A New Frontier of Virtual Value and Stetsons



Since 1997, the art collaborative the eteam, aka Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger, has been creating events, installations and videos that explore the way environmental changes affect how people act. With their jump suits and plastic Stetsons, delivering their conceits in surrealist deadpan style, this duo from Mannheim are the Devo of urban development.

Their 2002 video 1.1 Acre Flat Screen documents the eteam’s purchase of a barren lot in the deserts of Utah with the aim of building on it layers of “virtual improvement.” They view the land as “a productive generator of ideas, concepts and dreams,” one of which is to revive the romantic vision of the new frontier. But because train stops had caused settlements to sprout in the old west, the eteam believe they can lure people to their land by getting a train, on nearby tracks, to stop. Over a soundtrack wrested from old westerns and Sade, the “modern train stoppers” begin brainstorming methods of train stops, like harnessing a train with a rope affixed to two helicopters, setting up large billboards to engage train conductors, and, finally, by selling sodas at the side of the road.

Two years later, in The Paradox of the 10 Acre Square, again, the eteam purchase land, but this time they attempt to prevent traffic flow across their property on a road that runs right through it. While the concept of this video seems at odds with that of 1.1 Acre, isolation as opposed to rr_tracks2community building, the eteam are consistently concerned with the stop and flow of traffic and how structures can be used to manipulate the manner in which people move and interact.

Or are they? You may wonder, What is the point? Is the Paradox that the purpose of the second video undermines that of the first? Or, that to wonder what is the point is the point? Are they laughing at you? Still, you may become obsessed with their satellite mapping, the increasing absurdity of their projects, their soundtracks, which contend in charm with those of Mark Mothersbaugh, or their casual engagement of aircraft.

But, their work is more than mere satire. Their contemplation of the building, falling away, and reconstitution of community compels you to re-envision that flux on a larger scale. Perhaps this concept is most acutely illustrated in Quick Click, a twenty-minute event that was staged at the quick-clickWorld Trade Center on March 31, 2001, in which the duo hovered outside the 91st floor in a helicopter. The eteam took photographs of willing participants in the WTC who were escorted, one by one, to the window.

But whether they’re wrangling trains, camouflaging roads, or snapping pictures, airborne, the eteam always impart a sense of the possibility of community, even if it is the community of a traffic jam on a dirt bypass through the Mojave desert.

Rozalia Jovanovic is a founding editor of Gigantic, a magazine of short prose and art. She is the Deputy Editor of Flavorpill and has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Columbia University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from Unsaid, The Believer, Everyday Genius, Guernica, elimae, and Esquire.com. She blogs at The Astonishing Egg and is The Rumpus New York Editor. More from this author →