The only characters who remain upright are the DJ and Ricky—the former playing light, jazzy house music while Ricky does some very casual scatting into the microphone—as well as the marionettes (the SAMOs), who continue dancing, standing, or flying-falling as before. The room remains lit by the undying embers of the cigarettes and cigars still held even by those who are passed out or sleeping in their seats, and by the dregs of absinthe remaining in their glasses. The bartender sleeps on top of the bar. Martin Heidegger III is still underneath the table, which has been set upright. Bart sleeps over by the wall behind the DJ booth, his work only half complete. Through the unbuilt section of wall, darkness. The goat has been reduced to a blackened skeleton over the embers of the fire. After a minute or so of this, a head pokes furtively out the door of the sauna: Zamboni Neuköln. He is a very young man, his facial hair long but thin and scraggly. He wears an eyepatch and a banya hat shaped like a pirate hat. He is medium height but very muscular, his body covered in heart shape tattoos of red, pink, and black. He wears only a speedo bathing suit and a black leather vest. After he has taken a good look around, he gestures silently into the sauna as if to say: “Come on out but keep quiet!” One by one, marionettes begin exiting the sauna. They look identical: the same way of moving, the same body. They each wear an identical towel wrapped around the waist. Once they leave the sauna, they jog up to the wall somewhere throughout the room, take their towels off and pin them up on the wall. The towels are shaped like giant stamps or LSD tabs, their edges defined by the line of perforations along which they have been separated. The towels bear an image of Rainer Werner Fassbinder from his more haggard phase, with a bloated face, wild facial hair, aviator sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, smoking. After the marionettes have pinned their towels up on the wall, they walk to a free place in the room and stand there. This continues for some time, with only Ricky there to take notice, gradually becoming a little nervous but uncertain whether there’s anything to do about it. After the room is perhaps one-third full of marionettes and the walls just as full of RWF towel-posters, the members of the group at the front table begin to wake up from their drunken slumbers. The sun is seen beginning to come up over the horizon through the hole in the wall just as it is finally postered over by a couple marionettes. Zamboni Neuköln continues hurriedly to wave the SAMOs out from the sauna.
The group at the front table: [just beginning to stir, muttering with their bleary eyes struggling to open] Nothing . . . something . . . one . . . two . . . shit . . . from . . . no . . . yes . . . some . . . pixelwixel . . .
Hans: [stretching his arms over his head, speaking through the cigar in the corner of his mouth] Where’d all this gang come from?
Thelma: [catching sight of Zamboni Neuköln through the ever-denser mass of marionette bodies] Who let in that enfant terrible?
Ritalin: Watch it! Don’t you know that’s Zamboni Neuköln?
Hans: Fuck him and fuck this whole image he’s spreading.
Tranx: Oh no! Fassbinder!
Ritalin: I’ve been thinking he could be something significant for this generation. A kind of efficiency . . . maximalist, really . . . so heedless and uncompromising, almost inhuman, counter-dramatic, in how much humanity, how much drama, he was able to embroil in the whole . . . provenance . . . of his lifework.
Thelma: That Zamboni Neuköln can’t just go around acting like such a gangster here while everybody’s sleeping one off. Shouldn’t we get everybody up now?
Tranx: What does it matter? They’re just 2D projections. It’s not like the place is going to fall apart under the weight of them. I mean, up on this mountain . . .
Thelma: But they just keep coming. I can’t take all this distraction. All this optics has to add up to something terribly real . . .
Hans: Fassbinder? What decade are we in? Where does Neuköln think we are? This isn’t really the place for melodrama. We’re supposed to have left the need for all that kind of shit behind. He’s poisoning the atmosphere. Bringing his pseudo film buff shit where it doesn’t belong.
Ritalin: Oh, I don’t know . . . Anyway, I wouldn’t worry so much. Heidegger III’s probably already getting ready to come through that back wall again.
Thelma: No, he’s still sleeping under the table . . .
The room continues to fill up with marionettes and RWF towel-posters. The whole room begins to throb like a loudspeaker cone. Everybody in the room starts to wake up in confusion and anxiety. Under the table, Heidegger starts laughing in his sleep. It is spontaneous and light coming from him under the table, but then it starts to merge with the music coming over the PA system and is transformed into something demonic. Both continue at the same time, the light and spontaneous under the table and the monstrous surround sound. The whole place continues to throb stronger and stronger, the music transformed into nothing but a thick, heavy bassline projected over a bunch of broken speakers, plus the monstrous reverberating laughter. By now, everybody in the room (except Heidegger, the marionettes, and Zamboni Neuköln) is in panic, trying to grab onto something solid to hold themselves still. But they all lose grip, their bodies moving into the airspace above the mass of marionettes and below the ceiling. As they raise up from the ground, the room slowly stops throbbing and shaking. Once they reach the point of hovering in midair above the marionettes, only they are throbbing and shaking as they wave their arms and legs hysterically in a fit of flying-falling. No more marionettes come out of the sauna: there is no more floor space left empty; the walls are full of towel-posters as well. The marionettes go slack and would all fall to the ground under the force of gravity if there were room for their bodies to reposition themselves. The giant spurs on Ricky’s cowboy boots can be seen flaring up in the background, his giant falconer’s glove cutting like the blade of a windmill through the air. His falcon flies past and squawks. Only the Korean DJ has been lost in all the commotion. Then, a small green arm with little spines like a budding saguaro cactus arm emerges from the mass of marionettes at the front of the stage, carrying a stack of records.
The background is a chessboard in Central Park. The background of that is a bureaucratic office space. And beyond that, a bold blue sunny sky lined by a few vapor trails. The office equipment and furniture roughly resemble the skyline of New York City around the park. Bureaucrats hurry around making photocopies, verifying titbits of information with each other, giving and taking orders, typing, making phone calls, joking wryly around the water cooler (a skyscraper at Hudson Yards). Frank Lloyd Wright and Frederick Law Olmsted sit at the chessboard, intensely focused on play, with occasional pointed glances at their surroundings. And in the foreground, a mountain plateau. There is a wide flat surface checkered with the same image of RWF as on the towel-posters in the previous scene. Over this surface, a group of people circle around and dance on roller skates with wheels that light up as they spin. There is a PA system set up around the dance floor. The young Korean DJ is playing records at a simple collapsible table on which her equipment is set up. The DJ is still a young girl—at a closer look, twelve-years-old at most. Small saguaro cactus arms, only a bit bigger than her own limbs, stick out of her body in various places, including the top of her head. Her legs are spiky green stumps, like the twin trunks of one of these desert icons. On the whole, her body is more cactus than human. Each of the cactus arms as well as the trunk sticking up through her head is topped with a hat in various colours and styles, tastefully matched. Small rodents, birds, and fish, as well as old T-shirts, soda cans, candy and chip bags, umbrellas, sausages, hamburgers, and noodles are punctured on or draped over the sharp spines of her cactus branches. She has an unaffected, stoical style of playing, yet her whole body dances in place—for not only are her very minimal movements distributed throughout her entire body, but the cactus arms also amplify these subtle movements by radiating out from their centre. She wears tea shade sunglasses with hologrammatic mirrored lenses. She of course smokes a cigar along with everyone else present. We hear only scraps of what she plays, an eclectic mix: perhaps “I Know You, I Live You” by Chaka Khan, “Take Me Home” by Cher, “Crazy Arms” by Waylon Jennings, “Take Me Higher” by Virgo Four, “Everyone's Gone to the Movies” by Steely Dan, and some Detroit or maybe Windsor techno. Mostly, we hear the following conversation:
FLW: I say it’s a good thing all that’s behind us now.
FLO: It took me a while to change my point of view, but I’m happy to be here, now, just the two of us.
FLW: Well, not exactly here . . . not exactly there either . . .
FLO: Right, well, the old way of speaking still has its purpose—if only efficiency. You and I know a thing or two. We say one thing and mean another, or just mean more, and yet we understand each other fully.
FLW: Each in our own little heaven. How is it over there, by the way?
FLO: Oh, beautiful. Couldn’t be better. Mary and I just conceived again. And already in the womb, they conceived a new kind of tree. Out of practically no experience whatsoever. Certainly not with any trees.
FLW: Ho-ly! I’d have to see that to believe it.
FLO: Well, you know, I only noticed it last night when Mary was bending over to take her stockings off. It was, so to speak, presented to us as a gift. Coming out of the, you know . . . ?
FLW: Oh, how precious.
FLO: Yeah, it was Mary’s birthday. And how is it with your region of the clouds?
FLW: Oh, very well. I finished the hearth last night.
FLO: Oh, well done! You’ve been working on that for ages.
FLW: Well, when you’re dealing with cosmic time, you finally feel as though you can take an afternoon off every once in a while—to play chess here with you, for instance. Anyways, I needed the right stone. And it took a while to find my way around this place. But you should see the warmth radiating around this hearth!
FLO: Maybe some cards over mulled wine next week?
FLW: We’ll see. I’m having Louis over to work on the designs for the new sun.
FLO: Already? But I thought it’s not due for another couple million epochs, at least.
FLW: That’s true, but the timing will be quite tricky. We of course don’t plan to give any hint of what’s in the works until the lights are already . . . almost out.
FLO: Haha, cosmic pranksters.
FLW: Your park is still looking good. I’m not so sure about the skyline . . .
FLO: Still in doubt? There’s something so . . . godlike about Hudson Yards.
FLW: The viewing platform—like on one of those German toilets. My intuitions of course always took me in quite different directions, and now I begin to see why. Or rather, more and more I feel affirmed. The irony: a supposedly quintessential American architecture finally made in the shape of a German toilet . . . for the gods [They both laugh]. The royal throne they deserve! Humans . . .
FLO: Yeah . . . humans. I’m coming around again now. I mean, I championed everything human when I was living here, but it’s been a while since then . . .
FLW: You learn a thing or two at our age. Not like when we were so young and alive, everything beyond our own imaginations seen only as a hindrance to the highest ideals.
FLO: The damn bureaucrats. Yes, you come to pity that little slice of reality when you get to the point of always already being able to see it in a kind of rearview perspective.
FLW: Even so, right now I seem only to imagine that someday somebody will clean up the trash around the park’s perimeter as well, just as you conjured this park out of the sufficient trash before, more or less . . .
FLO: Ahh yes, the sufficient trash . . . The hazards we both faced: my landscapes and your homesteads. There’s a lot of fragility there. Somebody can always come along afterwards and build something over them.
FLW: But all the various ambivalent impressions aside, I’d like to the think we’re both doing pretty well down here, despite our mixed habitation with the wild beyond . . . schnapps?
FLO: Himmelbeeren? Oh, yes please! What a nostalgic little day we’re having here . . . Check-check, check one, check two, mate!
End of Prologue
Act 1: Seascape from New York
Keep in mind that the first scene would be best viewed on an angle looking down from above. It might be possible to accomplish this by having the audience sit in the balconies, or else by staging the scene on an inclined plane. The stage is filled mostly with the scene of a play. As you will see, the area for the scene must be very large. In the foreground, at the very edge of the stage, perhaps even in the pit or on the ramp, there are a few audience members visible. It should be clear that they are in the play. However, as much as possible, the scene that they are watching must command the attention on stage, so that we are largely watching what they are watching. The sun is below the horizon, but there is still a comparatively pale band of azure over the buildings in the background of modern low-rise apartment buildings, lots of glass and steel painted white, bold cylindrical bannisters on the balconies. The sky above is a deep dark blue but mixed with the yellow streetlight the effect in the corner of the eye is a blackening purple. In the foreground but set back enough so that even those in the front rows can get a pretty good view of the whole scene, a traffic circle: Rathenauplatz, Berlin. Wolf Vostell’s “Two Concrete-Cadillacs in the Form of the Naked Maja.” Yellow streetlight off the grimy, cracked, stained concrete of the sculpture. The front end of one Cadillac from the top of the windshield forward extends at a downward angle out from the concrete encasement. It is exposed except for thin slabs over the windshield and half of the hood and front grill but is nevertheless even more caked in dirt than the rest, like the concrete in a parking garage, tunnel, alleyway, or the space below a bridge frequented by the homeless, covered in indiscriminate dirt. It is angled down, sitting on a kind of ramp so that we are looking down on the windshield, hood, and front grill. Both the ramp and the car on top of it bisects another, vertical block of concrete. Another Cadillac is stood on end in side profile beside it, only its wheels exposed, its whole form on this side otherwise submerged in an arching block of concrete, an aerodynamic sabre, with a long thin divot in the concrete suggesting a futuristic windshield (always somehow less exposed of the people of the future, but more exposed to them) or else an anachronistic one (like an old tank), but already petrified here in any case. At the irregular base of the concrete portion of the sculpture a kind of garden square, or else a graveyard, of many fragments of marble slab sticking up out of the ground. (Images can easily be looked up). It is perhaps the end of a balmy day in winter, getting on toward spring. There is no sign of snow. There is a bit of green in the matted-down grass, but it is mostly yellow and there are brown patches here and there. Cars drive around the traffic circle on a fairly consistent basis, the red of their taillights punctuating the commanding spectrum of dark blues. Occasionally, the tires on a car driving a bit too fast screech from the g-force. On the other side of the traffic circle, in front of the apartment buildings in the background, the green and yellow neon lights of a gas station canopy, the shop below still open on this beautiful Sunday evening at a crossroad between upper-class suburbs.
The next thing you know, a young man walks into the front of the scene and crosses the road from the nearside of the traffic circle to its centre. He is wearing traditional hipster attire of the lower alps: tight jeans, a bomber jacket, and some kind of hat that might have been worn by an official, whether a policeman or a postman, in times gone by. His hair is quite long with wavy curls. He somewhat resembles Al Pacino’s character in Cruising, except he has a moustache. He cuts straight across the road toward the sculpture, heedless of the traffic. A car swerves and honks but he pays little attention to it. He walks straight up to the sculpture and undoes his pants button to take a casual piss. Another car sees him and honks as it drives around the circle. Once he’s finished, he walks around the sculpture in order to then continue the same straight line to the gas station. A minute later he comes out with an armful of beers and walks back to the sculpture. Once there, he sets the beers down around the square of marble slabs, stepping diligently through them to open one of the beers on the sculpture. He is clearly respectful of the sculpture, perhaps only making himself familiar with it in his own way, but he is also a bit of a numbskull. On the first try, a bit of concrete crumbles off the edge of the sculpture. On the second try, the neck of the bottle breaks off. He again steps diligently between the marble slabs for another beer and then back and this time opens it with his lighter. He leans his ass against the hood of the one Cadillac and lights up a cigarette, taking in his surroundings. Soon, a woman with a stroller walks into the scene on the sidewalk around the traffic circle. When the young man notices her, he walks somewhat more hurriedly through the slabs, but this time loses his footing in his haste, making a last leap in order to fall outside of the square of jagged marble, barrel rolling over the lawn but making sure to save the beer and cigarette from spilling or breaking. He doesn’t stop after the fall, just gets up and keeps walking eagerly toward the woman with the stroller. This time he has to jump back to avoid being hit by a car. But, again, he just continues straight on his way. His interaction with the woman is silent, or at least the audience can’t hear anything. Perhaps he doesn’t know German and doesn’t want to assume she speaks English. His lips are moving vaguely, or uncertainly, during the interaction, but he seems to use mostly gestures in communicating to her that he would like her to take his picture in front of the sculpture with his cellphone. She is confused and a bit annoyed, particularly as he is not entirely conscientious with his cigarette smoke and is even so presumptuous as to lean down to say hi to the baby. If only to get him away from the stroller, the woman accepts his phone and gestures for him to pose for the camera in front of the sculpture. He crosses the road and stands in front of it, still and straight. Then he does one with his thumb up in front of his chest, elbow up and out to the side, cigarette in the corner of his smiling mouth. He goes back to retrieve his phone. As the woman quickly moves away, the man makes a slight bow with his hands clasped around his beer and can be heard saying, “Danke danke danke.” The woman murmurs a single “Bitte.” Then the man walks back over to the sculpture and resumes his post.
This next part must be sped up, for it would otherwise be too repetitive and slow and uneventful to hold the attention of the audience before what comes next, and yet it is important for the content and the feel of the drama. As night continues to take the place of the descending day, the young man drains his several beers to the last and even restocks at one point, steering his off-kilter, bleary-eyed frankfurter casing of a self over to the gas station and back. He familiarizes himself with various perspectives onto the sculpture and from it down to the traffic circle and the surrounding suburbs. He lays back on the exposed hood of the one Cadillac and contemplates the stars. He grimaces, grunts, strokes his moustache, sits cross-legged in the grass before the nude, idly picking a few blades as he squints into her beauty laid bare under the streetlights. He lights some tea candles left between and on top of the marble slabs, but only two or three, the results more or less without effect. He perches himself at various points and in various positions atop the sculpture, affording greater proximity to the sky or a better perspective on the dim surroundings. An old man passes by and the young man whistles to gain his attention, waving him over for a drink. They clink bottles and exchange a few words but are rather impenetrable to each other, not only because of the language barrier, and for the rest remain in silent enjoyment of the elements within and without. The old man could be retired, divorced, widowed, and/or married. His motives for pausing here from his walk aren’t necessarily clear. Perhaps he, too, just appreciates another view on the public artwork in its everchanging context, penetrating the specious wall of consistency rung around it by the unending years of traffic. The vehicles change, the people change, the weather changes, the sculpture does a good job of weathering, but all this is too easily drowned out in the ceaseless vehicular drone. The older man is happy there. But he is just as happy when he leaves the young man where he found him. The young man drinks himself drunk and eventually trips over his own shadow onto the soft wet ground, taking this opportune moment to call it a night as he pulls his jacket tight to his balled-up body in the season of still-cool nights and falls asleep sotted, content, and bemused. But before he does, he plays some white noise sounds on his phone to help him fall and stay asleep amid the traffic, which lessens but doesn’t quit.
Curtain (except for the few audience members, who remain without, still in play)
1st Audience member: Who the fuck is this hipster spaz?
2nd Audience member: I don’t know, not my idea of an everyman.
1st Audience member: No. I meant—what’s his name?
2nd Audience member: Oh, yeah, I didn’t mean . . . I mean, interesting choice of character for this role. I think his name is Padraig.
Suddenly the curtain quickly rises again. This scene is better shown from a bit closer up and on a level. For example, the road before the traffic island may no longer be in the scene, only the road as it curves around the far side of the sculpture. It is now morning. Sunny with a few clouds. The traffic is thicker than it’s been up to now, but still moving well. Padraig is still on the grass, but he is now lying on his back with his arms at his sides, straight as a pencil. The sound of a rotating fan still drones into his ear from the phone in the grass beside his head. His hat rests on top of his face. A woman of around the same age, perhaps a bit older, walks into the scene from the roughly the same direction as Padraig at the beginning of the previous one, but cautiously. She does not force her way across but waits for an opening in the traffic, although of course this cannot be directly seen by the audience. She is also perhaps a bit confused at what she is walking into as she approaches Padraig. She makes gestures of uncertainty, stopping to consider how to proceed, or even thinking about something else which she would prefer to be doing right now. She is smartly but casually dressed. She wears a hat and sunglasses. She slowly paces in alternating directions around Padraig’s stock-still prostrate corpse. Then she lightly whistles, similarly to how Padraig whistled for the attention of the old man. Padraig remains stock-still except for the arm by which he removes the hat from his face, returning it then to his side. Next, he sits up (without bending and perhaps without even using his arms, his upper half from the head to the waist remaining as straight as possible). Then he puts the hat on his head and sits cross-legged. He squints as he looks up at the woman, the sun in his face.
Padraig: Hello, it’s you. Top of the morning, Charlotte.
Charlotte: [she speaks English with an accent, perhaps Eastern European] Padraig, have you been here all night?
Padraig: [yawning as he reaches for the phone] Hold on, let me put some music on. Need to wake up properly. Let’s see . . . what’s good? . . . mmm here [puts on Hans Nieswandt’s disco mix of “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright”] . . . hey, beautiful day we’ve got.
Charlotte: [impatient, annoyed] Padraig, what the fuck is going on?
Padraig: [responding in a manner which might be interpreted as avoiding the question in the most ingenuous way possible] Oh . . . [looking around] we were just . . . hrmm . . . I was just . . . I didn’t want to be late and I knew I’d be drinking so I figured I’d just sleep here.
Charlotte: Padraig, none of this makes any sense. I mean, we didn’t have to meet here, at this time. There were places you could have slept.
Padraig: [long-winded] Well, yeah, but this place was on my itinerary. Time is precious, you know. I’ve planned it all out. I don’t have infinite time left. Sleep doesn’t matter so much to me at the moment. Trust me, this was the best way. Very reasonable. Very pragmatic. You might say we’re killing two . . . we’re multitasking. Logistics, metabolics, the whole body . . . the whole brain-body complex . . . I was thinking about you, too. I thought you said it fit into your schedule as well.
Charlotte: Paddy, let me be upfront: the only the reason I met with you is that I need the money. You owe me, like, 800 euros.
Padraig: Really, 800? I have the rent here, but . . .
Charlotte: The rent plus the food you ate and the wine you drank and the fines you incurred for illegal downloads and the cigarettes you smoked when I was gone plus your share of the pill plus the abortion when the pill didn’t work. I need all of it.
Padraig: Shit . . . [ironically] You know Charlotte, I can’t handle all this math until I’ve had a coffee . . .
Charlotte: [extremely impatient] Well you should have gotten up earlier! . . . Listen, I have to go to work. But first I need the money. I don’t expect we’ll ever see each other again. You want your two fucking birds? There’s coffee and a Geldautomat over at the Tankstelle. I don’t mean to be a bitch but can we please just get this over with?
Padraig: [hearing her but only in a very abstracted way as he takes in the surroundings, a kind of faux meditative openness, struggling to take in stride everything occurring within and around him, rather humming than speaking his response as he slowly gets up] Scheiße . . . naja . . . okay . . . keine Scheiße . . . aber wohin . . . geradeaus . . . zumzumzoom . . . to the Tankstelle . . . die Denkscheiße.
[In her impatience, Charlotte grabs him by the hand and almost walks straight into a car, but Padraig stops her. It was very close. She is visibly shaken, but also still visibly irritated by his attempt to calm her down.]
Padraig: [his voice fading as they walk across the road to the gas station] You know, this is kind of perfect . . .
1st Audience member: Okay, this is too much . . .
2nd Audience member: Or, not enough?
[During the delivery of these lines, Padraig and Charlotte go into the gas station and come out more or less immediately. Padraig has a coffee in hand and a beer tucked under his armpit on the same side, with a handful of bills in the other hand. He is struggling to manage it all as they approach the road again.]
Padraig: [handing her the stack of bills] Why don’t you just count it out for yourself? My hands are full . . . and you know how much it is. [Lighthearted, as if finally waking up in the new sun] I’m not one to take on more than I can handle . . .
Charlotte: [counting out her money, but also suddenly in a different mood now] Well, to be honest, I’m happy I don’t have to go to work now. It’s nice to spend the morning taking in some public art.
Padraig: Yeah, it really does feel kind of perfect to me. A whole artificial ecosystem unto itself circulating around this sculpture: the island, the circle, the road leading up, the road leading away, that gas station . . . I hate traffic circles as much as anybody. And everybody with an opinion on the matter hates traffic circles. I’ve never heard anybody say they liked them. But all that seems to unravel here. A museum-grade experience at a traffic circle. Can’t complain about that. Beautiful . . .
Charlotte: Hmm . . . haha . . .
Charlotte: I just had an evil thought. I thought, all it really needs is an accident, maybe a couple bodies.
Padraig: Needs? For what?
Charlotte: I don’t know. That’s all I thought. Maybe that’s where the evil lies.
Padraig: Well, it had me for a body last night. And this other guy.
Charlotte: Another guy slept here with you?
Padraig: Haha, just kidding. No, I invited this old guy over for a beer.
Charlotte: What did you talk about? He’s from around here?
Padraig: Nothing. I don’t know. I assume so. He was just out for a walk.
Charlotte: I can’t believe you just slept out here on the grass like a fucking homeless person.
Padraig: Why? I’m sure it’s been done before. People have probably driven circles around this thing like they were doing the Hajj. Except maybe they were drunk. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’ve been more than a few accidents.
Charlotte: Some accidental pregnancies, even.
Padraig: Some accidental abortions . . .
Charlotte: Now that’s going too far . . .
Padraig: I’m just exhausting the logical combinations. Want some beer?
[Charlotte takes the bottle and drinks. They walk around the sculpture. The traffic is a bit fuller and slower now. A couple of cars have circled around it a few times, although it may be unclear whether this is representative or just for the sake of economy in the staging—that is, it could be that there’s really supposed to be more traffic or it could just be that it’s not flowing through.]
Charlotte: The plaque says 1987. I wonder what it was like around here back then, before the wall came down?
Padraig: Do you know anything about the performance? What’s with the marble? Actually, there probably haven’t been any accidents. I don’t see any signs of one.
Charlotte: We’re quite useless, aren’t we?
Padraig: Well, shit. At least we showed up.
[They smile at each other and continue to walk in circles around the sculpture in a clockwise direction, i.e. opposite that of the automobile traffic. She puts her arm through the crook of his elbow, his hand in his coat pocket. With the other hand he looks at his phone.]
Padraig: Hmm . . . I assumed “Maja” was some kind of goddess. Because of the grammar I think, “The Naked Maja.” But it’s actually after the painting by Goya depicting a naked maja, a type of lower-class Spanish woman.
Charlotte: Oh, haha, I thought you knew.
Padraig: I never read the art books. I just look.
Charlotte: I read the second time. The first is for looking.
Padraig: Yeah, I intend to do that, too, but never get around to it. Somehow it always feels like a misfortune to have to go through a book a second time, and I always want to avoid misfortune, haha.
[Reading from Wikipedia on his phone]
Majo (masc.) or maja (fem.), also manolo and manola, after the most popular names, were people from the lower classes of Spanish society, especially in Madrid, who distinguished themselves by their elaborate outfits and sense of style in dress and manners, as well as by their cheeky behavior. They flourished from the late 18th to early 19th century, and to some extent later. Majos and majas were one of the favorite subjects of some 19th-century Spanish painters.
The majo’s and maja’s outfits were exaggerations of traditional Spanish dress. The style stood in strong contrast to the French styles affected by many of the Spanish elite under the influence of the Enlightenment. Majos were known to pick fights with those they saw as afrancesados ("Frenchified" – fops).
In Spanish, the word possesses derived forms such as chulapo and chulapa, a version of chulo and chula in reference to their saucy attitude, as well as chispero and chispera, among others.
Charlotte: Hmm . . . How would you interpret this, then?
Padraig: Well, normally I wouldn’t. I would prefer to drive . . .
Charlotte: Is it the relevant information, I wonder, or is it something specific to the painting.
Padraig: The “maja” in the Prado and the “maja” here on this traffic circle. The yuppies here driving around their very own bourgeois maja every day on their way to work.
Charlotte: And back. But in the end they are concrete Cadillacs, not majas, or not a maja. And they aren’t really naked either. Or at least the Cadillacs aren’t. Maybe the concrete Cadillacs are.
Padraig: Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been here but never to the Prado that the traffic circle appeals to me more. Or . . . at least in this case. Maybe not in Goya’s case.
Charlotte: [ironic] Oh, and where do we go from here?
Padraig: The internet.
Charlotte: “Ethereum block in the form of the two concrete Cadillacs.” [They laugh]
Padraig: But do these bastards deserve it? Do they even recognize its existence?
Charlotte: So what if they don’t? Personally, I like the thought that we’re the only ones really paying attention even as all these cars have to notice at least enough to avoid driving into it.
Padraig: Maybe . . . but we’re in Germany. The public recognizes stuff like this here . . . so I hear.
[By now the traffic has become noticeably denser. Over the course of the following bit of dialogue, it fairly quickly escalates and takes on a constant, seemingly rather precarious pace. Perhaps the scene could somehow be shifted further back away from the audience so that the stage includes also the nearside of the traffic circle. In any case, it is now clear that it is the same cars driving around in circles because their passengers are holding onto protest flags unfurled in the wind. There is a screeching of tires and a honking of horns. The flags and banners say many different kinds of things, for example: “Nieder mit der Scheiss-impfungen!” “Ich liebe Truckers” “We love a trucker convoy” “Zukunft=Cryptocurrencies” “Truckers geh heim” “Fick mich Vitalik!” “Fick dich Faschist/in!” “Fick dich Scheiß-verkehr” “Fick mich Scheiß-verkehr” “Pflastern die Planet” and whatever else you can come up with that ranges from the vaguely appropriate to the humorous and absurd, and without regard for unity or consistency, or even proper German idiom or grammatical correctness.]
Charlotte: Hey, have you noticed that the same cars keep driving around the circle . . . driving in circles around the circle?
Padraig: No, I wasn’t paying attention to the traffic. But it does seem as though we have a couple Vostell heads forming a kind of . . . traffic gauntlet . . . around the sculpture. [to the circling cars] Hey there, brothers!
Charlotte: [reproachful] There are women there too!
Charlotte: But I don’t think they’re here for the sculpture. Look at the flags!
Padraig: What do they say? I can barely read them they’re driving so fast. I can see they’re mostly in German. Something about truckers, and shit, and Vitalik Buterin. Where have we come to?
Charlotte: Look at the traffic. How will we ever get off this island?
Padraig: It’s just a little protest. How long can it last?
[The traffic racing around the circle reaches a kind of saturation point where no more cars could possibly fit. Scared, Charlotte and Padraig have grabbed hold of each other. Suddenly, a car veers too tightly to the inside and skids into the centre of the circle to avoid an even worse multicar collision, crashing into one side of the sculpture. It barely misses Charlotte and Padraig. The driver appears to have been killed or knocked unconscious. Another car quickly takes its place around the circle.]
Charlotte: Padraig! What the hell is going on? We almost died!! What the fuck are we going to do?
Padraig: Quick!! In here. [He leads her to the crashed vehicle, managing to force the door open and to shove the driver over to passenger’s side, which is closer and more exposed to the road, making room for the two of them on the other more protected side. They are tightly embraced in the driver’s seat. The island quickly becomes concealed by dust and exhaust fumes. Other cars are visible at the edge of the scene, waiting for an entrance into the traffic circle.]
Padraig: You know, earlier I was surprised at what you said, about the money. I thought we were meeting to spend the day together. Because I’m supposed to leave soon.
Charlotte: What ever made you think that?
Padraig: I don’t know. Maybe just my wishes.
Charlotte: Well, to be honest, you know when I had that evil thought, I also had another thought of you and I driving around this island in circles with, like, cans on strings trailing behind like we’d just been married. It was only a split second, but I imagined us driving around at a dangerous speed, touching each other with those cans banging around on the pavement behind . . . I guess it was a kind of weird premonition. What are we going to do if they don’t stop?
[By now we can’t see anything of what’s going on inside the traffic circle, but the dialogue is still clearly audible.]
Padraig: My friends are on their way with beer. Maybe they’ll think of something.
Charlotte: You invited your friends? But what about your itinerary? The logistics of your plan, multitasking? And just now you said we were supposed to spend the day together?
Padraig: Yeah, exactly, the itinerary. And I thought you were the artist. What, you don’t know how to look at a sculpture?
[About fifteen or twenty seconds after their outlandish banter comes to stop, it sounds as though they are beginning some kind of sexual act in the front seat of the car. At this point, the two audience members from before get up one after the other.]
1st Audience member: That’s it. I’m out!
2nd Audience member: I’m with you there. Peace! [They exit, making a show of their disapproval]
The scene is a railroad style bar and restaurant in the basement of Grand Central Station, NYC. The room is exceptionally long and exceptionally narrow, most likely much longer and narrower than the stage itself. A bar extends down almost the entire length to one side, from the entrance almost to the very back, where the bathrooms are and where some space has been left for musicians. There is only enough room to sit at the bar. There may be a few stools but no tables or countertops on the other side of the room. Currently, there is a trio playing in the back, consisting of a stand-up bass player, a saxophone player, and a DJ. They are all dressed in beige trench coats and deerstalker hats and wear dark sunglasses. They are very serious and alert in demeanour. The saxophonist and the bass player are exceptionally skillful in their improvisational style of play. Only the DJ’s role is questionable. He manipulates the digital turntables and mixer and fiddles around on three or four laptops, but the only noises that seem to arise from it are static, crackling, high-pitched feedback, and strange boops and bleeps like on an old sonar system, which he perhaps loops, distorts, or filters in order to add a vaguely musical quality to them. On the whole, however, it is difficult to listen to. Train noises also wash in from the bowels of the station. At the beginning, the barroom is empty of patrons except for a few degenerate-looking characters seated at the bar about halfway down the room. There is a youngish, attractive woman who could pass either as an upscale sex-worker or a professional who is perhaps facing a career or midlife crisis. Her clothing is expensive but a bit disheveled. She talks to a good-looking young man sitting beside her, but he seems more intent on the music than on her boisterous rambling. He is perhaps occasionally annoyed by her inconsiderately wild gesticulations. On the other side of the young woman there is an older man who could be senile but retains an air of dignity and independent will. He stares rather vacantly at the mirror behind the bar but appears generally content. He bobs his head very slightly to the music, but otherwise moves only to sip on some cranberry juice. The woman also tries to engage the attention of the bartender. There is only one bartender role, but the actors who play it change every time they go into the back room where the kitchen is. Nobody seems to notice. In fact, as will be seen, they tend to respond quite naturally (so, not quite obliviously), with a few exceptions. The bartenders wear uniforms consisting of white dress shirts with black ties. But they themselves are very differently proportioned, from dwarves who have to hop up on stools to see over the bar to giants who crane their necks down to avoid hitting their heads against the ceiling, from tall skinny women with breasts so large they must wear back braces to little fat boys who have to jump and pull themselves up to sit on the counter in order to interact with the patrons. The bar appears classic, an “institution,” at once cozy and energized, confined but dynamic. And yet it is furnished in an ad-hoc, spontaneous, improvised, scrappy, trashy way—a product of a certain sort of taste, but certainly not to everyone’s taste. The construction should be relatively easy, fun, and inexpensive, although the clean-up might at first seem a daunting task (it’s never so bad, in the end). One may let the following descriptions, however precise, stand as guides and examples, without needing to take them as strict directives: the bar itself should be irregular but continuous as it extends down the length of the bar. It widens and narrows, with only two or three places where it suddenly diverges, in a concave or a convex formation (some of it cantilevered, perhaps), from its broad swoop to the back. Most of this irregularity occurs on the side of the patrons. The space behind the bar is a more or less straight isle up and down which the bartenders move. The bar is made mostly of a single material, such as cardboard, sheet metal, foam insulation, or maybe foldable tables webbed together with cardboard and tinfoil, tacked together by appropriate means. On the wall behind the bar, around the midpoint, there is a liquor cabinet, vaguely neo-gothic in its inspiration. Expanding all around this cabinet’s edges there is a large mirror of irregular cut—whether jagged, rounded, or mixed. It is perhaps cracked in places but held together by transparent tape, and especially around the edges the mirror seems to dissolve in a sharded mosaic. Stickers and paint may be used sparingly on this mirror. Another mirror on the other wall parallels this mirror. In the place of the liquor cabinet, however, there is a collage made of cutouts from various posters or handmade paintings of Hannah Schygulla. Along the length of wall on the patron’s side of the bar, wainscoting of tinfoil, cardboard, black garbage bags taped together, or chain-link fencing extends almost to the ceiling. In the space between—right below the ceiling—there is a kind of gallery display of very small drawings, paintings, or wall-mounted sculptures. They are distributed at intervals in an even line across the wall. The room is lit by old televisions mounted in the ceiling or held in fixtures attached to the walls, their light modified and cast against the mirrors in the bar to produce an inviting, comfortable, fairly even glow. The floor is tiled white and black and the ceiling is covered with punched tin. The audience can see into the bar from just outside the station concourse. Any parts of stage outside a thin margin just outside the bar entrance must be submerged in darkness. Cindy Mulleimer and Harry Bilgewater can be heard approaching the entrance.
Cindy: . . . [responding to Harry] I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Tin Lizzy. Pretty good example, though. If you listen to what they’re saying, they usually seem to be cumming