Mathias Polednas ,swinging donkey, Jeremy Dellers, steel artist – film art, that concentrates of its own music creation. How is it possible to play so melodiously with metal drums? To create such a broad band of sounds? In the British pavilion at the Art section of the Venice Biennale the »Melodians Steel Orchestra« took the prize. An enchanted, subjective »Prolo Schlagzeug« column from the skug.at series.
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»I have the feeling you are fooling with me« sings the donkey in a gloomy wooded landscape, in which he appears to have landed in a nightmare, and is attempting to escape from by singing and dancing. Swinging Music and the brown donkey in white sailor’s uniform steps from his boat to the bank of a gloomy pond.
»I cannot get rid of the feeling that you are having fun with me ………laughing up your sleeve«, sings the donkey about the old childhood feeling that an adult is making fun of him and considers him a fool. But without being exactly sure. The Austrian pavilion at the Bienniale is completely dark, so it takes a while for the eyes to adjust. Movie-theater-size large, Mathias Polednas‘ film »Imitation of Life« runs over and over. Every few minutes it gets completely dark, then the film starts all over. »I got an ocean of make believe« sings the sailor-donkey, »you got some hocus-pocus in your eyes«, and bitterly expresses the child’s wish for freedom, love, and harmony; a longing that however disappoints. Not being able to get rid of the feeling of being deceived, this donkey sings and speaks with a high voice like a child. »Life is worth living as long as it holds moments of paradise«. The popular song from the 1930s reminds one of the trick film industry of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Poledna prepared five thousand hand drawn sketches. Real children protest having to leave the dark hall because the film has a positive indirect message: »trust your intuition that tells you something is wrong here! But it is not clear whether one can interpret »Imitation of Life«, with its brown donkey in his white sailor’s uniform as Nazi symbolism, as many do; i.e., to no longer trust their own values and senses, but rather to feel like a »Herrenmensch«, as is suggested in the program text. Basically, one cannot deny adults a certain self responsibility.
Big blue metal drums with round bulges or notches on their metallic surfaces that create a certain bandwidth of sound. Older black and white ladies, who play in Melodians Steel Orchestra with concentrated faces, and among them a young woman with pink hair and an Afrobrite, beaming into the camera.
At the British pavilion the film «English Magic 2013« is a complete success. People stand tightly packed in the small room, listening over and over to the Symphony in D Minor (Cesar Franck, 1888) then to »The Man Who Sold the World« (David Bowie), and to »Voodoo Ray« (Gerald Simpson), arranged by members of the orchestra itself. It starts out slowly, as if underground; the sounds are prolonged; then suddenly it becomes melodious, with the orchestra swinging itself to unimaginable highs. How is it possible for metal drums to play so melodiously?! To create such a broadband of sounds? Simple and yet breathtakingly beautiful. Simplified and instrumental zed, the songs sound almost more beautiful than the originals, and they create a unique sound. In film, autos are crushed to a pulp by metal recyclers, and only late does one realize that one is sitting on a box of those crushed autos. An owl flies; an eagle in the air; in a sort of fake demo fake soldiers and police wave. The audience laughs. The military wave their arms to the beat of the music. There are clothed »furniture makers« and demonstrators with a sign, »Chartered Secretaries« – and everywhere the military gets into the act.
»Jeremy Deller once also brought a brass band to play acid«, tells the young Briton who sells the record. A little British girl in a red checked dress protests screaming loudly as she is carried out from the film. »Why?« she asks over and over, and then is happy when the film shows children doing summersaults on a castle that looks like Stonehenge, made of air mattresses. Fat happy life. This music has a liberating effect. Nothing against David Bowie, whose photos hang on the walls of the »English Magic« pavilion, but compared to the Melodians Steel Orchestra, the original version seems a little kitschy.