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Diego Marcon - Have You Checked the Children


I have to admit it frankly: I, too, belong to the part of the museum public that likes to rush through the exhibition rooms, spend the famous 4 seconds looking at a work since the "Monopol" study and then hurry on. I always enjoy the atmosphere of exhibition spaces more than the actual exhibition itself; the colours, lights, writing, the abundance of cultural artefacts in a protected environment and against an interesting architectural backdrop.

Occasionally, however, I come across works that fascinate me so much that I give them the attention that good works of art always deserve. This was the case with the video "Dolle" by Diego Marcon, installed in the rearmost and sometimes largest room on the ground floor of the Kunsthalle Basel. It features two robots of the cutest kind, namely in the form of fluffy moles (is that where the title of the work comes from? Is it a multilingual corruption of the word "doll" with an Italian plural suffix? I have not been able to find out despite research. What enchanting magic of the unknown!)

The two creatures sit in a room that you quickly recognise as their underground lair and read various series of numbers to each other in Italian. They sit on cosy furniture, wrapped in blankets, in dim light. The cosy atmosphere is complemented by two miniature moles sleeping in the bed, which are probably the children of the arithmetic-loving couple. At first, the viewer is amused by the absurdity of the scene: the eternal squeaky "PIÙÙ" after every single number, the apparently incongruous sums and the resulting frustration of the little animals; the fact that these almost blind creatures can read numbers from an eternally long roll of paper.

However, the longer you watch the almost 30-minute(!) film, the more it becomes an almost transcendental experience. You start to think about the motivation of the calculating moles. You wonder whether it doesn't seem absurd to them too, or whether they are annoyed at having to do such Dadaist Sisyphean labour for a work of art. Then you suddenly realise that this is pure projection and that the characters, however real they may look and seem almost human thanks to their mannerisms, can't really think or feel anything. They only do what they have been programmed to do. If they did something varied that followed a narrative, like in a Disney animated film, the thought of absurdity would not even occur to you. This is despite the fact that the understanding of the protagonists (do you have to gender mole robots? Questions upon questions!) is exactly the same in both an existing adventure and an endless series of numbers, namely an inexistent one.

All these thoughts run through your head as you sit in a trance on a completely impractical and out-of-context metal stand placed in the middle of the room and continue to watch. "SEDICI" "sedici" "PIÙ" "più" "NOVE" "nove". Of course, after the question "Why are the moles doing this?", the basic self-reflective question of contingency is not far away: Why am I doing this to myself? Why is the Kunsthalle doing this? WHY DO WE DO ANYTHING AT ALL IN LIFE?

You briefly lose your composure. Until, on the fourth fade-in of the sleeping children in bed, you discover that there is a little stuffed rabbit in the bed. The little moles have been given a soft toy by their parents to sleep with! The heart fills with love, the bloodstream fills with happiness hormones and the brain thinks: Oh, that's why. That's why we do all this.

Q.U.I.C.H.E. are semi-monthly thoughts about cultural moments in Basel and the surrounding area. Formulated by a loosely organised collective of queer people who dance in the haze of Basel's cultural scene.