Christmas Piece


Finland/UK 2011 | » HD Video | Colour | Stereo | 03’58”


A traditional paradigm of economics lies in viewing the forces of capitalism as the laws of nature: be it the “invisible hand”, be it the centrifugal and centripetal forces of the market which regulate the production and circulation of goods according to Newton’s laws of inertia and centrifugal force. Laws of nature appear to be deliria, states of externalisation, either to be taken into account or to be ruled out. That’s never quite sure.

Using a fixed camera view, David Muth films a man who tampers with a strange installation between a garage and a red van in the deep snow of Finland. An engine that should propel a conifer requires his full attention. But it is still warming up, humming a little, whilst the tree appears to start moving by trembling slightly. Then another man joins in: the machine is tinkered with and hammered on, the drive belt is being helped manually, and finally the tree begins to turn.The men are watching, laughing, and gesticulating towards the camera and off stage. The tree is spinning faster and faster. The engine starts smoking. An attempt is made to save the process, but the tree itself lost balance through the rotation and seems to tilt at any moment. Or to fly. That’s it. One is fanning the smoke away, the other one switches off.

“Beneath all ratio lies delirium, divergence”, Deleuze and Guattari remark on capitalism, and that “the rational is always the rationality of the irrational”. They argue for the liberalisation of desire; for a desire that does not follow a capitalist social order. Since it carries the foundations of the repressive order of power already inscribed on itself, even in the moments of a utopia. “The capital has no exteriority, no other”, Lyotard writes in his reflections on Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. In this sense, Christmas Piece is not a pure allegory on turbo-capitalism and competition creating increasingly shorter cycles of commodity production and consumption. For the apparatus surrounding the rotating Christmas tree doesn’t function as optimisation machine of the productive forces, and the absurdity of the endeavour, as well as the ambiguity of the whole installation are more like sand in the gears of the circulation. The rational of the irrational becomes clear in these efforts of two engineers to win the competition for the fastest rotating Christmas tree. Or is even the cancellation of inertia held out in prospect through the rotation? A catapult that doesn’t deliver a flying tree accurately and on time, but that attacks it? For now the Finnish experiment appears to have failed, but the desire remains.

Text by Claudia Slanar

Concept & Realisation: David Muth, Mechanical Engineering: Pentti Aaltonen, Markku Österman, Special Thanks: Elina Ovaska, Jari Kallio, Tuire Ovaska, Kimmo Modig, Heidi Lind, Maarit Lehtola, Jouna Karsi, Hanna Seppänen, James Auger, Jaakko Aaltonen & Jaska Wigren


The Collection of the Finnish State Art Commission, Helsinki, Finland

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