The Illusion of Performance, Tempting Failure Day 8

Day 8 of Tempting Failure featured 6 artists at the Hackney Showroom, a performance venue in Hackney, London, as well one performance that was held on the street. The performances at Hackney 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 28th

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Rosana Cade and Will Dickie, The Origin of the World (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

By David LaGaccia

“Mind the Turtles” the sign read before entering the world of Rosana Cade and Will Dickie’s The Origin of the World. This title is of course a reference to Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde, which is an infamous painting depicting the genitals of a naked woman, but instead of a man depicting a woman, we have a woman exposing her own genitals in a 24 hour durational performance.

The space itself resembled a field, with sod covering the Hackney Studio floor space, and two turtles crawling around the room. Rosana Cade was in a sitting position, fully clothed, but legs spread apart with gentiles fully exposed; directly in front of her was a camera, recording and projecting the action on the studio wall. In front of her was Will Dickie controlling the audio portion of the performance. “1, 20” Cade would call out, and Will would call up an audio clip to start playing. Each clip featured preachers, mystics, Alan Watts, Hindus, Christians, sometimes a song, whoever, talking about their beliefs on the creation of the world, and then, with full gusto, Cade would mime the speech of the talkers using her labia, which…again…is being projected onto the wall, as if mocking, as if in jest saying “This is the real origin of the world.” After a timer ringed, she would pass out fruit or vegetables to people in the space.

I have to admit that the main image of this performance was at different points beautiful, disgusting, sexual, mysterious, banal, and humorous. Cade’s labia and vagina, prominently projected on the wall of the performance space shows that one part of the female anatomy could be so commonplace, controversial, and important to the human story of creation.

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Gillian Jane Lees & Adam York Gregory, Present Tense (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Gillian Jane Lees & Adam York GregoryPresent Tense (2016)

By Chelsea Coon

Over the duration of 7 hours, Lees and Gregory underwent their piece Present Tense. Sectioned off in a corner of space was the pile of mousetraps to be set and placed throughout the early hours of the morning. Lees would take a trap, one by one, and kneel on the floor to set it by delicately pulling the wiring mechanism back and locking it in place before sliding it into position on the floor to align it with the others. Her movements were calculated and swift. As the duration wore down her body there remained an elegance is her pacing and focus. The spacing between the traps was the width of Lees’s hand with fingers parcially spread. The use of her body as the tool to measure the space was compelling in the way that we come to understand the world around us is through the experience of how it relates to our body. Gregory stood in front of the piece meticulously taking notes on the progress of the work noting the amount of traps set, the time that had passed, what was consistent and what was manifesting as variables. Together, Lees and Gregory constructed space and documented the passage of time. The early morning hours this piece took place in made the repeated actions feel that much more immense; there was a sense that the work could continue on in an infinite loop. Each trap set was a manifestation of time that had passed while each trap that remained unset referred to future time. The audience was lined against the back wall of the space, and watched the work unfold with incredible patience. A truly beautiful work.

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Amy Sharrocks, Heading for a fall (2016), Tempting Failure.
Screenshot: Lisa Stertz

Amy SharrocksHeading for a fall (2016)

By Lisa Stertz

Amy will fall for you. At 1pm on Thursday, July 28th 2016, she promises to start falling for you. She will have fallen for you by 1.01pm. In order to witness her, she asks you to add her as a contact on Whatsapp and send her a message saying IWANTTOSEEYOUFALL. How?

You will witness this virtually and thus at a different time, than the fall itself. The immediate question of truth arises. The video of her falling reached me at 1.10pm. The video itself is not even one minute long. I am confronted with what I envisioned and what I saw. There is interference, but no congruency. My own expectations were of course not met. We haven’t met. I only imagine with my capabilities, what and how Amy falls. I don’t imagine it with her head, or her knowledge, her vision.

Heading for a fall is a beautifully silent and simple piece about mediated communication and the expected sensation, that in its mediacy leaves you with a vapid taste. Amy was performing for the document. She fell for you and you fell with her.

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Tim Bromage, Shift (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Tim BromageShift (2016)

Tim Bromage’s Shift moves at a different pace than any other performance work that was shown during the festival. It consciously uses props, costume, and prepared monologues that force you to concentrate and think about the nature of the work and its context within a performance art festival.

Beginning his performance by sitting in a chair on a stage and wearing a hood, he began to tell a story. Revealing himself, he acknowledges the crowd and says that the hood doesn’t work that well because it doesn’t have eye holes. There were three stages to his performance; he would sit down at a microphone wearing a costume to recite a story; he would stand up at a microphone and recite a monologue, and lastly, he would break “character” and perform a magic trick.

The dreamlike quality of the monologues was tough to follow, but each time standing up he would begin, “I wake up, the room is warm and yellow,” and then in a haze describe the surreal quality of its surroundings. He always spoke in the first person.

Another segment of the work had him do magic tricks, breaking the “performing wall” and directly addressing the crowd. Vaudevillian in nature, these tricks were simple or non-existent. First he would illustrate the egg and bag trick, explaining the nature of the trick and how it works. He did this three times, first placing the egg in the bag and dropping it on the floor, next taking the egg and breaking it against his head, and lastly, succeeding in making it disappear. “There’s always a bag,” he would say, “there may or may not be an egg.” Moments like when he broke an egg on his face was a surprise where instead of the yolk, red ink sprayed across his clothes and face, looking like he was stabbed or shot.

I think the real trick here is the illusion of performance. What I mean by this is that, in any performance there is the literal interpretation of the events that unfold, and the artist using their body and actions to create an image, idea, or metaphor which is interpreted or misinterpreted by the spectator. We place value on what we see, but what we see may not be real. Bromage’s performance seems to be self-aware of this effect. This was a mysterious performance.

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Natalie Ramus, 16000:2 TEETH(OF)MY CHILDREN (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Natalie Ramus16000:2 TEETH(OF)MY CHILDREN (2016)

By Helena Sands

A small folded paper bridge, blood smudged detritus marks the space reminding us of the previous performance. The paper stack still looks untouched, looming next to the performer a silent reminder of what has been and what is still left to do. Almost in defiance of what remains a single sheet is taken from the top of the pile; on tiptoe, naked shaking arm outstretched. It is held, unmarked, suspended in space and light until it is released and floats to the ground. The action repeats and the paper falls to the floor twisting, gliding and clinging to the air each sheet finding its own space. Paper petals, white islands defining the perimeters of the performance.

We pause.

A small glass bottle is pulled from the performers vagina containing the teeth of her children and delicately offered out to the audience on the palm of her hand. A fragile reminder of what once existed unseen suspended inside her. These 10 tiny parts, once so valuable, now discarded and returned. An effort is made to complete the cycle as each tooth is held and pushed into the inside flesh of the performers arm – momentarily they cling onto the skin until the inevitable release and drop to the floor. They leap frog across her arms and chest – one sticks to her collarbone and I’m reminded of the falling pearls from a previous performance. These wounds do not bleed. Indentations in her skin, inverted bite marks trace the effort and sharp underbelly of the teeth. A single tooth hovers under her right arm. We wait. It will not fall. We are locked in, suspended in the act of waiting. The tooth remains outlasting the efforts of the performer to keep her arm in the air.

The fallen teeth on the ground are marked; a smudged fingerprint of menstrual blood catalogues their place on the paper. A series of invisible endings marking the failure to hold their space in time. The performance seems to end as the final tooth is stained. She waits a moment and then reaches once more to the paper stack. She pushes it over rupturing the space and at this point we realize that this is not an end but the start of another beginning.

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Richard Herring, Me 1 vs. Me 2 (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Richard HerringMe 1 vs. Me 2 (2016)

By David LaGaccia

Richard Herring’s “performance” Me 1 vs. Me 2 was an excruciating experience of unbearable length, pushing the jaded avant-garde art crowd to its limits where before it was finished there were many walk-outs, including myself…and on that level it was successful. Explicit images of nudity, feces, blood, exotic fetishes, or bodily fluids were nowhere to be seen; it was one man, a cue, and his snooker table.

Herring was quick to point this out to the crowd as he walked in the room, saying everyone will be severely disappointed that nothing shocking or explicit will happen, and that he was going to play against himself in a match of snooker for a chance to win the Chris Evans trophy. Through each round, Herring would act as commentator, Me 1, Me 2, and scorekeeper. That’s it.

As one person said to me, “You can watch it on TV, but in a performance art context you lose all interest.” And that is precisely the point. This work is more in line with something that Andy Kaufman would do, testing and pranking the audience. Performance can be a victim of its own tropes, reusing and relying on the same “shock” imagery, instead of true expression. Also, who said performance has to be serious? Some of the best performances I’ve witnessed if you were to describe them literally, were completely dumb in their actions, but “worked” nonetheless.

I have absolutely no idea how it ended, but the match was best out of three and the results are as follows:

Game 1: Me 1

Game 2: Me 2

Game 3: Tie

Winner: Richard Herring