Documentation – Post Election Therapy: 133 Days of Madness

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Daniella LaGaccia

@lagaccia

Documentation from Post Election Therapy: 133 Days of Madness, a wonderful 2-hour performance organized by Thea Little, Niki Singleton and Morgan Roddick held at Underdonk Gallery on March 22nd in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Featuring the talents of Nicholas Cueva, Julie Bentsen, Thomas Fucaloro, Michaela Gomez, Lindsay Mandolini, Chiara No Artist, Anthony Wills Jr, as well as Little, Singleton, and Roddick who provided music, the show was an exciting work of contemporary dance and performance looking at the current political events in the United States, from the presidential election of Donald Trump, to the nomination of Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and to the protests at Standing Rock.

There were no down performances during the event, but a highlight was the work of Thomas Fucaloro, who with his chest out and a grin under his thick beard played the role of a blissfully unaware “privileged white-cis male” who stood the most to benefit under the policies of President Donald Trump. There are no benefits to playing low-key for this type of role, and Fucaloro’s performance was the appropriate tone and caricature he was portraying.

Advertisements

Appreciations: the Performance Work of Bre Lembitz

bre-lembitz-art-basel-2016-performing-hate-speech

Bre Lembitz, Performing Hate Speech Dress (2016). Miami Art Basel.
Photo: Bobby Cooper, Photo: provided by Bre Lembitz

By Daniella LaGaccia

@lagaccia

This story is about a person who uses old things to make new things. One photo of Bre Lembitz shows her dressed in a gown of words, hate speech written during the recent presidential campaign. Crossing through the crowds of tourists, art enthusiasts and collectors of the 2016 Miami Art Basel, she is dressed like an ironic image of the Statue of Liberty, itself a symbol for the freedoms that each of us posses, but, which can also be used to oppress others.

She starts with the material first and then the performance is crafted. Scrolling through her Instagram feed, you can find a number of these works, or live sculptures as she calls them, some forming more metaphoric images such as the Statue of Liberty piece, some representing living versions of street art pieces, and others creating imaginative creatures—each produced through re-purposed material.

“I really like the limitations of working with material that would otherwise be thrown away,” said Bre Lembitz. “It forces you to be more creative. The creations that I make working with that material are very different than when I would have started with if I had just come up with an image or inspiration and try to dream up something from there.”

Some works that have been dreamed up include a photo published in November of 2016. Standing in-front of a façade of a crescent moon, she looks like creature that lives there. As she describes it, “100% recycled materials: top was once a purse and a belt, headpiece is a broken disco ball, the sleeve of a ripped t-shirt, antlers are fake leaves decorated with the remnants of a well-loved silver wig.” Another takes the form of the character Cthulhu, the head shaped like a nautilus with tentacles hanging down. In this particular piece, Lembitz stated like the rest of her work,  she found and worked with the materials without knowing precisely what she wanted to make, but choreographed a performance after its creation.

Costume is a dirty word in performance, and like the word materials used in lieu of props, artists in performance art consciously distance themselves from the tropes of traditional theatre. Performance artists usually prefer solid black or solid white clothing in a performance or perform completely naked to create the illusion of an invisible body. As much as performance is dependent on the body for the content of its art, a lot of effort is put in by artists to erase the self to re-create the self as metaphor. ”I am not me, I am this idea,” is what an artist says in this approach to performance. Yet this is precisely what professional actors do when representing characters in film, television or stage. Fictional characters can never be real; a character like Hamlet is just an idea invented by William Shakespeare that is interpreted and embodied by an actor through dialogue, costume and makeup. A performance begins to be more theatrical when the artist sees themselves as separate from the actions or idea they try to create.

Performance art, on the other hand, is implicitly aware of itself in its own creation. A performance artist says, “I am me, I am producing these actions, I am creating this imagery, and I am embodying this idea.” Bre Lembitz’s work is strange because the character and the artist are the same person. She uses materials and makeup to construct the self to create the idea, and even amends her ideas after gaining feedback from using social media like Instagram.

okudart-asiafricalism-street-art

Okuda “Okudart” San Miguel, *Asiafricalism* (2016). Wynwood, Miami.
Photo: provided by Bre Lembitz

In another series of recent works, Lembitz turns herself into portraits made by street artists. In one, she created geometric patterns using Mehron paint and found fabrics to look like a mural by Okuda “Okudart” San Miguel’s *Asiafricalism* (2016) in Wynwood, Miami. Interpreting representational mural paintings in a live space, she said she started this project by creating a number of short videos featuring these characters, but she said she wants to bring to live performance, “as I’d imagine them coming off the wall and doing…bringing them to life in their own set and costume space as a whole.”

Based in Austin, Texas, Lembitz has been developing her performance practice for the past three years. She grew up in Colorado, in what she called, “an art dry area,” and got a degree in economics, and afterwards, began pursuing dance and performance.  A professional model, Lembitz has stated that it was here where she began understanding performance.

“I think the best models that I’ve seen, the ones that I’m most inspired by and most moved by the images of, are people who have a background in dance or some other performance training because you are ultimately giving a performance,” Lembitz said. “I think modeling was the first thing to let me know that I am performing.”

“The moments not captured by the camera, the moments in-between are when I started to subconsciously entertain people and create performances,” she added. “ I would create these characters from the makeup and the styling and the hair and everything that they’ve done. I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration from makeup and costume comes from, just knowing that you put something else on— you look different, and suddenly you get to be that person.”

bre-lembitz-okuda-okudart-asiafricalism

Bre Lembitz interpreting Okuda “Okudart” San Miguel’s *Asiafricalism* (2016). Mehron paint and found fabrics.
Photo: provided by Bre Lembitz

Lembitz has used social media extensively as part of her performance practice. In particular, she uses Instagram to help promote her work, yes, but she also uses it to interact with live audiences digitally, as well as to workshop performances, getting feedback that helps her develop her work. Her Instagram feed is filled pictures of the live sculptures she has created and videos for the purpose of creating longer performances. Lembitz said she began this practice after noticing that her live performances were going undocumented, and getting what she felt as unhelpful feedback from audiences.

“Instagram and other forms of social media, especially when you ask for constructive criticism, you really get it,” she said. “There’s people that are not going to appreciate what you’re doing, but the majority of people who take the time to comment do so out of a place of respect.”

“I’d rather spend more time making art and less time promoting, and that’s what’s amazing about Instagram and social media platforms, you don’t have to do as much work promoting and you can have people more a part of the process.”

Instagram has been a force in helping promote the work of visual artists, yet strangely, has to be fully explored by performance artists looking to reach audiences beyond the live space and into the digital space. If social media is a means for us to share our identity, where we go, what we eat, how we dress, then why not exploit it for aesthetic reasons, not just to share documentation, but to do what artists like Bre Lembitz are doing, using it to reach audiences not bound by location. In the digital age, photographs are the way we construct our identity and construct ourselves.

Essential Departures

rosekill-farm-essential-departures-2016

Rosekill Farm (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures.

By Máiréad Delaney

We gathered at Rosekill to examine our relationship to nature, to the land. As women we are subjected to discourses around property and bodies, whether those bodies be our own flesh, soil bodies, bodies of water. In a sense, “reclaiming” a relationship to nature is part of a decolonizing process.

Yet nationalism is often an essential turn in a decolonizing process. In nationalist discourse, the colonizer’s damage to the land—to a paradise lost—is linked to the damaging and ravaging of bodies, particularly fecund, female bodies. The colonizer rapes the mother country. Nationalism, which is ethnocentric, xenophobic, tribal and homogenizing, is a post-colonial reaction. The ensuing narrative of returning to the land becomes problematic. We must examine the impulse to reclaim a relationship between women and nature in this context.

Restored “fertile grounds” become the exclusive property of newly “autonomous” men and their state, to serve their explicit purposes. No longer to be corrupted or tampered with, men now have the power to ensure their land remains pristine, their women pure. Controlling women’s bodies in place of the colonizer becomes national defense. The land and the very air, but also the bodies of women and what they produce—all reinforce new notions of the independent identity, must be guaranteed to male progeny as inviolable state property, and the harvest reaped from them is an essential component in the molding of a nation’s future. In this context, any use to which the state puts its reclaimed women will never be considered violation.

essential-deptures-2016

Rosekill Farm (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures.

If we are to further the decolonizing process, resisting retaliatory and amalgamating nationalism, we must acknowledge that we are contested ground, and that no matter where we stand, how we traverse it, where we come to rest, we will find ourselves on contested ground.

To Michele Foucault, we are permeated by a network of convergent powers, and there is no sacred space over which it does not hold sway. Where the apparatus exists outside us, it is created and multiplied through the multifarious powers of institutions, rather than erected by their restrictive, material enforcements. These powers are religious, judicial, legislative, political, medical, familial, societal and psychological. The architecture is physical, consisting of a network of interconnected institutions, legislation, and procedure. But it is also abstract, internalized. Our actions, far from reinventing a story, are considered micro-practices of the same mechanisms. We are conditioned to re-produce their workings within ourselves, to recreate their cosmology in our most immediate and intimate surroundings. We are all complicit, neither forever victim nor flat perpetrator, and we must examine ourselves in our relations to narratives surrounding bodies and nature. We have a responsibility to author our own narratives. And to Foucault:

“there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case…inflaming certain points of the body, certain moments in life, certain types of behavior… producing cleavages in a society that shift about, fracturing unities and effecting re-groupings, furrowing across individuals themselves…remolding them, marking off irreducible regions in them. “

At Rosekill, during Essential Departures, we are perhaps in a position to buck binaries and explore the cracks that appear on this contested ground, and are revealed in the marks on our skin. We might problematize and examine dichotomies of subject and object, presence and absence, labor and action, intervention and assimilation, transcendence and objectification, nature and artifice.

valerie-sharpe-essential-departures-2016

Valerie Sharp (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Depatures

Exploring these cracks may allow us to consider our own complicity in oppressive colonial and neoliberal discourses. In boundary spaces and on liminal grounds, in spaces of exile, in-between-ness and borders, identities may be negotiated, modified, and sometimes transformed. Performance claims liminality as its operating space, but it is up to us to act radically in this place.

We considered mythologies in our time at Rosekill. Often myths are read by the conqueror and by the “recovering native” to be a manifestation of backwardness, superstition and savagery. Myths supposedly emanating from uncouth people in need of tutelage or reform. Alternatively, they are romanticized. They portray the fierce, the fey, the ethereal and whimsical, even the gothic. It is essentializing and part of colonial discourse to reduce long histories of resistance through oral tradition as nostalgic pre-occupation and breathless emotion.

fire-ritual-essential-deprtures-2015

Group performance, Fire Ritual (2015). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures

In Ireland, for example, there are myths of resistance surrounding the deeds done to women, their origins and consequences. Outside the parables and tropes of the Catholic Church, there are many instances in Celtic myth where a young woman is seduced by the Good People, by the Faerie, the Sidhe. There are stories of supernatural liaisons and trysts. A woman will give birth to a changeling child. Or a “good mother’s” human child will be stolen and replaced by a changeling, a faery child—always sickly, insatiable, even devious or demonic. This child is one to be rid of, often through violent means—by fire, for example. I see these stories as the reframing of very real violations of social taboo. They mask instances of rape and incest, they make magical the delivery of illegitimate children and justify infanticide, all outside the realm of the church’s punitive social apparatus. A supernatural cause suits and vindicates pain when its real cause is dangerous to name. Victimhood becomes slippery. Perpetrating or incriminating figures—men and the illegitimate children, respectively—actually become liminal. The events discursively, mystically bridge between two realms. Myths fill in the gaps, give surreal context while speaking to real events, real disruptions. The power of myth against colonizer lies in ambiguity, but not salvation.

In Ireland the land feels and is described as though it is sodden with myth, age, trauma, remembrance, even violence. It is crossed by old British property lines, standing stone walls.  They raise visible scars of the occupied past. Mass graves settle into hollows behind convents where “fallen women” washed laundry without pay and without finite sentence, purifying their souls with symbolic labor and religious penance. These hauntings reside in the landscape, stemming from the damages of an oppressor or a punitive, reactionary nationalist state. Yet hauntings extend to living bodies as well. The untraceable scars left on the psyche, as well as the visible scars on bodies are present and cannot be relegated to historical time, vacuum place of defunct institution, nor a mythical alternate reality. I came from Ireland and the consideration of herniated land both a dissonant and analogous companion to the colonized body.

photo-jul-26-8-29-48-am

Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York (2016).
Courtesy of Essential Departures

As we came to this land, to Rosekill, with our bodies, what surfaces? What can be thrust upon our psyches? What churns in our bodies as we stand in physical space, grappling with fissures in time, with distress and quietude? Content at odds with environment encroaches, sometimes forces itself upon the mind. If it makes itself felt, it shouts about absence. What humans have done to each other, what we do to ourselves, seeps into and out of space, into and out of comprehension. And this perhaps makes us feel at odds with our skin and the now psychically crawling surfaces around us.

This fracture of worlds overlaid in one state, this hernia of the psyche, holds the cognitive dissonance between external reality and felt experience; between normalizing discourse and embodied knowledge. And this ringing paralysis may be seen as a prison, if trauma and only trauma—what is held below language and out of discourse—seizes the mind. Yet resonant spaces, broken places, and cracks vibrate as such because they hold alternate versions of history. Their continuous existence perhaps speaks to the “inability of the institutional regime to defeat the individual imagination,” wrote James M. Smith. In them, if we act with due insight, perhaps we have the power to rebuff an intrusive state and intrusive and internalized misogynistic discourses.

Poppy Jackson - Site - Rosekill

Poppy Jackson, Hay Barn (2015). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Photo: Maria Forque, Courtesy of Poppy Jackson

Poppy Jackson made her performance of Hay Barn at Essential Departures in 2015. The piece was performed as Site (2015) for London’s SPILL Festival of Performance later that year.

Jackson straddled the peak of Rosekill’s red barn. Her legs ran with the rooflines, her torso rose atop the old structure, our communal meeting place. Jackson’s pose referenced a figure from Irish mythology. With the wide eyes of a child, the bald head of seeming androgyny, Sheela na Gig is a woman’s masturbating form. She holds open the lips of her vulva in play, welcome or warning, she is carved in stone. She still exists, left untouched over the entrances of Christian churches in Ireland. Her pagan menace is perhaps what saved her, or what served acceptably as baleful reminder to sinner and heathen—She squats as both guardian of and open hole to the underworld.

Was Jackson delivering the building or was she impaled on it? Was she on high to be worshipped or targeted? Seen from a distance, from the fields below, Jackson’s action was quiet. She might have loomed formidable on her aerie, and indeed she seemed to merge with the architecture of classic Americana, but one thought of her flesh on the metal roof, the skin of inner leg at first touching daunting heat and then perhaps transferring body warmth to cooling metal as the sun set. Vulnerable sentry turned to silhouette.

mairead-delaney-essential-departures-2015

Máiréad Delaney (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures

Launching bales of hay, I kept baling twine slung around my hips. A bundle of sleigh-bells hung between my legs, concealed by my dress. The bells were audible but visible only as pendulous mystery—swinging horse-phallus, half-delivered calf. ‘Good For’ was labor, struggle, and failure against but inescapably alongside grace, purity, and authenticity. I baulked and embodied my own foundering as rural woman made beautiful by endurance, whose must sweat fall cleanly, becoming the salt of the earth. My body was demanded as sleek animal, broodmare, to bend and sway, thrust and curve under the unremitting, inexorable test of work as the only measure of virtue. I strove under sun for one grim nod of ‘good enough. “For now.”

When we returned to Rosekill the following summer, Agrofemme stood akimbo in high sun, filling a rut in the ground with the stream of a hose. Two mud flap decals, curvaceous woman-forms, knees cocked, stuck to her flanks—her lower back, above her ass. The bodies of the stickers sparkled with the confederate flag. When the rut was brimming, Agrofemme rounded its edge, stood still. Then she let her body drop, dead-weight, headlong into the water, cracking her nose and eye socket on impact.

agrofemme-essential-departures-2016

Agrofemme, mudflaps (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures

mudflaps was durational, it set in: her prone form, her naked, baking, goose-pimpled flesh, the flashing stickers, the abandoned hose, the bright grass, the draining water, the passing, saturated day. The forensic interest of passerby. Her body was site of violence done and left for dead, her body was the body of wounded white woman to be avenged, her body was cause, justification and face for the flag of racism.

I was naked at the border of a field. There were invisible arms rising above me, protecting, hovering, threatening to descend in rushing judgement, threatening to drop with an exhalation like last breath. They were the arms of hard men, broken men. Broken men covered in hardness, broken places iced over, suited to the starkness of tall ash trees. Indistinguishable from the iron sky, they flattened unthinkingly the mud lying too-warm, fallow. I marked with a cinderblock a furrow in the ground: push-pull. I lifted the block to my chest, looped its loops over my wrists, thrust my arms through to the biceps. I reached for the tree branch above my head, on tip-toes, the block in between. I jumped. The block followed me back down, hitting my crown as my feet hit the ground. Yet I jumped. I hurled the hay and my hair blew gold in the wind. We are compliant. We love our tyrants. What happens within a bruise? When impact is lifted, color expands, blooms.

img_8731

Máiréad Delaney (2016). Essential Departures, Rosekill Farm, New York.
Courtesy of Essential Departures

Through performance we have the power to act in these in-between places, activating their kind of embodied understanding. Performance is immersive in sense and environment, and herein lies its power. Yet insight through this embodied knowledge does not require traumatization as penance for understanding. We must be discerning about this power. Felt knowledge in the body is explicitly sentient, aware: it recognizes. Perhaps gestures in live art perform Foucault’s resistance, “inflaming certain points of the body, certain moments in life, certain types of behavior.” They may accompany the critical eye in its often discouraging work of astute deconstruction regarding false narratives and complicity. Through resistance we salvage fragments of ourselves, creating new bodies. New narratives can arise from the rifts and breaches created by imposing a dominant discourse over resisting bodies, they emanate from the bodies themselves, from their felt experience.

We have a responsibility towards decolonization. In this space, we have the opportunity to become aware of our position and proximity to this process, and we have a choice– to keep that position or to change it.

Mon corps tel qu’il est — In Conversation With Kamil Guenatri

7_tempting-failure_kamil-guenatri_10_14_0861

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure Bonella Holloway

A conversation between Bonella Holloway and Kamil Guenatri

Artist Kamil Guenatri and his assistant Bonella Holloway sat in Guenatri’s flat in Toulouse on a Thursday morning. They recently returned from London, where Kamil performed his piece “10-14”, with Bonella’s contribution at the Tempting Failure Performance Art and Noise Art Festival this past July. The multiple levels of their relationship, artistic, professional and personal, become apparent through a dialogue on Kamil’s vision of performance art, his artistic process, his disability, and ham.

Bonella: Do you think that the bottom line of performance art is a body functioning in a space?

Kamil: In my works, space is a recurrent notion, and I think that it’s more or less unavoidable as soon as you’re confronting an audience: it happens within a space. It’s even more apparent in my case, because my work is often installation based. The body becomes an installation, the installation is built with the body itself. The sculptural body. My face is no longer a face, it becomes a surface in the space, that undergoes a series of modifications. When I try to imagine a performance in a specific location, the space is the starting point of the performance.

There’s also another aspect, the use of the body, the outskirts of the body, as a space in and of itself, and here space is not physical, but corporal. And on a more abstract level, I work with invisible space—  how to create an emotion or something that cannot necessarily be seen, but that is communicated through the audience’s presence: as an exchange.

So for me there are three types of spaces: physical, corporal and invisible. And I work with all three, or one and the other…often all three.

7_tempting-failure_kamil-guenatri_10_14_030

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: The body in a space, do you necessarily mean your own body that has a different mobility to others? Do you base your research on the function of your personal body?

K: People often say, the body is subject, it’s kind of acknowledged by the majority. In my case, because my body is immobile, I can’t say that my body is subject. When I present myself I’m Kamil, with my experience, so the subject “Kamil Guenatri” is put forward, transmitted, seen and felt, so it is the subject. But again with the sculptural aspect: when I imagine a performance, for me my body is an object, definitely an object. It’s separate members, and I integrate these objects as you’d integrate elements to an installation. Being immobile allows me to represent my body as an object. And being object suggests being manipulated. It is moved in the space, modified, displaced, transformed. And that’s where my assistants play their part.

B: I’ll get back to the assistants later, but first can we talk about objects, the other objects you use? How did this corpus of objects develop throughout your practice? Are the objects symbolic?

K: To explain this part I need to explain my work process. It’s not always the same recipe, but something keeps coming back and persists. It often starts off with an image, a mental image. This image is me, or a part of my body, or another body, not mine, a male body. And the body is doing something.

B: Do you mean your collaborations?

K: No, a body.

B: Your male body?

K: No. No. It’s um… It’s not an ideal, it’s not me in a body that I’m not, I don’t see it as a fantasy, I feel that… When I’m in a performance festival, 90% of the artists that I’ll see are able-bodied. So my imagery of performance art is normative. If I saw a lot of disabled people doing performance art, my imagery would be different. So it’s this undone image of me, willy-nilly, it’s a silhouette. I don’t care so much about this silhouette, what interests me is what he’s doing. The action becomes obsessional, the image keeps coming back. In these actions there’s a recurring language of objects. Objects that communicate amongst themselves. They’re symbolic, or visual, but inspired by my obsessions, and by my culture of performance art. I’m soaked in lots of other performance art, that I reuse, with my own curbs.

They’re part of my imagination, and the more I use them they tire, and new images appear and so on.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_033

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: A form of vocabulary?

K: Yes, I think if you take each individual performance you could add them up to find a whole meaning.

B: More than a guideline, a big continuity of smaller fragments.

K: Yes, an ongoing process. That I often bypass, towards new researches. Intellectual counts, not just inspiration. A bit of both, but conducted.

B: So the objects and images are recurrent, with the use of your body used as a patterns that are repeated, and what we mentioned earlier, your assistants. Have you always embraced the idea of integrating your assistants with their specific part in your performances, or to begin with was this more of a constraint than anything else?

K: Well, back to this image, there’s a point where I say to myself, “shit this is too complicated”, I can’t do this alone. And just like in my day to day life, I have assistants that are there to compensate my disability and to help me. If a lightbulb needs changing, my assistant does it for me. As I’m in the field of contemporary performance that incites us, as artists, to not dissociate what we live and what we show, it seems legitimate that my assistants do this artistic work for the images to exist. My potential is my own, my assistant’s, my wheelchair’s and everything that surrounds me in my daily life.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_096

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: During the conference at Tempting Failure, you mentioned that the way each performance develops depends partly on the assistant that you’re working with. This was the first time I recognized this idea, I hadn’t taken into account the importance you gave, not just to your assistant, but to which assistant you chose for a specific performance.

I saw a reflection of my own work in your last performance [‘10-14’ (2016)], in which I assisted you. When you’re developing a particular performance, do you chose who you’re going to do it with, or is it simply that through working with this or that assistant, the ideas and personality of whoever it is permeates your work as a form of exchange?

K: I don’t guide the process in that direction. I don’t take on the role of a stage director, who knows his actors and digs into their personality. On the other hand, I have a group of assistants that work 24 hours. With these six assistants, I follow my schedule as a performance artist, and if a performance is on a Saturday, then I’ll think ahead, and two months beforehand tell whoever’s working that day, “We’re going to perform together!” From there on, I know who’ll be doing it. It’s a compromise between what’s easiest for me, and optimizing my relationship with my assistants.

In your case it was very obvious, because you also make performance art and in our practices have lots of things in common: food, sound, in your readymade approach, that’s simple and shows things as they are. So in the case of our work together it’s blatant. We almost don’t need to think it over. And so, coming back to the example of TF, because you make music and that, I wanted to give it a go too, I figured it was a good opportunity. It would have been a shame to not do it, so there’s this image to begin with, and I find it interesting to give it different forms. The shape it’ll take with Bonnie, with Camille… it’s like a series of paintings, it’s never exactly the same.  The factor that changes is how the assistant and I collaborate.

With other assistants, take Audrey for example, who is very—like in her video work: it’s very refined and thorough. Subconsciously, the images we make together resemble her artistic architecture.

kamil-guenatri-cafe-poesie

Kamil Guenatri, “10-14” (2015), Cave Poésie, Nuage en pantalon, action poetry festival (Toulouse, FR).
Photo: Kathleen Brunet, Courtesy of Kamil Guenatri

B: Right, in the performance that you did with her at the Cave Poésie [“10-14”, (2015)], despite there being similar gestures to the ones from the performance in London, it was definitely more meticulous, precise and methodic, in the way she moves. And it’s not just her personality, I think it’s in your relationship.

In the exchange in the month before the performance, when the process is already developing, without its audience, do you feel that these factors are already taken into account? Or do they just happen, as an unplanned result?

K: I don’t foresee everything. Perhaps that’s the part that just happens autonomously—there’s always a part that just happens. Especially because you’re integrated to my daily life. You’re impregnated by me outside of the performance and I know you outside of this context too.

I’m trying to be more and more attentive to it. There’s the visual design—I have an image, I want to make it. This is a really important factor. But it’s not just this, there’s another design. The design of the experience.

It can become visible, but it’s something that is conveyed, communicated. It’s what can be perceived in what’s there. I try to use my own experience as much as I can in my performances, but with the assistant’s presence, it’s my experience, his experience and what we do together during the performance. And this I don’t try to control.

B: That’s the part that neither you, your assistant, nor the audience can control. The part that escapes control.

K: So what interests me, is to see how this turns out, the result. It feeds my imagination for the next performance, and the leftovers are visible. It takes shape.

7_tempting-failure_kamil-guenatri_10_14_028

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: This tension, the exchange that takes place between you and me in your performance, is something that, when we’re at your house and doing the gestures of your daily routine, doesn’t exist, because they’re actions that we do repeatedly, carefully, but in front of an audience there was such a tension between us, which is obviously intangible, can be seen quite clearly.  At least, I’ve experienced it as a spectator at other performances of yours. What is strange, and different from when I’m doing my own performances, whether they’re collaborative or not, is that my tension is related to my own self-awareness, and the image I’m conveying.  At TF, my experience was completely different to this. Being your assistant allowed me to have absolutely no awareness of the audience, of my image in front of them, of how they could perceive my presence—I was scared, playing the performer’s part, but because of taking care of you, doing the same habitual actions from our daily life, which have become movements that demand worry and care. The particular tension of being over aware of your well-being, not the “Kamil’s performance needs to go right”, but “is Kamil, the everyday Kamil, OK”. And this is why I find it so interesting that you use daily actions, because I keep the mindset from our everyday.

K: It’s more difficult to repeat a daily action in a performance, than the daily action itself on a daily basis, even for me.

Sometimes I think to myself, hang on, you’re getting stressed out about doing three times a day. I know exactly what you mean, you couldn’t see the audience.

B: No, not at all.

K: I could definitely see them. For me if you couldn’t see them you weren’t acting, you were really living what you were doing. It was sincere.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_088

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: I didn’t feel like I was acting. Although it can probably come off as dramatic, I don’t feel that there’s pathos of anything theatrical about it, because it’s very real, even when I bind your face with blue thread – which we don’t do on a daily basis – it’s done simply. Drama free.

K: And this is where I don’t agree with some peoples idea of performance art. For me performance art, and this is how I intend it, is something that’s action inspired and so I can’t dramatize or stage it, this seems ridiculous to me. I think it’s a pity regarding history of art and performance art to go back to that. Been there, done that, get over it. What I do belongs to a family of performers, quite a big family, and that’s how they work, through actions.

B: Let’s get back to objects. Does the ham for example, in the performance ‘10-14’, signify something specific?

K: Firstly, like all objects, it’s an image. I’ve never performed in Paris, I’ve never tried to, maybe one day I will. One day I was with friends, joking about “parisienism” and “provincialism”. You know, provincials, and all the losers from the south. And I said that the first performance I would do in Paris would have a ham suspended in the air that I would cover in olive oil and herbs de Provence. That’s it. To awaken something sensorial , and the image stuck. In the meantime I developed the ideas, but when TF took place, and I’d seen the space already, I said to myself, why wait for Paris, let’s do it here. And you know the rest. We tried oil and realized it wasn’t all that interesting, the image unraveled, and got mashed up with my current research. I attempt to keep a certain relevance with my general process and the image transforms, it’s fed by all sorts of things that bounce off different factors that are important to me. Collaboration, the space, the images…

B: That’s another point we have in common in our work, the starting point is often a trivial joke or funny idea in a conversation.

K: Yeah, and this is one of the rare ideas that isn’t a mental image, it’s a social image.

B: Social, yes, but the audience wanted to see it as something more… spiritual or pathetic. As if the ham were an image of your inert body, upon which you transfer you t-shirt and your tattoo.

K: What interests me in this is the poetry. Jesus, Mary and a ham, I think it’s great, we really killed…God. God is dead.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_129

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: I find that people want to see a more serious and intellectual side, the intense polysemy in your work, rather than the black humour, your cynical view of society, that reflects your perception of society in relation to the fact you’re in a wheelchair.

K: I’m a minority, I have an outside view on all this. It’s evidently critical, and feeds my work. And it is serious, I want it to be serious. But I try to keep a distance with the whole thing. For me performance art is a form of ritual. And once you have a ritual then you’re talking about what’s sacred. I put humour into sacred, it’s important, just to make it profane—

B: —to desacralize it, all the while using sacred codes, or pagan more like, because your work tends to connote satanic rituals…

K: I’m very influenced by the history of rituals and people. I make no difference between contemporary performance art and ancient rituals. There are such blatant common points between the two. I get somewhat trapped by my influences.

B: A trap?

K: No, but a reflection of my mystical influences, I REVENDIQUE myself as mystical on some levels, so the “invisible” and these things we can’t perceive or explain fascinate me. I find it interesting to dig into these ideas, but which a certain distance, so that it’s funny and sarcastic. It’s art, not a religion.

7_tempting-failure_kamil-guenatri_10_14_031

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

B: One last point, that fact that you’re part of a ‘minority’, when people see what you do, they tend to say that you’re talking about your disability. For me this is similar to the way people will undermine that a film about a homosexual is therefore a film on homosexuality, or that a woman’s work of art would be about her condition as a woman, or that a Muslim’s work is necessarily about their condition as a Muslim. What annoys me in this is that if you’re not an able-bodied white atheist man—

K: …the alleged silhouette—

B: …then we are ‘conditioned’ and that our condition would therefore overwrite any other subject and become our work. Are you simply talking from your experience, as a human being, or is disability a central subject in your art?

K: It’s my point of view, that’s undeniable. On the other hand, my point of view crosses others, but like all disabled person… My condition, is being in Occident, on a wheelchair, and occidentals in wheelchairs have more or less the same conditioning as I do, with their personal experience on top. My opinion integrates a global opinion. Disability in a common vision, is directly related to sorrow and pity – and that’s something I really can’t change! My body is a body of suffering in its representation, so whatever I do, that’ll always be stuck to me, because that’s what people think.  So that is something I’m talking about, but I’m trying to demolish the very idea, with my images. It’s a form of bad faith, to demolish people’s perception of disability, it’s negative philosophy, a reaction, to stir their conscience. That’s the whole point of art in general, this transformation in the conscience of the onlooker, to displace their perspective. That’s my aim when I look at a work of art, I want something to change within me.

B: And in of itself, you can’t not talk about it.

K: My basic concept is exactly that, my body just as it is.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_162

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

INCESTICA

A post-performance experimental text by Ian Deleón, Agrofemme, and Mr. Thursday

 

INCESTICA

A performance collaboration exploring incest, insects, anal/menstrual preoccupations, and the Oedipal family drama.

The Viscose Factory, Art Rat Studios, Roanoke Virginia, USA
September 17 2016

  FATHER                                          Mr. Thursday
SISTER AND MOTHER                  Agrofemme
BROTHER AND PROGENY           Ian Deleón

 

Prologue

“In her, I entered into Hades; with her, I traveled all the way into the oceanic silt, tangled myself in the seaweed, petrified myself into the limestone, circulated into the veins of coral” – Gabrielle Wittkop, The Necrophiliac

“Down for the wedding, my dear brother?” – attributed to Catherine of Siena, speaking to a man on the gallows

incestica-ian-delon-agrofemme-performance-1

Scene I: The Bedside Prayer and a Shadow Eating an Apple

Father stands in an invisible doorway looking severe in a suit jacket while slowly eating a red apple. Behind him, a large, padded wheelchair with an attached spotlight casts his long shadow across the bedroom as he watches his children kneel in prayer. The pale-faced siblings repeat the Bedtime Prayer, alternating between gazing downwards, at each other, and at the imposing shadow along the wall.

Our voices whisper to one another: Now I Lay me Down, I pray the Lord my soul to keep … And If I Die before I Wake, I pray thee Lord my Soul to take….

incestica-ian-deleon-agrofemme-performance-2

Scene II: The Chair and the Matchbox

Sitting back in the large, padded chair as if on the lap of a monstrous grandparent, Father shuts off the spotlight and ignites a colder, vignetting beam from a headlamp. The children, who have now ceased their prayers and lie still in bed next to one another,  can no longer see him but he continues to watch, and to eat his apple.

Mechanically entreated. Only the Core of knowing sin, plump petaled still, is left to eat. Slowly, savor the last pulp of apple on the pate eternal. I am sitting now, the projected halo of my panoptic dirge rounds m-eye children. Their matches hatch conspiracies but eye am not paranoid – the banquet awaits the pronouncement of their temerity. I own th-eye-m. I don’t know that eye still own silhouettes under sheets stained in my-or-our cereal histories, can’t cover nothing, can’t cover sins unbelieved and unseeing.

With hands at first folded politely above the bed sheet, the star-gazing children begin to loosen and steal flashing glances at one another beneath the turquoise glow of this intimate nocturnal distance. They slowly begin pulling the sheet above their heads, sitting up in bed facing each other, creating a tent with their bodies. Between them a match is stricken, and the siblings begin an exchange of vows, longings and misgivings that culminate in an intimate embrace and a building sense of shame.

Camphor burns my nostrils as I struggle to read the text. My eyes water and voice hoarsely falters as if with true emotion. Match after match is struck, as we take turns striking, reading, striking, reading.

I Fear we will literally ignite the stage in this dramatic re-framing of our true-to-life passion.

“ Here is the house, where it all happens … Body and soul come together, as we come closer together … Death is everywhere. There are flies on the windscreen, for a start, reminding us we could be torn apart tonight … I want to take you in my arms, forgetting all I couldn’t do today … With or without words, I’ll confide everything … He says it’s for her only that he lusts. She doesn’t trust him. Nothing is true, but he will do in a world full of nothing … It’s easy to slip away and believe it all … Apologies are all you seem to get from me … It’s a question of lust, it’s a question of trust … It is all of these things and more that keep us together … It frightens me … We feel like pioneers .. Wounds aren’t healing inside of me. Though it feels good now, I know it’s only for now … ”[1]

Brother wrestles the sheet from his sibling and uses it to cover himself as he retreats away from the bed into a nearby bathroom.

He leaves me, a stain between my legs. An incontinence of his, a menses of my own, a miscarriage of bodily fluids, a visible humiliation.

At some point, Father has finished his apple.

incestica-ian-deleon-agrofemme-perfromance-3

Scene III: The Transformation & The Dinner Table

Sister exits the bedroom and joins the Father, who is now in the adjacent dining room area, a hooded figure sitting at the end of a long table. Sister becomes Mother, and upon their messy array of a dinner table, the parents communicate with howling nags and jabs.

Our table is laid with indian corn, likker, peanut shells, floggers, processed meats and briny things.

Father attempts to eat raw beef franks and peaches through his hood while Mother fixes her hair.

I crack eggs into a dish after mixing a vodka, not gin, martini, gulping at it as I beat the eggs with a bristle brush. Combing egg into my ratty head, I roll beer cans from the audience into my hair. Mr. Thursday and I argue, snipping at each other in guttural and whining barks, a simulation of language, a hurling of absurdist accusations what cause the audience laughter, “SHIBBERSHITSKULLIUNKK”, I gesture at his pathetic hole. Struggling to keep the Miller Highlifes in my hair, I blow-dry the egg to stiffen the curl. [How quickly the uncanny becomes the comedic].

The bi-partisan feast of our larges. Her and I. Watch us eat. Watch meat n’ peach dream through the black grid of worm poop, strung together like the meted fists of state gluttony that gloss m-eye continents. Crackle-click. All mine(d). She has her part to play, amorphous blob, will in and out besides bleated piglets we produced, and she is. The taper’s out again. The blabbing and skirted language of rotted seductions peels ever so. What is that? I’ll spit the shells pleb-wise and yell about the bathroom. What takes him so long? Crackle-crack. The knife, watch the knife. Crackle-scratch. Closer… What’s that yelling from the blob now!?[2]

incestica-ian-deleon-agrofemme-performance-4

Scene IV: The Insect The Broom & The Apples

Meanwhile, in the cavernous lavatory, the “head”, brother has undergone a visible and dramatic transformation into the ill-equipped seed of the siblings’ union.  He has become something more earthly, though shrouded in pr(e/o)scription — the imundo.[3]

Within the chapel of excrement, I found myself changed. Where once was an adept and wrinkle-less hand there now protruded a brilliant obsidian flipper, more capable of shoveling motions than the discrete digital flurries of before. I discovered my body to be incapable of prolonged vertical jaunts, preferring the cold proximity of the concrete under hind foot — I was a horizontal animal. Vision blurred and aural sensibilities deferred, I now sensed with every extremity. Where once pain was localized, now excruciation grew to a totalizing body-mapped experience. What WE now found most unusual and somehow most serene was a small perturbance, an asymmetrical eruption around the lip of our rear quarters. Our sphin(x)cter had become engorged with a sense of its own importance, and thus, we resolved to dispel that riddling gatekeeper and open the portal to our (in/ex)ternal worlds once again.

The Progeny now emerges, a voice-less rattle of chains and tightened physical constraints, a hand transformed into a digit-less mitten. Shiny, leathery skin, Anus protruding for all to see. Scurrying about the dining room, it attempts to garner the attention of its (GRAND)parents, mostly through the uncoordinated display of its dilated anus. Clutching a container of Rx Proctozone, it inserts the conical applicator tip into the rectum and squeezes out/in a significant amount of the Doctor’s white.

The parents remain focused on their asinine activities. Still unnoticed, it crawls underneath the tablecloth and approached Mother from an intimate angle. Here, with the still recognizable human hand, the insect reaches up to touch the mother’s drinking glass, causing her to relax her grip on it as if setting it down on a table. It is now that she catches sight of the creature, in multiple ways, her progeny.

I awoke from this mundanity to a gigantic insect, it’s domelike brown belly rubbing over my bare toes, it’s fingers on the base of my martini glass, slowly pulling the drink from my grip. I recoiled in horror, screeching at my husband, gesturing; “Kill this thing!”.

What is it!? The son of so-called night shifts under the sheet they hid. The dream-child in chitin, shit-wielded. Formed of ME!? Formed of illicit, formed of empire’s leavings, formed of inceC-ssssst! Not mine… no, no, NO bed eye made. Halo saw all… but not this… How ma-me screams so! Antenna-ed like father though, leathered like of wandering days… yet family-ALL!!! OUT, OUT, sOUTh… What for armament…. The scold of lost nights neurotic and fruit of labors dead. The pate of cousin-ed desires, cold-membered APPLE’s for artillery and deathly work to exorcize this sONE in the alley!

Clutching a broom worn to a frazzled nub, I gain boozy courage, jabbing at the heinous figure skittering at our feet. We chase It out the door to a narrow alley, pushing it towards a drainage man-hole.

The pitiful creature struggles to approach something like a normal gait amidst a torrent of physical and “verbal” abuse from the ‘rents. The Mother with her broom and the Father with his apples — p(u/o)mmeling it into submission.

incestica-ian-deleon-agrofemme-performance-5

Scene V:  The Sewer Grate

Bwa ha ha HA – return to the sOUTh you scurrier! No son a m-eye-n! What fear we played up to ensure our continued benevolence. Her, dappled now like ma-me used to be, loverly dough-ter… her and I. M-eye self the light, hersELF the foil of their error passivity, pathetic wrangled mob of indifferent soomers of our CON.

The Progeny continues to gaze up at the parents, pleading for recognition, only to be met with derision. They finally coax the creature into a six-foot-under sewer drain, taunting and sneering at it while they pull the lid over its head. Shamelessly and coolly smoking a cigarette at the foot of this victory, they jest while the vermin whimpers from the darkness below.

HA! Like leafs in the wake of a train they followed the cumbat. Regal we laugh and share a fag and limp back to the ordered reek-bench of OUR continued progress.

Parents stagger off down the alley. Father is gone. The Incestica trapped.

incestica-ian-deleon-agrofemme-6

Scene VI: The Deflation

I am alone. The bed is before me, and I drop my robe.

Standing before the amber stain on white sheets, I am naked.

A “lacanian Shroud of Turin”.[4]

  1. Release Valve, 2. Lock Knees, 3. Fall Flat: the air mattress socking my nose like a collapsing lung and my body bouncing once like a stiff timbered pine. Air wheezes out from between my toes and I sink for four minutes until my cheek presses to the cool cement floor. When I lift my body the orange stain has transferred to my thighs.[5]

A body-lithography, a recalcitrant memory from a Night of Faith.

Epilogue

“To a strange land he soon shall grope his way.
And of the children, inmates of his home,
He shall be proved the brother and the sire,
Of her who bare him son and husband both,
Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.
Go in and ponder this, and if thou find
That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare
I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.” –Oedipus the King (454-461)

 

 

 

[1] Lyrics from Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration

[2] The dinner gave me not only an opportunity to contribute to the meat poem tradition by shoving hotdogs through a black, silk pillowcase; the pillowcase echoes our continuing social imperialism, especially in visual state performance, via various hoodings: spectacular, digital, militarily practical, etc., but also a chance to fondle peaches. Across the table Agrofemme and I conversed in an ur-language, a familial jest, a replicant of more vigorous times, like museum fremen, we were a tribe tied and gagged in its own history. In Vivant Denon’s terms “Desires are reproduced through their images,” in this case a gastronomic/cosmetic duel, both awaiting a feared and hoped for interruption from returning child lovers; read memories.

[3] Portuguese, from im- ‎(“without, not”) + mundus ‎(“clean, elegant; upright”)

[4] Mira Schor, Wet

[5] After six days, [the stain] remains. I wash twice a day and it remains.

Life is Like That: Looking back at Marilyn Arsem’s 100 Ways to Consider Time

Marilyn Arsem 100 Ways to Consider Time Day 16

Marilyn Arsem, Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time, Day 16 (2015-2016). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, November 24, 2015.
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A conversation between artists Daniel Embree and Marilyn Arsem

Marilyn Arsem is the first performance artist to receive the prestigious Maud Morgan Prize from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A defining figure in the field of performance art, she has performed for over three decades over 180 works around the world, influencing generations of artists in Boston and internationally. 100 Ways to Consider Time was a daily, live performance at the MFA from November 9, 2015 to February 19, 2016.

Daniel: Welcome back to the US. I hear you’ve just returned from Chile, what were you doing there?

Marilyn: Performing! It was a really interesting project. I was there for 2 weeks, but I was in Patagonia at the very southern end of Chile. We went to Tierra del Fuego and drove around to see different parts. We were right on the Strait of Magellan, but we did not go further south. I didn’t see penguins sadly, because it’s winter there.

D: You didn’t jump across the water to Antarctica?

M: I’ve always wanted to go to Antarctica and I’ve applied to residencies there twice. There’s a program for artists and writers in Antarctica, but when you look at who they accept it’s generally painters and photographers and writers, not performance artists. Maybe next time I’ll apply and get the residency.

D: A few years ago when I first met you, you told me that you do most of your work in international performance art festivals and rarely make work in Boston. Since then you’ve performed many times in the greater Boston area including at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Cyclorama, the Boston Harbor Islands, and at the Contemporary Arts International (CAI) Quarry in Acton. What changed?

M: I didn’t have the invitations back then. The work that I had done in Boston up to that point had been primarily at Mobius, and at Mobius I self-produced the work. There is the group to help me, but still I have to produce it to make it happen. It’s a lot harder to just go ahead and decide to do work than to answer an invitation.

D: I imagine there’s more accountability when you’re answering an invitation than when you’re producing work independently.

M: That’s actually the reason I started Mobius—to have a group who would hold me accountable.

In the beginning all the work I was doing was there. We would have monthly art meetings to talk about projects and help each other develop them. I had ideas, and rather than sit at home and think that they were impossible or crazy or strange, I would go to Mobius and they would be supportive, encourage me to do the work, and then hold me accountable.

Marilyn Arsem 100 Ways to Consider Time Day 1

Marilyn Arsem, Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time, Day 1 (2015-2016). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, November 9, 2015 .
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

D: Let’s talk about 100 Ways to Consider Time. For six hours a day, every day, for 100 days, you were in the gallery performing an action or series of actions relating to time. Each day the action was different, and you never repeated an action.

How was performing a work like this at the Museum of Fine Arts different from performing at Mobius?

M: Unlike Mobius, where work is more self-produced, the MFA has a whole staff tasked with making the exhibition happen. There are a lot of offices and departments, conservation, PR, the preparers for exhibitions, the graphics team, the lighting and technical media staff—I don’t even know all of the titles of the many people who helped.

I worked with really wonderful curators at the MFA, Edward Saywell and Liz Munsell, and they managed all the internal processes, much of which I was probably unaware. They recognized that showing performance art challenged some of their normal practices of showing work.

I think the Museum staff were surprised I wanted to be so involved in the installation of my work. After they chose the gallery, I asked for benches for the public and I proposed that one of the benches have a compartment to keep things in. I also asked to be able to control the audio from inside the room. They were thinking that the staff would be handling the turning on and off of sound, because that’s how it’s normally done in a museum.

D: Historically a driving element in your work is that it is site specific and that it deals with political or social issues related to the local community, wherever you happen to be making work. Was this work site specific?

M: I would absolutely call this work site responsive. The materials that I could use had to be approved by the conservation department, for example. One of their big concerns is insects getting into their storage. It’s not just paintings and sculptures in their archive. They have wood, fabric and clothing, historical artifacts—they have to be careful about what is allowed into the system.

I couldn’t use food. The only liquid I could use was water. Any fabric I wanted to use, I had to freeze for 24 hours before I could bring it in. The flowers that I used were purchased through the museum. Even though we talked early on about using flowers, it wasn’t until day 100 that they got there.

When I chose my materials, I had already recognized the limits on what they would approve, and really early on I made the decision that I would not accumulate things in the room. It would be cleared out and brought back to neutral and the end of the day.

D: You removed the residue, but was the room really brought back to neutral every day?

M: No, it wasn’t brought to neutral, but the physical evidence of the previous day was minimal.

Marilyn Arsem 100 Ways to Consider Time Day 28

Marilyn Arsem, Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time, Day 28 (2015-2016). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, December 8, 2015 .
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

D: This touches on something I’ve wondered from the beginning. Was this really one long performance—your longest performance to date—or was it a series of performances around a theme, like an anthology of works?

M: Yes, it is a question of which it is! When we were working on the ebook, which includes some of my previous works, Edward and Liz did a lot of research and looked at a lot of material. I made a list of every performance I’d ever done. Prior to this work I’d made something like 187 performances—all of which I remember. (That’s scary!) So does 100 Ways to Consider Time bring the total to 188, or does it make it 287? That’s the question.

What I’ve also realized is that in doing 600 hours of performing, I actually performed more hours than I had performed in my entire career up to that point. 600 hours is a long time! (laughs)

D: Well you did give each day its own title, so maybe it is 100 individual performances.

M: I did that partly to be able to distinguish and remember each day. If I don’t give it a title, I can’t remember each one. It is 100 ways to consider time. Each day is a different way.

It was a way to keep track of what I was doing. I have a list of the days in chronological order, but I also made another list after I finished, which organizes the 100 ways according to the type of research that it was. I consider this performance a series of experiments or research on time. What is a minute? What is an hour? How do clocks work? What is a second, really? I looked at different scales of time—space time, the scale of time in the universe, the end of time.

D: The first time I experienced 100 Ways to Consider Time, you weren’t in the gallery. Instead there was a recording of your voice describing the previous day’s action. I imagine a lot of people only experienced your work through these daily recordings that played when you weren’t in the gallery. I believe it’s important to experience performance live. Why did you decide to include the recordings?

M: The recordings were an answer to a concern that the museum had. They didn’t want there ever to be an empty gallery.

At one point they asked me to consider having an object from the collection in the room with me, which would also be there in the gallery when I wasn’t. I did look at their collection of 18th Century grandfather clocks, but what I understood immediately is that anything I would have performed would be in response to that particular object.

So that’s when we came up with the idea of the audio, and very quickly we understood that the ephemerality of just having a voice was appropriate to the work.

And as soon as I started making the recordings I realized that it was a very interesting way to document the work. Even though I wrote about it in my journal, there’s an immediacy in the voice. I was making the recordings only a few hours after I finished each day. There was a residue of the day always in the recording.

D: You used the word “document” just now in talking about the recordings. Are they documentation of the work, or are they actually a part of the performance?

M: I think both. They were documentation, but I created them so immediately afterwards that they did retain vestiges of my mental and emotional state after that day, so they were also extensions of the performance. But you tell me.

D: The first time I heard the recording, it felt like I was experiencing the action—or at least like I understood the action—even though I hadn’t been there to see it. On the other hand, your recounting of the action was so different than my own experience of your action. You were also very forthcoming about your intentions and thoughts in the recording, which was very different from when I was observing the action in person.

In addition to the actions and recordings, the audience participated in this work through cards that that were available in the gallery. On these cards, you invited the audience to write how they considered time. Did you read what your viewers wrote each day, or did you wait until the end? If so, did what people wrote impact your actions?

M: I did read the cards, but it didn’t really impact my actions. People wrote about their own lives, and their own notions of time. It was very interesting to read them. People wrote poetry, drew pictures. I intend to build a website that has all the material so that you can see each day, read my description, hear my audio recording, see images, and then read the audience responses from that day.

D: You would include all of the responses?

Yes! All of the responses are really varied, and if I make a selection, then I’m imposing my reading of the work on it. I solicited those responses; I asked the audience how they experience time. It’s part of the research that I was doing, so of course I want to include them all, including the one that said, “This is bad art, and you’re a bad artist!”

Marrilyn Arsem 100 Ways to Consider Time (2015-2016) Day 36

Marilyn Arsem, Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time, Day 36 (2015-2016). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, December 16, 2015.
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

D: You aren’t the first performance artist to hear that I’m sure, and I know sometimes people see performance art and think that it is easy. Was this work easy?

M: No. I felt like I was going to die after the first week.

On Day 4 and Day 5, I tried to be as still as a rock. The first day I was on the floor, which was really painful, so I decided to try sitting in a chair the next day, which was also painful. Holding your body still no matter whether you are sitting or lying down is hard to do.

Doing a single action for 6 hours every day without a break—I never walked out of the room once I started—was physically exhausting. So what looks fairly simple to someone coming and sitting down for three minutes is really different when it is done for six hours. A lot of viewers didn’t stay long enough to understand the significance of time and the impact of sustaining the action. And I can’t blame them; during the first week I also didn’t fully understand the significance of sustaining an action for six hours every day and having to come back the next day with hardly enough time to recover.

D: Was it important to you for people to know the level of exhaustion and hard work that this was for you?

M: I guess that is a dilemma in the work. I operate on a human scale with everyday materials. Activities that might appear simple can actually be read in deeper ways. Aspects of the duration change the reading, and contextualizing the action with how it might relate to time changes the reading. I feel sad when someone is dismissive of my work because they look at it for two seconds and don’t think about those things. A lot of audience members didn’t take the time to ask themselves “What way of considering time is this?”

Understanding performance requires work on the part of the audience. Some people come to the museum not knowing how to look at art. They don’t know how to make meaning out of the work for themselves, and that’s what this piece required.

I understand that while I might assign particular meaning to an action, the audience often has another interpretation. I’m willing to share ownership of how to interpret my work. I’ve never been intent on communicating one singular meaning.

D: Tell me about your dedicated viewers. Some of these are people who knew you; maybe others were people who became introduced to you through this piece.

M: For sure, it was a combination of the two. There is one staff person at the museum who saw —I think she said 65 of the 100 days. She would come up on all her breaks.

Obviously there were people who knew me or performance artists who knew my work who came regularly, and they were the ones who spent the most time there—tens of minutes to hours —to really experience the physical duration. Contrast this to most viewers who were coming to the museum to see art and were used to walking through galleries and spending seconds in front of a painting. So for them to spend even a few minutes with me was a significant investment of their time when you consider how much time they planned to spend in the museum.

I did recognize people and get to know people who I hadn’t known in advance but who came regularly to the performance. I was always really happy to see repeat audience members. I often heard them telling people in the audience something about the work or something that had happened on another day. I also felt that those who had been there before would recognize if something were not right and would do something about it. I thought of them as my support system, including you.

D: Did you ever have to call upon that support system?

M: Most people were pretty cautious and took time to figure out what the rules of engagement were. They would sit on the bench and watch for a while and see how other audience members engaged with the work before they did.

There was one time during Day 98, Orbits. I was doing a very concentrated action with the rock, carrying it, orbiting into the center of the room and then crawling around it. While there were many days where I interacted with the audience, this was not one of them.

One young woman had been told by the guard, incorrectly, that everything was participatory. So she came in and started crawling with me. I turned to her and said, “Please leave,” and then I went back to what I was doing. She kept crawling, so I stopped again and said, “Please leave,” but she didn’t. So I left the action returning to my chair along the side wall.

That’s when another performance artist who was there, who was more familiar with the work, decided to help and go over to the girl and explain that it wasn’t a participatory piece that day.

I found that there were occasions where I needed to be quite direct with the audience—and directive. There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world, and there’s a wide range with how they interact with others. I think it took every skill that I developed between performing and teaching for 40 years. I could not have done this work 20 years ago.

 Marylin Arsem, Edge (2013). Boston Center of the Arts.Photo: Daniel S. Deluca, Courtesy of The Present Tense

Marylin Arsem, Edge (2013) Near Death Performance Art Experience. Boston Center of the Arts.
Photo: Daniel S. Deluca, Courtesy of The Present Tense

D: One recurring theme during the 100 days was death, which is a theme I’ve seen in your work before. I’m thinking about your first performance at the MFA in 2013, With the Others, when you lay under a bench in black, unmoving, in the Ancient Egypt gallery and Edge, which you performed at an event titled Near Death Performance Art Experience at the Boston Center for the Arts. In that piece you slowly pushed two glasses of water off the edge of the table—an action that took 7 hours. Do you want to speak about the theme of death in this work?

M: It can’t be helped! Do I want to talk about that? You can talk about that.

I will say that on Day 97, Planet Earth, I was reading out loud from The Life and Death of Planet Earth by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. The bulk of the reading that day was a very explicit description of the demise of the planet and all the life forms on it as the sun increases in heat. The sun is becoming increasingly hotter over its 11 billion year life cycle, and we’re about at the halfway point of that. Eventually the heat will destroy all life on the planet as we know it. By the end all of the water will evaporate into space.

The description is amazing —detailing what kinds of plants can grow given the kind of chemical balance in the air and then what happens when the temperature increases and those plants die and decay and shift the chemical balance so that a different set of plants can actually grown. But then they die. The animal life also changes in each phase. It’s a fascinating description of the death of the planet.

I chose that book because I wanted that description of the demise of the world.

D: Why?

M: Because I wanted to talk about another scale of time. It is a scale of time over billions of years. I think in doing this project, I really do understand time differently. On Day 56 when I dripped water from an eyedropper onto a large granite rock, I learned that it could dissolve through weatherization in 10,000 years. That’s not very long! Even after 6 hours there was evidence of erosion. There were grains of sand in the dish underneath the rock. That was when I recognized that I understood time differently, when I thought “only ten thousand years.”

D: You wore black every day except for one, Day 99, Salt. When I walked into the gallery that day and saw you in white, I gasped not just because the visual was so beautiful, but because I was surprised. What went into that decision?

M: I had to wear white that day. I was lying next to my body’s weight in salt. It would not have made sense to be dressed in black next to the salt.

D: So by dressing in white you were making yourself more like the salt and the salt more like you.

M: Yes, you could say that.

D: I’ll tell you how that choice impacted me. By wearing black clothing every day, your clothing became a constant—a non-choice—that didn’t assume significance for me as a viewer. When I was viewing your work, I tended to focus more on the variables, such as your materials for the day, the pace, sound, your decisions to directly engage or not engage the viewer, the configuration of the room, and things like that.

Choosing to wear white on day 99 made me reevaluate all of the other days when you wore black. Instead of being a given, wearing black became a decision that you made each time. The realization also made me reevaluate other aspects of your work that I had taken for granted as constants.

The question really isn’t why did you wear white on day 99, it’s why did you wear black on day 36? You could have not!

M: (laughs) I could have not, you’re right. You know, the black dresses I wore were different every day—the styles changed. Some of them were more formal, and some of them were more casual. And some of them might have made me look younger, and some of them might have made me look older.

D: So you were making decisions about what to wear every day.

M: Yes! I was. During those last few days, many of the materials that I had ordered earlier were actually just arriving, and I had a sense of what those actions would be, but I had to choose the order of them. So I had to ask myself, is Day 100 going to be Salt? That would have given the 100 days a much different reading.

D: It would have indicated you had arrived at something new.

M: Or being on the other side of life. It would have implied a death of sorts and moving into another state.

D: So instead, on Day 100, Flowers, you watched nine tulips in vases as they opened. I have to admit, while I was watching them, I couldn’t see them opening, but after I left I compared a picture that my friend took later in the day with what I remembered, and there was clearly a big difference in how open the flowers were.

M: Yes. It was Day 100 and there were so many people who had come to watch. I was just sitting there thinking, “The flowers aren’t opening! What am I going to do?” and then I said to myself, “Well Marilyn, that’s what this is about: being willing to wait and see something really incremental unfold.”

Marilyn Arsem 100 Ways to Consider time Day 100

Marilyn Arsem, Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time, Day 100 (2015-2016). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, February 19, 2016.
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

It was really wonderful on that day to have people stay an extended time to sit with me and watch. That day was important to me because by staying for so long, many people were experiencing more of what I experienced: how time can seem like it’s standing still; that things are changing but you can’t see it when you’re looking. It’s often only when you look away and then back again that you do see it. One audience member said she went out of the room and then came back and only then could she see a difference in the blossoms opening.

I was really happy that day to have everyone with me.

D: Were there other days when you were lonely?

M: Yes. But life is like that.

D: That’s something that you said after Day 31, Dust, which was particularly meaningful to me. On that day you ground marble rocks into dust with a three-pound sledgehammer. Every time you hit the rocks it made a very arresting sound that filled the gallery. The action was in some ways destructive, but it was also constructive because you created this beautiful marble dust which you painstakingly collected with a brush in a little jar.

As you were performing, a teenager came up to you and asked what you were doing. You explained that you were grinding the stones into dust. He asked, “Why?” You responded, “Because life is like that.” That response touched me.

M: You know there were some days when I thought that no one got it, that no one understood what I was doing, but then I would read the cards and see that what I was doing was meaningful to someone. Day 18, Moving Backwards, is a good example. While I was performing, I assumed no one noticed that I was moving. I was doing a really intense action, moving minutely backwards away from the other chair, and someone started a conversation in the room about some other work I had done. I tried to ignore it. But it was really distressing, because not only were they not watching me, they were disturbing someone else in the audience. I should have paused and said, “Please have that conversation outside of the room,” but I didn’t.

So between moving so slowly I thought no one had even noticed and being frustrated by that distraction, I thought no one had appreciated the work. But that day someone wrote in one of the cards how intense it was watching me and how they thought that I was levitating. It was a beautiful response to what I was trying to do, so it worked for someone!

PULSAR’s Trouble Performing Podcast Episode 3

pulsar-trouble-performing

Image courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

After a summer break, PULSAR‘s Trouble Performing podcast is back, with a roundtable discussion on current events and ideas in performance art.

Hosted by Tif Robinette and Ian Deleón, the podcast was recorded on August 6th, and was joined by ARC Magazine‘s Holly Bynoe, artists Polina Porras Sivolobova, Ming Liu, Huisi He, Olivia Coffey, and I.

During the nearly two hour discussion, we talk about recent performances by the featured artists, and we explore topics such as the recent Tempting Failure Performance Art and Noise Art festival in London, the work of Nicola Hunter, Kamil Guenatri, Esther Neff, the nature of performances done on the street, and how performances with personal meanings can relate to the public.

If this is your first time listening, look for past episodes here, or on our Soundcloud page here.

PULSAR will also be organizing shows this fall, including a Labor Day Rooftop show with Antibody Coporation and more at CasaPULSAR on Monday, September 5th, a show at Catland on October 1st with the ArTrend Performance Group from Taiwan, and at Last Frontier on October 7th and 8th in curatorial collaboration with Wild Torus. Please refer the PULSAR Facebook page for more information and events.

All Good Things…,Tempting Failure Day 9

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

5E4A8365

Chelsea Coon, Diastole (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Chelsea CoonDiastole (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.

IMG_0869

Emma Lloyd, Piece For… (2016), D:NA, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Steve Hendrie, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Emma LloydPiece 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.

5E4A8805

Jin Bells, Cleansed (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Jin BellsCleansed (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.

5E4A8828

Robert Hesp, Bathe (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Robert HespBathe (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.

5E4A8860

Louis Fleischauer, Primordial Kaos Invocation (return to Gaia’s womb) (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Louis FleischauerPrimordial 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.

5E4A9098

Kylie Minoise, ORETU NI (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Kylie MinoiseORETU 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.

There have been a number of noise performances in this festival, but I felt this was the first to really be ‘free’ in the sense of child-like abandon present, with a degree of movement and free rein given from tackling something so high concept as reinterpreting a full Nirvana [In Utero] album. At times I felt there was a struggle to realise intention, but at others this struggle and tension seemed to miraculously dissipate and I would become briefly lost in the blinding strobe and the communal steady sway of the few noisers really vibing out hard, in a special way in some instances, across a sea of motionless spectatorship.
The performance was very short but I don’t feel it suffered at all for it – thundering and catastrophic as the whole affair was, there was a grace in the way things collided and tumbled down towards there end. I would stare into the strobe here and there and wonder at the possible subliminal messages flooding our brains in an unintelligible spew, only to manifest days off from now, like a permanent ink stain on your secretly favourite most expensive item of clothing. This night Kylie Minoise was a medium, the inebriated ghost of Cobain pissing into the unwilling mouths of unattentive bystanders to the blissful creation of a heavy and personal artistic release.

5E4A9329

Rudolf Eb.erUntitled (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.

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

8_Tempting Failure_Rosana Cade Will Dickie_The Origin of the World_003

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.

8_Tempting Failure_GJ Lees AY Gregory_Present Tense_040

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.

amy-sharrocks-tempting-failure

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.

8_Tempting Failure_Tim Bromage_Shift_058

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.

8_Tempting Failure_Natalie Ramus_16000 2_TeethOfMyChildren2_040

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.

8_Tempting Failure_Richard Herring_Me1 vs Me2_034

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

Absence, Tempting Failure Day 7

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.

7_Tempting Failure_Vela Oma_Primal Void_049

Vela Oma, Primal Void (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Vela OmaPrimal Void (2016)

By Adam York Gregory

[1]
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.

[2]
Multiplicity.
A surgeon/shaman/butcher in black.
Face covered.
An altar/slab/operating table of cinder block doused in shadow and light.
Instruments laid out… drill, crowbar, knife.
Medicine/offering/drugs/food/blood/semen.
And the patient/subject/god/rock.
The low steady beat of electronic instruments like broken heart beat monitors, chanting pulse.
An exorcism/extraction.
Baptism with water/electricity.
Divination by AM/FM.
Unmoved. Uncooperative.
A drill burns motor. Holy spirit, smoking plastic inhaled deeply.
Soothing loudness, aggressive silence.
Stubborn patient.
Another exorcism/extraction.
Daylight. Nature.
A return, a rewind.
A gift.
An understanding.
An attempt to extract the void from the stone.
Failed.
An attempt to extract the stone from the void.
Success.

[3]
“I AM NOTHING
NOTHING IS WHAT I DO
THE SIMPLEST THING
IS NOTHING
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE
NOTHING” – Vela Oma

7_Tempting Failure_MarinaBarsyJaner IsilSolVil_Descarnar fronteras_074

Marina Barsy Janer & Isil Sol Vil, Descarnar fronteras (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Marina Barsy Janer & Isil Sol VilDescarnar 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?

7_Tempting Failure_Johannes Bergmark_I have been in you_you have been in me_026

Johannes Bergmark, Stringed Stirrups/ I have been in you, you have been in me (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Johannes BergmarkStringed 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.

7_Tempting Failure_Johanna Bramli_The Larsens_NoiseFeedbackChoir_042

Johanna Bramli, The Larsens// Noise/ Feedback Choir (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

Johanna BramliThe 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.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_033

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

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.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_088

Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

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.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_096

Bonella Holloway taking pictures of Kamil Guenatri, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

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.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_129

The ham hanging after Kamil Guenatri’s performance, ’10-14 (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure

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.

7_Tempting Failure_Kamil Guenatri_10_14_162

Kamil Guenatri’s shoes and rope, ’10-14′ (2016), Hackney Showroom, Tempting Failure.
Photo: Julia Bauer, Courtesy of Tempting Failure