This is the story about a social experiment, about 36 people in a room inside of a Cologne gallery space, about an international film festival, success and swarm intelligence and it is a story about passion and love.
In 2011 we started the project ARTSURPRISE. In 2012 it was still a challenge to show new artists samples of possible artworks.
Especially the condition to work out 100 (nowadays 120 pieces) multiples for one series was hard for some to cover.
At this point in time, I received an invitation to take part in a film festival in southern France. I had always wanted to make an animated film. Now there was the opportunity to put three projects into practice at the same time.
Firstly, the task was clearly defined, to produce a film of a maximum of one minute in length, in memory of the Lumiere brothers, the first filmmakers on this planet.
Secondly, I wanted to use the intelligence of the swarm in a social experiment to make a good contribution to this film festival.
Thirdly, it should give me the opportunity to show my colleagues how, on the one hand, one can produce truly unique art and, on the other hand, formulate an adequate offer for the art market by producing multiples.
So 36 friends and acquaintances were invited to a Cologne art gallery. The Kulturbunker Mülheim had kindly made the premises available to me exclusively for a week. Before that I had created the scenery and all the figures in the artist residence CASAdelDRAGON. After two days, the stage design, lighting and props were ready. Camera, software, data backup programs, backups, everything was wired and tested.
The invited guests had no idea what I would ask of them, the production of a short film, without instructions, in complete self-organization. Only the cameraman, my friend Peter Schmitz, as a dedicated photographer and IT technician, was familiar with the hardware and software.
The group had to fill: director, assistant, light, technology, animators (responsible for a limited number of characters each) as well as a documentary team (interviews, film, photography).
The roles were distributed and work began. On the first day of shooting, 5 seconds were shot, the next 45 followed in the next three days.
A great seriousness spread. It was clear to everyone that there was no going back and, above all, no repetition. Dealing with the characters on stage was unique and one of a kind.
Errors in the movement could not be corrected, there was only one shot!
A routine was established, only the directly active people were close to the set. As soon as a job was completed, the person would step back into the second row and wait for their next assignment.
The director gave the signal for the „take“, a photo. Then everything started all over again.
The first film on this planet was about a train entering the station of a French city. From a technical point of view, it was therefore necessary to implement how a train would enter a station at a given speed and then slow down and finally come to a standstill.
As expected, the passengers would start to look for the boarding positions on the platform when entering the station that would be advantageous for them.
The special role of the animators for the train was flanked by the special role of the „locomotive driver“ who was allowed to put the finishing touches to the simulated braking process as far as the accurate positioning of the train segments was concerned.
Slowly everyone involved became aware of the extent of this project. At the same time, a team spirit set in that made all of us forgetting the time.
After a few hours, other interested people came along, had the current state of affairs and the implementation explained to them and were ready to familiarize themselves.
The team even organized and recruited the replacement of individuals who could no longer work on the set.
Meanwhile, my job in the background was to monitor the data backup, serve the drinks and be available for interviews and discussions.
When the train stopped, the animators had to be redeployed as it would now be a matter of realizing the boarding and alighting of the passengers.
Each animator had to move a limited number of characters and memorize their positions. Mistakes to non-own figures, forgotten further movement, tipping over of several figures, all that would have been a mistake that could not be erased from the video.
Of course there was great relief when „everything was in the box after 4 days“.
The first week (preparation and shooting) was followed by another week of post-production (film editing, soundtrack).
Another week later, all participants were invited to the location of the recording to celebrate the premiere.
After an introductory speech and a few excerpts from the event documentation, the lights in the projection room went out, Totenstimme.
Everyone was spellbound for a short minute of film that passed like an eternity, realizing that you yourself had just become part of something much bigger, forever.
Then there was unbridled joy, applause. Hug. And a little melancholy in parting.
Then the scene was dismantled, the figures were collected. And a new story began…
All objects were not coincidentally 8 x 5 x 1.6 cm. This size was exactly the maximum size available for art in the ARTSURPRISE box.
So the prop and all the animated figures went into the black box and began their journey to the fans and collectors of Artsurprise, to those who heard about it later and would have loved to have been there, to those who like films, who like trains , to those who want to understand and experience what contemporary social sculpture means, how it works and what it can do.
A few objects can be purchased in the Sassen Gallery (Germany) or DeSouza (England) or in the CASAdelDRAGON (Spain).
If you’re lucky, you can still get one of these boxes from one of the machines, and with it you get one of the originals from the set, a one-off, real „ARTSURPRISE“.
And it’s the story of a great love. She was there and she will read these lines and she will know that she is meant now. She had written history right into the heart and the pen is still there to continue writing.