Of Shapeshifters – Noah Merzbacher

Die noch unvollendete Arbeit mit dem Titel Of Shapeshifters, bestehend aus der gleichnamigen Kurzgeschichte sowie dem Video soft trails of anywhere. In der medienübergreifenden Arbeit versucht Noah Merzbacher ein Narrativ über das Finden von immateriellen Tierfiguren mit wahrnhemungsalternierenden Eigenschaften zu entwickeln. Merzbacher bedient sich dabei den Tiermodi der Bambi-Filme, um die Konzeption von Tier und Natur zu hinterfragen und eine textuelle Heterotopie zu entwickeln, die sich der unmöglichen Gleichzeitigkeit von Mythos und Realität annimmt.

Prelude 1

I was on a usual walk strolling through the city of Zurich, continuously re-establishing and following the elastic tracks that build my net of localities. The walks on these tracks became increasingly stiff and hard-edged, loosing all the wobbly gelatinous qualities of a sudden event in time to re-evaluate my ways of going forward.

It was mostly already scratched into the many surfaces; cement, glass, city textures. And yes the scratching of city textures definitely gave me comfort, but I didn’t really want to be damned for the coming strolls re-establishing the scratches and leaving something for the network connections of tomorrow me.

I felt an increasing dullness and withered-ness growing around the fading breath of the structures around me. At first, I found a rather strange tool, it hovered above me. A tool in its most metal state. I referred to it as memory-magnet. Attached around my waist, I increased the pleasure level to some extent. We went around and extracted the slightly eroded little pieces of memories and attachments formed around those localities of city textures. Quite a tiring thing to do the buildings, cars and blank spaces of possible inhabitation weren’t all that porous. It opened up quite an absorbed, vacuum space with the sucking and pulling motion of my magnet through the little holes the structures offered.

The magnet was quite stiff and awkward bumping against the textures we extracted the memory juice from. Some “things“ happened. But I think the need for sucking and slurping them out accelerated the process of eroding, becoming fragile pressed strings, in need of care and restoration. The animation of those brittle strings was short-lived and wasn’t properly merging with the surrounding textures that were already there. Their re-inhabitation potential was insufficient for the diluted thing I was.

Besides that, I really felt the way, the memory-magnet was accessing things, as an extractive tool, rather tiring. I wanted a poetry machine, not a vacuum space of playing with isolated piles of memory dust. A poetry machine that had the utopian premise of producing sparks out of nothing. Energetic fields of newness, a net of possibilities amplifying the unevenness of textures, rather than slurping them out.

But the memory-magnet has not been completely useless! The graceless way it moved somehow made a splinter of textured otherness enter my diluted body-space with a shooting star energy. 

I didn’t even notice it was so gelatinously soft and thin, warping around the bigger more deeply settled concepts. But then it grew to the size of a fragment, a fragment of solid feeling. And yes this solid little fragment, prismatic and shiny, made my shell of perception malleable! Sounds paradoxical but it isn’t. The impact the fragment had when entering my body-space, due to the inelegant moving of my memory magnet, let the spherical dome housing my precious embedments shiver and warp in true shooting star form. 

Abb. 1: Screenshot aus Noah Merzbacher: Soft Trails of Anywhere, Videoarbeit, 2020. Abbildungsnachweis: ©Noah Merzbacher.

Prelude 2

I had not checked, with the rabbit feeling for multiple days, but once I came back I noticed the twofold growing of the feeling, the shard was like a little seed in a dome. I first examined the sharp and smooth side, a polished translucent mirroring structure, emanating a force of splitting. A deep vibratory energy-sucking influx in and pushing and cutting it towards parts of differentiation.

It forced a somewhat clear distinction between what was my in-being and the one of the rabbit. A temporary split of things, holding each side with different elevated plateaus and individual territorial realms that I could both feel through the deep embedded-ness of said shard. One was the feeling of fluffy, cute  and childish curiosity, a deep need for protection, a woven intertwined sphere of soft fur hopping around in peace. The other was the feeling of “being able to protect“, of looking for shelters, of shielding without own fears. I was mesmerized by the ability of said shard and carefully handled, weighed and placed the sides of the split until I was happy with the way it let me feel…

Then a few days after said happiness occurred, I looked at the other side of the evolved parts of said shard. Upon examining it closely, this other shard part felt like a twist. A twist slowly but steadily rupturing the building blocks of my dome. A twist full of potential, full of the potential to not un-see geometries to come. The leaked. Drops quickly seeped through. They soaked other parts of my dome, diluting the semi-dense grain that shards were embedded in. An opaque memory rippled, broken and cloudy in this newly formed soup. A memory with big eyes, a cute face, shape of a bloated rabbit with the heavy, dense aesthetics of an animated character. Through using the memory like a shard of feeling, the circular portal geometry allowed me to follow a track that had established itself. Its direction pointed me towards another embedded site, a plateau where further connections would appear. It was the land, where Bambi and its rabbit character Thumper have been. It wasn’t them. Not their movie selves anyway. Big googly eye geometry it was, only a part of it them floated here in my dome. A slimmed-down version, filter or texture-like and removed from its fast and vivid movie self. A shell it was, a little bit stiff I have to say, somewhat pinned in the middle with only the fringes floating. I made regular use of my porous little memory, pushing influx through its body to connect to the lands it was linked to. 

A ghostly inhabitation it was. It wasn’t quite my own and I felt the alienating residue of previous inhabitation breath within the shell’s inner side. A few days later I had discovered why once the track had expanded. In a past time, the voice actors and animators had filled the shell before me, my game of breathability and inhabitation wasn’t unparalleled and that came with quite a surprise. I regularly started to visit the place where they had been breathing through from another side. 

I never asked where it came from exactly or why it got stuck specifically to my being. I tried to accept it without asking questions. I tried to flow with the bumps I felt against my in-being and with that came the geometric unfolding of an invitation card, maybe carefully placed or clumsily lost.

Abb. 2: Screenshot aus Noah Merzbacher: Soft Trails of Anywhere, Videoarbeit, 2020. Abbildungsnachweis: ©Noah Merzbacher.

Prelude 3

Traveling those lands was exhausting, the tracks behaved like shimmer on watery surfaces e-/re-/de-stablishing themselves quicker than you like them to. You cross quickly, with the hesitation of knowing that it could shatter any moment. But once the twist twists, simple swiping occurs and you find yourself on a land, at a place where textures aren’t quite your own and that’s worth something. I tried multiple times to pin down exactly how I got there, but the journey stayed inaccessible nonetheless. One particularly nice landing was a large plateau of “simple“ geometry. I call it meadow. It had the most “far away“ feel on my journey. 

It was beautiful walking through the silky and hollow wood biomes that unfolded, once my own presence on the plateau retextured and somewhat activated a precious geometry.  I didn’t know that I had wished to hop through the carpets of grass, silky smooth caressing blades forming pretty meadows, geometries of wholesomeness. Or bump against the hollow tree trunks and be the being that produces the cuts that made surroundings look layered, prop-like, produce the feeling of flattened swipe-ability and holistic geometries. The Dirt-less, Bruise-less biome was covered with a heavy layer of simple interconnection, carefully placed territorialized irregularity. I quite well knew the danger of such lands, which only pierce into very specific tiny holes, bloating them and letting them feel whole when they aren’t. The whole meadow was surrounded by high stiff invisible walls, mirror structures producing the feel of infinite wholesomeness. Something gave it away, I  wasn’t sure what it was but I knew that those walls were wobbly and thin and sometimes even translucent.

I could have only been infinitely happy in this land if I felt like that just for a short amount of time infinitely much was missing in others. The dangerous and seductive territorialization of this meadow made sure that it was comfortable enough to carry bruised beings and allow for easy dips into it. A place that pseudo securely holds you in loops of play and pleasure and slipping into those loops was easy.

Other beings had found and used this loop as well, it was overflowing with the presence of past inhabitation, of geometries right around the corner. I felt their trails of previous restructuring, sticking to the hollow blades of grass. I was at a right place, right meaning a dense network of connections leading to it, but it felt like it was the wrong time. A powerful force with a sunlight feel came hovering above it, pressing and splitting the facets of the biomes, grass blades and tree trumps alike, into nauseating hard-edged double-sworded worlds. I could not imagine an entity wanting to stay there for long, after-all the geometry of wholesomeness was now temporarily lost, only a fold keeping worlds together. This force stretched the space into a long trajectory, a powerful texturization, prismatically placing you either into a “seeing“ or a “being seen“ position. The meadow had become a crumbly plateau with the dense “stage-feel“ texturization pressing onto it. Any element (like movement, growth and feelings) was pinned down, only the fringes fuzzing rapidly. The crumble was only temporary a little sign of ache, but after it had adapted the meadow quickly developed a glazed and shiny surface sticking the cracks back together, while steaming particles of “deep envelopment in summery warmth“ were rising with the hiss of a machine. 

It was indeed very machinelike, feeling like a steam engine activated or fueled by the stage force producing and further elevating this plateau, pathetically trying to peel itself from its surroundings. The meadow had felt rather homogenous before, with the carefully placed irregularity of flowers, stones, grass blades and tree trumps withdrawing from immediate recognization as texture, but the glaze amplified this further visually reducing it to a shiny cluster. The stage-like force activated a geometric property of rejection and isolation that allowed for immediate recognization of something that was “other“, exposed as something less shiny. I wondered who would have wanted such a weirdly aestheticized and tasteless backdrop quality for their findings, spawning geometries of disgust on those who weren’t glazed. 

I did get something out of it though! The geometric property helped me find something which I hadn’t seen before. It was a little flat tissue, sticking to some blades of grass right where the meadow was ending, its edges were curling from the viscose shiny fluid that covered it. To examine the newly found thing I tried to come closer, a bit ashamed of my dependence on this force, even if it had become increasingly hard to move. It was a soft and furry tissue laying semi peacefully. I had the strong feeling that this wasn’t what I had learned to be a whole being. It maybe had been something bigger, something more complex but it was somehow violently detached it had cleverly slipped out of the thing that was now in front of me. I could not tell what it was but I knew that the stage force had played an active part in it.  If it was lucky it probably waited right behind the mirror structures for the stage force to diminish and if it wasn’t it probably evaporated among the particles of summery warmth. The past story of it was inaccessible those were only speculations and that was okay.

As I said the tissue was soft, furry and as I now saw extremely flexible. I call it synthetic rabbit tissue. Some of the synthetic hairs, detached from the tissue, stuck to the surrounding patches of grass. I thought of them as traces of past movement, maybe even proofs of an engagement with loops or ropes of escape. Maybe it had been hooping around the wholesome texture before or maybe it had been looking for other of its kind, even if I didn’t know yet what that kind was. 

What I saw was a vibratory pile of leftovers or residue with a flaky string of connection to somewhere other. Seeing a geometry that wasn’t constituted by a “perceived wholeness“ and that featured the ability to let loose was comforting. It had probably learned to physically de-/attach with astounding flexibility, forming invisible clouds of connections around the individual synthetic hairs. I felt that processes of shedding was an essential part of its geometric aestheticization/texturization. Amidst the meadow, this synthetic rabbit tissue emitted tranquility, a deeply embedded texture of transience. I carefully picked it up and wrapped it around my being,. It was slightly scratchy but after some adjustments, I found comfort in a soft skin geometry hugging me tightly. 

Abb. 3: Screenshot aus Noah Merzbacher: Soft Trails of Anywhere, Videoarbeit, 2020. Abbildungsnachweis: ©Noah Merzbacher.

Prelude 4

The meadow had faded. It hooked my shell into a field that was full of potential. I could not tell you if it placed itself right above or right under my skin, but I felt the slightly prismatic redirection of selfhood. It wasn’t aggressively penetrating my slightly hard structures, it rather added another note or tone.

I was hooked into synthetic rabbit tissue, a pressed two-dimensional layer of tender touchings on skin and shell of perception. While being fairly flat as an entity, the tissue had strong geometric properties that retextured my plateau into an elongated deepened geometry, allowing to make room for a bigger chamber of reflection.

When Influx was flowing in, it still bounced through my own structures but then quickly came to this chamber which I will call the chamber of synthetic rabbit realness and vibrated and echoed in multiple new ways. The chamber was full of fibers vibrating with the notions of anxiety, curiosity, animality, softness, fluffiness, shedding and furriness. And there were deeper slower tones vibrating as well: Most higher notes were enveloped in a beautiful vibration inducing a geometry of “bigger-than-oneself“ forests, a feeling of huge semi-transparent set-design structure filling the field of perception almost completely. Others shared feelings with a drive to look for geometries of shelter in every corner or hole and finding them in every place where slightly different texturization and geometries of potential wholesomeness crossed each other. 

The synthetic rabbit tissue realness was puncturing my structures (that had been there before my in-wrappings) with precisely atmospheric worlds giving me ease and comfort. I felt the tension that was pumped within my semi-elastic rubber structures and I felt the way in which the porous synthetic rabbit tissue was breathable enough to carry some it away. There was this beautiful balance between hooked-in-ness and breathability. 

The chamber’s geometry was deeply connected to the architecture of what I would have previously called anthropomorphization. I felt how this geometry was touching the outside net of an anthropomorphic conception of a rabbit in a sheer all-encompassing way. It wasn’t though, the geometry was probably not transcendental anthropomorphization but an individual timbre humming from an orchestra of anthropomorphization of multiplicities.

The mere drinking from a fountain or a casual stroll activated this strange poetry machine of the synthetic rabbit and texturizing fluids and floors alike. I thoroughly enjoyed sampling through those newly gained tonalities, that was like petting myself from the outside in. An amazing way of sticking to objects.


Noah Merzbacher

Der gebürtige Züricher Noah Merzbacher ist Künstler, sowie Schreiber, Autor und Literat. Er studiert derzeit im Bachelor Kunst an der Goldsmiths Universität in London. Sein Schwerpunkt liegt auf der künstlerischen Wissensproduktion in engem Kontakt zu philosophischen Ansätzen wie den Auseinandersetzungen mit Ontologie und Phänomenologie und ihren Möglichkeiten produktive, poetische und sensible Wege in die Welt hineinzufinden und sie zu fassen. Seine künstlerischen Arbeiten sollen psycho-poetische Tools bilden anhand derer sich spielerische und spekulative Prozesse abzeichnen, die für einen sensiblen und reflektierten Umgang mit sowohl dem Bekannten als auch Unbekannten plädiert.