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SWEAT by Reiner Riedler
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Around Christmas time, I became ill. From an unthreatening sore throat to a maddening migraine, I did not eat nor sleep for days. When I finally began to heal, a cold inhibited my sense of smell and hearing, a soft headache pressed on my forehead, and a bizarre vertigo imprisoned me inside my own head.
Sweat opens up like a game - with its box, its manual and its unfolding board. Even in its technique, there is something of play in Reiner Riedler's method. But the traces left by the bodies, extracts of their inner workings perforating the paper, are not hospitable – they are disconcerting.
Like the pyramid of medication next to my bed, the book lays as a box, opening and closing, revealing its shamanic content. The pages spread into a dark frieze of lustrous etching-like forms, a silver that is both greasy and opulent. I am caught by visions of crisped faces or frozen fists. But the beauty of drapery, of crystal, of wrinkles and frost, is perplexing. These stains are lavish. Whereas, I am sullied.
From sanity to insanity, in bed one night I jerk my sweater off, profusely sweating. Instances later, my body in fetal position, I shiver violently against wet sheets. Sweat is that mix of slithering heat against a glacial gust. Like the crowds in that apartment on Christmas day, bodies meander from sitting, to leaning, to walking – one body going in circles serving drinks, one body surrounding two others in conversation, another reaching out, one wallowed on the couch, five or six in a corner, two or three around me. I am caught in the echo of my own head, my inner voice screaming, fever slowing all motions around me to a daze.
They are the bodies of family members, strangers, friends, loved ones, pressed against the paper. They are no longer ephemeral. A never-ending procession of individuals – but without hearing them, they become contours and movement, they become material and static. A fresco of figures and masks. Time passes and I am motionless within the frenzy. Humans are grotesque, sweaty, but also so precious.
The literal unfolding of the paper and the subject’s impressions are lapses, makes time central to Sweat. Time is purging their bodies. These fossils, preserving an identity, cynotypes for humans, are mineral and confront today's ungraspable digital. They are historical: they are everyone and no one. Sweat’s layout is reminiscent of a partition, and perhaps its tune is that of our physical presence, our foul excretion turned in a melody. One that I could not hear during that dinner, but that was imprinted on the pages of the book later that night.