From: ‘Not as simple as it sounds’. Audio Foundation, (Auckland 2021). Credits: V. Garg
From: ‘Not as simple as it sounds’. Audio Foundation, (Auckland 2021). Credits: V. Garg
From: ‘Not as simple as it sounds’. Audio Foundation, (Auckland 2021). Credits: V. Garg

An intimate yet powerful act of mourning dedicated to each one of the estimated 100.000 homosexuals who have been arrested, abused and killed during the Holocaust.

Lupi repeatedly plays a triangle instrument for 6 days each day for 5 hours straight in order to reach 100.000 strikes and beyond.

The audience is invited to take active part in the piece by joining it’s peculiar setup and supporting the artist by playing triangles hanging from the ceiling.

Lupi creates a device that produces an evolving sound which will change every time new notes add up, expressing a caring ‘community’ effort.

From: ‘Not as simple as it sounds’ – Concerto. Testing Grounds, (Melbourne 2023). Credits: S. Cowdell

Not as Simple as it Sounds – Concerto

By Robyn Peers

Not as Simple as it Sounds – Concerto is a work of art created by Ivan Lupi in memory of queer people who died during the Nazi regime. For the Melbourne performance, part of the 2023 Midsumma Festival, Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural event, Lupi is spending six uninterrupted hours every day for 11 days outdoors in the Testing Grounds venue, creating a poignant memorial for the estimated 100,000 homosexuals who died during the Nazi regime. This estimate will be commemorated by the equivalent of 100,000 strikes of the triangle. Although a silent tally will be kept Lupi contends that the exact number is not vital, as no-one counted the exact number of the dead.

Gay communities and networks had flourished in Germany after World War One, especially in big cities. Beginning in 1933, however, the Nazi regime harassed and systematically dismantled these groups. In 1935, the National Socialists ordered the comprehensive criminalization of male homosexuality, the provisions against homosexual behaviour provided for in Section 175 of the German Criminal Code were intensified and expanded. For those convicted prison or penitentiary resulted. There were over 50,000 convictions and gay men were often trafficked to concentration camps because of their homosexuality. Many of them did not survive the camps dying of hunger, illness, and abuse or as victims of targeted killings.

Lupi will work with eleven identically pitched triangles over eleven days. The subtitle Concerto recognizes the musical theme of the piece and the drawing together of an ensemble around one key performer. The triangles will be played primarily by Lupi but the audience will be welcome to participate alongside him.

This may seem simple, but as reflected in the title, the performance has many layers of depth, it is not as simple as it sounds. The duration of the performance is marked by Lupi by the adoption of eleven different colours of clothing, one for each day. Simple and pyjama-like in form, they are designed to echo the shapes of the clothing of the concentration camps, or prison uniforms. The variety of colours denote the LBGTQI A+ flag, but with the addition of black, white, brown, light pink and light blue, as represented in the inclusive Progression Pride flag. Discrimination of all types is thus encompassed.

The triangle, an often-overlooked instrument is a carefully chosen signifier. During the Holocaust the people who were deemed outcast by the Nazi regime were identified by visual markers, coloured triangles. The yellow star, a double triangle for the Jewish population is well known, less so some of the other symbols, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, green for convicts and criminals and red for political prisoners. Homosexual prisoners wore a pink triangle.

The recognition of these deaths has been long arriving. It was not until the 1990s that the first memorials to these “forgotten victims “of the Holocaust were erected in Germany, and 2008 before the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism was unveiled in the Tiergarten Park in central Berlin.

With each strike of the triangle the sound denotes another death, the recognition of another person killed for their sexuality. The sound may be faint chimes or strong bell-like strikes. The sound carries on the wind giving different moods to the action from mournful to joyous.

Testing Grounds seems an apt title for the performance space. Located at Market Square in the Queen Victoria Market Precinct, Testing Grounds provides infrastructure in a public context for creative practices across art, performance, design, and education. This performance will certainly be testing for Lupi, an endurance event outside, during the Melbourne summer where the weather conditions are likely to be extreme. Lupi has created versions of this work at several indoor venues previously, however staging it outdoors changes the nature of the event. This venue will bring in a general audience, rather than the invited and connected audiences previously performed for. The popular Victoria Market is close by and there will be other Midsumma artists sharing the performance space.

Lupi’s work often tests fortitude for both the artist and the viewers. Past performances have included tattoos, scarification, blood and pain, works which can be very difficult to watch and much more so to perform. This piece is seemingly easier on both performer and audience; the reality of this feat of endurance for the artist will be extremely testing.

Performance art, a noteworthy artistic form from the twentieth century onwards has challenged the traditional forms of visual art. Endurance performance has been distinguished by physical and psychological duress experienced by the body over the performance duration, pushing physical and emotional limits and the limits of art. Artists may involve themselves in rituals that border on torture or abuse, yet the purpose is less to test what the artist can survive than to explore such issues as human tenacity, determination, and patience. It is this tradition that Lupi embraces.

In September 1978 Taiwanese artist Tehching Hsieh locked himself into a 11.5-by-9-by-8-foot wooden cage in his studio in New York vowing that he would remain there for one year. He would do almost nothing: not read, write, talk or otherwise engage in any activities. One year later, on Sept. 29, 1979, Hsieh stepped out of his cage.

For her 2010 piece The Artist Is Present, Marina Abramovic spent nearly three months sitting on a wooden chair inside the Museum of Modern Art, New York, for eight or 10 hours a day. People lined up to sit across from her, including Hsieh himself. The work was inspired by her belief that stretching the length of a performance beyond expectations serves to alter our perception of time and foster a deeper engagement in the experience. Like Lupi ‘s creation her work can have a political purpose, Balkan Baroque (1997) was a response to both the war in Bosnia and for any war, anywhere in the world.

A work of extreme focus, concentration and rigor  Not as Simple as it Sounds – Concerto is ritual, memorial and acknowledgement. Ultimately it is a meditation. It provides an opportunity for Lupi and the audience to reflect on the discrimination and death from one particular era. It should, however, be seen to be much broader. It is a universal meditation on discrimination, on the victims and the perpetrators in the past and the present. Discrimination covering gender, sexuality, race, caste, religion, nationality and the multitude of divergences which have caused and, sadly, will continue to cause inhumanity to those perceived to be different.

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).

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