The Hot & the Cold

16mm projector & slide projector | 30 min | Anaglyph | 2018

In 1816, Professor I.B. D. Naheseer devised the first and only water bear phantasmagoria. Inspired by the phantasmagorias of Étienne-Gaspard Robert, he concocted a plan for a magic lantern show that focused on the water bear or tardigrade, a near microscopic animal known for its capacity to survive in extreme environmental conditions.

Naheseer planned the show as a love story between himself and one particular water bear, which he called Wasserbärchen. The story he intended to present went like this: Naheseer finds Wasserbärchen while observing some plant specimens through his microscope. He becomes fascinated with Wasserbärchen and the more he looks, the more he realizes that Wasserbärchen is aware of being observed. He notices that Wasserbärchen does a little dance every time he places his lens above her. These flirtations prove to Naheseer that Wasserbärchen enjoys being watched. He decides to use his scientific powers to blow up Wasserbärchen in size so they can be together.

For the show, with the help of a special optical device, he planned to create the illusion of Wasserbärchen materializing in human size from a billow of smoke. The show would end with Naheseer and Wasserbärchen dancing closely with each other, floating above the audience.

The show was never staged for an audience. It seems that the technical and aesthetic complexity of Naheseer’s vision was beyond the means available to him. That fact did little to lessen his determination and after many failed attempts at inventing the required machinery, he came upon the notion that he needed to call on his muse for help. So he went to work on writing Wasserbärchen a song. He spent 30 years attempting to write the song that would speak to Wasserbärchen in such a manner that she would grant him the faculties he needed to actualize his dreams. Eventually his implacable obsession led to him being institutionalized. He never completed the song.

Learning of this story inspired us to devise a traumatoscopic reply from Wasserbärchen to Naheseer.

Voice: Mary Ocher
Photograph of audience at EMAF courtesy of Angela von Brill.

Performance History:

Sinema +++, Sinema Transtopia; Berlin, Germany 2021
International Film Festival Rotterdam; Rotterdam, Netherlands 2020
EMAF; Osnabrück, Germany 2019
Cinematic Voices, CalArts; Valencia, USA 2018
Sherman Studio Arts Center, Ohio State University; Columbus, USA 2018
Film to the People – LaborBerlin at Roter Salon, Volksbühne; Germany 2018
S8 Mostra de Cinema Periférico; A Coruña, Spain 2018
Stuttgarter Filmwinter; Stuttgart, Germany 2018