Flaming Vacuum Cleaners at garage festival, Stralsund

by | Aug 8, 2002 | MACHINES

at some time in early 2002 – an email arrives from america which says it would be a nice idea to hold a running vacuum cleaner in a can of gasoline.  (you can imagine what a spark within the engine will do to the liquid.) who is crazy enough to do that? some time later -100 vacuum cleaners, 6 flamethrowers, 120 kg propane gas, 50 hair dryers, about 400 toy flutes, pipes, toots, horns, 100 plastic water bottles, a field of 30 x 15 meters, 600 m electro cables, 400 m gas hoses, 100 m cordon rope, 10 electro controlled valves, 4 sirens, 1 four-point-soundsystem (10 kw), 1 four-arm-turntable, 2 four-channel-light organs, 2 four-channel-relay switch boxes, 3 different power current circuits, tons of fuses, 6 people within the fence, 400 people behind it watching the show and 1 geert-jan hobijn from staalplaat sound system in the middle of all of it. 26.07. 7:43 pm – the driver is hit by an avalanche of vacuum cleaners when he tries to carefully open the back door of the van – the first transport has arrived. 05.08. – geert-jan follows with his up to the roof packed car, which, in case of a police control, would surely have been stopped for arms smuggling. 06.08. – the whole ground level (600 square meters) of the storage building has been declared as a fiddling space.

up to 5 people work from 9 in the morning till late in the night. here is where the x liters of hot glue and the x meters of gaffa went. the vacuum cleaners are refunctioned from sucking air to blowing air and custumized with the toy instruments. they also get a hose inlet for the propane gas. meanwhile bastiaan maris has arrived and is taking care of the preparation of the fire work. 07.08. – more gluing and taping and testing and fiddling. bastiaan maris leaves and is never seen again. 08.08. 7:00 am – geert-jan hobijn fights very hard for every single parking space on the field of the show and explains furious car holders the danger they will be in. 9:00 am – the space fills with funny looking techno animals, formerly known as vacuum cleaners. there are still some cars from the day before on the field. 11:00 am – “are you repairing these?” – “are you selling these?” – “do you need any more of these?” 12:00 noon – flamethrowers, gas bottles get in position. Every circuit of vacuum cleaners gets stearing cables and gas hoses. 3:00 pm – “what are you doing – a concert?”

the sound system is set up. still some cars on the field. 5:00 pm – test runs. the flamethrowers are unexpectedly loud and hot. thinking of cancelling the show. “when does it start?” the sky is darkening. the technicians plan to carry the remaining cars by hand from the field. 6:00 pm – the police can’t give out the adresses of the car holders, but is friendly enough to call and ask them to remove their vehicles. 7:00 pm- they do. 8:00 pm – sound check, double cordening of the space. 9:00 pm – people start showing up. last security checks. 9:50 pm – the local fire brigade arrives. so we are ready to rock. the space is packed. 10:00 pm – “when you ask me what is going to happen – i have no idea. when you ask me if it is dangerous – i can’t tell. my grandfather used to say it is dangerous only to cross the street.”, geert-jan hobijn greets the audience. 10:05 pm – a minimal beat in a high frequency pulses over the space. very quiet. particles of bird chirping coming from the right side move slowly to the left. pieces of conversation. the beat is getting louder. some of the vacuum cleaners seem to awake, thin bird-voices from the very right corner with a subtone of the engines tune in the beat. relais are clicking. a deep bass sound starts to trigger another group of cleaners playing fluttering rubber tubes. group after group is tuning in. shrill pipes and warm horns, waterfilled twittering flutes.

hobijn puts soundlayer over soundlayer, cut-outs of sci-fi radioplays and fragments of classical bombast. totally lost in the sound and in absolute control of it at the same time. silence. boooooom. a 6 meter high jet of flame goes in the air. the beat is back. a fuse blows. on three places firecolumns rise with very loud explosions right in the beat of the ongoing soundcollage and light the whole place. technicians run around. switching. unplugging cables, changing cables. fuse blows. hobijn plays marschmusik. the vacuum cleaners are getting hoarse. the audience is screaming: “louder”. fuse blows. relais won’t switch the flamethrowers anymore. 10:35 – technicians are still running. hobijn is playing two turntables, one with four needles on the record and two cd-players with one hand, with the other one he is switching the flamethrowers manually in the rhythm. volume comes down, the vacuum cleaners are getting silent, single small flames fumping out of the cannons. only an ambient noise fills the air for minutes. four sirens start slowly to wail. that means the vacuum cleaners are about to jump. technicians are running, all gas valves are opened. beat is back – triggering the engines of the cleaners. nothing. gas is floating in the cleaners. nothing. you can see the propane in the transparent hoses bubble – liquid. nothing. you can smell the gas around the whole place. 11:00 pm – decision to stop. too dangerous. some last sequences of explosions out of the flamethrowers. show is over. vacuum cleaners have survived. some days later: an e-mail went backt to america: “german vacuum cleaners are built too safe…”