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If you lived here you would be dead now

ROEBLING HALL | September 20 - October 15, 2001

Christoph Draeger’s work, which has previously been shown at Roebling Hall in Dystopia/Babel (1998) and in Out of Order (1999), is at once apocalyptic and bitingly sardonic, while remaining carefully orchestrated and politically subtle.

In the videos accompanying Apocalypso Place (1999) and again in Apocalypso Place, Fall Season (2000), a family soap opera unfolds in a shattered house, the roof caved in, the walls crumbling, the furniture broken and upturned. The actors sit on a sofa, happy and incognizant, watching a hilarious mock 24-hour disaster news channel, the wacky commentator getting more and more excited with each devastating tornado, hurricane, earthquake, and flood he reports. The family’s disconcerting, absurdist prattle consists of vacuous slogans mimicked from commercials blasting on television. Eventually the disaster newsman and his crew arrive at the ruined house and elaborately pose the family in a model disaster victim tableau. Installed in the gallery, the set for Apocalypso Place, the video projected against the back and running on monitors, is almost sumptuous, appealing to our fascination with the ruined, with chaos. Draeger’s ironical references to television programs, his use of a hybrid of performance and installation, and his sheer destructiveness, evokes Paul McCarthy’s Bossy Burger and McCarthy and Mike Kelley’s collaboration, Heidi, but whereas McCarthy and Kelley are interested in a messy, Reichean regression to infantility, Draeger’s darkly comic installation is about the circular trance of a society of spectacle and fantasy in which there is no space left for either self or void.

If you lived here you would be dead now (2001) marks a departure from Draeger’s interest in film and television narratives represented by Apocalypso Now and the equally impressive Toutou Tuer Ne (Natural Born Killers) (2000) and Crash (2000). The video for If you lived here you would be dead now is set in a trailer in which a lone woman is systematically destroying her household possessions. There is no dialogue, apart from an occasional expostulation; the focus is on the private, melancholic, yet liberating destruction. Draeger plans on concluding the video by burning the trailer, alluding to the conclusion of Robert Altman’s film version of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love. Part of the iconography of white trash America, the trailer home is also the ultimate American domestic space, unanchored to the land, mobile, ready to be hitched up and taken out on the road. Draeger’s previous work engages our numb collective addiction to the spectacle of disaster; If you lived here you would be dead now, installed in Roebling Hall with a wrecked trailer park and a projected virtual landscape, is a more intimate work about the celebratory, self-immolating violence that rises from within.



Daniel Baird


The Brooklyn Rail


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