Sunday, February 21, 2016

FOI 10: Day 6 Lynn Lu (UK/SG) – 36 Questions That Leads To Love Sakiko Yamaoka (JP) – More Desires On The Floor

Lynn Lu (UK/SG) – 36 Questions That Leads To Love
Sakiko Yamaoka (JP) – More Desires On The Floor

Jason Lim, the artistic director and programmer of FOI, posted the following statement on Facebook prior to the sixth evening of performances:

When I programmed the performances, I was being pragmatic with resources, time and to have a balanced distribution of performances.
Some how by good fortune and coincidence, each evening of performances have a common thread or two running through them.
Day 1 - revealing of delightful moments through darkness of the space
Day 2 - fabrics and bodies
Day 3 - line and soft materials
Day 4 - identity
Day 5 - pounding/disintegration
I wonder what this evening entails....
Do come to see if you have been procrastinating....

Lynn Lu (UK/SG) – 36 Questions That Leads To Love
Photo by Jemima Yong

Day 6 of FOI entailed Love in many forms—for the audience, the performer and between the audience members, and the performers. Lynn Lu’s (UK/SG) performance, 36 Questions that Lead to Love, addressed the impossibility of falling in love, or of being able to quantify exactly what does and does not constitute love. Lu asked the audience to pair up with someone that they didn’t know at all, and take turns answering 36 questions developed by the psychologist Arthur Aron. These questions, which were broken up into three groups, became increasingly intimate. At the end of the round of questions, the partners were asked to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The intense scrutiny and the questions were designed to create an increasing vulnerability in the participants. Some of them were very hard, asking what qualities you valued in your partner, or what you would do if you knew that you would die in one year. It took the better part of an hour for the paired groups to complete the three sets of questions, especially if people were doing their best to give thoughtful answers. Lu then asked everyone to move to a space as far from his or her partner as possible, and to write a love letter to his or her partner. The letter should not mention specifics that were discussed in the previous Q&A session, but should instead speak in generalities. Lu’s final instructions were that the audience than leave the letter with a stranger, to be discovered and possible read.

The upshot of Lu’s performance, which is not terribly surprising, was that no one actually “fell” in love, even though Aron had managed to make two strangers fall in love when he did this experiment twenty years ago. As Mandy Len Catron, who also tried the experiment and did fall in love wrote “I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening.” (New York Times, January 9, 2015) Most of the audience members at Zarch Collaboratives were not open to “falling” in love. What Lu’s performance did achieve was the groundwork for a new vulnerability and openness to different people and situations. In a world where terrorist attacks, violent reprisals, and a virulent xenophobia towards asylum seekers are becoming increasingly common, love might be the only answer left. Lu’s performance thus echoes an earlier performance by the artist Sharon Hayes, who invoked love in her anti-war performance Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think it’s Time for Love? For an hour each day Hayes stood before the United Bank of Switzerland in mid-town Manhattan and read a letter written by a speaker who had been separated from her lover by the war in Iraq. Trying but failing to make eye contact with the bankers and businessmen who scurried past, Hayes “performed” her love and loss to the small audience who had come specifically to watch her. As Virginia Solomon noted, “Everything Else Has Failed… points towards specific instances in which subcultures have mobilized love to political effect. The most prominent reference is to the American hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, which looked to love as a way to construct an alternative social order while simultaneously protesting the war in Vietnam with such slogans as ‘Make Love not War.’” (What is Love? Queer Subcultures and the Political Present,” e-flux 44, 4 (2013): Like Hayes, Lu references an earlier counter culture, although this time overlaid with yet another culture of love—that of the self-help eighties. Lu’s performance pointed to the futility and the centrality of love in our world today.

Sakiko Yamaoka (JP) – More Desires On The Floor
Photograph by Jemima Yong

The Japanese artist Sakiko Yamaoka’s More Desires on the Floor also addressed the elusive nature of love through the agency of desire. In this case Yamaoka posed the question "What is Pure Love?" Drawing upon the Buddhist definition of desire as a type of craving that embeds you in the dredge and flux of the world, Yamaoka saw her performance as a casting away of the cravings that are so hard to release (just as romantic/corporeal love can be very difficult to release). The performance, which recalled the minimalist gestures and musicality of Fluxus, began with Yamaoka delicately dragging a small wooded stool across the floor, turning it gently to create a slightly different sound each time. After setting the stool upright, Yamaoka placed a bag containing marbles, small bouncing balls, oranges, walnuts, and bells on top of the stool. Carefully drawing out one object at a time, Yamaoko would examine it, judge it and then throw it so that it rolled, bounced, or fell to the floor. Sometimes the audience was able to catch the larger objects, particularly the oranges. Each time she threw an object, Yamaoka would classify it according to its desirability: yes (the object was thrown forward), no (the object was thrown backward), maybe (the object was thrown to the left), absolutely (the object was thrown to the right). Yamaoka, who is known for her spare performances such as her 2012 Targeting Zigzag in Tokyo which involved her walking in a zigzag line across a plaza, often coming close to bumping into pedestrians who were using the plaza correctly, kept the action very simple here, allowing the materials to create the performance, with the various objects creating different effects as they bounced and rolled along the floor. Much of the performance could be found in the sounds generated by the objects—bells sound different than marbles, which in turn sound different than oranges or walnuts. In rejecting some objects and accepting others, Yamaoka, like Lu, made obvious how arbitrary love—and desire can actually be. What is it that draws you to one object and not another? How does desire work, and what part does the object play in fulfilling, or not fulfilling that desire? Finally, is it possible to abstain entirely from desire for these objects, to release desire/craving in pursuit of enlightenment? Yamoaka’s lovely and elegant performance asked all those questions and more through the simplest of actions.

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