On the of July 2016 seven performance artists worked for 7 hours at The Point, Bangor, Co Down: James King, Brian Patterson, Christoff Gillen, Rainer Pagel, Colm Clarke, Siobhan Mullen Wolf and Keike Twisselmann. I watched for slightly over an hour only. I start with a former postgraduate of MFA at the Ulster University, living at present in Berlin and Belfast.
She is bike racing driver.
Keike: ..these 6 doors – from darkness to light – (6 canvas frames in door size 80 X 200 cm each) were done between 1995 and 1996/7 – most of them in one go, plus some additions…
Later on, around 2000, a friend of my mother who saw them in Germany said to her, that these where just like those creatures he saw (!) when he was in a coma, clinically dead – and the creatures made an almost unbearable shrieking high sound…this I found so interesting, that I keep asking people who had a a near death state experience, whether they had a similar experience and a de-ja vu seeing the painting…I recall one girl visitor to my studio at an open studio show in 2007, where I had displayed them running out of my studio, saying, she could not bear them! Hm…(I was nearly dead after drowning when I was 3 years old, but I can recall nothing, just a complete temporary loss of memory) OK that’s the story about experiencing the painting…
…it had always been turned down for exhibition proposals in the past, but Dr Thomas Maier, a literature lecturer, who curated the Orpheus exhibition in Kleve for me last year (he passed away in December 2015) was besotted by it! (you have the catalogue & are in it with your essay!)
Twisselmann is also a translator and performance artist.
Slavka: The panorama of some artists and water and the sad sky
– after the drama of the tide coming up,
must appear to you all quite soothing..
.although Christopher screamed a lot…
Slavka: I wonder if you would like to email me a few sentences about your own concept of performance. For ex. do you act a persona (costume, attributes)?
Keike: yes! but the cruel thing about abusing you into it in this respect was outweighed by your charming appearance – I’m sorry for “using” you as the willing and only voluntary audience that day as an “object of wisdom and desire” ! REALLY am !!!
seeing you appearing around the corner, when we had our “Russian Camp” , was like a revelation to art!
Slavka:If there is anything to forgive – it is “automatically done” – I am interested in the necessary differences between art/performance art/ life. It may seem a petty interest – but the deterioration of performance art globally calls for an honest appraisal about that “art” bit. Hence my concern – oh, and I hate being photographed… but that’s a private issue.
Keike: SAT 19:38
Choosing a fragment of life to use as an “object of wisdom and desire” to be transformed into art, the performance artist acts like a “LICHTMASCHINE” (“light machine” = generator) to create the sparks, energy, electricity – this requires skill, experience and the utmost of concentration…like compressing a piece of coal into a diamond…
Slavka:Your use of Lichtmaschine remind me of Moholy Nagy – his needed electricity to work…
What skills would transform a fragment of being into art ?
Keike: Hm! Interesting! Have to look this up! the electricity is generated BY the artists as the “alchemist” and Licht-maschine..
Keike:to create art is like running an engine: air = inspiration, petrol = fragments of life/flux which are chosen by the artist as “objects of wisdom and desire” and the spark from the artist as Lichtmaschine – the skill is to keep the right balance to keep the compression of the engine, tune it for performance (!) … hmm…something like that…
Slavka:Jordan just sent me 90 images. Did you appear in white holding the sabre and having your head wrapped in some dark fabric? I feel it is you, but …
Slavka:May I quote some of your thinking ?
Keike: yes of course!
Slavka: I recall that you thought of it as performance – is it OK to mention that ?
Keike: yes! whenever you are riding a motorbike, you mentally are almost in a similar “zone” of high concentration, focus, purpose and AWARE of your environment as you would be in an action of performance art…
my favourite quote was something like “within a second on a fast motorbike you live more than some people in a lifetime” I’ll have to dig out the correct quote and author…
Slavka: I like that comparison – it helps me to make my argument…
PS the British Army leg protectors are from Michael’s grandad from the 1st World War (he went to all those ghastly places including the Somme – this is 100 years later and they fit me like a glove, because he, Michael and I have the same shape of calves!!! – the jacket is from a friend’s US cousin who went to Vietnam with it! – two pointless wars all dressed up in one?)
Gesine Garz Amazing image and story!
The main thesis of Twisselmann’s take on performance art is akin to alchemy. She aims to transform a fragment of life into art. So to perform fuses with to transform. What if a given transformation does not change the fragment of lived experiences into anything else? The above illustrates – a fragment of lived experience. Why does it have to become art? Is life less than art? Is a thoughtful (or not) response to a stimuli less than art? Are skills for living less than art skills? The contemporary performance art raises these question with greater urgency as it becomes more commonplace. It still fits Benedetto Croce’s definition of art as experience – both the experience of the person performing and experience of the person observing the performance. Twisselmann respects these difficulties – by doing/performing “lived episodes” in a whimsical dadaist order that allows her freedom of exaggeration of any living experience as well as a dead pan direct living experience: Cutting Rainer’s birthday cake with a sabre… racing a motorbike. She performs for audience that is not there – that’s the friendly absurd encroaching over her transformations.
is a sculptor in love with the gracefulness of geometry and logic….the Greek “moira” – a measure. is perhaps the overarching value connecting his oeuvre. His performances are tightly planned, faithfully delivered , deadly serious.
Coincidentally, this morning a reminder of the difference in how we treat logic and morality dropped into my inbox. In an abstract to Jack Woods :Mathematics, Morality, and Self-Effacement, it reads:
“I argue that certain species of belief, such as mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, are insulated from a form of Harman-style debunking argument whereas moral beliefs, the primary target of such arguments, are not. Harman-style arguments have been misunderstood as attempts to directly undermine our moral beliefs. They are rather best given as burden-shifting arguments, concluding that we need additional reasons to maintain our moral beliefs. If we understand them this way, then we can see why moral beliefs are vulnerable to such arguments while mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs are not—the very construction of Harman-style skeptical arguments requires the truth of significant fragments of our mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, but requires no such thing of our moral beliefs. …..But we can cleanly doubt the truth of morality.” (accessed on http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nous.12157/abstract?campaign=wolearlyview)
For Harman’s argument this is a trusted account:
“The Harman/Sturgeon debate is complex and widely misunderstood. (See Tropman 2013.) Harman’s ultimate position is not that there are no moral facts; indeed, he explicitly asserts “there is empirical evidence that there are (relational) moral facts” (1977: 132). His intention is to issue a challenge: that those who believe in moral facts owe skeptics a plausible account of how the moral facts that are cited in realist explanations (e.g., concerning depravity and injustice) relate to those non-moral facts that seem otherwise adequate to explain any phenomena. This account must also clarify how we enjoy epistemic access to these moral facts and why they seem of such practical importance to us. (my emphasis) Harman suspects that such an account (which he calls a “ reduction”) may in fact be forthcoming (see his 1986: 65), but the point relevant to our current purposes is his contention that the believer in moral facts has extra work to do in order to establish her position; thus this may be interpreted as an attempt establish a burden of proof.” (accessed on http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/moral-realism-explain.html)
Clarke charges his art with a burden of proof – at times by transgressing to verbal translation of the visible. His texts walk on the edge between logic and poetry, the epistemic access, even his statement, emailed to me, skids happily into that partnership:
The work I made on Thursday was a material led experimentation and processes- a sort of continuation from my studio practise. So I suppose what would be most apt for my statement would be an ingredients list as to what I used.
Not once- the carefully movable structure rested into a hexagon – the perfect shape preferred by bees and universe. So the burden for the aesthetic proof lies not in the “most perfect” – even not in most responsive to any context – it is forged by the curiosity and instant checking up if it supports another short lived existence. The see-through linear object is more willing to sit on the ground than fly like a kite. Held like his it is content to be a scribble in the air. An experiment how to hold on, even if briefly, to the variants of the man made ephemeral.
Images courtesy Jordan Hutchings