There was a man in the Puppenstube in the Pension J., when Beth Collar and Elif Saydam arrived in Cologne late at night to install their first collaborative exhibition Shane at Zarinbal Khoshbakht over the coming days. As they were told the next morning, the man had helped himself to the unoccupied room ina bid to escape his snoring partner. But they had bit the bullet, and bunked together.
The two artists, who share a studio in Berlin, at a former video store, made for Shane two saloon doors, two videos with one sound track featuring their two voices.
Upon entering, the two doors operate as a gateway, their front side, a relief tableau of sprouting fig trees, confronting and inviting the viewer to come in – and go behind. For in order to clearly see the videos, hung at sport’s-bar height, one must move inside and around and tilt the head a little up. One of the two videos shows a speaking mouth filmed through an endoscopic camera. The speaker speaks. The other video, installed opposite, shows a hand gliding over ripe, wild grass on Elysian traffic islands. The other side of the doors, seen only when one faces the entrance, features delicate engravings of foliage and hands and forearms propping up and appearing to support a tilted, tired head.
And while the tableau doors and the sports-bar TVs act as the sentinels of the room, the title behaves like the cipher of this show. Shane, partly real and partly unverifiable, is specific yet unspecified, both effective and affective, basically just referring away. And one may find oneself asking: why is the title only one when everything else is two?
“(The) word tableau comes directly from an extremely banal Latin word, tabula, which simply means plank or a board (planche in French). A board on which to do all kinds of things: to write, to count, to play, to eat, to arrange, to disarrange.”1 The tableaus in Shane are not doors of perception, simply. They are gates of reception and gates of rejection. They swing. And ‘gates’, from Penelope’s Gates of Horn and Ivory to the Medieval City Gates of Cologne, always imply a lot. They are in control of the visitors who enter a space, they can virtually receive and reject any one.
In Shane, Beth Collar & Elif Saydam’s monolithic single works buddy up to pairs, semi-identical twins each exposing their fronts and backs, their night and day, their skin and their innards, expand into a logic of doubling down. “As for quantum theory, coeval with relativity, which claims that impossibly distant happenings can be related to one another and knowing some things precludes you from knowing others, the less said about common sense, the better.”2
Don’t let them hit you in the ass on the way out.
1 Georges Didi-Huberman, Atlas, Or the Anxious Gay Science: How to Carry the World on One‘s Back?, University of Chicago Press, 2018, p. 47.
2 Fundamental physics is humanity’s most extraordinary achievement, in: The Economist, Aug 28th 2021 edition, p.10