Fascinating evening of performance art at the Whitworth last night. It was weird, first, to see the whole gallery empty of pictures, bare walls except for one room which had been scrawled on by one of the performance artists.
It started with The Drill, where Marina Abramovich give a speech about art then took us through a series of "excercises" that include looking someone straight in the eye, screaming loudly and walking out the room while paying attention to each movement. A good way of getting us to start paying attention of our own body processes and the world around, but being short sighted, looking in someone's eyes was difficult because all I saw was a blur!
The art itself was somewhat variable in quality. Things that didn't work for me included Melati Suryodarmo carrying a piece of glass around while saying "I love you." OK, maybe it's about the barriers we put up even when we say sweet words to each other. But it was a rather dull point, made dully. Similarly, jumping from the staircase onto a mountainous mound below while semi-naked (Amanda Coogan) didn't seem too deep to me.
But I do emphasise that this is something that may appeal to others, rather than me. Things that did work for me, however, included Ivan Civic's Back to Sarajevo, which involved projecting a film onto the wall while the artist climbed all over it, basically inserting himself into a film about a return to Sarajevo. I found it unaccountably beautiful. Similarly, Alastair MacLennan's piece, which involved carefully arranged shoes, all single shoes, no pairs; and also dry earth, pigs' heads, shredded paper, fish and chairs; with the artist himself sitting holding a bit of tree and a shoe on his head, was decidedly odd, but also strangely poetic. It seemed to me memorialising something, some past terrible deed; but it wasn't specific.
There was a little bit of nudity about, with Yingmie Duan exploring "dark desires" by walking very slowly and touching herself in a kind of mock-erotic way, and Kira O'Reilly falling very slowly down stairs, and making me think that if she slipped she could do herself an injury. These performance artists need a lot of discipline and control to do what they do; but I wasn't sure either piece had that much to say.
Nikhil Chopra was the only artist to use the gallery as his canvas, by acting the part of a fictional artist, drawing in charcoal on the walls, in a sometimes frenetic, sometimes meditative way. I liked that piece, not just because there was something happening, but because it had a sense of the primitive about it. In terms of control, Italian artist Marie Cool Fabio Balducci's piece was much cooler; but it seemed almost as if there was a barely concealed passion beneath the choreographed movements, making and unmaking of sculpure using mirrors, string, salt piles and other objects. The way she carefully lit a piece of cotton thread, that kept the flame at the same height as her hand moved down to meet it was mesmerising.
There was something mildly disturbing about seeing an artist's feet sticking out of a pile of rugs; but otherwise I think I missed the point of Jamie Isenstein's piece. Terence Koh lying about the gallery floor while music was playing similarly did nothing for me. But I liked Eunhye Hwang's The Road, which used radio static and her own body to make a curious kind of music. The noisiest piece, though, was Nico Vascallari's piece, in one of the stairwells, which involved him hitting metal on metal and causing the most amazing resonance and natural feedback effect I've ever heard. Although he was at the bottom of the stairs, some of the sound seemed to come from above.
The most disturbing and effective piece, however, was Fedor Pavlov-Andreevich's piece on the life and death of Vitaly Titov, in which he was completely encased in a wooden box, apart from a hole for his mout where members of the audience were asked to feed him, clean his teeth, even scrape his tongue. I took part in this, cleaning his tongue and it was the weirdest experience of the evening.
All in all, a good event and one I think I'll remember.
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