INTERVIEW By Harry Burke
JIMMY ROBERT ON THE BODY, SPACE, AND POWER
“The words emerge from her body without her realizing it, as if she were being visited by the memory of a language long forsaken,” wrote Marguerite Duras in her 1990 short novel, Summer Rain. The notion of the body as a vehicle of language permeates the inquisitive practice of Jimmy Robert. Born in Guadeloupe, and based in Berlin, Robert — who works in performance, photography, installation, and film — uses the body to ask questions about how spaces are constructed, and what it means to see and be seen. His artworks are often formed through processes of translation and transition, as he constructs meaning out of the differences that exist between various sites, texts, and media. A rigorous attention to collaboration runs throughout his oeuvre, and extends even to his relationship with his artistic godmothers: Duras, Yvonne Rainer, and other feminist figures who have brought visibility to issues of desire and movement while problematizing how power operates within the visual sphere. Earlier this year, Robert staged a performance titled Joie noire at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and is currently participating in the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial (until January 2020). To encounter Robert’s work is to understand that art can be judged as much for what it does as for what it is: viewership is a provocative and participatory process. Can you describe your work for the current Chicago Architecture Biennial?The title of the installation and performance, Descendances du nu, is a play on the French words for descending and legacy — its starting point is Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. I first performed the piece in a former synagogue in France. I was thinking about what it means to bring a body like mine into an art space with strong religious connotations while reflecting on Duchamp as a patriarchal figure — Sherrie Levine, Elaine Sturtevant, and Louise Lawler have all appropriated his work — and trying to locate myself between matriarchal and patriarchal figures. I wore a headpiece that looks like a staircase — I was like an architectural anomaly, or symbiosis. In Chicago, other performers are performing the piece on a staircase in a big cultural center from the late-19th century. It’s a neo-baroque extravaganza accompanied by a sound piece by Ain Bailey, and a text by Élisabeth Lebovici who writes about cabaret, Josephine Baker, camp, and the notion of the pedestal.
What Makes Performance the Required Medium of the Day?
Karen Archey on Ligia Lewis and Alex Baczynski-Jenkins
What is it about performance that makes it the required medium for any new art initiative today? Historically, performance has been unwieldy for institutions to exhibit and collect. It is incredibly resource-intensive, requiring time and space for rehearsal, audio-visual equipment hire and, most importantly, fair wages for performers. Staging a performance is notoriously expensive in comparison to, say, most painting shows, which don’t typically require continuous upkeep and financing once mounted. More challenging to stage, and thus less-frequently seen, the medium is one that museums and their publics have been slow to warm to.
Excerpt from a conversation between Tarren Johnson and Wojciech Kosma at The Performance
Agency Studio, Berlin, July 8, 2019
W: The only thing I thought about when driving here, was how wonderful it would be if the Settlers Lounge didn’t have any context. I could see it in a theater, a musical venue or in the street. So-mehow it felt like the content was preceding the context, because it didn’t rely too heavily on where it was happening.
T: The original structure of the Settlers Lounge was going to be a box of two way mirrors instead of the final steel framed structure. The atmosphere was shaped by the original design. Even though you could see through the partitions of the space, there was an indication of separation. For me it was really important to find the core and now I will build on it as the performance series continues and moves to different spaces. I really enjoy working in store fronts. I think there is an interesting engagement with the people that are walking by and watching us rehearse over a period of time. And a lot of people ended up coming by for the show with the speaker outside as an invitation.
BY Elizabeth Fullerton with/about Anne Imhof, 2019
Anne Imhof presents seductive, melancholy performance populated by beautiful, androgynous, sullen youths. Over six nights in March, the German artist staged Sex, her latest epic composition, in the Tanks at Tate Modern, cylinders that stored oil when the building was a power station and that were converted into performance galleries in 2012. Sex shared some similarities with Imhof’s powerful, angst-ridden Faust, which earned her the Golden Lion for best national pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Like that work, Sex featured dancers, musicians, and models in club gear singing, headbanging, and wrestling across different spaces over four hours. But Sex, shaped by Tate Modern’s three subterranean spaces and incorporating Imhof’s paintings and sculptures, was more elaborate and ambitious in scale than Faust. The South and East tanks were each dominated by a pierlike structure, one for audience members to stand on and the other accessible only to performers. The adjacent Transformer Galleries were lined with Imhof’s large-scale yellow and black paintings (“Gradients”), graffito works (“Scratches”), and silkscreen prints portraying her partner and collaborator Eliza Douglas with her mouth open in a silent scream. In this third area, which evoked the intimacy of the bedroom, performers sprawled on high plinths or crouched on shabby mattresses surrounded by smashed iPhones, beer cans, bongs, sex toys, and S/M gear. A mesmerized audience trailed the performers as Imhof coordinated her team’s movements by text message.
STANTON TAYLOR on MICHELE RIZZO
Choreographer Michele Rizzo Reveals the Ecstasy and Unredeemed Power of the Nightclub
At Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, Rizzo’s performance ‘Higher.xtn’ unpicks the communal politics of the dance floor
4/4, a siren calls. We wait. Slow-steady, young ravers descend upon the lobby: from the left, then the right, then behind. Clad in second-hand sports brands, well-worn workwear and sundry leatherettes, they serve the leftovers of last night’s looks. Yet their movements are introverted, their gazes downcast. Once onstage, they shuffle about aimlessly as they sync up to Lorenzo Senni’s haunting synths. Casually self-absorbed, they seem oblivious to anyone but themselves. By the time the music shifts gears towards a slower beat, the dancers have settled into rows facing each other and move in perfect unison.
Kate Brown on Nora Turato
‘Hysteria Is Still Taboo’: Performance Art Dynamo Nora Turato on Why the Art World Still Isn’t Ready to Hear a Woman Scream
The Croatia-born, Amsterdam-based artist is on a hot streak.
She performs in the typically quiet, hallowed halls of museums, galleries, and even churches. She storms around; she gets hysterical.
MATTHEW MCLEAN on Trajal Harrell
Made to Measure
Trajal Harrell talks ‘realness’, daydreaming, and his performance Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (S)
Trajal Harrell is in London to perform Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (S) (2010) at Sadler’s Wells – the UK debut of this piece, which forms part of Block Universe, the performance festival whose impressive second edition also featured UK premieres of works by Martin Spangenberg and niv Acosta, and new commissions from Jesse Darling and Raju Rage, Grace Schwindt and Erica Scourti, among others.