From: ‘X’, one-to-one long-durational performance. Performance Art Week Aotearoa. (Wellington 2018).
Credits: Essi Airisniemi

The Vivian gallery. (Matakana 2018)

The night before performing ‘X’ again, I had only a few hours of sleep to let my thoughts sink in. This was hardly enough time to formulate a clear opinion about what I expected of this new journey.

Repeating ‘X’ the next day was not as relaxing as I thought it might have been. 

It was the first time I had been asked to work in two different spaces with a debuting piece, one day after the other. I usually give my mind and body some rest before deciding when it feels/I feel right to repeat an action.

That morning I woke up with sore skin. A new area in my body had been attacked aggressively and I had a high temperature together with the signs of a mild headache. 

I took a look at my hands: the result was both organic and random. Its aesthetic was peculiar: each mark was unique and at the same time belonged to the whole. All the marks seemed to create their own special grammar.

I tried to recall people’s faces from the evening before. The only one that kept peeking up in my mind was that of a gentle lady from Japan. We had a brief introduction before she decided to give the action a go. What a beautiful memory: instead of interrogating myself about what such action could have represented for the lady, I just remember her pale pink coat and her perfume. It felt like a flower was blossoming right there in all its essence. She left, with a smile, bowing, walking backwards, hands together in her lap. 

Entering the Vivian gallery for the first time with a performance made me realise how warm and familiar the space feels to me now and how easy would be to slip into a too casual attitude. The wooden floor, the bright light coming through and the quiet atmosphere of the rooms are definitely features  that work in favour of the visitors, but not mine. 

The booth was positioned amongst other works of art in the south gallery. A pop-up monolit. It was not the first time I had performed surrounded by a pre-existing exhibition that included only inanimate items. It is a situation I like to experience: it adds a sense of respect towards the work of other artists and it keeps me on my toes for the whole duration of the performance. I always hope I can be as good and valuable as those items, with all the skills and research behind them. They help my level of focus and my sense of the ‘here and now’. They also contribute to making me feel queer enough in the nicest possible way. 

In the end I worked for about three hours and the time went fast. The crowd was smaller and instead of feeling hammered by hundreds of drills It felt more as if a dozen of bees gently landed to gather some pollen, one after the other. I felt privileged to be able to talk to each person individually. This work allows me a special touch with people. Considering how much I care for this kind of interaction, I was satisfied. I was also able to place my body in a transversal relation with both audience and other works of art. It helped question both my role and my perspectives; presence, absence, temporality, time and the rhythms they create. 

From: ‘X’, one-to-one long-durational performance. Performance Art Week Aotearoa. (Wellington 2018).
Credits: Essi Airisniemi

MOTAT – Museum Of Transport And Technology. (Auckland 2018)

After a day at work I usually end up with a collage of facial expressions, whispered words, soft touches, body scents, shy smiles, all flying around in my mind like polaroids taken by storm. They seem to live in my mind in a permanently restless state.

At its debut at the Museum Of Transport And Technology, ‘X’ lasted 4 hours, which is a relatively short time for a long-durational piece, but the only word that comes to me which best describes the overall sensation of the event is ‘dense’. I will get back to this in a moment. 

No matter how well I think I have prepared myself, the degree of unexpectedness associated with such a performance hits me from so many angles. In the case of the evening at MOTAT, it definitely was the number of people who walked through the door. Call it luck, call it the effective promotion of the event (which I can definitely attest to in this case, when I consider the efficiency of the curatorial team), the queue that formed outside was certainly long and we were not able to accommodate all of it. This was very special for something that was initially conceived as a one-to-one experience. In four hours of constant flow, one after the other, at a maximum of 2.5 minute intervals, people left 93 ‘X’ marks on my skin. Let me say this: it was way beyond expectations. It was an exciting task. One hour before the end, my voice almost abandoned me and I felt tiredness fall on my whole body like a heavy curtain. Eventually I reached for my water and it was a blessing. 

I want to believe I gave my best. In one distant corner of my head a voice with a hint of disappointment said something like: ‘wouldn’t you have liked it better if more people came through?’ That was a greedy voice and I slapped it away until it went silent.

People were amazing; there were MORE than enough of them and everything went smoothly. The nature of a one-to-one piece is that it has at its core: a single moment shared with one another. As such, one single person would have been enough to accomplish the intention of the piece. Instead, the action repeated rhythmically 93 times in one long session, and because of that we all agreed it was beyond a success.

The final consideration on this debut was that I now believe such close contact with each member of the audience does not have anything to do with bravery. It is more about being playfully curious in embracing the unexpected. On both sides. 

I got asked what will happen when I will run out of skin and my answer was: ‘that will never happen, and even if it did, we should all think in a slightly less straightforward way when we consider new possibilities’…

From: ‘X’, one-to-one long-durational performance. Performance Art Week Aotearoa. (Wellington 2018).
Credits: Essi Airisniemi

Posted by ivanlupi

Ivan Lupi (born 1972, Ferrara, Italy). Masters in Queer Studies in Arts and Culture from the Birmingham University. Since 2001 Lupi has been one of the founders and active member of the collective Amae with which he has taken part in various collaborations and exhibitions in China, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, United Kingdom. In 2016 Lupi starts his own production as a single performer along with Amae’s series of work. The most recent and relevant events: ‘The Voice and the Lens’ - Whitechapel Art Gallery (London 2014), ‘The slip of the tongue’ - Palazzo Grassi Punta della Dogana (Venice 2015), ‘Transformations’ by LiVEART.US - Queens Museum (New York 2016), ‘MAKING SPACE’ - CoCA - Centre of Contemporary Art (Christchurch 2017), ‘Visualeyez Annual Festival of Performance art’ - Latitude 53 Art Gallery (Edmonton 2017), 'PAWA - Performance Art Week Aotearoa' (Wellington 2018) 'Performance Arcade 2019' (Wellington 2019).

One Comment

Leave a Reply