Day 9 of Tempting Failure featured 7 artists at the Hackney Showroom, a performance venue in Hackney, London, as well one performance at D:NA in Herne Hill, London. 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 29th
Chelsea Coon – Diastole (2016)
By David LaGaccia
Whenever I walk into a room for a performance, I immediately become aware of myself in the space, seeing where I should stand or sit, how I should act, the current mood of the space, and how the artist has defined these boundaries.
Walking into Chelsea Coon’s durational performance Diastole in the early afternoon made me instantly consider my surroundings and the effect she was trying to create. The atmosphere of the room had a sterile medical feel to it; the room was lined with what looked like face cleansing pads, which I felt subliminally told the spectators that they within in the boundaries of the performance. Coon sat in the middle in a circle defined by a single spotlight, and further defined by a ring of contact lenses; small stainless steel saucers and a tray lay in front of her with more contact lenses, small needles, and a piece of translucent thread.
Because Coon’s choice of materials were so small, she almost forced the viewer to come forward to investigate what she is doing and what materials she was using, otherwise her performance lent an ambiguity into the actions and materials she used for spectators who chose to stay afar.
Her actions were simple, and progressed slowly throughout the day. Though not necessarily in this order, she would place small piles of salt in the contact lenses surrounding her, and then dumping them out and connecting them, like something you would see in a ritual; the lines of salt were thin enough to just make it to the next lens. She would then place the salt back into the individual contact lenses erasing her progress. Every so often she would prick her finger with a needle, and carefully place a drop of blood into one of the lenses in the steel tray in front of her; she would then place the blood filled lens on one of the tiny saucers along with needle in front of her as well. There were ten contact lenses placed in front of her in total, one for each finger and one for each drop of blood. She also sometimes turned her back to the audience to face the fall behind her, or sat up straight, stretching her body with eyes closed. As much as I was aware, she never concisely made eye contact with the audience.
Coon cycled through and destroyed the progress of each of her actions in her performance; however, she was not just repeating the same actions, because even though they may be similar, each action is a new action that untimely progresses the performance.
Though I don’t feel this was the message of the work, I felt the repetition of her actions with only slight progressions spoke about our own tendency to get into routines while only taking minor steps forward through life.
Emma Lloyd – Piece for… (2016)
By Lisa Stertz
One person at a time, Emma Lloyd invites for a non-verbal communication. On the hour, starting at 11am, you were invited to tell her anything you want. The only rule was to do so without your language as in words, but with any kind of non-lingual vocabulary you may inhabit, or want to use. Emma would answer (to) your story in playing her violin, and it would depend on each singular encounter, how your story – as in your own, as well as in the story of the two of you – would unfold. Either both of you had a monologue, where you start your time together, and she ends it, a ping pong dialogue, where both of you “talk” back and forth, or an ongoing conversation, where both of you create an over-layering environment of togetherness.
In each case you will have been together in present time. This encounter is yours. Your memory will carry it on. The openness of Emma Lloyd to receive you with any kind of information is a gesture of love. In an existential understanding, she is unconditionally open to be with you, to listen to you, to play with, and to play to you. She gives you her attention and offers you to give, what you are willing to give, to give you a response to that, and thus create a relationship with you for the time given. “Piece for…” is a beautiful invitation of being – together.
Jin Bells – Cleansed (2016)
By Natalie Ramus.
The vast space of Hackney Showroom is empty. As we move through the dark space we search for the performer. The fact that the dynamics of the performance are not clear makes me feel uneasy. Where do we stand? Where should we look? Where is Jin Bells? As the audience quietens into the space the sounds of banging, movement and an alarm fills the space from behind the large shutter. We stand looking at the shutter trying to imagine the image that matches the sounds. No matter how much I imagined I was not prepared for the image I was faced with when the shutter door was raised. A scene filled with several wooden structures surrounded by buckets and a hose with water that poured onto an upturned bucket, the sound of which perforated the air and created an atmosphere that was filled with tension. Jin’s nude body was contained within a cage like harness which had marked the surface of his skin with red flashes. These red inflamed flashes signified to me the time and action that had passed before we were even aware of Jin’s whereabouts. How long had he been there?
Bells sat within a large bucket shivering. Instead of struggling to free himself from the confined space he seemed to be struggling to fit himself deeper into the bucket. At the sound of the next alarm he moved onto the next apparatus, to which he attached the harness and hung suspended in the air. It seemed like a pause in the madness of the relentless cycle, but for me as a witness it wasn’t really a relief as the anticipation of what may come became almost as torturous as the actions that surrounded that moment. The next alarm alerted Bells to move to the upturned bucket, placing his head inside. The water poured into the bucket, much quieter than before. Whilst this created a sense of relief from the panic inducing noise, we began to hear the struggle of a head submerged and the need for breath, which was much more distressing than the noises of before. The next alarm created relief from the struggle but we then witnessed Bells bang his head, still in bucket, to the floor, water spilling as Bells shivered violently. This marked the end of the cycle, but the cycle repeated. Over and over. And over. My mind turned to torture, Guantanamo Bay and the act of water boarding… I felt deep empathy for Bells, and I wanted to interrupt the cycle. That was until I came to the realisation that Jin was doing this to himself. As we stood inside looking out at Jin I realised that we were looking on, observing a process that Bells was going through by his own choosing. He was doing this to himself. I wondered if this was a manifestation of a personal journey. A cleansing of his own demons? A cleansing of memories of the past? The presence of water seemed so relevant, but to see this cleansing element in such a violent way made me think about how often the cleansing / moving on from relationships can often be so painful to go through. The openness and vulnerability of what seemed to be an attempt at exorcism on Bells’ part allowed for us as the viewer to connect and share an emotional experience with him. This was not a presentation of ideas, this was not about illustrating a concept; this was a shared lived experience that went on beyond the shutter closing. It was not an action made solely for the audience to witness….this was a process that happened behind closed doors, beyond the performative space.
Robert Hesp – Bathe (2016)
By Natalie Ramus
The small intimate room is dark, lit only by a light installation which consists of five fluorescent tubes. The light is suspended over a bath which is filled with hot water, awaiting the nine participants who, one by one, will share their experience of the bath with the viewers who observe from the periphery of the room. The atmosphere is serene as we wait and watch the participant enter the space carrying a bucket and pouring it’s contents into the bath. As they undress and climb into the bath I realise that as a viewer it feels very voyeuristic to look on from the shadows. I begin to consider how people are often so curious about the lives of others. How whenever I walk down a street in darkness, if a house has it’s curtains open and lights on, I cannot stop myself from looking in. We have an urge to look in, or imagine the life of others behind closed doors, and I feel that this installation created a platform where we were able to experience that guilt free.
It was interesting to consider how this work brought into question the notion of the performative space. This was the work of Robert Hesp, but the only time he was visible to the viewer was when he joined as a spectator. He didn’t occupy the bath. Although it was his space, he offered it up for occupation by others. It was interesting to see how participants occupied the space in a performative way. The way they moved in the bath was not always how you would normally experience a bath. The movements at times looked choreographed, and I wondered how much consideration they had given to what they would do in the bath beforehand. It was interesting to think how a set space can often change our behaviour, and how alien it can feel to try to act ‘normal’ in a space that is familiar in it’s domestic references, but unfamiliar in it’s context with an audience. Suddenly the ‘being normal’ can feel and look abnormal.
As the light flickered above and momentarily switched off, the room being plunged into darkness was a signal for the participant to leave the bath, and for the next person to collect their bucket of hot water. I was fortunate enough to be a participant in this work. I tried very hard to not think too much beforehand about how I would occupy the space. I wanted to be as present as possible, in order to really experience the surreal moment where I would bathe in front of strangers. As I undressed I could not help but be very mindful of every aspect of getting undressed and folding my clothes. I climbed into the bath making eye contact with some of those that looked on. I wondered if that voyeuristic experience would slip if I reclaimed the gaze through eye contact. I cannot comment on that as I didn’t manage to ask anyone that I made eye contact with. The eye contact did make me feel very present in the entire room opposed to just the space within the bath. There were moments of stillness as I tried to relax and just be in the bath. Gazing at the light felt hypnotic. Just like the bath, the light felt both familiar and unfamiliar in it’s form. I suppose the long bar like length of each element of the light felt reminiscent of the fluorescent lights we see so often in public spaces; but with it being so low above the bath and with in emitting a low hum of light it was also so very unfamiliar. This seemed to sum up the experience for me. The familiar/ unfamiliar experience allowed for me to really connect to the experience. When the light switched off I realised, now that I was concealed in the darkness, that I had been in an exposed and vulnerable position- but as an observer I realised that this is only, (in my opinion) a truly beautiful thing.
Louis Fleischauer – Primordial Kaos Invocation (return to Gaia’s womb) (2016)
A clear set: We see six people installed in a room at different places for different tasks to come. One round, white spotlight on the main performer, Louis Fleischauer. It fades out and up comes a video assemblages of a pregnant woman holding a microphone onto her belly, and a droning soundtrack from a different source. A text flows over the images praising kaos over control and order as the only way to and of humanity. The video ends and yellow spotlights from either side of Fleischauer’s space pulsate a transition. A ritual shall begin, and for the next 30 minutes numerous attempts of running kaos over order are shown. All of them are conducted by Fleischauer himself – a clear trajectory, an order-ing of kaos.
The wanting wish, the longing for resolution through kaos is bigger here, than the actual action. The attempt to let loose was impossible to achieve, since too many factors had to function: the layers of sound, the sequential movements, the co-performers, the audience. Fleischauer had specific views on how his performance should play out, which prevented it to be a ritualistic and transient experience for everyone. The promise of birthing kaos was not fulfilled.
Further the fact of primordiality for Fleischauer was highlighted through the use of hooks on him and three co-performers, which refers to medieval Christian and non-Christian ways of healing, but also of torture. A wound always induces pain onto the physical body. The pain induced here, additionally seemed to have masochistic and sadistic origins, which both are immature ways of dealing with being-in-the-world. They are immature, because they refer to an other, an outside-of-the-self as the cause, the responsibility for the self-being as a self-suffering. Gaia would not want you to hurt you and others, Gaia would want you to surrender to her, but simply receive, what will be given, which is something unpredictable of a grandeur, that – no matter what is it – will be received within an acceptance of life, where there is neither pain nor fear, but pure energy of physical- and liveliness.
There is something about people wanting the absolute incalculable. People that step away from mainstream to find their niche of ideal expression and to follow their idealism. Unfortunately though idealism can easily become absolutism. The ideal free world under very clear circumstances leads to a mistakable incomprehensibility of acknowledging the self and others as same on this very earth as one. In “Primordial Kaos Invocation (return to Gaia’s womb)” Fleischauer mistook and thus prevented this very invocation through his very act of commanding.
Kylie Minoise – ORETU NI (2016)
By James Shearman
Kylie came crashing in. Stood in a stark darkened hall of concrete floor, anticipating all of the possible outcomes, screaming and caterwauling feedback massaged my brain.
Rudolf Eb.er – Untitled (2016)
By Chelsea Coon
Eb.er sat upright on a table atop a sea of dark blue cloth that undulated onto the floor, legs spread open with his feet tucked behind him. Mesmeric sound permeated the air particles the audience breathed in and out. His face was covered with lapis lazuli pigment and on the floor was a vase with five white roses cut in ikebana method. He firmly held a stick with bells positioned upwards in his right hand, and a suspended accumulation of bells that positioned downwards in his left hand, which he convulsively shook throughout the duration of the work. To Eb.er’s right were five jars of various colored fluids with a clay quality and a woman outfitted in a black rounded rim hat, black clothing descriptive of her form, and heels that accentuated her movement. Her face was covered in mesh while her breasts were bare and exposed. Periodically, she would stand up, take a jar of the fluid and pour it over Eb.er’s head; it would slowly move down his face, chest, groin and onto the table. The final jar contained white fluid that when poured on his face he took on the property of porcelain. The power emanated in the space was extramundane as the shaking and sound intensified, and Eb.er’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. As if a portal was momentarily opened and closed, the work is encapsulated in the time at which it was revealed.