Europe for President premiered on millions of television screens in France, Germany, Austria, and Norway on November 1st…on various American laptops a day after that…in the London contemporary art space Alma Enterprises on November 4th…in Stills in Scotland on November 5th….
So it is Out There but it hasn’t been categorized yet. Is it a documentary, a mockumentary, an art film, or a made-for-television film? Where is it loved/hated most? Until that is established, its safe being a nebulous form of entertainment. It can eat a path to the middle of the earth for all we care.
While various audiences are getting to know who Thomas Altheimer is (a jerk, a hilarious jerk, no, just a jerk, yeah, but I think he has a soft side, he’s a genius, etc), there is another audience for the same-but-different Thomas: Thomas Rasmussen. I didn’t know this other Thomas until the book The Sovereign by Claus Beck-Nielsen came out in September of ’08. Oh, excuse me, it is actually by Das Beckwerk but everyone in Denmark calls him Nielsen. And everyone in Denmark knows Nielsen. He’s a writer who developed (boredom-induced?) amnesia leading him out into streets of Copenhagen where he wandered homeless for days until the police picked him up and the newspapers revealed his picture with a question as its headline: “Does anyone know this man?”
This was in 2000…
Oh, getting to know men who are getting to know other men who are creating new identities for known/unknown men to make them more known/unknown, and so on and so forth.
This year Nielsen wrote a book about Thomas Rasmussen/Thomas Altheimer and this made Thomas very mad. The two are “best fiends”. One of Thomas Altheimer’s main motivations for being in the spotlight is to rip the light away from Nielsen. One could say that is why he started the whole Europe campaign in America in the first place.
OF COURSE all of this is insane…their own little game. But something VERY STRANGE happened today:
I happen to be in Denmark right now and stopped by Statens Museum for Kunst to see the new exhibition “Reality Check”. Mike Nelson has an installation in the “x-room” that reminds me of a shorter, more minimalistic, more confusing version of Chrisoph Buchel’s “Simply Botiful
In the Mike Nelson exhibtion, you pick which room you want to walk into via various types of doors–you know, the kind that have knobs, doors that make you feel like you are in your house, but that there is a psycho killer lurking in one of the rooms. I tried to open one door but something was blocking it. I kept trying and Dennis–the designer/photographer in the Europe for President crew–gave it a shove. “I think we are supposed to be able to get into this room,” I said.
We gave it another shove and a mysterious-looking young woman inside stepped aside. She had been blocking it and gave us an apologetic/paranoid look. It was an extremely small room and the presence of two other people–one scratching away at something on the floor–made it easy for me to step in and step out quickly, but Dennis stopped me. “That’s Nielsen on the floor,” he said. “Nielsen?” he asked the man scratching away in the corner. The man glanced at us over his shoulder and went back to work on trying to open the parcel, muttering “no, this is not Nielsen! Not Nielsen!” But Dennis and I didn’t leave him alone. He gave another quick look and said, “maybe it is Nielsen.”
And it was.
I finally met the man who fueled Thomas Altheimer. When he realized who I was–his best fiend’s right-hand antagonistic press lead–he perked up with interest and backed away from the package he was trying to break into (part of the Nelson installation). This is the interest of a man who has a never ending hunger for information on his main character. When he looked at me he saw a new keyhole into Thomas. Various people opened the door, looked at us like we were a part of the installation, and closed it. At one point the same man returned and looked at us like we revealed the secret to the whole confusing labyrinthine.
It felt as though we were in a Borges story but it was actually just a bizarre intersection of two stories–of Thomas Altheimer and Thomas Rasmussen. Countless times during our roadtrip across the southwest I questioned how Altheimer ended up on this quest and what/who was he really looking for. Barging into Nielsen in an exhibition called “Reality Check” was like running into the wizard of oz. Nielsen asked me about the status of the film and I told him about the variety of venues involved and how it didn’t really completely fit into any of them. He told me that he discussed the nature of this sort of fact/fiction document with Walid Raad the day before and that they agreed that as long as it didn’t have a home, it was fine.
That’s the update folks: we’re fine.
Dennis watching “I’m Too Sad to Tell You” by Bas Jan Ader (Altheimer’s idol).