Melodramatic Installations

Echo Eggbrecht, Untitled, 2006, ink on paper, 16 × 23". Courtesy of the artist and Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.

Installation 2

The trapezoid room is vast, a loft with no furniture except for a chair, standing three or four steps from the entrance with its back to it. To the convex wall opposite the entrance, at the height of seven feet from the floor (approximately at midpoint between the floor and the ceiling), a washstand is attached. Water runs constantly but unevenly from the faucet. Half the time it gushes forth, accompanied by frightful screeching that seems to rise from beneath the floor. The rest of the time, the water comes down in a soothing trickle.

A man and a woman inhabit the room. For the most part, because there is only one chair, only one of them sits. Sometimes both of them stand. Occasionally, when the man occupies the chair for too long, and the woman tires of standing, she sits down on the floor, her back against the concave wall. The man is tall, birdlike, his hair black, brushed back, shiny. He wears a dark blue suit and light glasses. The woman is large, her face round, froglike, and kindly. She wears a long, colorful skirt, white sneakers, and a loose white shirt untucked. Sometimes, a dun bandanna covers her head; when it is off, visitors can see that her cropped hair is silver with gray.

The man occupies himself with the help of a hand-held computer game. Both standing and sitting (though to those who frequent the room it becomes clear that he is mainly sitting), he is almost always pressing the buttons. Though he often presses quite frantically, his face never loses its lofty, birdlike expression. Sometimes he pauses, looks up and around him, nods to the woman, stretches and yawns. Then he reaches for the inside pocket of his jacket, takes out another game, replaces the old one in the box, and plays on.

Perhaps because the woman has no similar means of entertaining herself, she is preoccupied with the washstand. The art critic Oliver Lieber notes that the woman’s preferred place for sitting against the concave wall by the entrance is not fortuitously chosen, since it is the only place in the room from which the faucet is visible for someone of the woman’s height who is sitting on the floor. Even if she is not looking, her attention is always on the washstand. When the water gushes forth, rumbling and screeching, her face reddens and her eyes widen with terror. When it quiets down, her attention relaxes without letting go. Very rarely, perhaps once every two weeks, while the water trickles, the noises that rise from under the floor are loud and terrifying. At such moments, the woman squats in the middle of the room, covers her head with her arms, buries it in her lap, and rocks back and forth. The man does not stop playing, but glances up at her now and then and occasionally, with the intention of calming her down, mumbles: “Hey, hey . . . don’t . . . .”

Every day, at ten in the morning and at four in the afternoon, the man and the woman speak. During these conversations, the room becomes crowded with visitors. But for the most part, they walk out unrewarded. The conversations tend to be trivial. For example, the woman might ask the man which game he is playing. Or the man might ask the woman how she is feeling. While talking, the man doesn’t look up from the game, and the woman keeps monitoring the water. They reply to each other and then stay silent for minutes, until one of them raises another question or, looking around absently, comments on the weather.

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