Day 7 of Tempting Failure featured 6 artists at the Hackney Showroom, a performance venue in Hackney, London. The performances were held in either the larger main room, or the smaller studio. Listed below is a recounting of the following exhibitions and performances in the order they occurred on July 27th. Note: Rosana Cade and Will Dicke’s performance, The Origin of the World was a 24 hour durational performance that began at 11 p.m. on July 27th and lasted till 11 p.m. on July 28th. It will be covered in the Day 8 post.
Vela Oma – Primal Void (2016)
By Adam York Gregory
Apocryphal, perhaps. Nikola Tesla is operating a steam driven oscillator in his town house laboratory at 46 Houston Street.
He is trying to resonate an object, much like an opera singer trying to break a glass with their voice.
Tesla is having no success. No matter how hard he tries, how much he increases the amplitude, the object refuses to respond. Silence, unmoving, until one of his laboratory assistants rushes into the room and smashes the oscillator with a large hammer.
Tesla found he was incapable of resonating with the object in his laboratory, but adept at shaking the rest of the street so hard that people believed they were experiencing an earthquake.
A surgeon/shaman/butcher in black.
An altar/slab/operating table of cinder block doused in shadow and light.
Instruments laid out… drill, crowbar, knife.
And the patient/subject/god/rock.
The low steady beat of electronic instruments like broken heart beat monitors, chanting pulse.
Baptism with water/electricity.
Divination by AM/FM.
A drill burns motor. Holy spirit, smoking plastic inhaled deeply.
Soothing loudness, aggressive silence.
A return, a rewind.
An attempt to extract the void from the stone.
An attempt to extract the stone from the void.
“I AM NOTHING
NOTHING IS WHAT I DO
THE SIMPLEST THING
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE
NOTHING” – Vela Oma
Marina Barsy Janer & Isil Sol Vil – Descarnar fronteras (2016)
By Lisa Stertz
Janer and Vil sit across each other, half a meter apart, on their knees, in stillness. Both with dark short hair and light skin color, both dressed in black pants and shirts. Both with their mouth shut and their eyes open. Both from different continents and of different gender. Both from different sides of colonialism and its handed down history.
They look into each others eyes. Between them, on Janer’s right and Vil’s left side, a black, fabric suture set. A white light drops on them. Around them are five piles of grey bricks. This is a cold, frozen atmosphere. But their bond is of warmth and depth.
He begins to pull a first suture out of its container and into the skin of her forehead, then his, then hers again. She repeats that action and pulls a suture through the skin of his, her, and his forehead. Then they sit in stillness again. The light fades out.
Shortly after six lights go on: Five for the brick piles, one for them. Audience starts to build a brick wall between them up to a moment of fear that it crashes. It looks likely to fall. Debris? The wall has a window for them to continue to look at each other from the other side. The setting remains cold. The bond remains strong.
This wall is a fortress, an exclusion, a division, and a separation of values, privileges, heritages, feelings and possibilities. This wall was made by human hands.
For the rest of their time one is left alone with one’s own assumptions and insights of the human handling of human beings. They, sunk in their stillness with active eyes, keep their mouths shut. The metaphorical defleshing of the frontiers has long begun. Now: What needs to, what can be said for the obvious?
Johannes Bergmark – Stringed Stirrups/ I have been in you, you have been in me (2016)
By Lisa Stertz
In a white beekeepers costume with black sandals in stirrups, he is suspended from the ceiling. Two metal strings hold him. Two violin bows hang below him. Four LED-lights shine on him. On the ground in front of him a table. A microphone in a transparent plastic bag on that table. An audio firewire interface, a bag of chips, and a beer under the table.
The “Stringed Stirrups” begin and Bergmark plays the strings with both arms and legs. His entire body is in movement and the sound that emerges resembles a howling of motor cycles and cars on highways or old, big machines from industrial manufactures. He proceeds to play the strings with pieces of wood, and the sound becomes more percussive, than droning. Through his movements, his playing is accompanied by a colored shadow dance on the ground of different blue’s, violet’s and white’s.
He stops distinctly, and goes over to “I have been in you, you have been in me” – an audible exploration of the sounds one’s body makes, while drinking beer and eating chips. Bergmark would put a microphone down his throat for this investigation. He is lit by one yellow light. Maybe to his surprise, maybe not, the most significant sound became his heartbeat, relating back to his first piece. Its strength could obviously not be flushed down with beer and chips. The juxtaposition of sounds from a far outside to an inner unknown was too big. The seemingly grand and the seemingly habitual gesture seemed to not want to get in touch. Wanted or not: A come-down.
Johanna Bramli – The Larsens// Noise/ Feedback Choir
By Chelsea Coon
Positioned in the center of the space were seven women kneeling in a total of two rows encircled by mixers, pedals, ipads and a ring of cables. Under the faint and at times more intense beams of focused overhead lighting, the image was revealed of women that were wearing shoulder length black wigs paired with black clothing. With their eyes averted, heads down and hunched over, they slightly swayed or remained still. At times their heads were slightly bowed, and at others their heads would be within proximity of their knees. They remained situated in this position for the entirety of the work. The manifestation of their voices was sometimes in unison and sometimes they were all contributing different sounds at once. The choir made the polarities between anxiety and calm merge in real time; their voices and tones went through cycles that ranged from a calming whisper to yelling, and back again to a whisper. I was reminded of sirens that lure travelers of the seas to their death. The women in Johanna Bramli’s performance constructed a haunting image that equally pulled viewers in and out.
Kamil Guenatri – ’10-14′
By Chelsea Coon
An intimate and arresting work by Kamil Guenatri, ‘10-14’. The audience lined the space of the Hackney Showroom. Two spotlights illuminated the center of the space; one focused on Kamil and the other on a suspended mass of cured meat. The height of the meat was controlled by the movement of Kamil’s wheelchair, which he methodically pivoted in slight but indictable movements which created a clicking noise that echoed through the warehouse space. An assistant wrapped his face with light blue thread, evocative of veins and life itself, and as the accumulation grew more dense it became a barrier and felt suffocating. He then moved in circles around the spotlights on the floor several times before stopping in the far corner of the space. Here, his assistant carefully took him out of his chair and laid him on the concrete floor of the space, delicately placing his arms around the meat mass which was lowered to rest on his chest. She repositioned his body several times with acute awareness to his body. With a pair of silver sheers she began to slowly remove strips of Kamil’s clothing and stapled the pieces onto the suspended meat, which left Kamil exposed. To further emphasize this state of vulnerability, a polaroid camera was introduced and Kamil instructed in very clear phrases where to take the picture; close up shots of his hands, arms, chest, stomach and face which were then stapled onto the meat alongside the pieces of his shirt. The meet was then moved back up into the air out of Kamil’s arms. When Kamil physically left the space, he continued to fill the room.
Kamil Guenatri’s ’10-14′, Another Perspective
By David LaGaccia
“An aged man is but a paltry thing/ A tattered coat upon a stick” – Sailing to Byzantium, W.B. Yeats
We live with the bodies we are given, against our will and against our choosing, our parents’ genes passed down to us to survive in a harsh world. Our genetic plans determine our hair color, eye color, height, body systems and much more, from the day we are born to the day we grow old and die.
At the end of Kamil Guenatri’s performance ‘10-14’, a silence filled the large main performance space of the Hackney Showroom, with people walking around not knowing what to do; there was a shared feeling of being stunned by life and completely overwhelmed by the images they just saw.
What had happened was so simple, but sliced through the minds of everyone who watched it, like a scythe cutting through a field of wheat. With the help of his assistant Bonella Holloway, Guenatri has a blue rope wrapped around his face. He then circles around the room, so the whole crowd in the room can see this image. He then positions himself in a far corner, with a piece of smoked ham, which is attached to his wheelchair, being pulled up as he moves further out.
It should be emphasized that throughout this opening, his wheelchair was tied to the ham. This simple wheel and pulley system could have easily been created without it being physically connected to Guenatri, but in doing so, he strengthens the image’s connection between himself and a dead piece of meat: wherever he goes, it is bound to him.
Although most likely the performance’s concept belongs to Kamil, Guenatri’s assistant Bonella Holloway, also deserves credit in how she assisted Mr. Guenatri, and how she executed the performance’s main actions. From gently placing Guenatri on the ground and placing cushions under his head, to wrapping his arms around the descended ham, to cutting off his clothes and stapling them to the dried meat, to taking photos of portions of his body (providing us with a physical memory of his existence), there was a strong current of tenderness, humanity, and dignity in the way she treated his body, acutely aware of its physical limitations and pains.
Most haunting was Holloway’s last actions of picking up Kamil, evoking primal images of Michelangelo’s Pietà, a mother figure carrying Guenatri’s frail body, only it is a dead piece of meat that ascends, not the spirit of Christ; the fact that this action was done so routinely, only adds to its humane message, as if compassion is not some grand religious gesture, but it was just expected of her.
The image of Guenatri’s body gets passed onto the image of the object, completing the metaphor. The strength and weight of this image is so heavy, that not even the absence of the body or the crowd could hope to destroy its power. The material remnants of Guenatri’s shoes and ropes of bondage are left pointing towards the open door, as if to exit, while his image and spirit lingers in the air well after the performance has ended. The crowd stands in a circle around the ham to take in the image, and to see the ripped off clothes and the expressionless photos of Guentari’s emaciated body. While Guenatri bluntly makes the association of his body to a piece of meat, it would be foolish to think this is just an expression of self-loathing; there is a buried theme of the material body versus the spirit, what we physically leave behind and what lingers in its absence long after it disappears. In the end, the performance says that absence is not the antithesis of presence; rather absence allows the image (or spirit) to linger in the consciousness of the witness, minuets, hours, days and years after it has vanished.
A performance with this much humanity bound to it is an antidote to the images of nihilism, violence, anger, xenophobia, racism, masochism, sexism, and destruction of the self we so naively express and present to ourselves in performance, art, media and everyday life: it’s as if the current social-political climate expects each of us to stand on a street corner and flail ourselves publicly, apologizing for our own existence while preaching about the end of the world; I refuse to accept or believe in this; true images of exploding beyond the limitations of our own frail bodies, and how to act humane to another person becomes more shocking than any feces smeared or bloodied body could ever be. We are all life in all its shades; it just takes a performance like this to remind us of that.