Gaby Peters  
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Susanne Schulte // GWK - Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Westfälischen Kulturarbeit, Münster, 2011
Gaby Peters // The Plate-Spinning Machines

Gaby Peters' Plate-Spinning Machine has coaxed a smile and even a chuckle from every viewer so far. Initially, we laugh because of the sheer comic effect of the machine. If, however, we stop to watch, observe the unfolding events, identify the elements and start following the movements: then we perceive a deeper meaning and realise that there is more to this machine than whimsical humour.

The machine cries out to us, demands self-reflection and insights from the viewer. Here the self-satisfied bourgeois bubble is quite literally popped – undercut with a fine dose of irony. What do we see? What do I see? An old round kitchen- or living-room folding table made of wood and a white coffee set for six people, mass-produced, decorated with flowers in green and pink. It is a setting almost excessively corny, full of kitsch, at the same time evocative of and symbolizing the middle-class living room. It is in this setting that Gaby Peters has placed one of her Plate-Spinning Machines, the two-armed model Afternoon Tea. Even the name reflects middle-class life, something average and utterly normal; there is a suggestion of serial mass-production as if this machine were a normal and useful, industrially produced and commonly available household gadget. And yet the table is not laid as normal – here the illusion of that average middle-class household breaks down.
  Instead, the six plates are placed on sharpened wooden poles which are fixed at right angles to the table top. The regularity of the automaton in the middle of the table is disturbed by an imbalance and resulting slight irregularities. I find this congenial; this feels familiar. The imbalance is a result of the erratic motion of the arms from the spurious and completely coincidental contact with the plates, each of which is spinning around its own axis. The plates are not fixed to the tops of the wooden poles, they are simply balancing loosely and only the smallest possible area is in contact with the point of the poles. The system is extremely unstable, as the success of the juggling allows for very little leeway. The balance is continually in jeopardy, within itself but also through outside influences.

The consciousness of this risk, as well as the surprise of such a construction, only serves to heighten the sense of suspense and enjoyment. As a viewer, one never tires of watching the incessant turning, of listening to the scraping and clanging noises, since the possibility of failure, the crash, can become reality any moment.