TQW Magazin
Gianna Virginia Prein on Mystery Magnet by Miet Warlop

The smudge of colours


The smudge of colours

The machinery is the human fantasy and the aesthetic dimension is the very blood of causality.” T. Morton, Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality

[1] A pounding of the heart.
The sound system emits a dull, throbbing rhythm on entering Hall G even before the minimalist stage is seen – a classic black dance floor in front of a white mobile wall. On it, with outstretched limbs, lies “Fake Fatty” [2][3]: a dancer with wild hair, a blue shirt, suit trousers and a fat-suit costume.

[2] Quoting Miet Warlop in an artist talk with Christopher Wurmdobler.

[3] “Fake Fatty” is what Miet Warlop affectionately calls her protagonist, who repeatedly takes on the role of spectator during the performance.[4] As an animated character he remains a two-dimensional caricature that eventually decides to stop participating properly. Instead, he sits down on a much too small stool, watching the figures slaughter each other. The slapstick of the colourful but faceless pom-pom performers[5] demonstrates absolute despotism. Their exaggerated destructive rage, which doesn’t lack a certain comic element, is almost anarchistic.[6]

[4] Watching the watching creates an alienating distance. A relief, at best. Laughter is said to provide a release, and the audience is happy to use it in that way.[7]

[5] For the oversized, colourful pom-poms made of long woollen threads, that turn into wig heads, into brushes of a car wash, into dripping intestines or wool stuffing, Warlop doesn’t provide nicknames like “Fake Fatty”, but she specifies her marked fondness for ambiguities that take one out of one’s comfort zone, are menacing, even: “I like these things, these misundersta-, things that you start to believe in your life and then you’re so disappointed that your teddy bear is actually the one who killed you. But why did you ever think that this was a total 100% sweet thing?”[2]

[6] Anarchistic staging – a contradiction in terms?
[6] Anarchistic: oscillates between menace and auspiciousness.
[6] Anarchistic: is often used in an inflationary and far too inaccurate way.
[6] Anarchistic: e.g. to describe a surrealistic practice that radically rejects bourgeois conceptions and uses drug-induced experiences and dreams as sources of inspiration. Where causalities are eliminated, objects become actors and bodies become props[8]. Or simply mysterious. And this is true regardless of the artistic context in which Mystery Magnet has been shown and watched since 2012 (including Berlin Art Week, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Theater Festival Basel, Théâtre National de Bordeaux, Festival Internacional de Marionetas do Porto, soon Biennale di Venezia). Contexts that keep referring meaningfully to the other space as well when describing the piece. But: what is actually there, behind the wall?[9]

[7] The idiom “peeing one’s pants laughing” is illustrated in line with the concept of relief: three performers in an oversized trouser costume bully “Fake Fatty”, excitedly spraying jets of yellow colour all over the place. This vandalistic action marks the white wall for the first time in the piece. And so the mystery morphs from one audience laugh to the next, while it becomes more and more colourful in a metaphorical sense as well. In the process, the audience’s imagination helps shape the literalness of the scene in its volatility. “Then you keep on questioning and try to see what something is and could become, maybe.”[2]

[8] Props accumulate and pile up – a colourful battlefield.[10] Aesthetised smashing, cute violence, a seemingly harmless hand tacker or electric saw appearing here and there, and then liquid splashes by the gallon, flowing across the stage space until the smudge of colours covers it almost completely. The extensive mutilations and disembowelments are reminiscent of the splatter and gore film aesthetics of trashy B-movies, which also display features of[6].[11]

[9] The wall…
…is being broken through!
…is a protagonist!
…opens like a curtain, “and then: we [the performers] just sit there”[2], almost bored, among the effect machinery.

[10] At some point, a shark balloon floats through one of the holes in the wall, gently flapping its motor-powered tail fin, and glides above the audience. A moderate attack on ready-to-be-entertained audience members, maybe.
The depicted situations constantly shift and overlap, only “Fake Fatty” remains stuck in the wall for a while, plugging a leaking hole, until he disappears completely. Just before the ending, a torso choir sings of the apocalypse[12] in a rain of wool and an ash storm.

[11] …or are a pop interpretation of Deleuze’s “bwo”, the “body without organs”, which is opposed to the organism. And are thus also[6].

[12] Post-apocalypse is when the stage is tidied up. The tidying up takes about an hour after the end of the performance. Brooms and wet vacuum cleaners move the layers of paint that mix with each other – in my case, triggering an auditory induced head orgasm. And[1]


Gianna Virginia Prein is an artist and author. She combines writing and language with sculpture and installation in her work. Degree in Scenography at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 2016, Language Arts and TransArts at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and Print & Time-Based Media at the University of the Arts London in 2018. Publications e.g. in Spike Art Quarterly, in the Tanzplattform 2018 catalogue, for Viereinhalbsätze, in Jenny; contributions for various artists’ books.


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