Salon by Camille Kaiser
Today I left home and
Text by Madeleine Dymond
She really had us, that’s for sure.
The space is Uqbar, Berlin, for the presentation of Camille Kaiser’s work today i left home and. Framing the street with a window behind her, she reads excerpts from her publication while palm trees are arranged in the street behind her.
I was sure they had been real trees, I’d even jerked a friend away from laughing her way backwards into the fronds. I was so convinced I used a napkin from the snacks table so I could wipe away some sticky sap which had gathered on the end of a leaf. It was easy to do in the imaginative space created by Camille’s texts, where these kinds of certitudes based on passing observations – looking, really, no touching – which had made the world very exotic for a moment.
Watching the vendor remove his wares shook me from the illusion. He wound thick hessian off the trunk and removed chunks of what could only be fragments of a real palm tree’s bark. Right? A tree had given some of its woody dermis to be immortalised in Instagram selfies indefinitely. I’m quite sure.
Then the leaves – removed and grouped according to size, ensuring the speared ends, designed to secure them atop the trunk, didn’t damage the wooden boxes they went into.
Lastly the base. The weight of those pots was so convincing. And when the wood chips were removed, it was clear why. Sand bags. Keeping cameras and props in place since… well, the beginning of cameras and props.
I know, I know. I had vouched for those trees. I had convinced a friend of mine, an artist who performed ‘tree delivery man’ on the night, that they were real. Batted his hand away when he tried to fiddle with one. I convinced him! Imagine!
My only solace is that practically no one was around to watch the trees leave. Thankfully no one who’d been convinced of the tree’s reality by way of my assured credibility. “You know, when plants move too much they get stressed. Last thing they need is being poked and prodded. They are exotic too, you know. Imagine how hard they are working to just stay alive in the Berlin winter.”
It should have been a clue. The Berlin winter. The thriving palm trees. Something was amiss. Oh well. To quote a series I’m watching now, ‘the world of reality can be tough.’
Text commissioned by ABA, 2020
During her residency at Air Berlin Alexanderplatz, Camille Kaiser has been working on a new book project titled Today I left home and. Interweaving fiction and non-fiction, the text explores the possibility of Berlin to be a new home through various scenarios and situations of everyday life. Each chapter starts with the same sentence, “Today I left home and”, and unfolds into narratives that navigate through both the present and memory to challenge understandings of the feeling of (not) feeling at home. Errance, lack of adventure, and a vain quest for exoticism are recurring elements that confront perceptions of living in urban spheres. The Salon will be a performative reading by the artist of some extracts from the book.
Editing: Madeleine Dymond
Design: Aurelia Amrou