Beneath a Crack of Light

(Einar Schleef once again)

Einar Schleef is a presence-of-mind. Which means, he must have always been THERE. I still don’t know how and when he created that immense work he left behind. I can’t imagine it – unless I imagine that for him every single second, every second even of the night was NOW, a sort of jump-off point. But he was likewise the target he leapt into. For someone who worked without a break, jump-off point and target surely turned into a ribbon of time, melding into one, a hamster on a wheel. Einar Schleef was the perpetuum mobile that’s never existed and never can; he was in other words certainly not a perpetual mobile. He couldn’t have been. He needed that push so that jump-off and target were to him maybe like what the hamster does on the wheel because there is nothing else to do on it. Seeing what you experience starting from early childhood is simultaneously obfuscation and illumination. Getting lost and finding yourself simultaneously. Always everything at the same time. In that selfsame second he transformed what he went through and experienced, transforming it into not only one thing but into many. He worked on his own autobiography frequently in different homes at different computers, the selfsame experience frequently, yes, again and again. You can’t lose anything, you’ve got to hold onto everything, you can’t hold onto anything for yourself. Seeing yourself right before yourself while something is happening to you, while still perceiving everything going on around you, does not mean covering yourself with yourself, as far as possible, so that you yourself step forth all the more clearly. No. For Schleef it means that something immense and obfuscating races towards him, and he has to save himself by peering through the obscurity, through the appearances which continually threaten to cover him, peering at everything around him and at himself too. He doesn’t want to surface. He wants EVERYTHING to surface by appearing himself. Yes, as if he were writing in a race against death. As if he had been writing in a race against death which was a real presence for him at least since his serious accident as a boy (when he flew out of a moving train which didn’t stop so they could look after him, it just kept going with the suitcase he left behind). All the people in the hospital room died back then except him– of course he couldn’t remember falling out of the train anymore. I believe the period of time between the fall and the hospital room is the only time in his life that he couldn’t recall. And he recalled them all, not at that very moment, at that very moment he was helpless and couldn’t move a single limb, really, not a single one, but later it was as if he recalled them afresh…no, not again but afresh. He multiplied everything by recalling it anew. Something that happens to you, the entire reality you are enclosed in is like a fly in amber, it covers everything. But Schleef was a guy who in the passing of time minute for minute purposely didn’t take down the curtain of obscurity which usually always covers the war of and with the world (so that the war doesn’t notice that people live there). But through the cracks where the curtain is sewn together a bit of light still shimmers through so that you can read by it at least by day if you get very close to it. Schleef accepted obscurity for what it is, let it drop with the thump of a heavy stage curtain, and by letting it drop he raised it again simultaneously. Saved it. I don’t know how that works, otherwise I would do it too. And reading through the sparse cracks of light which fall on the taxt was always too little for him. He had to…transform. Creation as transformation…I know no other word for it. Either transformation through strictly elaborated action, i.e. by means of formations on the stage or transformation and formation in text. And his texts have been lauded too little up to now. They are masterful. I know nothing comparable. They are everything, and they are more than everything. He is the only one I know who has attained that: creating more than everything. Maybe by covering and illuminating people and objects simulaneously so that that giant, dark area brightened solely from those lightstrips, he was able to, like this curtain of obscurity whose lines of light most of us can’t deal with anyway, not even read let alone write by, he was able to make everything more than everything. I can’t really say. Maybe he could have done it by saying something else, something very concrete, something attackable. Writing was life for him, yes, maybe it was that easy. And what he did on stage was life. It was always one to one, but it was never undecided. It was made of crumbs and shreds, maniacally swept together, collected shreds for the puppets of his Punch-and-Judy-Show for children, later for the marionettes, then for those amazing stage costumes, each one of them an obsession, each one of them in its own way obssessed with language, with creating its own language. But likewise it was always that small pile of crumbs swept hurriedly from the table from one cupped hand into the other cupped hand then put into the garbage pail. Except that from each of those crumbs in Scheef’s hands, as ever maniacal, mad, flapping, from each of those crumbs the entire object from which they had crumbled off could be modeled, yes really, I have to say it, could be recreated. And not created just once but at the same time created again and again in parallel worlds which were all equal but never congruent. Everything that had crumbled off created a new world till it all merged into something giantesque, into the sum of all particles, a reversed entropic process: it isn’t disorder that increases till everything is the same. No, millions of disorders grow side by side, they do not merge, each yields side by side its own new universe. Not one but countless universes. Do you need a motor to link you to your past, to your own childhood? That motor was this giant himself, whose feet touched the ground, really, he stood with both feet on the ground. But where was the rest of him? And the awful humiliations that he experienced from this parents, the mother demon taking aimless swings about her, the raging, thrashing father god, they crushed him into those pieces, but each of those pieces rose up again through contact with the ground, a process with the grandeur of the ancients, and created, wrote, brought new pieces on stage. The giant hands of the parents. Whoever has parents, has no idea. He turns out normally. Whoever has parents like these, it is as if the world had been created out of nothing, and that nothing, has also got to create something maniacally itself – and so on. By implanting a feeling of their own worthlessness in their son, because of their hyperdimensionality, which is to say their enormousness, they create something in their son (in case they don’t destroy him completely, this is always a risk of course, of course they also destroyed Einar, but from each of his pieces he became something greater than the destruction could ever have evoked), something that is no longer a son but also not a father, no machine but something that must bear itself constantly, since the woman who bore that person and the father who engendered that person couldn’t be true persons. Yes, I believe that the idiomatic expression (idiom is always right, what it says has been tested for centuries) „that just can’t be true!“ fits Schleef’s parents completely. They couldn’t be true. They couldn’t have existed, this family of giants. What does his, I mean Schleef’s Nietzsche say? Have you invented him already, the ugliest human? Or before that: They created their God and their world out of nothing. No wonder you don’t say enough. Huh? Is everything merely appearance? Is everything a lie! Huh? Is everything suffering and downfall? Everything revolves around making suffer and making downfalls! From these shreds of hand-me-down Nietzsche and from these crumbs and left-overs which are supposed to be swept into one cupped hand from the other hand cupping so that they can be disposed of and hygiene is in command, an Einar Schleef evolves. An arc that completes itself, and woe be it if someone, some Einar (it can’t just be chance that his name is Einar. The name is born ex nihilo like a rock-formation pushing out of the ground, I don’t know anyone else with that name although the name is not uncommon) – if some Einar would turn archer and make a bow of an arc and an arrow which would also be himself. Seeing something meant (I often write about him in the present, it just occurred to me, I had to correct myself, he is past, but naturally he is here and through his diaries he may be even more here than anyone might possibly be) meant that every particle that one sees covers and reveals everything simultaneously. A breadcrumb, the skin of a Thuringian sausage (I’m sure that exists, I’ve just never eaten one), a bone from a roast, if there was once meat on it, are not only there for the purpose of  being disposed of as kaleidoscopic, madcap clicking splinters and particles, organizing themselves into pretty pictures but in the final analysis useless for establishing order on the table, well some sort of order, but rather to create each of these fragments anew out of chaos no matter how small it may be, to evoke it again and again and that being the case to destroy order permanently. Those are Schleef’s diaries, that’s what he was, that was all he did. How can someone learn to tell the truth if he can’t lie, knowingly or willingly, Nietzsche remarks. By recognizing truth only in a part-of-the-whole, a person is immediately confronted by a new lie in each of the parts. And the parent demons whipped Schleef into that state till he couldn’t tell anymore (ditto the superego parents, i.e., the Eastern German State, which simply determined everything a person was supposed to say, believe, think, this superego wasn’t interested in an ego and tolerated no id, only itself – and for that reason Schleef had to create everything afresh, really everything, because it had vanished before him, was forced to create it afresh) what was true and wasn’t. No Matter (that was the name of my play, the one that was supposed to be the last one he directed and which he couldn’t finish because he was finished), it is true what he said. What does the younger son say to the mother he just created for himself, even before she has to return to the earth and he right behind in order to observe her there too? „Take off your panties! Lift up your blouse, also dirty, you see!“ and the Mother: „Naked, you’re not ashamed of anything, clean, of course they’re clean!“ And the younger son, „Undress all the way, the blouse too, you’ve got three pair of panties on top of each other.“ Mother: „I’m cold.“ Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. No one else could have written that but the one who created it, someone who now by means of an incredible act of will reverses that mother demon which actually had given birth to him and creates it himself even if not entirely anew. That is it. The creation is never created entirely anew. It is always old and new simultaneously. That was only possible of course when the mother was almost dead. Before that mothers don’t permit such things, and the fathers sometime vanish too. He never reached his father again, I believe he tried for the rest of his life to reach his father. According to Freud science is the most complete repudiation of the pleasure principle possible for our psychic work. Schleef is lovelife with demons, and those are always mother and father. Mama demon and papa demon. This perpetuum mobile is driven by something that one does not see, something recognized only by its effects, the mother and father forces which cast the artist into the world so that he could create one million worlds himself by touching the ground a million times; and from each of those particles which could never become an object of love in the Freudian sense, text and work have resulted. Einar God who shows his work but not the results because the results are in fact the work. It is the same reverse transmogrification which is subject to darkness when the artist creates this mass of worlds from a thin guideline, no, better, from a thin line of light. Schleef is kind of a Freudian proof that the effectively irreplaceable in the unconscious frequently makes itself known through a dissolution in an infinite line, infinite because each of these surrogates (and what else is art but a surrogate for life?) is always forced to be bereft of eagarly desired satisfaction. Can the unquenchable, no, not pleasure in asking questions as children do (like in Freud) but Schleef’s creative madness be explained in this way? That he doesn’t manage to ask the only question he should have posed: Why am I even alive? How could those giant parent creations bring me into the world, no idea, how the hell, how? The dinosaurs died out millions of years ago. Why is all that there, how can I stand the pressure of that secret that I exist at all? It forces me to communicate, how and when and what all happens and happened. Schleef does not betray what happened despite the temptation as Freud says, despite the fact that he betrays it. He can’t do anything but betray it, he can’t retain anything for himself and he does so without committing a betrayal. That is that love of his that I see in everything that he did, even when it is something awful. Love is always the most awful thing. He just had to do it even though he knew it would destroy him because everything has to destroy everything, the engendered the unengendered just as the unengendered the engendered. At this point his mother would have made the bed and Einar would have unmade it because there are still a few cake crumbs from reading by the light of a flashlight last night there, and he would have pulled six pair of panties out of the bed instead of the crumbs – without the grace of a magician who reveals what was already there thanks to false bottoms and mirrors or whatdoIknow, and he would have said to his mother, his creator, himself being a creator now, regarding the panties: At home you let the things rot, by soaking them in the bucket. Of the six pair of panties I bought you before you went to Braunschweig, two are already mildewed. And his mother would have said: A lie! You lie everytime you open your cakehole! Rot! Me, never bought panties, you? Look in there, take a good look and check. Whaddaya smirking for? Shit, I don’t shit on myself. Dirty, then tell me, get my glasses. So, we’ll drop the figures of speech, they are not a source of excitement for us, they’re a source of naked horror. We won’t look where it drops, the source, but something unstopable comes out of it, it is running, I don’t know what it is for God’s sake I don’t know, I can’t see it, I can’t interpret it, I don’t know anything. Still, I know that everything can be disturbed, the consumption of food, the elimination of food, the final elimination in the soccer World-Championship /that is the absolute final!), the pre-elimination at the tennis competition at Wimbleton, o what, o dear, o why, who cares. The zones, yes, the former Eastern Zone, the zones are badly disturbed, we get excited by concentrating on a cherished object, but what we call excitement is nothing. Nothing comes of it. Schleef’s had – on his way – a direct influence on what came from there, it doesn’t matter, he named it, it doesn’t matter if the name was right or wrong. He named that way which was maybe merely just a narrow strip of light and could only shine through a few hours a day. Most of us would have let it drop carelessly to the ground till it went out completely, the strip of light, when night falls. When nightfall awakens. Then they would have gone out themselves and done something nice. Nothing could muffle Einar Schleef. He brightened everything by introducing himself, as we said, as obscurity itself. Health serves an important function for us: Life. Health did not want to serve him any longer, he did everything better anyway, who needs health. Illness can take care of things just as well. For that reason Schleef will never really be taken care of.

Translation: P.J. Blumenthal

24.2.2004 / 23.10.2005

Einar Schleef
photo: Karin Rocholl, 2001 (part)


Unter dem Lichtspalt © 2005 Elfriede Jelinek


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