“A is in the S-Bahn. We don’t know where he’s heading exactly. He’s holding a map in his right hand; he’s holding onto the handle with his left hand. The camera shows the writing on the map: “Break-up––for personal use only”. A looks out of the vehicle and sees the city around him; then he looks at one particularly bad-looking person eating a sandwich. He shakes his head disapprovingly. The guy looks embarrassed and he shakes his head too. They keep shaking their heads insanely until the next stop, then they look in different directions. A suddenly holds a girl’s hand and gets off”…
If you are anything like me, you would want to know the end of this story, or rather––you would want to know what is, in fact, the story in this case. You feel caught mid-way, as when you’ve missed a part of a movie, desperately trying to focus your attention to any detail that might fill in the information you now need to make sense of when and where you are. Some movies do throw you in this state of “…wait, what happened? What did I miss?” from their very beginning, making you feel like you should somehow already know the story, even though there is no way, that is––if they are any good. And some of those also manage to show you that you had already come up with an entire narrative, and that you have played the director the whole time. This realization comes even from the failure to seamlessly overlap your story with that of the movie’s plot (“oh, so it’s not two people, it’s one person with mental illness/split personality”) or from the unconscious arrangement of dream-like fragments into a dream-like coherence––which is more the result of forces acting despite your best attempts to comprehend, rather than because of them (just think Lynch). These ‘senses and sensibilities’ are among the many that Benjamin Sivo (BA2, Hungary) evokes, provokes, and pokes subtle fun at with his conceptual piece “In Conclusion.”
“In Conclusion” is an assignment–based artwork that Benjamin submitted one cloudy morning––shy, half-certain, a bit tired, but happy-looking––for the “Drawing and Conceptual Practice” class, led by artist Claire Lehmann. The assignment for the week––a work that deals with erasure as a drawing mark––is written and erased (written-as-erased) really, on every 1/5-filled page of “In Conclusion.” “In Conclusion” is a script made of 24 introductions, all “introducing” a scene, in most of which either the character A is present, or A and B, or A and M, and some which focus on a map, a guide for “break-up for personal use only,” and some that make you think that at the center of the story, actually, is a yellow flower.
“In Conclusion” makes one scene the whole story, somehow by erasing everything else from it, including the complete name of the characters. This does not matter though, because you are already fairly too much in the narrative––you are already caught midway, in the paradoxical state of knowing enough and at the same time, never enough. Every “introduction” is “in conclusion,” “in a nutshell” is the entire plot of the movie, even though a substantial part of its elaboration is missing. Yet, every other “introduction” also feels like a particular kind of development, like a piece of a puzzle that can both fit and not fit the entire picture while being perfectly capable of being the whole itself.
Benjamin tells me that he wanted to induce this certain awareness in his reader––of acting as a director, of playing with fragments and making a story despite the fact that the pieces do not really fit together; perhaps ultimately pointing to the very basic way in which we live and construct our identities––by making sense of fragments both as whole and as parts of whole narratives. He notes that when we read a book we inevitably “follow the mind of the author,” as the development of the story depends on what is given to us by the writer on every page. Yet, we are also independent from reading, from our “following,” in that we somehow construct, or at least have the sense of, the whole narrative from the fragments. To put it simply––our reading is not passive. To Benjamin it seems as constructive and creative as the process of writing.
Benjamin achieves making the reader a writer and the center of the creative forces by means of writing “In Conclusion” in the form of a script rather than a short book. According to him, the book format opens up a greater gap between the reader and the writer than does a script, because the former often offers little freedom when it comes to the construction of a world as it contains more descriptive elements. A script, the way Benjamin sees it, posits more of an immediate experience––it draws the reader into the world-as-if-created and makes him a director, a writer––the world, every story, and the whole narrative are actually constructed via one’s imagination. “In Conclusion,” the script, offers a template for a story which can perhaps produce hundreds of different plots, depending only on the imagination of its readers.
“In Conclusion” literally gives multiple starting points, “in a nutshell”-s that can be expanded into separate stories, one dream-like story…or not at all. The main characters are outlines: A, B, M are more like codes or initials for the individual to feel, enact, write, direct, transform. The main character, A (or as Benjamin puts it “the protagonist, I guess”) is male, so is B; M is a female––sometimes a motherly figure, sometimes a friend, and at others––a girlfriend. From the little we get in and by means of introductions, we can read and make (out) A to be either a sensitive but conflicted individual, or simply a pretentious chap; M can be both charming and somehow annoying. Our creative exercise in reading and writing the narrative of “In Conclusion” borders on a psychology experiment––in reading an other, from the little we have and facing the danger of making (out) too much; in reading ourselves, by constructing our story/ies; in reading ourselves-as-another, by seeing our self at work, weaving the plot.
Ultimately, as much as an intentional work, “In Conclusion” presents itself to Benjamin, and the reader, as an intuitive one, as a psycho-analytical document or a record of psychic processes let loose, made both by the mind of the author and the mind of the reader. In conclusion, if we do not know who A is, then we intuit, because the story is already somehow familiar or complete…
“There is a flower in a pot. It’s a yellow flower. The camera is slowly moving away from the flower showing more and more of the room around it. We pass by the coffins and windows and face each other. There’s a fridge on the right. It’s opening up and light is blinding the camera and our vision…”