Fill the Invisible
16/10/10 – 07/11/10
David Dale Gallery & Studios presents Darren Tesar, Fill The Invisible; the culmination of a four-week residency in which Tesar has explored concepts surrounding acceleration and finitude through the context of tourism and memorabilia.
The questions raised and dealt with during his residency have centred on an attempt to locate a temporal hold within an understanding of temporality, without excluding an exhausted cultural experience. This considers obsolescence as ubiquitous to all forms of production. The outcome shows Tesar’s obsessive exploration of approaching such obsolescence through a finiteness that – despite the constant reification - sustains motivation and remains a place of productivity, through the incompleteness of conclusion.
Tesar ultilises indiscriminate materials, objects, and practices taken from daily activity, alongside re-appropriating objects that hold a direct reference to the presentation of history. From constructing a decapitated Medusa from instructions found on DIY website, to purchasing and presenting a parasite infamous for hijacking the brains of insects, each object acts as a vacated instant of a lost potential, re-appropriated for its capability to speak of that which it has seemingly lost. His fascination with the obsolescence of production, allows the viewers to interact with and also feel akin to these objects such as the reproduction of the DIY sounds used in the making of Star Wars, and the accumulative realisation of the cyclical references in the hoarding of filmic memorabilia. The result of Tesar’s exploration becomes a struggle between an ever-increasing sense of possibility and a near hallucinatory sense of illumination brought on by obsession. These sentiments are alluded to by a disposition and presentation caught somewhere between a genealogist and a memorabilia collector.
The method, if possible from such reckless contingency, is a pseudo-genealogy of actors who themselves are seeking genealogies. Through assimilating pieces of archival fact alongside parts of critical discourse, Tesar’s practice gathers people who pick up and use pieces of information themselves, resulting in an extension of an already extended researcher. The approach is one of spending time, wasting time, and producing times with disparate research and researchers.
Darren Tesar lives and works in Glasgow. He received his MFA in Fine Art from the Glasgow School of Art, June 2010 and his BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, 2008.
He recently exhibited at the CCA and the Glue Factory, Glasgow as part of the Glasgow School of Art MFA Exhibition, which toured as the Glasgow School of Art MFA International Exhibition to Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Other past exhibitions include: Jamie Radcliffe, SWG3, Glasgow, 2009; Ephemeral Space: Mush, Mush, Masculinity, ACVR Warehouse, St. Paul, US, 2007; Mustache Dialectic, ACPLS Gallery, Menomonie, US, 2008; First & Second National BFA Juried Exhibition, Oliver Gallery and Centre Gallery, Tampa Bay, US, 2008.
He has an upcoming solo exhibition: De-Worlding, Sadie/Halie, New York.
FEEDING ON GLINTS by Darren Tesar
Who knows how long it went unnoticed, a now negative space within one of hundreds of Hollywood vaults. Before it vanished, according to all documented history pertaining to the subject, one can only imagine how those faintly pink scales still shimmered pearlescent when caught in the light of some night shift security guard’s torch. Nevertheless, it’s all too understandable why these glints, taken off a slightly uncovered section of paw or protruding mass of animatronic tail, have faded over the years.
In the beginning there were two different models of the Luck Dragon, better known as Falkor. The first and certainly most imposing model stretched an impressive fifteen meters in length, with the tail alone constituting four of those fifteen meters. Even by today’s standards, the fabrication of a creature the size of an adolescent sperm whale is worthy of taking note. For instance, the three meter long neck was actually a cantilever on which rested the one hundred kilogram head. Although the credit given to the body’s fabrication is vague, the construction of the soon-to-be iconic canine skull was not. Undertaken by Guiseppe Tortura, the frame for the head was constructed from - amongst other things - airplane steel.
If the scale of the endeavor alone does not attest to a seduction towards excesses, Falkor’s skin goes even further. In order to achieve the fantastical reptilian/mammalian hybrid, the stage designers crafted over ten thousand hand-sized scales and acquired one hundred kilograms of pink angora wool to be applied over the entire fifteen meter mass. Unlike other film sets where everything is built incomplete with the knowledge of a pre-choreographed mis-en-scène, Falkor was completely formed and ornamented without the least bit of frugality.
Like all living things, the mechanisms to activate Falkor’s important, albeit limited movements were housed inside the hollow cavity of its body. Instead of a sequence of synapses igniting the twitch of muscle fibers, there were thirty-six control panels prescribed to sixteen life mimicking movements. Also Inside this massive timber structure were several television monitors for the puppeteers controlling Falkor from within, to use when orchestrating a perfect wink, roll of the eye, or spread of a grin. Only with perfect collaboration did this decadent mixture of airplane steel, angora, and pearlescent scales spring into an existence outside of a purely imaginative potential.
The other model was much smaller. In spite of measuring only forty centimeters in length it did not exhibit any visible differences to that of its original. In order to achieve an immaculate copy the designer, Ute Trinks, exchanged those hand-sized scales for two thousand pinhead-sized scales. In place of the angora wool, the miniature Falkor was covered in a less lavish type of rabbit fur. In short, everything from the resources down to the nearly invisible strings, which mimicked the twenty-four memorable motions, was perfectly duplicated in miniature.
Despite the immediate success of The Neverending Story it took six years before a sequel was made, and for six years the two props laid together under a large dustsheet nearly invisible. However, in 1990 when the sequel was given the green light the desired image for the film had changed. Recognising the sequel had vague connections with the original novel, the new art director, O. Jochen Schmidt, saw a way to take creative liberties with the land of Fantasia and all its inhabitants. The labor from the original group of technicians, designers, and puppeteers would remain scattered about Hollywood’s many humidity controlled warehouses waiting to be picked up by the promise of yet another sequel or purchased by a collector or museum.
Eventually two decades later that promise was answered. Over that span of time the popularity of The Neverending Story grew along with the generation who first watched Falkor in the 1984 film. Two museums in Germany, one in Babalberg and another in Munich, simultaneously sought to create a display featuring the Falkor props, namely the ones from the 1984 original and the 1990 sequel. The plan was to invite the public to perform their fantasies by sitting on one of these large props in front of a green screen, while being blasted by a tunnel of artificial wind. A camera would then record and playback the video of the participant soaring through the clouds with all the windblown flourishes one would experience at such heights and traveling at such speeds.
However when the time came for the 1984 prop to be delivered it was nowhere to be found. The studio held no record of loaning, selling, or disposing of the original Falkor and with the prop having been in storage for over a decade, any clues were minimal. Due to its absence and subsequent worries over the condition of the original prop, the Bavaria Filmstadt proceeded to build another full-scale Falkor to be used for their interactive attraction. Today no one really knows what ever became of the original. As for what can be hypothesized about the physical artifact of the 1984 Falkor three plausible outcomes come to mind.
The first and most outlandish of these is theft. During the years of Falkor’s storage someone planned and executed its theft during an average night shift with the help of a more willing guard. The production of such a heist would require either owning or renting a large semi trailer and even then, the stage prop in question, would have had to be broken into more manageable sections. Although there isn’t any readable evidence, the prop may have been constructed modularly, thus reducing the problem of transportability. Even then, the theft of something so large in a single night would hardly have gone unnoticed. More likely, the one stealing Falkor would be an employee who took considerable pains to orchestrate an elaborate and rather lengthy dissembling. Imagine every night a piece of paw here or chunk of angora covered ear there going out under the radar to some Las Angeles area garage, apartment, or storage unit. Falkor, night after night, would slowly dematerialize from its Hollywood home only to be reborn, albeit cramped, in some lifelong fan’s very own apartment. Only time will reveal the validity of this seemingly far-fetched hypothesis. Decades from now a news story might headline that our Luck Dragon had been found literally built into some apartment and how it had to be taken apart, piece by piece, in order to get it out of the apartment’s modestly sized doorways.
The Second hypothesis is a type of decay. Falkor was picked clean for all its usable materials over the span of two decades to the extent that any leftovers were unidentifiable. Hollywood is known to recycle materials and props from one production to the next and this could have certainly been the case for Falkor. With such sensual materials it is hard not to expect other designers to pluck a scale or two for their next mermaid or to peel off a considerable amount of pink angora to be reused as material for an added flourishing on a dress for an extravagant period film. After the first and most distinguishable layer was plundered, the next would go even faster. All that timber and airplane steel would be unscrewed and turned into anything from an incomplete house façades to a heroic shield or breastplate. Over the years, Falkor would not so much disappear as disseminate into finer and less perceptible antecedents seen in dozens of other films. In short, Falkor succumbed to a type of Hollywood entropy, not altogether gone but spread too thin to possess any singular presence.
The last and most reliable hypothesis is one of pure negligence. Falkor was in fact thrown away. The disposal was nothing more than a result of daily routine; as the monotonous cycle of props entering and leaving the vaults carried on, it was done with a casual forgetfulness in documenting. The reason why no one knows what happened to Falkor is precisely because no one cared enough to jot it down or commit it to memory. The result is a thoughtless act ordered by some employee to hack the 15-meter puppet into pieces later to be picked up and absorbed into the anonymity of a Los Angeles landfill. Years later and with a new roster of employees, the Bavaria Filmstadt would contact the vault concerning an acquisition of a very particular piece of stagecraft only to discover its seemingly unknown disappearance.
No matter how much one can project and study the scant evidence surrounding the disappearance of this young icon, the mystery will most likely never be known. No matter if it is someday discovered in a shed in New York City or a storage locker in China, the primary function of the 1984 prop has already succeeded. The image was brought out of the purely imaginary and, no matter how briefly it resurfaces, it is set free to inhabit and endlessly reproduce in the collective imagination. Like so much iconography, the image of Falkor only finds temporary punctuations. Falkor’s presence today is ubiquitous, lived out not so much in a timeless form but through timely points of generative succession. With media being extended to encompass an increasing amount of user created content on the Internet, one doesn’t have to look far to find traces, or better yet, glints of those iconic features being perpetuated in an ever-increasing amount of interpretations. Be it the Internet photo meme comparing Falkor to Posh Spice or to a multitude of Falkor themed “lolcats”, these new images make the question of Falkor’s whereabouts even more elusive.
In conclusion, what I have been proposing is an autonomy of an image, in this case the contemporary icon of Falkor. A pseudo-autonomy fashioned less from any inherent qualities of self-replication but, rather, from our inability to aggregate the multiplicity of entry and exiting points when qualifying temporal positions of cultural icons. Like the knotted snakes of the Auryn , fixed into two perfect infinity symbols, we as a collective are interlaced – in contact, carrying an intimacy that can open our perceptions of distance. It is important to stress the phenomena of sharing in the context of recognizable and enduring cultural forms. What I mean by sharing in the case of Falkor is the increasing points of entry allowed by the numerous punctuating moments in the life of the The NeverEnding Story. As with many film adaptations, there are those for whom the book contains a singular and total image that any film adaptation disrupts. Likewise, there is a whole generation who gained access to the story via the original film and carry a strong devotion and defense against destroying that image through subsequent sequels. Finally we have those that, through nostalgic attributions of the story, insert fragments of remembrances into completely unrelated narratives. Each and every one of these accessing points hold boundaries from which people build their experiences of experience. No matter how hard the mechanisms of nostalgia and the power relations of media are critiqued, there will continue to exist a heterogeneous repetition that results in the perpetuation of an irreducible particularity of one’s perception.
Through this the resurfacing of an image such as Falkor continuously manifests itself, altered by generative manipulations such as television sitcom references, personal tattoos, or Internet memes. The receiver of these manipulations accesses an agency to rediscover or reject particularities found in the world they have encountered. In the case of cultural forms, i.e. icons found in television, music, and art, this can be activated by repetition or ruination, which requires a belief in an authentic origin; or as a generative potential, which builds off an accepted false origin out of necessity or desire. Repetition in this context can be seen as a condition of denying an absolutely obsolescent singularity in individual experience, an experience not of sharing but of grounding oneself in a false belief derived from a reliable origin. This essay proposes an acceptance of repetition and a revision of what collective nostalgic experience can reveal about the meaning of origin. The nostalgic disposition discussed in this essay is less a mourning of the past or consumption of things for pastness sake but an unpredictable and seemingly haphazard dispersal of experiences activated by the confrontation of bordering objects or subjectivities; inciting an imponderable rush of one’s individual experience played out within a collective.
“This is called finitude in Heideggerian terminology. But it has become clear since then that finitude signifies the infinite singularity of meaning, the infinite singularity of access to truth. Finitude is the origin; that is, it is an infinity of origins. “Origin” does not signify that from which the world comes, but rather the coming of each presence of the world, each time singular.”
- Jean-Luc Nancy