This conversation took place on the opening of Vera Palme’s exhibition A rat.
Viktoria Draganova: Vera, I know you through your painting first, which from the beginning on made me very curious to know more. But you also always maintained an active text-based practice – only recently you collaborated with fellow artist and friend Elif Saydam on the novel “Colt Jonner’s Desecration of Descent” which has been published by Broken Dimanche Press this September in Berlin.
The show here at Swimming Pool includes work which for the first time makes your painting and text cross paths somehow. “A rat walks into a bar… ” is the beginning of a story. But what is the story?
Vera Palme: I guess the first sentence of the exhibition text “A rat walks into a bar to debunk a joke”, is quite literally the opener. Using only the Bar joke template, I am not sure if it is enough to make it a full joke, but it has potential. And then there is many stories that can follow. 1001 perhaps… In the short story on display the protagonist writes: ‘Scheherazade prepares to pack her bag.’ She, the protagonist, is moving between different narratives in her life, same as we are moving between so many narratives, tales, fictions within ourselves and in the outer world, everyday. Sometimes we are more aware of it than others. But the need to choose the active mode is constant. It’s a piece of Literary realism.
Viktoria: Prior to tonight we talked a lot about information and fiction. Choosing the active narrative can be understood as performative. And there seems to be a great need for performance. Jan Verwoert suggests that such performance in the end of the day is nothing more than information, feed for the media. What is the reality of information? We talked about its banality and its value. And about ‘truth’. The notions of truth according to some implicit model each of us carries within. And then we have the narratives, the fiction, the story about what has happened. How is truth graspable in fiction?
Vera: In fiction everything is true, unless it is not. The same rules or non-rules apply. A definition of reality of information would make us unhappy, but information surely has impact, always. Consequences and hence considered valuable. Sharing information is an act, and depending on its motivation and aim a violent or a kind one. I see this fact often neglected naively.
Viktoria: Tell me more about the work included in the show.
Vera: We have paintings from the past 2-3 years from different series combined with a brand new work – the scroll. Swimming Pool’s exhibition space is so very lively with its many doors, nooks, the mirror, and low ceilings, ideal for a boulevard-theatre story plot, so the work inhabits the space like actors on a scene. Placed in micro sets they are ‘giving their spiel’, performing possible narratives, individually but also across the room with one another in an over all. It’s a show.
‘A rat’ carries quite literally a story, written in ink on this soft fabric scroll. It’s the story of a nameless woman and her husband Carlos/Harold. She is going about her business, which remains dubious and she thinks about him, and they interact. It’s not always clear what actually happens and what she is thinking, but it is also not very important. Some parts are more concrete, certain sentences, but in the end you are left quite clueless. Also because reading from the scroll can be a bit of a challenge, with overly long lines and scribbled writing. You, the reader, have to decide how much you really want to know. Unless you speak Bulgarian, then you can simply read the translation. So, there is action and agency and at the same time the possibility of avoiding it. The rat lives inbetween inhabited structures.
Viktoria: Also, text and painting are installed in a harmony, no work has the potential to become too dominant and impose a certain discourse or mode of looking. Everyone here is animated to understand better their position as a viewer. You discover your own position and not the one that is per default. The installation of the scroll onto these metal chairs adds to it: it reminds me of a cave made by children to hide in and imagine, so in a way it extends the realm of phantasy in the space, and also the agency of the imaginary.
Vera: I first chose these decorative metal chairs from your terrace as support for the scroll because they allow the piece to be presented on a perfect height with a flexibility that was impossible to achieve on a table let alone the wall. And the cast metal structure of the chairs, mimicking bamboo or rattan, speaks to the backside of the scroll, the paisley lining, which is originally a botanical motif as well. Something I’ve been exploring over the past years, the depiction of nature. Draped over the chair’s backs the flowing fabric is placed but in motion and very much at home. I did not see it coming how much it animates. Now the legs of the chairs do look even more like whitened bones than they did outside on the terrace where I found them. When I sat on them reading your copy of Gaston Bachelard’s ‘poetics of space’.