News broke this weekend that artist, Walter Latimer, is a former Junior Olympics jump rope record holder! Check out the soon to be viral video of his performance at the SAIC Art Bash.
“Courage is the great enabling virtue that allows one to realize other virtues like love and hope and faith. To have courage is to be willing to look unflinchingly at catastrophic circumstances and muster the will to overcome the fear, never to fully erase and eliminate the fear but overcome the fear, so that fear does not have the last word or so that fear does not push one into conformity, complacency or cowardice. ”- Cornel West
I don’t know how to be courageous. I don’t think that I am now but I know, at least I feel, that I must be in order to make it through this moment. Recent months have seen us, as Americans, wrestling with the baseline hatred and oppression that we had so naively believed we had moved beyond, a desire we know now to be a desperate fantasy. I believe Cornel West to be true when he tells us that courage will lead us to other virtues, other strengths that might enable us to not only make it through our time but to imagine a real alternative, a utopian dream no farther than our beds. What I mean to describe here is not a kind of free imagination but, as Žižek has described, “a matter of the innermost urgency”, an imagined alternative to a situation whose solution is so far outside the coordinates of the possible that one is forced to imagine an alternative space.
There is a courage to performance, as there is a courage to poetry and criticism, to those forms whose goals, from the outset, are a freshly imagined future. Not just the courage of those taking to embodied action but a courage to witness those acts. A willingness to be changed by something, to allow oneself to feel what John Martin calls muscular sympathy. A kind of sixth sense that gives the viewer access to the work through the performers body. Not simply the courage of the stage but the courage of the street and bar. The courage to stand beside one another, to allow oneself to feel responsible for each other, for ourselves. Too often the heady dialogues surrounding the production of aesthetic experience call to mind a kind of aimless drifting identity. An abstract subject, tethered to nothing and no one, submerged in the machinic realities of our time but this is not true for all of us. For those of us operating from a place of difference, whose lives are not simply shaped but are out right controlled by social and economic oppression, there are other ways of being. New ways to gather, to love, to share. New economies. Strategies of resistance. Alternatives simultaneously imagined and enacted between sweaty down beats on crowded dance floors in rooms that are forced to accommodate us as we are.
I wish that I could tell you how to be courageous, that I had some great strategy for us, but I don’t know. All I have is a feeling of urgency, a sensation that drives me towards hope, towards an alternative. I can tell you that the work will be courageous and that with it so will we. I can tell you now that we will be in this together, as a community, as a collective. We who feel strongly, we will be the ones to make a practice of resistance. To turn ourselves towards a tumultuous present of catastrophic circumstances, where revolution and change are palpable events, the tyranny of unaccountable elites runs rampant, and the violence of our city howls just beyond our walls. We will be the ones to turn towards this moment, our moment, to face our oppressors courageously for each other.
“Who will fight the bear? No one? Then the bear has won.” - Bas Jan Ader
News broke this weekend that artist, Walter Latimer, is a former Junior Olympics jump rope record holder! Check out the soon to be viral video of his performance at the SAIC Art Bash.
Spotted: Independent Art Champion and Champion of the Arts, Anthony Stepter at the opening of Has the World Already Been Made? x4 by Daniel G. Baird & Haseeb Ahmed at Roots & Culture.
Now on view at The Poetry Foundation.
The AAM calls the proposed limit on charitable deductions “harmful,” but Bloomington’s Michael Ruston disagrees. Notable is his alternative suggestion of an equitable tax credit that would apply across donors, begging the question: should people in higher tax brackers really recieve more credit than those in a lower tax bracket if they are donating the same amount of money?
Surprisngly absent from the AAM document is a mention of the $59 million dollar increase to the Smithsonian Institution to fund, amongst many other initatives, The National Museum of African American History and Culture.
We’re most excited about the $500,000 proposed for building a telescope in Greenland to scope some black holes, but with a riveting 230 pages of FY14 Budget Proposal, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Right?
Abigal Deville’s opening at Iceberg Projects this weekend was TO DIE FOR. Iceberg’s normally crisp gallery was lost to a literal whirlwind of materials collected from Roger’s Avenue and transformed by the artist. More than worth the trip to Roger’s Park.
April 27th, 11am– 9pm. At Roots & Culture 1034 N Milwaukee Ave.
Serving a menu of brunch, lunch all day, and dinner.Brunch 11am-2pm. Dinner 6pm-8pm. Kitchen closes at 8. 10 seats available at a time. First come, first serve. BYOB. Vegetarians, of course, are welcome!
“One of the things I wanted to prove is that you don’t have to be a Larry Gogosian or a Jeff Koons and plunk down 10 or 15 grand to make something happen. I think if you’re creative and energetic you can do whatever you want for a penny ninety-eight.” Wise words from painter/guerilla documentarian Loren Munk who’s interview was published this week on Bad at Sports.
Let’s see — otherwise Tilda Swinton has been sleeping Snow-White-Style in a glass box at the MOMA (which Jerry Salz wrote about here) and I saw an amazing B-Movie about a gang of Tai Kwan Do orphans who go tête-à-tête with Bike Ninja’s in Miami.
But more to the point, Nicholas O’Brien Unpacked The Shortest Video Ever Sold :
“In the past couple weeks a myriad of media outlets have been chomping at the bit to comment on the first sale of a piece of art made on the rapidly rising social media platform Vine. The work in question was made by Angela Washko and presented at the Moving Image Fair by Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina in their Shortest Video Art Ever Sold (SVAES for short) booth produced in collaboration with Postmasters Gallery. The sale of the work has been quickly marked as an easy target for many critical articles for a variety of reasons, however I feel that most takes have missed some of the more salient issues that surround this sale. I sought out Chayka, Galperina, and Washko to discuss not only their intentions with the project but also to examine what exactly this sale might signal in terms of a potential future for new media art production and saleability.”
Shane MacAdams posted another episode from his on-going series, Thoughts from Across the Cultural Divide, “From television to cuisine to high-art, culture seems bent on sanding us down even as we strut about thinking of ourselves as unique splinters in the side of society.” It sounds like the series is wrapping up, so we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled to see what’s next on the McAdams’ Bad at Sports posting roster….(this is where you’re all supposed to grow excited, curious and sleepless with anticipation.)
Two posts from London this week — João Florêncio published a second installment in his on-going Performing Ecology: Narcissist Modernity
“The problem is that whereas the critical enterprise had, following the dawn of Modernity, been rightly concerned with calling into question beliefs such as those advanced by various religious doctrines and replacing them with scientifically validated facts, at the start of the 21st century and there being no beliefs left to disprove, criticality has now started targeting objective facts themselves, often by negating their existence or by turning them into a mere product of their dialectical counterpart, the observing human subject and its usage of language. Today, after the so-called ‘objective reality’ was found to always be the result of power-knowledge formations, human discourse has become the true cause of the world itself.”
& later that same day from Victor Delvecchio, a ruminating post about a renegade performance, Black Metal Chicken, an event organised by an apocalyptic noise band funded by Henrik Heinonen with Oscar Gaynor and Matthew Peers. Via Delvecchio I learned that Islam Green is a color and got a vibey-feel for foggy East London (where the Olympic stadium remains). This comes from his post about a performance artist being strangled, Where there’s voilence, there’s love:
Sophie appears on my back: “I thought the timing was good,” she says. “Just as the audience were eating, helping themselves to food. If I didn’t know it was a performance, I would have been concerned, it relied heavily on our knowledge and trust that this was a performance. I think, they were trying to communicate the uncanny, notions of sadism, the erotic. Perhaps, too, how vulnerable we are to another person’s decision to harm us?”
“With certain currents in the contemporary art world pulling out of the gallery and museum box and into the spaces of everyday life, social relationships have come into focus as the site of many artistic projects. Increasingly, self-organized creative types pick up with simple materials, a group of friends, and an idea to enact change in their various communities by participating in and with them. Between Chicago (Bad at Sports’ hometown) and New York City (my hometown) there are two similar projects – with varying regard to an art world dialog – that center on a waste-not-want-not brand of idealism. Encouraging inventive approaches to everyday repair problems, Community Glue Workshop (Chicago, IL) and Fixers Collective (Brooklyn, NY) have each been building community by tinkering with and fixing things. All kinds of things. I recently had the good fortune of sitting down with Ally Brisbin and Carla Bruni of Community Glue Workshop, and Vincent Lai of Fixers Collective to discuss their respective work.”
And then on Thursday, Atlanta-based Chicago friend Meredith Kooi reported on TRITRANGLE’s “No Media” project:
“NO MEDIA happened March 16, 2013 at TRITRIANGLE, the art space that formerly held Enemy Sound, in Chicago, IL. Developed out of a GLI.TC/H Working Group, the first NO MEDIA happened at GLI.TC/H 2112 on Friday, December 7, 2012 at TRITRIANGLE. Described in the schedule as “Proposed by Jason Soliday on the Working Groups: NO_MEDIA is a performance framework that goes from zero to zero! Participating performers will start with blank slates, build sets from scratch. No preparation allowed. Zeroed out knobs. No strings on your guitar. No presets. Everything done in realtime from beginning to end. Everything that happens exists only in and during the performance :: “Raw Real Time.” After ~ 10 minutes you will delete all assets. It happens … and … then it’s gone …”
“On March 16, 2013, I participated in it, but that’s the only detail of the night I’ll give. For, there is no documentation allowed. After the event, I sat down with [dis]organizers Jason Soliday, Nick Briz, and Jeff Kolar via electronic-mail. I wanted to ask them: Why a NO MEDIA new media performance event? What is considered documentation? What does it all mean??
And then, here I am, writing for the “media” about NO MEDIA.” (more)
TOP 5 WEEKEND PICKS !! (whoop-whoop) posted by the ever magnanimous vet of culture and distinction, Stephanie Burke.
& last but not least, a little something by yours truly about Harmony Korine’s SPRING BREAKERS.
As we close on spring break in earnest, I’m going to leave you with a little something from Miami Connection, that B movie I told you about — I failed to mention that the band of Tai Kwan Do Orphans also moonlights in a super-posi(tive) band called DRAGON SOUND. While playing music for a crowd, they also practice their martial arts. This one goes out to you, dear readers, from the bottom of my heart.
“NO MEDIA is an open [sign up] improvisational realtime/performance media art event. Participating artists are randomly matched in sets of 3 && given 10mins to perform w/&& in re:to each other. Poets + experimental dancers + free jazzers +
No Media At The End!
[NO documentation allowed. It happens once && in realtime.]
NO MEDIA happened March 16, 2013 at TRITRIANGLE, the art space that formerly held Enemy Sound, in Chicago, IL. Developed out of a GLI.TC/H Working Group, the first NO MEDIA happened at GLI.TC/H 2112 on Friday, December 7, 2012 at TRITRIANGLE. Described in the schedule as “Proposed by Jason Soliday on the Working Groups: NO_MEDIA is a performance framework that goes from zero to zero! Participating performers will start with blank slates, build sets from scratch. No preparation allowed. Zeroed out knobs. No strings on your guitar. No presets. Everything done in realtime from beginning to end. Everything that happens exists only in and during the performance :: “Raw Real Time.” After ~ 10 minutes you will delete all assets. It happens … and … then it’s gone …”
On March 16, 2013, I participated in it, but that’s the only detail of the night I’ll give. For, there is no documentation allowed. After the event, I sat down with [dis]organizers Jason Soliday, Nick Briz, and Jeff Kolar via electronic-mail. I wanted to ask them: Why a NO MEDIA new media performance event? What is considered documentation? What does it all mean??
And then, here I am, writing for the “media” about NO MEDIA.
MEREDITH KOOI: And, of course, no documentation of the night, though as Jason brought up on Saturday, is this [the writing of the article] considered documentation too? Discuss.
JASON SOLIDAY: I think questions are allowed.. I would say that if were going to stick to this no documentation thing, that we can talk about what could happen, or impressions of how the night went as a whole, just not specifics of what actually happened… so no “———————————————————————————.”
The whole First-rule-of-NO-MEDIA-is-no-one-talks-about-NO-MEDIA-thing is something we could maybe talk about too. I think Nick and I at least have somewhat overlapping, but different interpretations of the why of that…
JEFF KOLAR: I’m right on with Jason on this one. Particularly from the perspective of us [dis]organizers, it might be best for us to specifically address the format of the event instead of the specific performances. Plus, I am personally less interested in which performances were good or bad, and more interested in the arc of the evening; the organism it creates.
That said, I think talking about NO MEDIA is okay. It’s interesting how flexible and relative the “no documentation” rule ends up being, particularly from an audience perspective. It places an interesting constraint on the attendees of the event and activates their participation to a certain extent.
NICK BRIZ: echo above sentiments
xcited for chatz
MK: Well, first of all, I’m wondering what you all consider to be actual documentation. First-person accounts? A photo of the —————————————- from the evening? Dreams? Collaborative work that grew out of the session? And, what was the motivation behind choosing to not document the sessions?
NB: Great place to start
Quick disclaimer, as Jason mentioned before, I think the three of us have overlapping (but not identical) motivations going into this, so I’m speaking for myself here (and only partially for Jason && Jeff ^_^)
The day before the show someone posted on TRITRIANGLE’s page asking if it would be broadcast online, to which I responded:
“Hey ———, it won’t be broadcast online. Myself && Jason && Jeff are all involved in organizing different events/initiatives which we broadcast online + generally prefer to stream stuff, but the impetus behind NO MEDIA is a bit different/specific. We want to create a localized space for experimentation which is low-pressure. For this reason we purposefully don’t broadcast, in fact one of the ‘rules’ (listed above) is no documentation of any kind.
We’ve noticed sometimes the pressure of documentation can compromise some of the risk taking involved in improvisational performances. We’ve also noticed that (sometimes) folks perform specifically for the documentation and not so much the live setting. This isn’t specifically good or bad, we just want NO MEDIA to be a space specifically for in-the-moment happenings where folks can take risks without worrying about the comments it’ll get on Facebook the next day.”
So this is more or less where I’m coming from w/re:to the ‘no documentation’ rule,  remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation  emphasis in-the-moment focus: w/your collaborators in that space/time.
I’m also very interested (romantically) in community + most of the events/organizing I do is motivated by this, so I’d actually be very xcited if collaborative work grew out of one of these sessions. So no, I wouldn’t really consider that documentation Nor would I really consider bruises, first person accounts, etc. To be honest, for me the rules are similar to the Dogma95 rules, in that I’ll try my best to enforce it (for the reasons stated above) but in the end I’m less interested in being dogmatic about it. There’s something fun about the idea of a photo that sneaked out or a shady vine vid (again, so long as the in-the-moment ethos isn’t compromised).
JK: Echo that disclaimer…
And jumping off Nick’s statement:
> remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation  emphasis in-the-moment focus: w/your collaborators in that space/time.
I would like to add:  give agency to the audience.
One of my motivating interests behind the “No Documentation” rule is also to think about roles the audience plays in concerts/performances/events. I’m with Nick on this one, very interested in a rule that is clear yet flexible enough for performers and audience members to follow/break in [un]expected ways. If we were really strict about the “No Documentation” rule, we could ban use of all media (i.e. collect cell phones pre-entrance, radio-wave body scanner, destroy writing utensils, etc.). Jason, Nick, and I often take these “what ifs” to extreme/absurd levels; perhaps that’s how we came up with some of the rules for NO MEDIA in the first place. How far is too far? Why is it too far? I’m more interested in what audience folks consider “Documentation” of an event in this digital-device era, as it seems to get slipperier and slipperier as more [media] tools become available.
Also, one thing that seems special with NO MEDIA is that the audience/community really helps shape the performances. Laughter certainly seems to impact the performers. Audience chitchat often becomes the “intro” for group’s sets. I view the audience an active agent in NO MEDIA events.
And also interested in how the “No Documentation” rule/constraint actually creates awareness rather than preventing it.
JS: >And, what was the motivation behind choosing to not document the sessions?
A while back I remember my friend Witch Beam posting something along the lines of why does everyone feel the need to post everything to the internet? Why can’t somethings just happen and then be over, stay secret? So, it was partly in response to that, and a reaction against New Media/Internet/Noise culture’s common tendency to release ever last thing it creates out into the world, that glut of stuff we all keep making and posting to Tumblr, Vimeo, Soundcloud, and the rest.. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much a part of it as every other “new media” artist, but I really wanted NO MEDIA to be about the moment, be here right now, it’s happening, then it’s gone. Telling everyone to put their phones away and stop recording and taking pictures was just one way to make that explicit.
I think what people do with that experience afterwards will be the interesting part.. Hopefully new, unexpected ongoing collaborations that wouldn’t have happened if people had not been thrown together during a NO MEDIA event will start appearing! Or perhaps someone sets off on some new direction with their work because of something at one of these events. I hope we’re setting up a space with NO MEDIA that provokes that sort of thing. That’s a thousand times more interesting to me than yet another cell phone video on YouTube.
That being said, I’m guilty of thinking “I wish someone was recording this, I’d like to hear it again” a few times during the two NO MEDIA events we’ve done so far.. but then that just means it was good, right? Hopefully the people that were performing at those points were thinking the same thing too, and are now hard at work on something new inspired by it!
MK: In thinking further about documentation and the space/site/time of performance, does NO MEDIA have any particular kind of performance it’s focusing on? Is it geared towards particular ways of working or does what you all are saying about the site of performance apply to all different ways and mediums of performance? I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA? Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways? If so, why do you think that might be? Would that signal some sort of success (I guess if that’s an appropriate word here at all) of what the rules are doing? Does this at all matter? Is there any particular goal that the rules are trying to achieve for art-making as a whole? Is this particular to Chicago?
(That’s a lot, I know, so, run with what ya like.)
JS: I would hope so. At its core, NO MEDIA is just an improv lotto, which really isn’t anything terribly new in the sound world. One of my early introductions to playing, well… free, weird, experimental, you know, the “hated” music as some will joke… was performing at the Myopic Books Improvised Music Series where the rule is that you are required to play with some one you’ve never played with before, and that series has been going on for something like 15-20 years now. With NO MEDIA one of the things I wanted to accomplish was to bring that to a New Media context, and add in artists that work in mediums and genres that might not normally approach their work that way, hence opening it up to video, performance, and everything else..
The site of the performance, I think that plays into the whole NO MEDIA being about the now, being in the moment.. and how one deals with that in making art. That would certainly include the space one is in at that moment… Rotating venues… that’s always been in the plan for NO MEDIA, at least since we decided to turn it into an ongoing series. Having it happen at the same place every time would I think impose unwritten rules that I’d like to avoid… nobody should expect anything really to be a given at a NO MEDIA event except for the couple of basic rules for the events that we’ve posted. What happens if there’s no PA next time? Or if the next one happens outside and the only thing to project video on is the bushes? [aside to Jeff and Nick here... I think I just came up with a new "rule".. cue nefarious laughter]
I think a “success” for me with NO MEDIA would be seeing interesting new work inspired by something that happened at one of the Events, something that wouldn’t have come together otherwise..
JK: >I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA?
Yes, absolutely. Our goal is to host each NO MEDIA event at a different venue with the hope that the change of location will increase diversity in participants. We are really pushing for different media[ums] to sign up for the events in order to keep the events fresh. My hope is that NO MEDIA has the possibility of providing collaborations with folks outside of an artist’s normal social/art circle. To that extent, anyone can sign up for NO MEDIA: it’s open sign up, low pressure, and the format openly accepts failure. Plus, diversity in performers usually creates more unexpected realtime results, which is really fun to watch/listen/experience.
>Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways? If so, why do you think that might be?
I would certainly hope so. When drafting the rules for NO MEDIA, we certainly were aware of the multi-media flexibility. Particularly the first rule:
NO preparation is allowed. Bring your tools, devices, instruments, props, etc., but you’ve got to start with a blank slate. NO time will be allotted for ‘setup’.]
We are definitely interested in overlapping the rules with performance practices that may not have thought about these types of constraints in their practice before. How does one approach the same rule using different media? What if you’ve never considered your practice media-based? Then, how would one approach these generalized rules? Part of what makes the NO MEDIA event so indeterminate is that performers from different disciplines have to react to these questions in realtime with three other artists without (hopefully) any prior consideration. NO MEDIA builds this exploration of “finding something” in realtime with other artists you’ve potentially never met before. It’s a really exciting moment.
MK: In re-reading some of the questions and answers from this past week, I wanted to revisit something:
>Jeff: And also interested in how the “No Documentation” rule/constraint actually creates awareness rather than preventing it.
Is there any way that the rules are a response to a perceived lack of awareness that many in the media and artworld talk/comment on? There seems to be a new article everyday either proving/disproving the use of media in the classroom or the breakdown of American literacy because of the 140-character tweet. Since NO MEDIA also focuses on the audience and the audience’s experience, do any of you have any thoughts on watching/engaging in performance and its greater/broader relationship to our experience of the world? Is this a consideration you’ve had?
Also, do you see any affinities between the series you’ve created and the goals you’ve set for it and early performance work and happenings? There are major differences obviously in the types of constraints from those early days, but it seems that the principle is rather similar – it’s about being there and witnessing what could happen in the space. Is NO MEDIA trying to recapture in some way this emphasis on first-hand experience? Does this is some way react against a lot of work that is made about the unnecessity of actually experiencing work in person (I’m thinking particularly of Brad Troemel here)
NB: echo’n && reiterate’n on this…
>I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA? Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways?
+ connecting that with this:
>Is there any way that the rules are a response to a perceived lack of awareness that many in the media and artworld talk/comment on?
re:lack of awareness and/or lack of perspective, >> its tuff to gain perspective on your context when you’re on the inside looking out. Once in a conversation with Jason, he mentioned that he notices how at improvisational noise shows the artists often fall back on the same tropes/conventions. This doesn’t mean the artists aren’t being spontaneous, but rather that they’re doing so within a set of conventions. This isn’t inherently a problem, after all it’s these conventions that define the context (i.e. there are particular rhythms bossa nova musicians improvise on, these structures can be seen as limits/restrains but also help identify what’s happening as bossa nova). For me this only becomes a problem when the artist doesn’t realize they’re restraining their work to fit w/in these conventions (because it’s become such an invisible norm). I think this is where mashing up improvisational performers from different disciplines becomes interesting, when different sets of tropes/conventions are forced to reconcile w/each other in realtime… you can’t ignore ‘em.
>Also, do you see any affinities between the series you’ve created and the goals you’ve set for it and early performance work and happenings?
Oh yea absolutely, I think this is obvious ^_^ while it may not have been a direct reference at first I think there are lots of parallels, namely the interdisciplinary nature and the interest in (the alternative) value of ephemeral/uncommodifiable art situations.
MK: Thank you Jason, Nick, and Jeff for taking the time to talk with me about NO MEDIA!
JK: NO MEDIA is in the works for May, so keep an eye out on our tumblr for event and date specifics!
Hackney in East London is an area which could easily be compared to Brooklyn: it is also London’s poorest borough and has become a breeding nest for artist.
I get off the bus and the wind almost knocks me off my feet. Sophie Adams, an artist whom I’d pitched tonight’s event is following. The streets are silent; everyone is wrapped in heavy winter jackets since a five day blizzard has been sweeping away any hope of summer.
Our destination is an old Inn I thought closed for a long time. The Islam green paint is peeling off and scaffoldings are plugged onto the pub’s façade like a fixation ring on a triple fracture. Through the window, there are no more chairs, no tables, the juke box is burst open; panels have been ripped off the wall and the paper is shredded; what was once a warm public house has been lynched and hurled in a corner left in shock. As the door opens Sophie hides behind me.
We are here for Black Metal Chicken an event organised by the band Corporate Psychosis, an apocalyptic noise band funded by Henrik Heinonen with Oscar Gaynor and Matthew Peers. At first it looks like the building is being squatted and these events are not common in London. Since squatting was made a criminal offence in the wake of the 2012 Olympics as part of a right-wing “clean-up”, it is tough: facing a maximum imprisonment of 6 months and a hefty £5.000 ($7600) fine, most places would avoid promoting their cultural stand unless acting for the community. But this is not a squat, it’s a rented space that will be knocked down in a month and turned into flats.
It is colder inside than outside but at least we’re off the freezing wind; booze will be de riguer. Two sofas, a large wooden table and a huge brown chrysalid mounted on the wheeling stem of an office chair are what makes the furniture. An empty television with a mannequin’s face in it is lit by red spotlights; wrapped in the leg of a woman’s tight, little hooks are stringed to tiny engines pulling on the fabric; the face swells. It’s repelling, edgy and bleak.
“Mutation and identity is what’s center to my work, it is noisey, a kind of kitsch overload,” tells me Victor Ivanov a tall and broad bleached blond man. “What’s the plan tonight? What are we meant to see?” I bluff. “We don’t know…yet,” he answers secretly. “We have been asked to be here but we don’t know what we are meant to do. Although we have ideas but we are just waiting for them to be called into action.”
For the next 20 minutes I will be talking with Ivanov and Andie Macario – another of the artist who wears a luxurious violet wig she combs with her fingers. We discuss London and how much we all struggle to afford a living. Sophie comes back from the corner shop with a bottle of vodka and a mango juice carton.
People slowly arrive and I can tell looking at their faces that I am the only one who knows what is going to happen: risky masochistic performance, violent creative clashes mocking humanity, Noise – but in what order?… The lights are dimmed and candles are lit up. There is no music but the constant hubbub of people conversation as the place is filling up.
It’s nine pm and it seems that nothing is in the way to start. Artists have mixed with the crowd, and they don’t know what is meant to happen. They seem to be waiting for the curator, Heinonen running around hectically, like a Gerbil in a small cage. In fact it’s all in the role play he’ll later tell me. “Are you the ceremony master?” I ask him. “I got Ivanov and Macario to be present here tonight because I trust what they do and I like the way they work, they are very serious.”
“Tonight there is a collection of people who are concerned about what is happening to us. But I wouldn’t call myself a curator. I hate the word curator; my work is more like “organising exhibition”. It starts with a space, place, site and it always has some particularly meaning, narrative, its history and also ideological connotations that comes with the space, which you have to take into account. I don’t work in a studio, I am not into this tradition of gallery space and so on. I think we have to figure out something else, something different from art with a big “A”.”
Suddenly, we’re told it’s time to eat and that “black food” will be served. On the table are smoking breaded lamb hearts, fried calves liver, haggis, roasted aubergine and black bread, all free of charge. It feels like a feast of vanity. “Why Black Metal Chicken?” I ask Ivanov. “Because we wanted to stuff speakers into that cooked chicken and play Black Metal through it.”
Then there’s a move. As about fifteen of us are sat around the table, the Benny Hill tune is hurled out of the speakers from the back of the pub and I see Ivanov wrapping his hands around Macario’s neck, strangling her. Macario’s face has turned a reddish mauve; she coughs, a touch of white foam forming at the corner of her mouth, gasping for air like a fish out of water. It doesn’t feel real but I can tell by the sombre air behind Ivanov’s mask that he is choking her. Everyone has left the table, and stand around the performing couple. Should it be stopped?
“Why are we watching that? Are you all right?” erupts Sophie. Macario is about to pass out.
And release. The music stops and a long silence floats thick in the air. It was somewhere sexy but very grotesque and we watched. Till the end. He could have left her dead. We wouldn’t have moved…
But it was meant to be a performance; something shocking that was played to aggress. Adrenaline had kicked in and it was hard to go back to the food. We wanted more. Suddenly, the whole place roared with discussions.I hear that it was the first time they’d performed in front of other people. Ivanov is shaking, speaks very fast and occasionally stutters. “It was a good feeling but there were dangers. It was good because nobody knew what was going to happen, then this girl asks “are all right darling?” It was quite something.”
He seems hard for him to stay focus. Sophie appears on my back: “I thought the timing was good,” she says. “Just as the audience were eating, helping themselves to food. If I didn’t know it was a performance, I would have been concerned, it relied heavily on our knowledge and trust that this was a performance. I think, they were trying to communicate the uncanny, notions of sadism, the erotic. Perhaps, too, how vulnerable we are to another person’s decision to harm us?”
“It was nerve racking,” says Macario very slowly. “I didn’t know when it was coming. We decided not have control when it was actually done so the curator put on the Benny Hill theme tune and we got cued in.” The anticipation as well was quite…But I have quite a high tolerance. I am in the fetish theme and I have this character that has a name, she is a performer and she likes to be looked at…it’s kind of pieced to my art practice; it is a separate theme but I like to do things in public. Throughout my whole life I have been fed this idea that women are baby making machines and need to serve their man; I like to play with the idea of over-performing feminine identity through the use of drag and creating various characters for myself.”
“Is it artistic?” I ask.
“I am an artist first and it is part of the world of the artist to perform a character as well; or a caricature from themselves. Because that’s only the way you are able to be free and to be truly yourself. Because it’s okay for an artist to be crazy; it’s acceptable.”
“You are quite limited, you have quite a lot of boundaries as a person. When you’re an artist, or a performer it gives you this elevated freedom that perhaps you wouldn’t have normally.”
The second act starts. Heinonen puts on his baby mask and follows destructive sound performance with made up guitar, keg drumming and screams and shouts.
At that point I just wandered where I’d walked into. I was baffled and very much wandering whether this had any aesthetic sense or any meaning really. It felt as if we’d come to a point of transition, that moment when genre mutates and it’s dirty and we put everything together and, chew, eat and digest; aesthetic was being stretched beyond rupture point to find its limits and ours. Theory and beauty mixed with the bloody guts of feminism, artifice and hyperreality. I saw rituals, erotico-porno art; hazy narratives and no reliable truths.
However, I felt the whole a bit too clumsy. As if playing too much with the shock factor in a way that “this shouldn’t be shown, so here it comes.” I saw their approach as a sort of unfocused radiating violence; they don’t speak; they shout. They don’t cuddle; they choke. They recycle the streets, they “attack” morals, social behavior and contracts, all at once and from every direction. A bit like a campaign without program.
Heinonen would later tell me that it started as a joke during a video show of Raymond Petitbon until it evolved into Black Metal Chicken.
The group believes that we are all “un-dead corpses” or “human being without a subject” since we live in a world preconditioned for social performance. Comparing liberal democracy to a totalitarian regime like Soviet Communism, Fascism or National Socialism, they engage the crowd to discuss and react within their own socio-political “trauma” in order to redefine themselves.
In a very Adorno-istic way, the group concentrates on cultural criticism and it’s modernity: machine, violence, hyper reality and Post modernism exclusion: we have wandered too far out of the cave and lost our sense of humanity and the best way to re-identify as human beings is to test our morals; our emotions; our senses and nerves, all of what makes us humans.
“I am little bit more optimistic,” Heinonen cuts. “This is what I try to express, I don’t know if I succeed but our identity, ourselves is passed on to us by our parents and family and our identity is a form of power, limitation and control. Out of this we have to go “too far” if we are seriously gonna have some form understanding of ourselves. Seeing shocking images on the internet, where people are almost abusing themselves, as hard as I can, I try to see humanity in there. I try to see something beautiful or touching, or something that tells about this person, what is inside him or her. See, I take Harmony Korine (Gummo, Spring Breakers) work very seriously, I think he manages to do something good out of this crazy jumble of stories, It’s grotesque but it’s beautiful.