blackbirdonline journalSpring 2012  Vol. 11  No. 1
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translation by Brian Henry

The museum of museum guards

One can hear the cashier in all five exhibition rooms. While she speaks into the handset, which she holds away from herself, as if doing this for the first time, the sole museum guard shoves her head between the handset and her ear. They both stare, mouths open. Their years continually call them into retirement, but amid their chatter they are just thirteen years old again, locked in a wardrobe with a telephone. There is no one, only a voice. For them, the one from the handset, for me, the one who is responding. Nene, we have one inside, I can’t now, I’ll gladly let you know if I love you, when he goes. Stereo giggle. In this way they probably were revived by sugar, arranged by cases, the carnality of images of black slaves, painfully bent over sugarcane, shadowy Prussian factories of sweets, statistics and specimens of sugar beet, floating forever in formaldehyde. Keepers of bulletproof art, eunuchs of catalogued knowledge, sphinxes on the lookout for visitors’ terrorism. The only museum that in this city of museums is still missing, not flaunting portraits or statues, audio installations, minerals, preparations, chocolate or star charts. The museum of all museums would display the museum guards. In the long periods of existence between exhibits, their bodies internalized what was on display. Their cheeks grew for decades after Schinkel’s plans, the guard’s pupa-head à la Schad and neck guard, which looks like it has mingled with Nefertiti since kindergarten. To enter the museum of guards would be to enter all museums. The guard in the Ethnological Museum, who had fallen asleep with his head leaning on a case of Peruvian ritual tumi, was, if one judged by his pose, already decapitated a few times while asleep. In the first room of the museum of all museums, a sleeping head would be displayed separately in one case and the snoring in the second. In other rooms there would be guards displayed in continual action. A young girl, who walks with goose steps through the small exhibition rooms full of Menzel. After four steps, which she takes like a periscope eye turning, at the fifth she opens a book, which she carries high in front of herself, with her thumbs dug into it. As if she, closed in a shell, is for the moment the exhausted spasmodic muscle of a mussel. After a step and a half she ducks a glance into the book and at the sixth step again dives with her head to the surface. The book is closed like a shell again and the counting of four steps begins anew. As if swimming breaststroke through the gallery. When she splashes through the air around me, I notice that she is learning Chinese characters during the demonstration of highly original guard kinetics. But still other exhibits would belong to the museum of museum guards. Instead of the hunched figure of the guard from the Märkisches Museum, only an empty chair, which quivers during the jingle, would be displayed. As if summoning crucial judgments for a proclamation, every twenty seconds the bell of the Royal panorama rings. The century before, circular wooden structures with twenty-four small windows still stood next to one of Berlin’s promenades and cheered up small Walter Benjamins with three-dimensional photographs. While eyes stared motionlessly, and with sweaty hands, propped against red plush, the world revolved. A bell announced every turn. A beginning was everywhere, and although these times and beginnings are past, the ringing has not stopped yet. As if she would have to pay for all who once enjoyed the panorama, she sits depressed in the corner, a poor tortured creature, a guard with corks in her ears in the Märkisches Museum. For the grand finale of the museum of museum guards, perhaps even for the encore, it would have to be a guard from the third floor of the National Gallery. Between attempts to bring the Italian Renaissance and German Romanticism closer together, it resounds, so that the marble in the columns starts to shake and the faces of boys and girls on the paintings flush. The museum, in which the exhibits protect themselves alone, will end with a room with a display of the fart of a guard, an act inspired by classical art, a gesture of pure, organic creative expression, without restraint and without apology.  end

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