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The Rehearsal of Refusal
Clemens von Wedemeyer peers behind the scenes of the political establishment



What happens when the winner of an election doesn't accept the election? Is a politician's capitulation meant seriously, or is it mere strategy? Clemens von Wedemeyer poses these questions in his new film "The Rehearsal," on show in the exhibition "Freisteller" at the Deutsche Guggenheim. The artist stages his plot on the political backstage. Daniel Völzke followed him there-and discovered a few parallels to real-life models.



Clemens von Wedemeyer, Die Probe (video still), 2008,
© Clemens von Wedemeyer


The two men look at each other, and for a moment it seems as if they are about to lose their composure and burst into boisterous laughter-the elected president and his speechwriter in an unobserved moment, shortly after a landslide election victory. The Rehearsal, a film by Clemens von Wedemeyer currently on show in the exhibition Freisteller, takes place on the political backstage-where pretty much everything is possible, at least according to the little guy. Including the possibility that highly distinguished politicians actually ridicule the people they are supposed to represent.


Clemens von Wedemeyer, Villa Romana 2008
Photo © Gregor Hohenberg

Clemens von Wedemeyer, born in 1974, is interested in spaces concealed in the blind spots of everyday life and media attention. In his films, bureaucratic randomness is portrayed as a mysterious ritual, as in Otjesd (2005), for instance, or the swaggering ambition of city planners and life managers is measured up against urban reality, as in Silberhöhe from 2003. Von Wedemeyer's contribution to last year's skulptur projekte in Münster attracted considerable attention. The filmmaker used the Metropolis, a run-down movie cinema in a railroad station, as a service station and reference point for travelers and exhibition visitors.



Clemens von Wedemeyer, From the opposite side, 2007,
Metropolis Cinema, skulptur projekte münster 07,
Photo Mühlhoff/Vossiek

At the same time, the cinema was used as a projection room for his docu-fiction Von gegenüber/From the opposite side, which examines life in the quarter surrounding the station. Von Wedemeyer combined hidden-camera footage with staged scenes using actors filmed inside the station. Roles were switched, actors became passers-by, and secretly filmed passers-by became actors; a member of a homeless project played a police officer on duty at the station. The work, presented as an endless loop, associates the station as well as the cinema with the disappearance of public space, linking the medium of film with sculpture and installation.


Clemens von Wedemeyer, From the opposite side (video still), 2007,
© Clemens von Wedemeyer
courtesy Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris


Clemens von Wedemeyer was born in Göttingen and studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig, where the media arts department was set up with much ado in the 1990s. Subsequently, however, the neglected painters there stormed the art market. It was fine arts that von Wedemeyer studied here, not media art, but it's entirely possible that a student in a constellation of this kind thinks about the materials available to him in a more discerning way. On this, von Wedemeyer says: "I try to adopt the medium of cinema or film on my own, and I can't completely forget the framework of a medium I mistrust."



Clemens von Wedemeyer, From the opposite side (video still), 2007,
© Clemens von Wedemeyer
courtesy Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris


This mistrust is fundamental to his work. To his mind, backstage is a place of doubt. We are familiar with this peek backstage from countless "making ofs" documenting how films are made. Yet while von Wedemeyer also occasionally produces "making ofs," to his films, he gives almost the same importance to the production's documentation turns out to be as to the actual film. This process, which contains echoes of Brecht's concept of epic theater, shows the film as something made, as a media reality that could just as well look different or impart another mood, another tendency, another aim.

In the twelve-minute film The Rehearsal, von Wedemeyer's latest work, it's not merely the media apparatus that is exposed. Hectic camera people, tough PR consultants, catchy sayings revolving around the celebration of an election victory: even while the artist quotes the hard-core media-political satire genre for several minutes, The Rehearsal primarily concentrates on the quieter moments after the TV teams have disappeared. From a fixed perspective, we observe as though through an invisible surveillance camera moments of stillness, seconds capable of containing utopia or at least more dialectic, delicacy, and complexity.






Clemens von Wedemeyer, The Text (video still), 2008,
© Clemens von Wedemeyer



Clemens von Wedemeyer, The Text (video still), 2008,
© Clemens von Wedemeyer

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