2016-2018 Rabea Ridlhammer: "What happens when the laughter stops?"
Rabea' 20 minute presentation for CONSTANT CRAVING ~ PERFORMING UNDER CONDITIONS - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2018 was entitled
Cheerleading is Life... and the Rest is just Details (A Farewell in three Acts)
The performance starts with a very casual (and intimate) setting: Rabea sitting on the stage, a small light beside her, behind her; a messy desktop is projected on the screen. We see tens of thumbnails of documents, photos, videos are choatically centred around an image of two people wearing the same t-shirt; it says ‘Cheerleading is Life’, which is also part of the title of this performance.
She starts her three act performance with a quote by artist Roderick Hietbrink: “I don’t know what this is, but I like it like this. This is followed by the prologue: a video is projected behind Rabea in which we see her sitting on the floor, painting a sheet of paper in different shades of red. She narrates a poem from Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and addresses the audience directly. Wheeler-Wilcox, “a popular poet, rather than a literary poet”, which became of interest to her because of her “poems of cheer”, but as she casually tells us, “ended up not using”, because of their superficiality. Subtitled underneath this prologue, she writes that she clearly was delirious when filming this video. With humour, she introduced us to an idea of cheer in search of depth or perhaps more in the vein of what Timotheus Vermeulen calls “depthiness”?
After this prologue follow three acts, complete with make shift curtain changes, (=two of Rabea’s fellow students acting as curtains). Refreshing drinks are served (a cherry snowcone), as Rabea goes into the prevalence of the ‘I wish’ song in popular culture, in Snow White, Into The Woods and The Little Mermaid. She narrates the final speech from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She jokingly compares her thesis to the plot from Legally Blonde. She borrows from these “unserious” sources, meaning sources that are not taken seriously in art, with a smile; she appropriates them and reshuffles them, to reel the audience in, or to not become too personal, or both, to relate to the audience her trajectory and consequently her goodbye to DAI. Throughout, she is pondering on notions of specialism, (un)seriousness, productivity as an artist, using affect in popular culture to present real life experiences at DAI.
In this performance, Rabea slowly builds up to the end, which comes as a release. Cheering as an act of solidarity is something that for the purpose of this performance can only by expressed in one way: in dance. Chairs are pushed aside, the music starts playing: a cover by Rabea herself of the Bee Gees song “I started a joke”. Immediately, people start dancing, in groups, hugging and laughing. Only now, I notice that almost quite a few of her fellow students are wearing the same t-shirt: Cheerleading is Life.
“I started a joke which started the whole world crying
But I didn't see that the joke was on me oh no
I started to cry which started the whole world laughing
Oh If I'd only seen that the joke was on me.”
Rachel opened her comments by stating that she loved the performance. And even though Rabea doesn't like to be pigeonholed as a graphic designer, her qualifications in this field are clearly visible throughout the entire performance. The statement "to make a memory of me for you" reminded her of the active forgetting of women in art history and Rachel commented that she did the audience a favour by making this memory herself for the audience. Rachel concluded that it is very easy to undersell what Rabea's practice is about, a tone that Rabea purposively conveys herself in the work, but that this performance was more than a great job.
Maria Lind opened by stating that if we see an art practice as a way of working and a body of work, then Rabea is well on her way of formulating both, as opposed to many artists who work in the fleeting concept of a project, instead of a practice. She was intrigued by the combination of personal life, sound and imagery with a distinguished humor and tone, which worked very well in this performance. She names Bernd Krauss as an artist with a similar, semi ironic and quirky but also sincere sensibility. But also Jillian Meyers shares a similar approach to visuals and tones of nostalgia.
Referenced before by Rachel O’Reilly during the presentation of Floris Visser, Marina also references the valedictorian speech and states of Rabea: “you have made yourself a valedictorian”. The power of the performance, according to Marina Vishmidt, was held in the combination of sentimental range of affects and references. The idea of memorializing reminded her of Victorian women's culture but also the ironic feminist appropriation of that culture, from the seventies to the present. Moving from the very trivial to the Hellmouth, with its own codes was described by Marina as "trivialized forms of power". She concluded by stating that the clash between the triviality of Rabea's media and the weightiness it was imbued with was an interesting dynamic in this performance.
Learn more about Rabea Ridlhammer’s written MA thesis: What Happens When the Laughter Stops, Mate?: Approaching the “Non-Serious"
Learn more about Rabea Ridlhammer’s "life after DAI" by means of Rabea's website