An outing to Venice Beach in California, 1942. Sitting on the beach in stiff three-piece suits, their trousers rolled up. Ill at ease, a little too hot, a little too European, slumped down in their American deckchairs. Great European cultural figures fleeing Nazism. Including Thomas Mann, Alma Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg – the inventor of atonal music, himself a great fan of Bach and Brahms. Their conversation on Goethe’s influence on Wagner falters for a moment as they watch in silence as a Mickey Mouse balloon flies over the beach. In the meantime they are consumed with homesickness for a country that wanted to destroy them.
Vanish Beach is about homesickness and exile, about the importance of memories – imaginary or otherwise – if that is all that is left of your home country. Aboriginals who go on a journey crouch under a tree for a while just before they arrive so that their souls have time to catch them up. But what if your soul never has time to keep up with your body? Where is comfort to be found then?
In Vanish Beach, the depth and weight of the European past chafes against the superficiality and transience of American consumerism. What existential consolation did they find, and is it still possible to find it in that increasingly mythical home country that is Europe?