do with their lives, they lived by proxy, like the bad end of a doppelganger. I remembered that in Chinese the word for crisis was composed of two opposing images. One meant disaster of course, but the other meant possibilities.
Across from me on the subway train was a woman who was staring at everyone in a bizarre way. I wondered if she was mad. Her clothes were mostly in place, there was no real disorder apparent. But the way she gazed was totally abnormal. She started to stare at me. I stared back. Everyone else on the subway was either seriously reading something, lost in some distant daydream or staring blankly ahead- in fact never watching what they saw. Everyone was very careful never to stray into anyone elseís private space. When the girl moved her legs I saw she wasnít wearing any panties.
I walked out of the metro station at Friedrichshein. I crossed the bridge which looked over the darkening stockyards. The lights of the city were burning in the smoggy distance. Everything was plunged in a dim gray, but tinged by the fiery bronze of the last rays of the sun. It was at this moment, while watching the huge burning ball on the horizon, that I had the overwhelming sensation that the earth was indeed a planet caught between two eternally elemental states- the gaseous fire of the sun on the one hand, and the ice-cold glow of the moon on the other: our existence caught between fire and ice. This bridge was always a point of stillness for me, despite the heavy traffic that crossed it. It was the only sanctuary in this vast metropolis of desolation.
When I reached my apartment building I walked through the broken doorway. I staggered up the wrecked staircase in the pitch-dark, stepping on someoneís garbage by accident along the way. I unlocked my door with a skeleton key, and entered my room. I sat down and lit a cigarette. I looked out the window for the last time. What I saw outside was the image of a lost dream. I was saying goodbye to this apocalypse of a city and to the apocalypse of love. I had had it with arrogant love.
Indeed the age of love seemed gone. People had no idea of how to love anymore. They only knew how to buy things, how to fuck, how to forget and how to make a spectacle of themselves. They hated themselves. They only knew how to burn away their existence with a false image. It was a world destroyed by the Hollywoodization of everyday life. Once people made films, I reflected, now films make people. They all carried passports of disinheritance.
On the bed I opened a small bakelite suitcase with worn leather handles on it. In it I placed a pair of trousers, three shirts, and a few toilet articles. I chose three books from a pile on the floor. A book by Derrida, a selection of Rilke and the third was Danteís Paradiso.
I left the rest behind forever. I put the chosen books in with the clothes, closed the suitcase and sat it on the floor next to my violin. Dimly glowing on the windowsill was a ceramic statue of the Madonna holding the baby Jesus in her arms. The Madonnaís features were divided by the decaying light. It was a typical statue except that the head of the baby Jesus had been broken off and was missing. Therefore, Mariaís sculpted face was tilted down with a beloved and reverent gaze, blessing her headless child.
At this moment I felt horribly free. In a world crying for freedom, I needed to forge a meaningful connection. I would not shake hands with amputation any longer. This was the curse inherited by the children of the 1960s. It is the children who still must pay for the sins of the father. There was still a debt that had to be paid here which no one had any idea of any longer. And whenever such a debt is avoided the result is always the same: degeneration. In fact you could see an almost anthropological degeneration occurring, not to mention a sociological one. Nothing any longer took on any qualified undertone. What made the situation even more dismal was that there were so few that even realised what had disappeared in the last decades.
But, in the end, we just want things to run smoothly and without problems, donít we? Isnít that why we killed Pasolini?
I wouldnít really miss my room. The wooden floor, the torn flowered wallpaper, the dusty windows. They were intermixed with too much pain. It was strange how objects contained a certain potential of pain through association and memory.
Memories. Some memories stalk you endlessly until the time you are able to understand how to disarm them. If you didnít learn how they work they would ruthlessly finish you off. I had seen quite a few sink under the force of memories. The only other option, of course, was to become an amnesiac.
I had witnessed a whole generation of amnesiacs develop, not just in terms of actual memories, but also in the realm of feelings. Feeling-amnesiacs, the product, seemingly, of a psychotic, fearful world which had no idea how to really handle its existence except through this emotional form of amputation.
Perhaps amnesia is necessary to deal with the tremendous guilt of this faithless civilization.
Here in this room in Berlin I had suffered incredibly. A trauma as intense as birth. I had trembled uncontrollably, I had beaten my fists against the plaster walls. I had awoke suddenly in the middle of the nights from nauseating nightmares, only to discover that they were not nightmares, that it was all true.