Sholem Krishtalka

“You Know Nothing!”

Quandox2, “Royce-You Know Nothing” (2007)

I would like to introduce you to Royce and Marilyn.  Who are they?  Who knows?  One of the innumerable charms of this 2 minute clip (and the bundle of related clips of which I have included one) is that it raises more questions that it answers. What we know, we know courtesy of Royce’s complaints (if we choose to believe them; I don’t know about you, but I consider anyone who wears a gold blouse, umpteen giant rings, cascades of pearls and a fur hat the size of a table to be speaking the gospel truth): she used to have money; she enjoyed playing, singing and listening to classical music; she now lives in a small apartment with Marilyn, and doesn’t enjoy her current circumstances; and she is not above swearing (even though she balks at Marilyn’s enjoyment of Martha Ray’s dirty nightclub act).  

As far as anything and everything else, to quote Royce, we know nothing. Who was Royce in her former life as a society woman? How did she lose her money? How did she meet Marilyn? How did they come to live together?   

Of course, I’m a “Grey Gardens” devotee, so my predilection for batty society ladies in decline is already pretty profound. And while the pterodactyl-esque Royce isn’t anywhere near as charming as Little Edie Beale, she has her moments: that conspiratorial giggle after having denounced the American Woman for her lack of hats; the way she subtly belies her vaunted superiority by mispronouncing Grieg as “grieve”; her dexterity with the English language — never have I heard the word “shit” pronounced so immaculately (“sheeyitt-hole”), nor have I ever before heard the phrase “God on a wheel” (but rest assured, it nows sits permanently and comfortably in my lexicon); the way she rises, like a hot-air balloon, on the fire of her own escalating indignation (“you know nothing! You know NOTHING!!”); and just when she reaches a fever-pitch of insufferability, she cracks — she loses it, finally shrieking, at such a volume that it tests the limits of the microphone’s recording capacity.  

When she pleads to the camera, “all my money is gone,” the vulnerability, the shame and the humanity come peeking through. And this is where Marilyn achieves her glory — she calms Royce down! But the moment of humanity is soon buried again, as Royce spreads her bony arms (“honey, please, please”) and re-asserts herself as the centre of her tragedy.

Quandox2, “American Woman” (2007)

Questions, questions, I only have more questions: Who is the video maker? How did he meet these women? When is the Royce and Marilyn feature film coming out? Most likely, I will never be answered.

What matters most is that these clips exist, that Marilyn’s patient, gently suffering placidity and Royce’s screeching, desperate fury is documented for posterity. Or as near to posterity as YouTube allows.

– Sholem Krishtalka

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Sholem Krishtalka is an artist currently living in Berlin. His work has been shown in Canada, the US and Europe. Exhibitions include “Them” (Perrotin Gallery, New York) and “Sex Life” (SAW Gallery, Ottawa). His writing has appeared in Canadian Art Magazine, Bookforum Online, C Magazine, CBC Arts Online (among others) and in various artist's catalogues. For more Sholem Krishtalka, click here.