Category: On Others

Moscovich on Albuquerque


David Moscovich

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Left: Beatriz Albuquerque, Performance Colour, Gallery G2, 2007 Right: Beatriz Albuquerque, Work for Free: Street Performance, Chicago, 2005 Image Credits: Beatriz Albuquerque

Back in March of 2011, I attended an opening at Macy Gallery on Columbia University campus called Desperate Acts, which still remains in my mind as memorable for three reasons. One, Gerald Pryor’s entertaining and playful baby powder and Vaseline body prints, Fluxus in a kind of wordless Warholian zen poetics of printmaking verve. His words echoed through the gallery while pressing his petroleum jelly covered chest, underwear and face onto glass mounting of his work, then cascaded baby powder on top. Two, because it was curated by Maurizio Pellegrin. And three, because I am obsessed with the work of a Portuguese artist who touches on themes of capitalism, crisis, value, perception, and art as community or commodity. Beatriz Albuquerque has worked in animation, video art, performance art, printmaking and installations, just about every medium. Her video work, ACTivism, features an avatar with an automatic weapon shooting at signs, words relevant to an ac- tivist dialectic, posted on billboards – a playful dissection of ideals, catchphrases and belief systems. Her new book, Video Games + Glitch = Learning, (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012), examines art and art education in a DIY self-learning video game context and presents new academic research in the realm of video game art and education.Back in March of 2011, I attended an opening at Macy Gallery on Columbia University campus called Desperate Acts, which still remains in my mind as memorable for three reasons. One, Gerald Pryor’s entertaining and playful baby powder and Vaseline body prints, Fluxus in a kind of wordless Warholian zen poetics of printmaking verve. His words echoed through the gallery while pressing his petroleum jelly covered chest, underwear and face onto glass mounting of his work, then cascaded baby powder on top. Two, because it was curated by Maurizio Pellegrin.

Beatriz Albuquerque’s Work For Free project asks the question, why isn’t art more affordable? by making it free. How does she do it? In this project, she signs contracts with audience members who wish to commission her to do a work of art for free. It could be painting, sculpture, video, performance, it’s anyone’s guess. She asks them to fill out a form, to be specific as possible with the desired project, and to provide supplies for the art.

What follows is a conversation we had over the telephone a few days before she returned to New York from a run of installations and performances in her native Portugal, in August 2011.

Left: Beatriz Albuquerque, Work for Free, Galleria 3+1, Lisbon 2008
Center: Beatriz Albuquerque, Work for Free: Street Performance, Chicago, 2005
Right: Beatriz Albuquerque, Work for Free, 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2009 Image Credits: Beatriz Albuquerque

I first saw your Work For Free project in March 2011 at Macy Gallery at 120th and Broadway in Manhattan. Can you tell me a little about the project?

It’s a project I started in Chicago in 2005, where basically I offer myself to work for free on any artwork that the public desires. I think art should reach everyone, even if they can’t afford it. What you saw in that exhibition were two layers of the same project. There are two aspects to Work For Free – first, the outside performance or consultation with the participating audience, and second, the gallery photography installation and video documentation. Outside Macy Gallery I set up on the street and held a billboard saying that I work for free, and I had different interactions. For instance, a policeman came to me, and at first I thought he was going to give me a hard time like they did in Chicago, but once I told him about the project he actually participated and wanted artwork, a black and white photograph. The second part of the project, the installation part on the walls of Macy Gallery, was a repetition of postcards, the documentation of this project, 150 photos lined up closely together in a 10×15 grid.

Beatriz Albuquerque, Video-Art ACTivism, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, 2007 (Video Stills) Image Credits: Beatriz Albuquerque

What are the photos of?

They were mounted as an installation based on postcards which were made to document my Work For Free event in 2005 in Chicago. Unfortunately, I found around 60 websites and blogs, lawyers, even a website for a self-help book, economists, businessmen, etc – all of them used my photo without crediting me or the project.

How did you find out about the websites which used your photos?

A friend of mine e-mailed me some links, then I did a google image search and found about more than 60 websites which used the same image.

Beatriz Albuquerque, Video-Art W.B., Site 110, New York, 2011 (Video Stills) Image Credits: Beatriz Albuquerque

Have you contacted anyone from the websites?

I asked them to either remove my image or contextualize it and credit me, but so far have had little response.

What kind of responses have you had?

I’ve only had three responses until now. One of them, Jeffrey Tucker, emailed me saying sorry, that he will remove it from their website but he never did. Another one removed my image and then created another that is a copy of my original image. The third one only replied with my own email.

What type of art are you typically asked to do for the Work For Free project?

I’ve done many different mediums, from installations, animated performances, digital art, web art, video, acrylic painting; it depends on the person. I’ve noticed that different audiences desire different artwork. In Portugal it’s different than in England. Portuguese people tend to ask for more physical artwork, in Greece and the UK more people wanted digital work. In the United States it’s about half and half. I’ve had people ask me to clean up backgrounds for photographs of deceased loved ones, or they want to give their father a birthday present of an expressionist house painted on a canvas. Some of them have never had contact with galleries or owned any artwork and I always encourage them to be an active public and participate in observing me while I ́m creating their piece.

Tell me about touching up the photographs of loved ones.

I did have one person who wanted me to alter a photograph of her niece, who was in the hospital and died there, so the last photo she has of her niece was in the hospital, which was depressing. She asked me to clean up the background so it’s not a hospital, so she could have a printed picture of her niece in a happy place.

What is the process like for Work For Free?

I start with the performance. I gather the information. The people tell me what they desire. I tell them the more specific they are, the more specific I will be in the final piece. We both sign a contract and then I create the artwork. I also encourage the persons to be present and see all steps that an artpiece pass by before become the final, concluded piece.

Is there anything you will not do?

Yes, there are some clauses in the contract – I will not harm myself, I will not do nudity, sex, anything with blood, or fluids. In relation to medium I won’t do sculpture or music. Someone asked me to beat them as a performance, and I don’t do that.

The person who asked you to do the work in that moment, during the performance or consultation part, what kind of work was that?

A drawing. Draw me the way you see me, and you do it now. That’s what they asked me. And the policeman asked me to send him a black and white photo by email. Another person asked me to do a drawing session, another one wanted me to make a puppet.

What was the puppet used for?

He used it for a performance.

Did the performer credit you for making the puppet?

ALBUQUERQUE I do not know.

Does it cost you money to make the work?

No, only labor. Actually some of the work is virtual, I do it on the computer, which requires no mate- rial. The person has to bring me the material. For example, if you ask for a blue sky but you do not bring me blue paint, it cannot be blue. If you ask for a painting, then you don’t bring brushes I will still do it with my fingers, but it would be different if you had brought the brushes. Unless you choose digital work. For example, I offer décollage. I do it with posters on the street. Then I take a picture with my digital camera and send it to you.

How does that work, exactly?

One person asked me to do something with animals and the color pink. It took me a long time to find, but I finally found it by ripping posters on the street, in Portugal. The posters are pasted on top of each other like dozens of layers of old wallpaper. I started tearing off the posters and found the face of a cat and a pinkish design from Carnival. You rip one, then two, three, you get different cross-sections of posters, and I guess I got lucky. It’s hard to find what they ask for when they are more precise.

How are the typical requests different from country to country?

I’ve noticed that audiences are different in different countries. In Europe, once I start I have a line in front of my table and everyone participates and asks for an art piece. For example, in Lisbon, in 3 hours I had 37 people who participated in the project. At my Chicago event, people were worried there was a catch, that I would ask for money. There are laws that remain from the depression era in Chicago which state that if you do labor you must be paid, and there have been cases where people were sued in court over labor costs. A lot of people wanted to pay me because of that. Some people would ask if I’m against the system, others took offence. They said, why would an American need anything for free? I also did this project in 2007, again in Chicago, at a residency at The Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday, (InCUBATE), in which I presented the project in a commercial neighborhood. There was window facing the street in which I built an office. There was a waiting area which I painted electric blue with red theatre chairs. I had about 70 visitors but only 25 wanted work, and some still wanted to pay me or insisted on trade. One person brought me cake, another gourmet chocolates, yet another straight cash. But New York is different, I’ve no- ticed that. On the street, a lot of people interacted with me. Within half an hour outside Macy Gallery, three of them asked me for an art piece, one of them wanted me to do it right now, and I did his portrait. New York is a different case.

Did you have a lot of people ask you if Work For Free stands contrary to Capitalism?

Yes. In Millennium Park, for example, there was a limousine that stopped in front of me. Two ladies came out and said, why do you think we need anything for free? We can pay you anything. That was an engaging conversation. For me the question is that art should reach everyone, whether you can afford it or not, but also that it should be art the way you want it to be. I can give it for free. I always ask the person to engage in the process so they are free to come and see me do the painting or doing the installation, so they can see how the creative process works.

Do you see Work For Free as outside the capitalist system?

I think it’s a little outside, because there is no exchange of money or goods, but I do not know exactly what will happen to the work once I give it to them. Will they sell it or exchange it. I think the process between myself as creator and the customer I think is maybe a little bit outside capitalism, yes. I say a little because if the person bought the materials, then you have capitalism.

Right. It’s hard to say if anyone profits from the art.

It depends what you consider a profit. Feeling good about a gift – is that a profit? It is, but would it be capitalism? I know that in my interaction with the participating audiences I have no capitalist intentions, it is more a subversive critique of the art market. What could I sell when doing this project? I offer everything for free. The only thing saleable is the documentation of the performance. All the rest is for free.

Thank you so much for answering my curiosities, Beatriz.

My pleasure.

Beatriz Albuquerque, Project: Work for Free, Macy Gallery, New York, 2011 (Performance Stills) Image Credits: Beatriz Albuquerque and Eva

Beatriz Albuquerque ( lives and works between New York and Porto. Albuquerque was awarded the Myers Art Prize: mix media, Columbia University, New York (2009) and the Ambient Series Performance Award, PAC / edge Performance Festival, Chicago (2005). In 2011 she was highlighted by the magazine Flash Art 281 (November – December 2011) by Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova as one of the top 100 artists under the age of 45. She has shown around the world in multiple places in solo and group exhibitions, includings: Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center, Chelsea Art Museum in New York, Emily Harvey Foundation, New York NY, 10th International Istanbul Biennial , 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, MUBE Brazilian Sculpture Museum in Sao Paulo, in Ghana National Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Bogota, Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas, Trama Festival in Porto, Cabinet Magazine Brooklyn, MASS MoCA in North Adams.

David Moscovich’s ( fiction and interviews have appeared in ArtVoice, Word Riot, Rain Taxi, Dark Sky, The Rumpus, Fringe, The Collagist, and others. He performs both live and on the radio, fragmenting, ricocheting, and refurnishing language until it meets its own devolution. He lives and works in New York City.

Gray on Lad Broke

On Mark Greenwood’s “Lad Broke”

Victoria Gray

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Mark Greenwood, Lad Broke, Camp and Furnace, Liverpool, UK, 2012 Image Credit: Nathan Walker

‘Lad Broke’ (2012), a forty-eight hour performance by Mark Greenwood, explored the corporeal experience of gambling.{{1.}} The work employed objects, sounds, texts and actions borne out of the environment of betting shops and exposed ways in which the physicality and materiality of gambling is deeply and dangerously governed by often covert political and economical systems. More than a work ‘about’ gambling, ‘Lad Broke’ reveals that the body, once part of an economy of ‘loss and desire'{{2.}} becomes lodged within a temporal and corporeal cycle of futile repetition and subordination. Therefore, the work and this text do not provoke a discussion about ‘gambling’ per se. Rather, it acknowledges the culture of gambling as a socio-political micro-system, using it as a lens to draw attention to the courting and commodification of the body by political and economical powers on a macro scale.

‘Lad Broke’ was not sited in a betting shop, nor did it attempt to recreate a literal representation of the betting shop environment in a gallery space. Instead, Greenwood selected from this environment a range of objects, sounds and actions. This distillation, rather than dilute the specifics of the culture of betting, was an apparatus that produced a very particular kind of attention. Greenwood’s abstraction and amputation of these physical and tangible properties successfully focused on the sensorial and somatic affects that the ritual act of gambling has on bodies. Betting slips, envelopes, paper clips, pens, a chair and a table from which to ‘work’ from, were reactivated by the repetitive and futile act of writing the names of winning horses onto perilously thin slips of betting paper. This litany was carefully pinned above our heads to a ceiling of elastic, as stretched, taut and wrought as the stress provoked by the trauma of winning or losing. Over the duration of the work a canopy of slips formed.

In the corner of the room a recording of fierce commentary from thoroughbred racehorse Red Rum’s five Grand Nationals (1973-1977) provides an ominous temporal pulse; underpinning and fuelling the work’s dynamic tensions. As Greenwood occasionally switches the record player between its twin speeds we move into and out of paces; peaks and troughs affect the heart rate, actively shifting the stakes at play. On the floor methodically placed sheets of newspaper form a grid structure, all detailing statistical betting information. The grid, not just an aesthetic component, proposes a choreographic structure of corridors with which Greenwood negotiates a variety of careful ritual pathways. This choreographic and poetic taxonomy of numbers and names sits below the canopy of words bearing the names of winning horses. The lighthearted titles flirt with each other; above and below us they provide comical and ironic juxtapositions, diverting our attentions from what is really at stake, the body.

This flimsy structure, like the delicate slips and fatigued body risks being blown away by a fan (brand: Greenwood air vac) that solemnly blows more cold air into an already very cold space. We are struck by the lightness of materials and language for such a heavy subject. This paradox provides the most interesting tension, conceptually, syntactically but more so physically. The apparent ‘weightlessness’ of the paper with which Greenwood works for forty-eight hours exposes its heft on and through his body as we see the effects that these flimsy slips and invisible sounds have on his psyche and his soma. He lags, the elastic canopy sags, time drags and all evoke a powerful atmosphere of depression.

‘Lad Broke’, through performance of the physical and temporal modes of gambling, exposes its affective force and evokes the contemporary subject bound in the destructive cycles of illimitable capitalist society.


With sober and deliberate obstinacy Mark turns his back on us. Both of his hands are rooted in the pockets of a heavy three quarter length coat, both feet, shod in smart leather shoes are planted slightly apart. His forehead makes contact with the brick wall and at first this slight transference of weight seems to be a neu-tral resting. The longer his forehead impresses on the wall the more his weight is pushed and poured into the cold white brick.

The initial act of resting, a compliance between forehead and wall becomes a penetration, an imposition. Like two bulls, Mark and the wall apply force and resistance in equal measure, tenaciously, pressure is displaced back and forth between the two. Paradoxically, this nudging gesture of the forehead is both stubborn and yet effects a softening, the position causes a gentle incline of the chin which in turn causes a slight elongation of the neck.

The grace of this is undermined as the white cold temperature in the room is slowly embodied. This can be seen, felt and heard as a starkness; making bodies become tight. As Mark’s chin arcs downwards we can hear the sharp drag of his nose as it recovers its abject dripping, in this scene we see and hear a possible grieving. There is no lightness in his gesture or his choice of attire and for forty-eight hours, Mark’s body and the bodies of his witnesses will bear this weight.


Within the first few minutes of a forty-eight hour utterance, in this deceptively simple gesture, Greenwood’s body has already offered us so much, too much perhaps. A forensic, anatomic ‘reading’ of this movement would glean so much physiological information that this whole writing could be centered around one gesture alone. For instance, his choice to use his forehead as the site with which to apply and receive the force of this first act of impression holds innumerable points of significance. In phrenological terms, the particular shape of a forehead is said to indicate intelligence, whilst esoteric concepts of the third eye site the forehead as the gate to higher consciousness. Further, the movement of facial muscles in expression and communication produce wrinkled indents that tell us something of a body’s lived experi-ence.

In forty-eight hours time the smallness of this gesture will be forgotten and so it is the object of this text to preserve a minutiae of detail that may go undetected or ignored. The greater challenge being to write at the intersection of bodily and discursive practice. Particularly in the context of this work whose enquiry hypothesizes that the body in action becomes a site of resistance to the restrictions and control of verbal language within social and political contexts.{{3.}} The danger of this control being, as Bojana Kunst observes, ‘The body goes silent because it is hit by the sound of language from the outside’.{{4.}} How then, by utilizing the language that Greenwood’s body seeks to disrupt can I perform this writing as a site of resistance? Particularly to the banal rhetoric of performance discourse. At my own limits, I’m not sure that I can and this is the critical point. The notion of the body as text, something inscribed upon, to be read and deciphered according to socio-cultural discourse negates a much more productive and antagonistic potential for the body. Whilst the body is, in Foucault’s terms, conditioned through institutional discourse implemented through social and political control this body also has the potential to inscribe back, to push against, in the manner of Greenwood’s forehead against the wall, the limits of this discourse. The issue is, as Boris Charmatz and Isabelle Launay describe, ‘the idea of the world as text’, that is, ‘the global understanding of the field of practices as a collection of signs enabling you to read a culture’.{{5.}} To read his body using the tools of the socio-political discourse he tries to resist perhaps only serves to reinscribe the body with it. Using his body as facile evidence of the successes of these institutional powers. I have failed already, validating his performance and his hypothesis through Foucault, Kunst, Charmatz and Launay. I have allowed this prevailing discourse to penetrate and will no doubt continue to do so. Yet, how else can and do we write if not, in a paranoiac fashion, from within this certifying rhetoric that potentially silences the body? Both the body of the performer and the writer.

The forty-eight hour duration of the work, according to ‘conventional’ temporal modes of performance was deliberately unmanageable, both for Greenwood’s body and the body of his audience. The consequence of this unruly time was that the ‘effectiveness’ of the work and its potential to produce a commodifiable ‘image’ became ineffective. Its ability to be ‘represented’ exceeded the limits of representation. This ‘effectiveness’ is replaced by a concern for the works ‘affectiveness’. That is to say, an experience of the work, in or as time, occupies itself with what the work feels like rather than what it looks like. The performance, or more specifically the body, is no longer considered as ‘text’ but ‘texture’. {{6.}} Since ‘knowledge is largely based on sensory perception’{{7.}} then my knowledge of the experience of ‘Lad Broke’ is also, I believe, based on my sensory perceptions of the objects, actions and sounds within the work. Rather than concerning an aesthetics of gambling, or an aesthetics of Greenwood’s work I will position this as a writing of the somaesthetics of ‘Lad Broke’. As Richard Shustermann defines, ‘Somaesthetics is devoted to the critical, ameliorative study of one’s experience and use of one’s body as a locus of sensory-aesthetic appreciation (aisthesis)'{{8.}} and as such is concerned ‘not simply with the body’s external form or representation but with its lived experi-ence’. {{9.}}

The challenge of ‘writing’ those kinesthetic sense perceptions that escape the economy of representation has critical potential; politically, socially and culturally. This demands an attention to the texture of Greenwood’s ‘corporeal’ writing as a mode of presencing, to the ontological, physical and tangible body as it relates and encounters other bodies and objects in space. {{10.}}


Mark Greenwood, Lad Broke, Camp and Furnace, Liverpool, UK, 2012 Image Credit: Nathan Walker

A lucky horse shoe climbs the wall and makes a backwards C. Using a hammer, like a digging heel, Mark pounds it so that it appears to smile, resembling a jaw or an open empty palm. Pacing, his feet skim the floor making a rasping sound. Both hands reside in empty dry pockets.

Carefully removing his heavy wool coat, Mark takes a careful seat on a blue plastic chair. Its legs graze the floor and balk at his weight. His legs are slightly apart, the same distance between his feet as when he stood with his head to the wall, toes are slightly turned out. With a slightly depressed chin, a beige promise in the form of an envelope is opened and discarded to the floor. Envelopes made for licking, hope sticks on the tip of our tongues, yet all we taste is glue. This toxic promise is not so much thrown but allowed to fall. Red Rum pulses in our ears and the dynamics of the ‘race’ pull against the drag of Mark’s action. What is the potential for this commentary to escalate the heart rate, what are its maddening effects after so many years?

The dexterity of his hand and the choreographic in his gesture are still delicate. Such small slips for such big stakes. Such a small pen for weighty words. His white shirt, slightly crumpled like his posture, is tucked self consciously into black, formal trousers.

A micro-choreography of temperamental materials and permanent habits. The first betting slip is selected with his right hand, clamped between his index finger and thumb. With the same hand he secures the paper as he writes with his left. The middle finger of his right hand buckles at the joints as it presses down and the weight of the silver ring on this finger becomes like an anchor. His body weight leans into his right side as he writes the first winning name with his left hand – ‘Nice Rose’. His head falls in synch to the right and there appears always to be a slight depression of the shoulders on this right side. The left hand takes a small red pen, no longer than a finger and the left hand writes. The left hand discards the pen to the left side, a collection of red plastic shards congregate on the concrete ground. I notice that the blue chair and the red pen signify the branding of LadBrokes betting shops and echo the cover of the Red Rum record. The left hand reaches for a paper clip causing an easing extension in his vertebrae. How intricate are the structure’s of a paper clip and a spine, they have their own graceful engineering.

Greenwood stands and holding the slip in his right hand walks, heel-toe, slowly, arms slightly swaying. His left arm swings slightly more than his right. With his left hand, he pins the first slip to the elastic ceiling. A careful task, his little finger extends slightly. As he walks back to the table he flicks his wrist to adjust his cuffs, marginally too long.

A dance between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’. Left-handedness, according to the French ‘gauche’ (left) has a parallel connotation of inelegance whilst ‘droit’ (right) signifies dexterity. ‘Sinistra’, Latin for left, in the Classical Latin era carried with it negative cultural meaning, to the point at which it is said to connote evil. What primary significance can these apparently secondary meanings have for a body that is read within the discourse of its culture. What cultural baggage do our bodies carry?What are the effects of these transgenerational hauntings on our physiology and our psychology?

A dance for the fingertips. The action takes place predominantly on and with these smallridged sensory pads. This observation should not be underestimated. The fingertips are where we receive sensory information through touch and are the most sensitive after the genitalia. Dactyloscopy, being the ability to identify using fingerprints and Dermatoglyphics, literally meaning ‘skin carving’ from the Greek derma (skin) and glyph (carving) forensically and scientifically testify to the information held and received through these delicate points. Mark’s repetitive action demonstrates the physicality of gambling as its acts on and through the fingertips. It highlights that the ‘sensory’ act of gambling, the habitual attachment to the feel of it, its texture, is its potential for addiction. As we rub our fingertips together, a gestural sign for ‘cash’ we are teasing and activating our most sensory surface area of skin.

Air to Lungs. As we hold our breath (in anticipation of a ‘win’) we are de-activating our source of survival. He is more careful and more pensive than I have ever seen him before as he drags the blue chair like a body. Such a heavy, dragging, depressed sound-action, ominous like battle drums. He sits in a chair, clearly resting and breathes nervous air into a red balloon. This air feels and sounds dry, the action is arid, emptying a drought into a rubber balloon. The inevitable depression caused as the air is ‘let out’ makes a high sound, like the sound of ringing in ears after bad news, a shock or a blast. Again, he holds the tip of the balloon in his fingertips, controlling the sound as it exhales painfully like a scream. Red Rum is caught in the run off groove and there is a counter sound, low, calm yet labored.

He releases the balloons to his side and the fan blows them carelessly, each one nudging at his ankles like a cat. His eyes are closed and the betting slip is secured over them like a visor, held by an elastic band. The fan blows the paper and it moves like an elephant’s trunk. The elastic is cutting his circulation and so the skin at the top of his forehead bulges uncomfortably becoming slightly red, below the elastic line we see whiter, bloodless skin. An impression has been made and we see this as he removes it from his head. The whole room seems to breathe again.

Mark Greenwood, Lad Broke, Camp and Furnace, Liverpool, UK, 2012 Image Credit: Nathan Walker


There was a moment when the whole ceiling bounced. Mark is standing with his back to the wall, wedged into a corner, he has pens in his mouth, approximately 37. They stick out like 37 sharp plastic tongues or darts. The thin skin around his eyes is dull like smoke and dry like crepe paper, he could be asleep standing up. In a distant warehouse we can hear the sound of drills, which echo the sound of the chair that dragged the floor late last night. Red Rum is on speed.

Mark wears his coat, both hands in pockets, the left side of his coat collar is up, incidentally protecting the left side of his neck from the chill. The cold is less white and more yellow today since there appears to be a meek watery sun. The back of his skull rests against the wall in what appears to be a very particular place. Due to the angle of the tilt his neck strains and we can see his throat swell each time he swallows. His pelvis tilts for-wards allowing only his shoulder blades to touch the wall. His right foot nudges the wall for support, his right elbow doing the same.

His bones must be cold. I am very close to him and so I can see the bottom of his coat shake from the shivering temperature, the effort to breathe and the effort to stand up straight. His coat vibrates at almost the same speed as Red Rum.

I can see that his breathing is straining against his coat, his stomach presses between the upper two buttons. Breathing can only happen through his nose because his mouth is jammed with an abscess-like wedge of pens. When Red Rum stops his lips open and the red darts fall. His eyes are now open but they are very closed. His lips are slightly downturned. Exhaustion writ in dense grey around the thin skin surrounding his glazed eyes. Even his hands look grey to me and his face has a sallowness that paradoxically make us more able to see ‘Mark’ than we were last night. In the beginning it was possible to detect a slight sun tan, presumably from a recent trip abroad, but cold and lack of sleep has depleted it.

He peels away from the wall and a white impression has been left on his coat from the leaning, a shading on his scapula and his buttocks shows areas of weakness. I notice a similar transference on the clothes of the audi-ence as they too have adopted similar postures and are marked with a similar branding of the space. He makes his audience wait and we begin to stoop as a result of our long stand. We lean and kneel in those same postures of loss. There is white at the edges of his pockets, dust from his busy, sensitive fingertips. He returns to the table and continues the betting slip task.

He has adopted a straight back at the chair, asserting himself, a mode of self-preservation. That necessary lift in the center, in those deep core muscles that support the spine make space in the vertebrae and his energy seems to be projecting up.

It appears he is able to perform his micro-choreographic betting task simultaneously now. As he gets quicker and more practiced he becomes part of a system. Actions that were once mindful, become dangerously auto. As the writing goes on the impression gets deeper, he marks the letters over and over, perhaps to pace himself? Red Rum has run its course again and is caught in the run off groove, sounding like a yawn.

His knuckles rap on the wall in dialogue with the run off groove. His forehead presses the wall again, occasion-ally his head tilts to the side. He moves almost imperceptibly, dragging his head along the wall as his feet take small shifts. Impressing more force he uses his shoulders, batting right and left repeatedly against the wall in a desperate corner of the space. The energy depletes, the knocking stops, hands become limp and sore and return to safe pockets.

Hunger. Consumption. He chews the betting slips and spits them out again. Poor sustenance for forty-eight hours. Later he is found almost gritting his teeth, his jaw locked tight like gripping a horses bit. Time is clearly digging in, time is becoming a sore material. He rests against another wall and faces the barred up windows.

He has his hands in his pockets and he is looking hard as if into an expansive outer space. Time is a desert, uncultivated but not infertile. I am close and the window, in all its detail is reflected in his eyes. There appears to be so much at stake, a decision perhaps to stop? A ship blows its horn three times from the Mersey and we are suddenly reminded of our geography, slightly more ‘located’. His eyes shift from side to side and as he regards us something in the atmosphere is lifted. We witness an ontological shift in the performance, it is softened, like balm or warm water. A second wind(fall).


Greenwood’s hypothesis extends to the powerful idea of the body as an archive, activated through the immediacy of performance. The notion of the body as knowledge is as performance artist Boris Nieslony describes, ‘The body as a quarry’ {{11.}}, something to be mined. I subscribe to this and so have to ask, what value does this writing have? How does my language mediate and undermine Greenwood’s desire for an unmediated body? What currency does this writing have in the archive of Greenwood’s work? How does it name his body and as such seep into his body archive? Mark Franko states, albeit in relation to the study of dance, ‘The methodological challenge we face is to articulate awareness of the traffic between bodies and ideologies.'{{12.}} I would exceed this and say that the real challenge we face is how to articulate the effect that this traffic between bodies and ideologies has on our body’s, without, and this is the difficulty, doing so in the language of these powerful ideologies and institutions.

Without laboring the point, the work’s site–a disused building in Liverpool–might oppose ‘the institu-tional control exercised by galleries and theatres in an artistic context’ {{13.}}, however we see a paradox in that the work is framed within the context of a PhD submission with external examiners present. Perhaps this provides an interesting yet unresolved constructive tension.

Greenwood is a performance artist and I believe, for him this is political. Yet, his site of resistance, how-ever far it is ‘physically’ situated outside of the ‘institution’ is still conditioned through, ‘institutional dis-courses that are implemented through authoritative modes of writing and surveillance’.{{14.}} This being the case I have to include myself here in this act of writing, along with the academic committees that will de-cide the ‘value’ of his work based on an economy of knowledge and understanding, that I am certain, we all feel uncertain about.

If this is true, where do we direct our energy as we press our foreheads, ineffectually against the institu-tional wall? Critical theorist Bojana Kunst offers an important proposition that I will quote at length,

The question remains, however, what kind of power these kinds of interventions have today. As we know, the history of performance art is already institutionalised and categorised – far from its original, nearly romantic idea of the guerrilla and oppositional interventions from the margin. With the institutionalization of the medium of performance art (following, archiving, framing and systematic studying), and especially with the inclusion of performance art into modernist museum and contemporary curatorial projects, we can no longer talk about performance art as a sort of guerrilla. For quite some time today, it has been impossible for us to imagine that performance art would work this way – i.e. encroach upon the centre from the margin and then recede again. The contemporary situation of art production is structured and transparent: today, the centre is well aware of the whereabouts of the guerrilla at all times – which is one of the essential traits of detecting and identification of novel and different things in today’s contemporary art. The situation is not nearly as utopian as it used to be at the beginning of performance art; it actually seems deeply dystopian. It is impossible to neither persist on the margin, nor survive in the centre; where, then, is the place for the contemporary cultural and social potency of performance art to move and operate? {{15.}}

The wider question that Greenwood’s work raises is, how does ‘performance art’, as guerrilla, retain its political potency when its guerrillaness is increasingly subjugated by central powers, be it the academic or art world institutions? We see the center maneuvering itself to capitalize on performance art in projects such as ‘BMW Tate Live: Performance Room’ (2012) and Tate’s unveiling of two underground perform-ance spaces as part of the Cultural Olympiad, both of which are former oil tanks. Interestingly, these tanks push performance still further underground, however, any critical and political potential to be gleaned from this ‘undergroundness’ is stripped given their former use. It is unclear how endorsement by BMW will reinforce the political and critical potential of performance. Rather it fuels ‘a frustration with corporate and state collusion in the management of not only political and economic, but cultural life where in-dividual and collective autonomy are at stake’.{{16.}} Kunst develops her argument by saying,

The centre still isn’t precisely aware of where the guerrilla is, but the central system is spread in such a way that every guerrilla, as minor as it may be, can be organized and represented. A consequence of such organization is thus a society depoliticized in character, resulting from the fact that every particularity has already been placed within the social structure […] {{17.}}

So how does Greenwood’s performance attempt to intervene in this social structure if the structure is autointelligent enough to recognize and subsume even rogue attempts? How does it attempt to reclaim the political potential of performance? How does it rescue the body from becoming, ‘a site of colonization, where the self is created through commodity’.{{18.}} I believe the performance does this most successfully in and through its use (and perhaps misuse) of time. The forty-eight hour duration becomes critical for the work’s criticality. Art historian and theorist Maria Walsh states,

Artistic practice is suffused with the sense of time as a force that unsettles our alle-giances to the structures that determine identity. Time as an unmanageable force ruptures identity formations and opens them up to the chaotic components from which they evolved and cohered. In being open to these unbound elements, the subject has a chance to reformulate connections or to be unwittingly reformulated. {{19.}}

Walsh asserts that time as unmanageable force leaves us open to unbound elements. Here, there is hope. This unclassifiable and unrepresentable experience of boundlessness and immeasurability does not neces-sarily return us to an emancipated, clearer sense of our identity or subjectivity. Rather, it has the critical potential to thoroughly unsettle and dispossess us. That the temporality of the performance institutes the conditions for a loss of ‘self’ recognition, through the failure of representation and easy identification, is its most ‘effective’ strategy for intervention. If we subscribe to the Foucauldian notion that, ‘…we experience ourselves as subjects insofar as we have been summoned into such a belonging and insofar as we recognize ourselves as such within the context of a given set of institutional power relations’ {{20.}}; once we lose that false sense of ‘belonging’, facilitated and fabricated by the temporal and institutional structures that secure our identity, perhaps then we can critically intervene. A surprise attack. Bojana Kunst describes this expe-rience:

It seems that when the temporal experience of the subject cannot be embraced as a co-herent unit, but as a flexible, heterogeneous and contradictory one, the subject cannot be subjugated by the social organizational structures of production and the subject’s experience of time is not subdued into being merely effectiveness.{{21.}}
Once our subjective experience becomes representable it becomes commodifiable. Therefore, it is not the effectiveness but the affectiveness of the body, in all its unrepresentable glory, that has the critical potential to disrupt the center. It is time to sharpen our senses.


Happenstance delivers Red Rum’s actual horseshoe, or so legend has it. I wonder what this piece of metal would be worth on the racing market. Mark invites us to hold the shoe with him, our hands supporting it at op-posite ends. There is a charge, perhaps an alchemic transference between two people, performer and audience. Whatever it is I cannot explain. As Mark and I hold the shoe together it vibrates. Perhaps he is squeezing and willing its strength through osmosis, perhaps he is still shaking from the cold? His eyes look down and for all the lightness and hope of this short ‘lucky’ embrace we can see that brevity will give way to depression, as a loss must always follow a gain. The pathology however is not in the individual, it is in the system (Gregory Bateson).{{22.}}


Victoria Gray ( is a practicing performance artist, researcher and teacher working nationally and interna-tionally. She is Lecturer in Performance within the Faculty of Arts, School of Performance, York St John University, UK. She is a PhD candidate at Chelsea College of Art, London. Gray is co-founder of O U I Performance (York) with artist Nathan Walker. O U I Performance, founded in 2010, is a not-for-profit, artist-led organization curating live time-based performance art with a national and international profile.


[1]“Lad Broke” took place between 12.00am 20th April and ended 12.00am 22nd April. The performance was sited at Furnace, Liverpool and was produced by Mercy. For further information see,[1]

[3]Greenwood, M. (2012) Lad Broke 20th – 22nd April 2012, Performance Information. Liverpool: Mercy.[3]
[7]“The Voice of the Dancing Body,” Bojana Kunst, Accessed on 24 May 2012,>.[7]
[9]Boris Charmatz and Isabelle Launay, Undertraining: On a Contemporary Dance. (France: les presses du réel, 2011), 101.[9]
[13]Richard Shusterman, Performing Live: Aesthetic alternatives for the ends of art. (USA: Cornell University Press, 2000), 138.[13]
[17]Ibid., 139.[17]
[19]Greenwood, M. (2012) Lad Broke 20th – 22nd April 2012, Performance Information. Liverpool: Mercy.[19]
[21]Boris Nieslony, Die Schwarze Lade / The Black Kit: The Archive for Performance, Performance Art, Performing Arts, Action and Intermedia Arts. (Europäisches Performance Institut / ASA-European, 2011)[21]
[23]Mark Franko, “Dance and the political: States of exception,” in Dance Discourses: Keywords in dance research, eds. Susanne Franco and Marina Nordera. (Oxon: Routledge, 2007), 19.[23]
[25]Greenwood, M. (2012) Lad Broke 20th – 22nd April 2012, Performance Information. Liverpool: Mercy.[25]
[29]“On Strategic Interventions in Performance Art: Self-Representation of the Body,” Bojana Kunst, Accessed on 24 May 2012,[29]
[31]Greenwood, M. (2012) Lad Broke 20th – 22nd April 2012, Performance Information. Liverpool: Mercy.[31]
[33]“The Organization of Happiness and the Exhausted Body,” Bojana Kunst, Accessed on 24 May 2012,[33]
[35]Greenwood, M. (2012) Lad Broke 20th – 22nd April 2012, Performance Information. Liverpool: Mercy.[35]
[37]Maria Walsh, “Subjectivity,” in Conversing: Subjectivity & Feminisms Research Group Project, (London: University of the Arts, 2005), 2.[37]
[39]Patrick Anderson, So Much Wasted: Hunger, Performance and the Morbidity of Resistance. (Durham & London: Duke University Press.P, 2010), 4.[39]
[41]”How Time Can Dispossess: On Duration and Movement in Contemporary Performance,” Bojana Kunst, Accessed on 24 May 2012,[41]
[43]Gregory Bateson, in, An Ecology of Mind: A Daughters Portrait of Gregory Bateson, DVD, directed by Nora Bateson. (US: Bullfrog Films, 2011).[43]


Wylde on O’Donnell


On Sinéad O’Donnell’s Performance Work

Gillian Wylde

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“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck”

–Paul Virilio{{1.}}

“I fall to pieces”

–Patsy Cline{{2.}}



Her ship sets sail from here

Performance Reflection Number One:

Sinéad O’Donnell’s performative art practice investigates instances and actuations of causality through singular occurrences and halting actions; cause redirects within the work, and gives rise to action, phenomenon, conditions and effects. Lively things are set off or initiated by her bodily presence or encountered within recorded, or otherwise mediated, frameworks.{{3.}} Relationships between cause, action or event produce a certain response, in the form of another event. The repeated event is generally understood as a consequence of the first event. Repetitions of events, of utterances and iterations, of objects, processes, partial variables, and semi-permeable facts, weave through Sinéad’s projects, purposefully, persistently and with unyielding attitude and attribute.

Sinéad O’Donnell, from the ‘Silverhead” series, Japan, 2010 Image Credit: Sinéad O’Donnell

Artist’s Comments: This is from a two-week period spent in a Japanese house in the countryside. During the residency I set myself the task of “researching mentality by isolating the head area of the body.” I studied the light in the house and when and where it appeared and disappeared. I also watched the domestic actions, daily chores and areas in which they happened. The resulting work was a series of actions to camera.



she gave way to a burst of weeping.

he was not a man to give way to this kind of pressure

Performance Reflection Number Two:

Repetition fascinates Sinéad. Repetitions and iterations of actions, things, objects, and words, are renewed, questioned, said again, or restated. Repetition lives in the body; it is both known and so very easily forgotten. Through repetition lively things give rise to action and phenomenon, bringing into being affects and percepts, sense datum within space-time contexts.

O’Donnell’s work breaks things up; it is about agency and transmission, waiting and giving way. This is purposelessly purposeful work, contradictory, simple, hard. Watching her reminds me that if you do something on purpose, you do it purposely. But if you have a specific purpose in mind, you are acting purposefully. Much in life is done or made with no discernible point or purpose. Much in life is done with great purposefulness, endlessly the same and endlessly different.



the invention of her shipwreck began here

Performance Reflection Number Three:

Much contravenes or runs counter to the uncluttered actions and activities encountered within Sinéad’s work. The fragile force of things attract the body toward the centre of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass. These actions of encounter are exchanged within the performative moment by way of words, heat, and other forms of energy. For most purposes the degree of intensity of this is measured by an unhurried increase in acceleration. Sinéad’s gravity is seen and heard by others within a series of intra-actions. Gravity gains, effecting change upon this thing or that thing. And things are likely to collapse, take a tumble, cave in, or shatter. It is for this reason that reparation is improbable.

The tender, visceral force of things, the extreme or alarming, takes people by surprise. They are involved because they were there, as audience or bystander, witness, passer-by, spectator or onlooker. They are involved in what is happening, and in what happened. Things take the shape of conditions; these actions become EVENTS, encountered within the context of a gallery space or shop front, wasteland or side street, a market square, disused train station, local Municipal Park, or domestic setting.



floorplans are not useful; let’s use our feet{{4.}}

Performance Reflection Number Four:

Sinéad makes words with objects. Her objects are talkative, ordinary, everyday, and are often found in multiple within works. Precarious words make precarious objects. Like most artists, Sinéad’s fascination with certain objects, words, and materials are made apparent through repetition within various projects. White china plates; Silver foil head wrap; Paper; Gaffa tape stacked wood; Galvanised bucket; Potato; Tree branch; Vernacular chair or table. Sinéad brings things and stuff in dialogue with the specificity of a particular context, situation, or set of circumstances and conditions; her works explore the psychological, aesthetic, cultural, ritualistic, and porous boundaries of things and stuff in and as the world. The attitude and apprehension of the thing brings about affect and causality – however slight, fleeting, discreet, affecting, grasping, or changeable these encounters and apprehensions might be.

Sinéad O’Donnell, From the Violent Series.
‘Chaos’ event, Open Space, Victoria, BC, September 2010. Image Credit: c/o Sinéad O’Donnell

Artist’s Comments: This was a 30-minute performance from my Violent performance series, begun in 2010, in which I explored the sound of the word violent and the imminent threat of violence rather than its actual physical force. The Violent series expresses feelings of isolation and dislocation and draws upon past experiences of domestic violence and of living in a society surrounded by violence. In this action I meticulously stacks dinner plates so high that they tower above my head and then collapse. The debris creates a fragmented sculpture that slowly covers the floor.



time only adds to the flame{{5.}}

Performance Reflection Number Five:

In her recent ‘Violent’ series, a multitude of white china plates are ‘stacked well’. She adds more plates to an already high stack of large white china plates. As she stacks, a voice, just audible from underneath the floorboards of a gallery space or from the pocket of an overcoat, steadily and insistently repeats the word ‘violent’ over and over. She adds even more plates to the already heightened stack of large white china plates. The likelihood of gravity portends, and takes a nosedive. This was both expected and surprising; reparation is improbable.

Sinéad O’Donnell, From the Violent Series.
Elmwood Hall, Blackmarket International & Bbeyond event, Belfast, 2012; Image Credit: Jordan Hutchings

Artist’s Comments: Another performance that was part of the Violent series (2012). This time the sound was replaced by my voice shushing the plates as if they were human.



if i was a goody, if i was a goody, if i was a goody, if i was a goody.{{6.}}

Performance Reflection Number Six:

We are turned towards things, objects and stuff in the world. Within these encounters there is intent and there is collapse, breakdown or misunderstanding, glorious moments of apprehension or speechlessness. Similarly language, like consciousness or gravity, has intent and agency; it is directed toward something and moves out from somewhere, something. Words have inclination, hesitation, latency, and orientation. In the words of cultural theorist Sara Ahmed, “consciousness is thus embodied, sensitive, situated.”{{7.}}

Within Sinéad’s work, objects and things communicate neatly and in the most direct of ways. This is talkative work, likely to answer back. Response has agency. “Objects function in our lives as forms of communication. An object is a story in itself and at the same time it is a vessel ready to receive any projection brought upon it by the subject/viewer.”{{8.}} Words touch other words. Things rub up against other things. Like stroking a cat against the lie of its fur, this is not always the easiest of encounters. The bodiless voice repeats again the word ‘violent’. Spoken or uttered sounds seem to come from somewhere else. Here there is a breakdown. Can there be a going back? We hear the word ‘violent’ said over and over. Should we be afraid? Words are panic exciters, after all; they don’t always mean what they say. They are tongue stoppers; they don’t always say what they mean.

Sinéad O’Donnell, From the Violent Series, 2010 Plymouth Arts Centre, ‘Pigs of today are the hams of Tomorrow’ Image Credit: Paul White

Artist’s Comments: This was the very first performance of the Violent series in 2010. No plates were used. I played the sound of a man and a woman saying the word ‘violent’ repetitively. I painted my nose back. I gaffa taped the audience to their positions in the room. Then I left the room.



tiny revolts are still necessary{{9.}}

Performance Reflection Number Seven:

In ‘Violent Series’ Sinéad paints her nose with black felt pen. Her black felt nose is both a cancellation and an affront. In other works we encounter knives punched into tree branches or loaves of bread. Or we watch as she wraps tin foil around her head and walks backwards into the woods. In ‘Exposition Silence’ a plastic decoy bird rests on Sinéad’s head; a passer by pats the bird on her head and laughs. In every case, events are actuated by Sinéad with great ardour, and with unfaltering attitude and attribute. She meets us somewhere off kilter and we are reminded that to not act is also an action.


The text above was originally commissioned as part of O’Donnell’s 2010 “ArtsAdmin Bursary” – a national bursary scheme that allows artists to chose a writer to represent their work.


Gillian Wylde ( is an artist who makes video, performance, installation and text work. She is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Dartington College of Art now merged with University College Falmouth.


[1]Virilio, P (1999) Politics of the Very Worst. In conversation with Petit, Philippe New York: Semiotext(e).[1]
[3]Cline, Patsy (1999) I Fall To Pieces. Song written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (1961) From the album Patsy Cline Showcase (CD) US Import. Mca Nashville Recordings.[3]
[5]This understanding of “lively things” is taken from Ahmed, S (2006) Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others Duke University Press.[5]
[7]O’Donnell, Sinéad 2011 CAUTION, an unlimited project by Sinéad O’Donnell (online) Available from: (Accessed: 22 July 2011)[7]
[9]Cline, Patsy (1999) I Fall To Pieces. Song written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (1961) From the album Patsy Cline Showcase (CD) US Import. Mca Nashville Recordings[9]
[11]O’Donnell, Sinéad 2011 CAUTION, an unlimited project by Sinéad O’Donnell (online); available from: (Accessed: 22 July 2011).[11]
[13]Ahmed, S (2006) Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others Duke University Press.[13]
[15]Steinbach, Haim (2001) North East South West Hatje Cantz publishers.[15]
[17]Wertheim, C Ed. (2010) Feminaissance Les Figues Press. Quote taken from Dodie Bellamy essay – “The Feminist Writers Guild”[17]

Klein on Anti Festival

ANTI Contemporary Art Festival

Kuopio, Finland: September 27-October 2, 2011

Jennie Klein

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In Fall of 2012, the annual ANTI Contemporary Art Festival in Kuopio, Finland, celebrated its 10th anniversary. From September 27 to October 2, the festival took place at various sites in the city, and with the help of the performance collective Mammalian Diving Reflex (Canada) culminated with an awards ceremony organized and presented by a local 4th grade class. Since the first festival in 2002, ANTI has been characterized by experimental and unusual art that challenges the expectations of the general public and art tourists alike. The 2011festival was no exception. Artists from Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Italy, and the U.S. converged on Kuopio to participate; some for the first time, while others had been asked to return in honor of the festival’s 10th anniversary. As always, there was much to see and think about at the ANTI Festival. This year there was a great deal to celebrate: 10 years of festivals as well as the publication of a beautiful catalogue, A Decade of ANTI Contemporary Art Festival, written in Finnish and English.

The ANTI festival is unique among international art festivals in that it focuses on site-specific performance art. Every year the co-artistic directors of the festival, the Finnish dancer Johanna Tuukanen and Greg Whelan of the performance group Lone Twin, negotiate with the city of Kuopio for performance spaces. Most of these spaces are situated in downtown Kuopio, a city built in the 19th century on a grid plan with every other street reserved for pedestrians and surrounded by lakes. The symbolic and literal center of the city is the majestic town hall (a frequent site for ANTI performances), which opens onto a massive paved square surrounded by shops and restaurants. In many small to mid-sized European cities, the sacred exists alongside the secular. Kuopio is no exception. Just off of the city center the Kuopio Cathedral, a 19th century stone, neoclassical church sits atop a natural rise that permits a viewer standing at the entrance to see all the way to Lake Kallavesi and the island of Vasikkasaari, a frequent site for ANTI events. The Kuopio Cathedral itself, while not generally part of the ANTI Festival, overlooks Minna Cantha Park, a cultivated neoclassical garden where many performances have taken place. These sites and several more (including the train station, a barber shop, several street corners, and a parking garage were used by the artists in 2011.)

In addition to its focus on site, each festival is devoted to a specific theme: gender and site (2007), domestic spaces (2008), walking (2009), site and narrative (2010). For the 10th anniversary, the theme of ANTI was: remake, rebuild, renew. The 10th ANTIversary coincided with an extensive renovation of the Kuopio City Center, which included torn up pavements and streets, construction barricades, and an excavation that extended several stories below street level. The cover of the program for this year’s festival (which was designed to look like a newspaper) featured a photograph of the torn up city center, a site that many of the artists chose to use. Many of the pieces were performed on or near the torn up city centre, forcing the audience to navigate pedestrian paths made of plastic sheeting, plywood, and concrete barriers. The theme remake, rebuild, and renew also made reference to the work of the many artists who had come back to Kuopio to perform at the festival. Many artists returned to their original sites, some of which had been rather drastically transformed in the intervening years, and some of which remained more or less un- changed. Other artists came to ANTI for the first time, performing works that honored both the anniversary of the festival and the renovation and renewal of Kuopio on both a literal and metaphorical level. All of this excitement was beautifully documented by Pekka Mäkinen, who has been photographing the work in the ANTI Festival since 2002. Posters of Mäkinen’s ANTI photographs could be seen all over Kuopio during the festival, and a selection of photographs from this festival can be seen on the web site:

This year’s ANTI Festival was about looking back and celebrating the success of a remarkable festival where performance art is made public and placed before an audience that has not bargained on encountering art. For the most part, the artwork in ANTI is subtle and sensitive, with the artists integrating their performances with the public space in which they find themselves. It seems fitting that the artist-in-residence this year was Heidi Fast (Finland) a voice and performance artist. The artist in residence program at ANTI was inaugurated in 2009. Essi Kauselainen spent two months in Kuopio in the spring and summer prior to the ANTI Festival. Fast also spent approximately 2 months in Kuopio. Fast first came to ANTI in 2006 to perform Amorous Dialogues—practising acoustic ranges, a vocal concert performed in an empty apartment that was for lease and thus available for Fast and her audience. For Amorous Dialogues, Fast gave an anonymous apartment a musical voice. As the 2011 artist-in-residence, Fast gave the city of Kuopio a musical voice with the (Re)Attuning Choir. Beginning in May 2011, Fast worked with a cross section of Kuopio residents who formed a choir. The (Re)Attuning Choir, whose music was based on the characteristics of each singer’s voice, performed three times: the first on September 10 in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, the second on September 28 in the Kuopio University Hospital Corridors, and the third time on September 30 in the market square. The third performance lasted just over an hour. The (Re)Attuning Choir played instruments crafted of pipes, cardboard cones, and straws while leading the audience through the maze of paths surrounding the market square excavations. The performance took place at 7 p.m., just as the sun was setting and Kuopio was slowly shutting down for the night. The delicate, somewhat mournful sounds of the choir along with the slow, deliberate pace of the procession lent the whole performance a meditative, other-worldly feeling, which was extraordinarily moving and quite lovely to observe as a participant.

Like Fast, most of the artists who returned to ANTI engaged with site through the agency of memory and nostalgia, re-performing site through various memories whether their own or those of others. Elaine Kordys’ Analogies Can Make One Feel At Home: Three stories from Kuopio: change, life and time was based on interviews with three residents of Kuopio, who spoke about the changes in their lives and the changes in the city. Kordys’ video/sound piece, which juxtaposed the oral accounts with bucolic videos of the Kuopio landscape, was presented in the Aapeli Shopping Center Car Park, the same location where she had performed How Excellent Your Name is in the World nine years prior, when the car park was under construction. Kordys’ piece was a meditation on change and flux, as well as the decay and eventual death of all bodies.

Throughout the years, the train station has been the site of many performances, including the Baroque extravaganza of costume and identity that was executed by La Pocha Nostra– Guillermo Gomez Peña and Roberto Sifuentes (2009), the urban corporeal dancing of BodyCartography (2009), the meditational walking piece by Jon Fawcett (2003), and the assisted street crossings of Tryst (2011). At the first ANTI Festival Christopher Hewitt made lifesize drawings of the performances on the train station walls as they were being performed. These drawings, which serve as an indexical trace to the original performances of 2001, were joined by images of the 10th anniversary performances, thus linking the festival through time and affinities—several of the performers initially depicted on the wall were back for this ANTI. At the 10the anniversary festival, Hewitt’s black and white line drawings/paintings, which he made by projecting Mäkinen’s photographs onto the white walls of the passage between the two tracks, suggested the impossibility of fixing a performance in time. Copies of copies, Hewitt’s drawings, executed literally as the performances were happening, will never be more than the indexical trace of something that will no longer happen anymore.

While Kordys and Hewitt both changed their pieces to reflect the passage of time, other artists chose to reprise their original piece at the original site. Kirsi Pitkänen reprised her “proclaimer” persona from 2006. For that performance, Pitkänen, dressed in a wind suit (a very popular casual outfit worn by working class Finns) appeared on the balcony of the city hall, where she recited a long list of complaints taken from the local newspaper’s (Savon Sanomat) hotline. Many of these complaints were petty and xenophobic, appropriate fare for a proclaimer character who spies on the neighbors and minds everyone’s business. For ANTI 2011, Pitkänen included political propaganda and phrases designed to have mass appeal and interpellate the viewers. Performed entirely in Finnish, for an English speaking viewer the performance seemed to be a cross between period films of Hitler’s speeches and the ranting of itinerate street preachers.

Juha Valkeapää, Vocal Portraits, 2011 Image Credit: Pekka Mäkinen

Juha Valkeapää, a sound artist, re-performed an intimate concert for the local barbershop located around the corner from the Town Hall and the ANTI headquarters. One by one, participants were seated in the barber’s chair, which Valkeapää carefully adjusted based on height and size, then blindfolded and treated to a gentle vocal performance of clicks and notes, made all the more resonant with the absence of sight.

Aaron Williamson, whose work engages with the estrangement of disability, returned to Vasikkasari Island to perform The Marooned Wildman. In 2007, the year Williamson first performed the piece, he remained isolated on the island for the day, desperately shouting “I am a Man” into a megaphone. Profoundly deaf, Williamson’s actions, visible from the shore, suggested the inability of the disabled to connect with the abled. In 2011, Williamson permitted festival attendees to come to the island, where he awaited, garbed in a furry suit. Shy at first, the reclusive Wildman finally emerged, ate some cookies that were offered to him, and then quickly disappeared. The final image seen by the participants as they rowed away from the island was that of the Wildman, begging them to come back.

ANTI would not be ANTI without several new performance interventions that had not previously been done in Kuopio or Finland. As in the past, ANTI included interventions that took place in both real and virtual space. Brian Lobel’s Purge used Facebook as an agency for questioning friendships and connections in real time. For several hours a day, Lobel, who has hundreds of Facebook friends (including, for now, this author), spent 1 minute considering each of his friends in front of an audience who had been given the power to decide whether Lobel should keep or delete the friend. When Lobel’s minute was up, three people from the audience would vote on the fate of his FB friend. PURGE was a brave performance, both in terms of Lobel’s willingness to put friendships on the line one last time (Lobel had done this performance before, and had lost friends because of it), as well as Lobel’s willingness to perform a feat of endurance—literally talking a mile a minute over several days for hours on end, until he had moved through his entire collection of friends. In the end, Lobel was able to keep most of his friends, although a particularly bad hour occurred during which a ruthless group of teenagers came to view the performance, thus putting Lobel’s trust in the power of the public to make sound decisions to the test. In spite of Lobel’s congenial personality, there was something slightly invasive about his performance, which probably contributed to his decision at the time not to reprise the piece (although he recently performed PURGE again).

While some performances were site-specific and stationary, others moved throughout the city from one location to another. The architectural group svop/T from Norway and Italy, designed Viewpoints, a stair platform covered with plastic turf that was moved around the city and situated in places that afforded a good view. Participants were encouraged to climb up the stairs and experience the city from a different perspective. Working in conjunction with Finnish dancers, the group Tryst performed Assisted Street Crossings in Kuopio at various locations (all with traffic lights that had pedestrian symbols). Interested participants could choose from a menu of traditional dance lifts (my favorite was the donut) and be carried across the street with the lift of choice. As- sisted Street Crossings was quite safe—with the lifters garbed in workers jumpsuits and orange vests to signify their role as service workers—and also quite fun. Like Viewpoints, the participant was able to experience the city differently. The group Blast Theory’s also offered audiences a new way to experience the city, but on a bicycle. For Rider Spoke, viewers were given a helmet and a bicycle with a game consul supported by GPS technology mounted on the handlebars. Cyclists were encouraged to ride around the city, finding hidden secrets recorded by previous riders and leaving some secrets of their own. A sort of SI detournement with bicycles instead of feet, Rider Spoke allowed the participant to navigate a city of ghosts.


Of course, you can’t have a 10th anniversary without a party. ANTIversary had plenty of party-type performances and two ceremonies: one for adults on Saturday night and the other for children on Sunday afternoon. Belgian artist Gaëtan Rusquet kicked off the festivities on Friday afternoon with his performance Back and Forth, which took place at the College of Social and Health Care. The performance began with a pile of colorful balloons—the long, thin type used to make hats and animals at children’s birthday parties—and Rusquet, who calmly stepped out of his clothing and folded it carefully at the side of the room. He then proceeded to weave the balloons together and suspend the structure from tethers that were already attached to the walls and ceiling of the lobby area where he was performing. The completed structure proved to be an elaborate and fantastic exoskeleton, into which Rusquet placed himself, after which the structure was detached from the architecture. Trapped inside his own creation, Rusquet freed himself by aggressively breaking all of the balloons, which he did by pressing his body and the balloons against various surfaces. The performance ended when he put his clothing back on.

The following night Bryony Kimmings performed 7-Day Drunk, a performance/cabaret act that she allegedly developed from a 7-day experiment in collaboration with a pharmacologist, neuroscientist, and psychologist. For one week, Kimmings, inspired by the mythos of artists and mind – altering substances, remained drunk while documenting her experiences and attempting to answer the question, “Is alcohol really linked to creativity?” Part cabaret act and part spoken word performance, 7-Day Drunk included dancing, a clown suit missing two pom-pom buttons, kitten heels and bare feet in cold weather, bottle smashing, and surprisingly very little blood. It also included a rather astonishing poem of every word and phrase that Kimmings could find that had been used to characterize a woman’s genitalia. 7-Day Drunk was followed by A Date With the Night, a one-on-one piece in which a tequila swilling Kimmings enacted a series of blind dates with various audience members. For the length of a song, Kimmings, and her sometimes reticent partner, made small talk, danced, took dirty photos, and snorted fake cocaine. A Date with the Night recalled Andrea Fraser’s 2003 performance Untitled, a videotaped piece that records Fraser’s encounter with a collector “to make art.” Unlike Fraser, whose work is self-consciously situated into the institutional critique fad of the early 90s artworld, Kimmings’ work is much darker and more dangerous, with the very real possibility that something bad could happen. Indisputably real was Kimmings’ splitting headache the following morning, the result of a very bad hangover.

ANTI concluded on a positive and extremely colorful note with The Children’s Choice Awards, organized by Mammalian Diving Reflex, a Toronto-based group of artists. For the duration of the festival, Mammalian Diving Reflex worked with a fourth grade class comprised of immigrant children of various ages and ability to speak in Finnish. The children were taken to every event.

On the Sunday following the festival, the children hosted an awards ceremony in the city hall, complete with a talent show and awards made with feathers, glitter, and hardened chocolate. All performers received a children’s award (some received more than one) and the finale involved silly string, cartwheels and refreshments. The presence of the children at ANTI, as well as the 10 year celebration, bodes well for its continuation, ANTI remains one of the most experimental and interesting international festivals around.


Assisted street crossing in Kuopio (Jennie) – Tryst. Photo by Pekka Mäkinen


Jennie Klein ( is an associate professor of art history at Ohio University. Her research interests include feminism, queer theory, performance theory, and performance. She is the co-editor of The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (Demeter Press, 2011), along with Myrel Chernick. She is currently working on two book projects on The Love Art Laboratory: Sexecological Art and the work of Marilyn Arsem.