Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena — Interludes
How to Explain Art to a Civil Servant
-“Why are you speaking English with me, we are in Germany!”
The police officer at the reception yells at me. I make a poor attempt to smoothen things out, mumbling:
-“I’m fluent in Swedish…and I consider this the highest contribution one can make to the Germanic culture…”
This has no effect, and instead I’m ordered to sit down and wait for someone to handle my “case”.
The case? After a long day zig-zagin between artworks/artcrowd in Karlsaue park in Kassel during Documenta press days, and I had stopped for a five min coffee break when the thief ceased the moment and disappeared with my online/city rental-bike. Two phone calls later, some confusion and hardships with an outdated Google-map I finally had made it into the police-headquarters outside the city center. And again:
-“Why are you speaking English with me, this is Germany!”
-“Are you here for Documenta?”
-“I have no understanding for contemporary art… For me, being an artist means that you have some kind of special talent and you are really mastering a craft, like painting, sculpting, drawing… Merely presenting an idea, well, that is not art.”
I kept my silence in order not to aggravate the police officer more. After a while the next question arose:
-“Are you an artist?”
-“Yes sir, I am an artist… I’m actually a contemporary artist…and my recent work is a group of sculptures that are really about an idea, and not about having any special sculptural skills.” I told him.
He types on.
“Would you happen to have an Internet connection on your computer?”
-“Ok, go to this website (…) and click where it says Interludes…”
-“What is this?”
-“Ballistic sculptures. What you are looking at are the castings of the cavities produced by the seven most common ammunition produced in Sweden.”
-“Probably the most interesting sculpture for you it is that one” (pointing at the screen) “This is the ammunition used by the Swedish police force. They use the 9mm flat point”
-“What?!” Captain Dixelius gasped, “That’s crazy….that is not possible…there is no police force in the world… wait…look!!” At this point captain Dixelius does something that I think is not really formally allowed, he takes out the clip of his weapon and he pops out a round and handles it to me.
I had to laugh -“But this is plastic?….you shoot plastic rounds? ”
-“Yes!…of course, you don’t want to hurt anyone!”
-“Well you should tell that to the Swedish police…I’m not sure that they would agree.”
Captain Dixelius stills looks mesmerized and confused at the same time, it is evident that he is intrigued by the work:
-“This is really interesting… the sculptures are really beautiful… and terrible at the same time. This is really good!” Captain Dixelius finishes the report and then he follows me down to the reception desk.
-“If you have any further problem here in Kassel you just call me. I’m the only one here that speaks English and I’ll be happy to help you in any way. And if you have an exhibition here in town, do let me know.”
-“I’ll certainly do that! Thank you so much Captain Dixelius!”
Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena