There is a screen supported by an aluminium frame standing in the middle of Berlin’s Ashley. It’s on a rectangular white carpet on a black painted floor in a single-room space on Oraniestraße, where the viewer is invited to sit cross-legged in front of a projection with headphones. The carpet is covered in splodgy brown cutouts that at first glance appear irregular and random. The ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’ video by Maximilian Schmoetzer, for his event of the same name screening January 20 to 23, is already on.
It’s unclear if it’s at the beginning or near the end when a 3D computer generated dinosaur appears. As it moves within the frame it becomes apparent that the shapes on the carpet are in fact the predator’s skin, flattened out. “It’s just a script you have to follow”, says a voiceover and you wonder if this extinct animal is in fact the narrator.
In 2012, Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner set a series of world records when he jumped out of a capsule from around 40,000 km high and managed to break the sound barrier. Part of the skydiver’s trip is animated in Schmoetzer’s piece, the hero himself being in no way present. According to the Bird of the year 2022 press release, Baumgartner has since figuratively “fallen from grace” after being charged with punching a Greek truck driver in the face.
The focus, then, is more on the objects in Schmoetzer’s piece, as well as the corporate sponsorship that made Baumgartner’s trip possible. After all, it appears, the product image is more stable than the human behind it. Plastered in Red Bull energy drink logos, the capsule that carried Baumgartner to a world record, travels through the troposphere. Found footage of a boy appears as he shows the interior and exterior of a colourful Nike shoe. Later, the personalised capsule is situated in a modern apartment, anthropomorphised and walking around in these same Nike shoes. Outside we recognise the galaxy.
The interior of the capsule is captured in a wide angle frame that we recognise as one from a GoPro. “Be a hero”, the narrator says, and we see the small action camera at the centre of a photoshoot. The product’s theme line is not meant for its user anymore, the product itself has become the hero.
The dinosaur appears again, now headless. “There is a safety in its fakeness”, it says and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ by composer Sergei Prokofiev is playing in the background. It’s the section of the score before the wolf appears. The danger is not yet visible but its presence can be felt as we see soldiers run between containers on a cargo ship. Shooting into the air, aiming at an invisible threat. American musical theorist; Gary R. Lemco sees Prokofiev’s piece as an allegory for the political situation in the Soviet union around 1930, when it was written. In his writings the wolf represents the underlying threat of the Nazis.
So then, where is the threat in Bird of the year 2022? Is it in corporate ownership within a culture of consumerism? Maybe. “You wake up. Today, all the world’s weariness will be lifted from your shoulders. Instead you will be honoured with a nomination for the Bird of the Year award.” Or, maybe not. The quote from the end of the press release seems to be as absurd as the capsule that is now dancing in a silly manner in the middle of a red circle. The video was a trip and it didn’t quite make sense, but here’s an honour anyway. Congratulations, carry on. **