In the library (6)

talking with the librarian Tangesh Pandy about old photographs made at Gopal Bagh, the factory hall built by G.D. Naidu and his company UMS (United Motor Services),

Coimbatore, 2012

Crossing the sea

A letter

I write to you from Esslingen Zell. It’s a suburp of Esslingen, which again is a suburp of Stuttgart. People here are wealthy. You see a lot of Daimler cars on the road, as employees get one with a discount and proudly preserve it for years. Down in the valley flows the river Neckar, pushed back in a canal and since the beginning of 19th century being accompagnied by factories, workshops, railway lines, later on highways, power stations, harbours, huge supermarket chains and their parking lots, fly-overs and American diners. The higher you go up the hills on either side of the valley the more expensive are the houses and the more astonishing is the view towards Schwäbische Alb and an old castle build by the royal dynasty of the Staufer, once the leaders of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation.

I stay in the house of my boyfriend Markus, whose parents came here after World War 2. They were young, not even 8 years old and they came from the former Eastern parts of Germany, today part of Slovakia and Poland which were then lost to the Russians. They were two of Millions who fled from Silesia to the economically promising regions of the new BRD. They can not remember much, can not even speak the Silesian dialect anymore. But, to show difference, they never bought a Daimler car and always drove a French one. Right now it is a Citroen Xsara Picasso. By the way, nothing in- or outside the car resambles any painting of Picasso. Maybe it depends on the way you do an accident, you know, the form of the damage might be artistic? At least, if this has no further research value (we will see), that could be an explanation for my father-in-law, when I have to show him the dint I valued his car with, just to make it more different, of course.

A Flusser quote I intended to use, and later on discarded, for another project is pointing at the machine, that is operating for itself, with me as its supposed operator operating without knowing the reason for my operations. Am I driving the highway in the Neckartal because I need to be faster oder do I drive the highway with the Citroen Xsara Picasso because the car, as well as the highway, is just there, in its own way of operating?

Asking the why-question is leading me into deconstructing the notion of progress and modernization; what of course is a big task.

So let’s get back to the dint in the car and the difference it creates. It is disturbing and attracting attention to my driving skills, the material of the door (which is broken) and the insurance system we both (the car and me) are embedded in. When I look at the destroyed door I don’t only see a destroyed door, I see the repair system: the representative of the insurance company looking at it and almost claiming it as a total loss, the repair service earning way too much money because of the insurance’s high claim, Citroen earning money with selling a brand new car door and me being happy that my father-in-law has included me in the insurance contract. I do not spend any cent or repair the car by myself or earn money otherwise to pay for repair; it is just doing it for itself, because it is part of a larger system.

The system is not asking me, if I would have loved to repair it by myself, it is just supposing I don’t want to and I am not able to do so. What intrigues me, is that moment of visibility created by difference and hence by destruction. Can that moment be used artistically? I mean, can we do so? As observing artists and destroying ethnologists?

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