By Gustav von Schlegelsteinbergsdorfhaffen
Edited with care, compassion and love by von Schlegelsteinbergsdorfhaffen’s assistant, manservant and charge d’affairs Giovanni di Mastronzo
It was a sunny afternoon, a real peach of an hour at the weekend getaway Schloss Affenkugelnsberg. The castle, a modest manor really of a mere 30 rooms, is nestled in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, overlooking seas of green pine and fir, reaching for the sky and our manor which they couldn’t possibly afford. Giovanni and I had just had tea as it was the hour and between stolen gazes at each other, enjoyed the short, yet pleasant and lush expanse of the tidy cliff garden which reached to the curtain wall keeping our castle on its mountain perch.
We were not expecting callers that day, much less on horseback as it wasn’t even yet that time of year for such invitations, but nonetheless one came. To have our moment disturbed in such a clop-cloppity manner in all ranges of light dust and and equine odour was not ideal to say the least, but we had our interests more than piqued by the messenger, on a passable gelding I wasn’t convinced would have passed the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Warmblutzucht.
The messenger had with him a pizza box, or at least what I understand is a pizza box if one were such. In it was a fresh, steaming pizza. From whence it came, one would not know, but it was fresh, of stone hearth fired origin clearly and for me, me, me. On its upper side was the text introducing the project I’ve been absolutely obsessing about, The Pizza Complex, the Halfman piece de resistance which would now be showing in an exclusive private view in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Exclusive was an understatement. Having Giovanni inquire as to the provenance of the artwork, we quickly found out the preeminent collector Nigel Woods Buttersworth VI esq., was the man behind bringing this delectable corpus of experiential art to the public and this was not to be missed. The Pizza Complex of course anyone who is anyone in art knows and the box gave appropriately curt and cursory text to the project and the installation, outlining the descent into madness, Lacanian truth and groundswell catharsis that is The Pizza Complex. This has finally, due to the tireless work of Buttersworth, been expressed in spatial terms in the Museum of Broken Dreams, the discriminative, brand new work of Sébastien Laboissonnière, a true palace of the common man’s discontent, housed in a derelict fabrik, in a derelict part of a derelict town somewhere, nowhere really, in the United States. It was a scrumptious peon to other’s suffering, a veritable pieta of disillusionment and mortal, unending want, and Giovanni and I positively needed to be there for the private view.
The Private View
If one were to call where the Museum of Broken Dreams was bleak, it would be an understatement of most magnanimous scale. The tired and worn, red brick soared four stories into the grey skies, broken windows abounded, unkempt grass swathed around with the periphery awash in poverty, despair and America. It was beautiful and perfect as a setting to bathe in this distress. Giovanni was positively giddy as our driver brought us around the back, past the armed security to within the high fenced, barbed wire perimeter of the museum for our exclusive evening.
Cameras, the paparazzi and even phone snaps were strictly prohibited as none of it could possibly give justice to the display. After our welcome tipple, appropriately rust coloured to match the cold, concrete foyer that splayed unloved, rusted steel of all shapes and sizes, we had a short jaunt up a freight elevator to the Pizza Complex. Giovanni, still giggling from delight, suddenly squeezed my hand as he led me into the fray of what was clearly a new epoch of art.
It of course smelled of pizza, freshly baked artisanal sourdough pizza of course made with only the finest Saucisse de Montbéliard available. This was of course in the reception where everyone from Auguste Fortin to Benoît Leclair was in attendance, lavishing this new epoch, a Re-Renaissance really, with their patronage, incalculable wit and banter.
One would need volumes to speak of even half of the subtext present in the work. The layout, the journey through the mind of a layman immersed in life fatigue and madness and the rationalist examination of such. Sublime.
We began by entering the first room which was Plausible Scenario 1. The rectangular room roughly 150 metres in length was festooned with the data of the project, yet prescribed on the walls in the manner of their physical outlay. There were the graphs rendered in kebab, human blood and alcohol, charting his minds descent. Positively glorious. Where could we possibly go next after such and introduction? Why bubbles overlain with projected holograms blew further into the display, in wisps and whirls floating on and then combusting in their painful, sudden ends led us on. I was overcome with tears. These bubbles, each tracked and displaying yet more minute and detailed data of the piece, came to their ends, such as our data and our lives do. It is all meaningless. Giovanni and I began to clap with vigour, tears streaming, yet thinking of our feather bed in Schloss Affenkugelnsberg and a return to sanity.
This was merely the first sortie as it were into the experience. As we rounded the corner to the right, the pyrotechnics announced our entry with a ferocious and cascading whoosh, shooting a column of flames upward into the aether. We followed the bubbles as they told us, each pop giving us a whisper of instruction to Plausible Scenario 2, wherein vignettes of the protagonist Steve’s mind as explored through the data points of Billy Kloperman’s 9th Birthday Party, not crying for peeling anything, French Onion soup as a concept and Because Fuck You That’s Why unfolded on the walls. The projections, homages to points of pain in Steve’s life, touchstones for disappointment, grief and sorrow melted into one another in the fine drizzle of real human tears that streaked down the walls. This time Giovanni was overwhelmed and swooned, falling gently into my arms. Cry, Giovanni, cry, onions can’t hurt Steve anymore, nor can they you. His shudders faded into the haze of constantly cut fresh onion vapour pumped into the room as we again rounded the corner with a rush of fire moving us into the final space.
The fire dissipated as quickly as it raged into the night and our lives as Plausible Scenario 3 opened before us. The bubbles now, still blown into the fore leading our way through Steve’s madness as rendered physically led us into the final unbalanced chamber of unrequited rage, and exasperated gasp for meaning in a world that doesn’t care. I needed a hug. Thankfully Giovanni was there with me, I don’t know how I could have possibly survived this art otherwise. I made a note of this in gratitude to my charge d’affairs of countless years. This second corner declared and marked by fire was then our last light as we followed the bubbles, each glowing, our only illumination as we plodded on, suffering now as Steve had. We were now one with the subject of the piece. We were now common, shudder to think. We were one. Then a sudden ecstasy of wall height typographical interpretations of Steve’s thoughts. We were now past the torrid past of Steve and now into that moment of casting the pizza, like so many pieces of ourselves, like so many lives into the cold, cruel and merciless jaws of the universe. Giovanni and I pursued the last floating bubbles, now mere faint rings with our names, Giovanni and Gustav written in them. They were finally consumed in flames as we exited like two phoenixes, devoured in flames, sucked of life, mere husks now reborn.
Giovanni and I both tittered whilst we were handed high thread count, lemon-scented towelettes to refresh ourselves by the thankfully invisible help. Of course we lauded what was nothing short of a triumph by Halfman, the art reinventors behind the work, to Buttersworth who sponsored the show and Laboissonnière who curated. An absolute victory. We were sapped and could only manage a pattering of conversation and couldn’t possibly bear the artisanal cocktails, nor morsels of victuals, continued expressions of the The Pizza Complex, caviar base pizza baked, made with 5 year old lamb’s cheese and drizzled over with self same lamb’s tears. It was all too much. We needed to go back to the jet and back to Schloss Affenkugelnsberg to celebrate through our respite this victory of art, life and love that is The Pizza Complex.
Gustav von Schlegelsteinbergsdorfhaffen