Performance night at the museum
Skulpturbiennalen 2017, Vigelandsmuseet
The opening night at this year’s Skulpturbiennale featured 5 performances and a kind of somber attitude. We didn’t get to go excavating too deeply into the sculptures as we were too busy trying to see all of the performances. Marthe Ramm Fortun started off the night, but only 15 people could go, and no one knew how to get a hold of the already sold-out tickets. We realized that the show had a bit of an anti-dissemination (anti-formidling) kind of vibe. It seemed like the curator wanted to only let the art speak for itself, leaving little information or printed material for us to read or to learn more. This approach could tie into the recent debate about art language and accessibility: should art cater to everyone, or is it OK to be a bit inaccessible, to require some kind of commitment and prolonged concentration? Maybe it dosen’t have to be the one or the other, and maybe “lofty” art can be just as numb as “funny” art, that’s at least part of our conclusion after spending a night at the Vigeland’s Museum. Here is what we made of the performances
Sandra Mujinga ended the long night of performances with a generous fashion show/performance act. First she came out and it was like she was the DJ at her own show. Playing a little club and a little getto-gothic sound, and chanting now and then to accompany her beats. It was bringing energy at a time when all had been drained out of us. The model’s outfits were based on a loose narrative around loose fitting materials and overly long sleeves. Each outfit had a different character and kind of authority. A denim empire waist top with baggy denim pants tied together in the back like a hospital gown was especially nice. It had elegance and something indignant about it. One model had a more slinky jersey outfit that abstracted the body, it started at the top of his head and the sleeves went down to the floor, reminiscent of a ghost, or one of those scary octopus kites. At times, they would pose with their iPhones, looking both statuesque and connected to the everyday life of staring at your phone, but also alienating and rejecting the audience. Should we look at this like a fashion show, or as performance art? It lasted for a little bit too long, and in the end, the bored demeanour of the models made us a bit bored too. The wall between performers and audience was ready to come down.
“How do we get rid of the body?” This was the question Hanne Lippard kept asking in a very British accent and a tone of voice which reminded of an airport announcer or Siri from the iPhone. The performance was a reading, and the question of the missing body seemed to be vaguely hinting at the cloaked agony of a long distance relationship or some abstract, post-modern philosophy phrase salad. Lippard delivered platitudes and aphorisms about life and death in the language of commercials. She exaggerated the use of artistic breaks and that “thoughtful” poetic voice, dropping papers from her clipboard like a seasoned TV-host, mimicking both the form of commercial TV and performance art. Perhaps in an attempt to prove their similarities and shared hollowness. But reproducing empty clichés could also mean just that, to produce emptiness. We zoned in and out, longing for an emphatic syllable, a hint to a personality or a texture to a sentence. It made us indifferent and more hungry than usual. The question of the body is a precarious one. The refugee crisis and police brutality keep showing us how some bodies doesn’t seem to count. And in times like these, ironic lectures about how to get rid of a body might come off as a tiny bit cynical.
Graff inhabited the sad girl pose. She performed a rather long and monotone reading, speaking in a gloomy, melancholic voice about biology, atoms and black holes. The character she invoked seemed confused and dazed by the complexity of life and the universe. She was listing up that which exists in the world, giving evidence to the enormous mass of things that surrounds us, and the impossibility of knowing them all. It was as if she had given up on trying to understand, and instead recoursed to merely retelling, or registering, events and processes. It was a little confusing and on trend that her reading was so melancholic. The content of the text was lux, beautiful, and something worth reading, maybe even a few times, but the delivery was rough. Watching someone yawn at the limitless possibilities of life was a rough ride too, and we felt trapped, like fans by the bonfire, listening to that guy with the acoustic guitar. Ane Graff, performance,
Kosugi showed a minimalist-dance-like performance. The performers were dancing around with very precise and gracious movements. They wore sombre, but also kookie looking costumes. One dancer had her legs through the arms of a jacket, all of them wore masks velcroed to what looked like the lining of military helmets. References to war was also noticeable when Kos’s sculptures were used as prostheses. The performance seemed inspired by butoh, an avantgarde Japanese dance from post World War Two, and a response to the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyways, the ending was the prettiest, when Kosugi were trying to move into that woman’s jacket-cum-skirt, as if trying to crawl back into the womb. He then played a flute, and that was nice. There was definitely something going on. But it also felt like a lot of different ideas, narratives and anecdotes put on top of each other. It seemed very smart, but we’re not sure how to connect the dots.