HIMMELSLEITER (JACOB´s LADDER)
Sound-Visual Installation and Performance
A commissioned work for SWR-Radio, Baden-Baden, for the Donaueschingen Music Festival 1999
HIMMELSLEITER – The idea behind this installation evolved while I was creating a series of black and white paintings in which I had scratched lines that formed designs resembling ladders, or rope ladders, perhaps, which sometimes tear or do not lead anywhere. The stairwell of the F.F. Kammer provides the perfect conditions for HIMMELSLEITER: 22 gilded strings mounted vertically on the upper end of the steps now obstruct the normal path, but also create a putative link to the heavens above since the open stairwell is covered by a glass-gabled roof into which the gold-plated strings flow. In small, concerto-like performances, I play on the strings, scratching the gold leaf from them. This sound composition is electro-acoustically interwoven with a sound collage pre-produced in a studio, thereby creating on a horizontal level a connection to the vertical lines: a ladder as if in a dream.
Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching up to the skies above?one which the angels used to move back and forth between Heaven to Earth. A rather absurd idea since everybody knows that angels can fly-or was Jacob?s ladder a pragmatic way of overcoming gravity?
Neil Armstrong had to wrestle with the lack of gravity during his first steps across the moon. He did not encounter any angels up there, but he was also not overcome by a fear of heights. Neil?s Himmelsleiter was progress-based: a rocket had transported him through the universe straight to the moon.
Nowadays, people believe that the entire universe is composed of vibrations and can be scientifically explained based on the so-called “string theory”. Physicists claim that the string theory could close the gap between theories about gravity and elementary particle interactions. Can gravity now be overcome theoretically?
That vibrations in the concrete form of sounds and music have provided people with a universal language and means of expression since the beginning of time is a well-known fact. Occasionally, these vibrations are also able to suggest a subjective state of weightlessness.
I suddenly became interested in the age-old desire of human beings to fly, to be able to soar through the air before one dies. Or, due to scientific progress, actually becoming immortal, and like the angels in Jacob?s dream, being able to go up and down the ladder at will. Yet, despite technological progress, we still suffer from a fear of flying or of heights – the latter, however, having less to do an actual fear of heights than with a fear of falling into the abyss, of plunging into it. Heights as a trap. Practical gravitation. An apparently ambivalent pleasure in floating between two spaces that clearly requires energy. These in-between spaces, these transitional spaces, are marked by tremendous fragility. One can only traverse them when the necessary tools are at hand: quiet notes or sounds can evolve here?fleeting symbols, a scratch, gold leaf floating down. Space becomes timeless. Time, ontological.
HIMMELSLEITER unfolds both visually and acoustically. Poetic intimacy is the goal. Yet the Himmelsleiter?s string can break. And the stairs can become a one-way street.
Caution is advised for those afraid of heights!
Übersetzungen/Translations: Louisa Schaefer, Cologne
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