Thursday, March 3, 2016

FOI 10: Day 3: Macarena Perich Rosas, Andrée Weschler, Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan

Macarena Perich Rosas (CL) – On A Line
Andrée Weschler (FR/SG) - Can A First Performance Be Relived (2003-2015)
Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan (TH) – Emotional Power and Woman

In 1993, Peggy Phelan famously wrote that performance was the art of “disappearing.” Performance, Phelan argued, in its refusal to remain, taps into a powerful economy of anti-visibility, one that flies in the face of the politics of the visible and the material that have characterized the culture of late capitalism. Phelan’s thesis, articulated in her book Unmarked, have been somewhat undermined by the fact that much of the work that she championed was in fact extensively documented and often re-performed. In his 1999 book Liveness, Philip Auslander demonstrated how our notion of what constitutes “live” performance is completely mediated by media—we watch “live” television, for example, or expect musical acts to sound like their albums when we go to see them perform “live.” Auslander is right of course—we are always so completely imbricated and immersed in our present culture that it is difficult to step outside of oneself and realize to what degree Liveness is a fiction or mythology that has changed in response to a culture that has become simultaneously western and global—we ALL speak English, even though we don’t, for example. Nevertheless, I still find a great deal of power and persuasiveness in Phelan’s argument, by now over 20 years old. It might be true that one can recreate a “live” performance and do so quite successfully. However, there is also something to be said for having actually been there, and been present at and with the artist. This experience is particularly relevant when the performance is one that is rich in imagery rather than words or explanations. The three performances on the third night of the festival had in common the absence of words. Instead there were images: a young woman, violently ejected from her shoes and her clothing, lying with her limbs tossed akimbo against one of the pillars, an elegant woman covering her face and arms in red lipstick while reprising the memory of an earlier performance, and a spreading ink blot on a lovely dress, once white but already stained with earlier applications of ink that had been washed into a fuzzy overlap of colors.
Macarena Perich Rosas. On A Line, 2015. Photo by Author.

Macarena Perich Rosas comes from the region of Patagonia, which is shared by Argentina and Chile. She lives four hours south of Santiago, Chile, and many hours (by plane) from just about every place else in the world. She lives in the uppermost region of Joaquín Torres García’s drawing América Invertada, 1943, pictured below.

Torres García’s drawings emphasize the imaginary line of the equator, which is labeled Ecuador, and the tropic of cancer, designated by a 15th century Spanish ship. The drawing is inverted, suggesting that the designation of South America as existing below North America is one that is arbitrary, making Patagonia almost the top, rather than the bottom, of the world. Perich Rosas’s On A Line, like Torres García’s drawing, emphasized the line as arbitrary border and means of organization. Like Torres García, Perich Rosas turned lines upside down, making lines of concrete materials such as flour, the edges of foil constructions, tape, milk, and ink. Perich Rosas is part of an artists group called Conflicta, which seeks to reunify humans with their environment. Based in Patagonia, Conflicta has identified three main lines of action: research, education, and residences.

Macarena Perich Rosas, On a Line, 2015. Photo by Jemima Yong.

The performance begin with Perich Rosas lying akimbo, as though she had been blown out of her footprints, which were traced on the ground with neat outlines of powdery flour. Rising, Perich Rosa pulled on her jumpsuit and donned a helmet. Unrolling a large piece of tinfoil, she cut a circle into which she stepped and then fell deliberately, protected only by the helmet. After removing her jumpsuit, she entered a small canopy of diaphonous material. Extending her legs from under the curtain, she created a starburst by outlining her legs in flour. Finally, she removed some tape from what appeared to be a first aid kit or an old fashioned carrier for Barbie Dolls, and begin to tape a line out of the door and into the parking structure. The final images was of Perich Rosas stepping into two large yellow boots full of milk, which sloshed out around her, making yet another line, while allowing black ink to drip down her face and body in order to merge with the milk, which then ran downhill in the direction from which the original line had come.

Andree Weschler. Can A First Performance Be Relived? 2003-2015. Photo by Jemima Yong.

Perich Rosas was followed by Andrée Weschler, originally from France but presently living in Singapore.  Weschler’s piece Can A First Performance Be Relived (2003-2015) was a reprise, or re-performance of the first piece that she had ever performed in Singapore. Weschler’s work is characterized by an emphasis on color and tactility. She transforms her body and the environment in which her body is situated through the use of material objects and a painterly understanding of the power of color—whether it is white, black or red. I first saw Weschler perform a few years ago at the National Review of Live Art, for which she performed Innocence, which involves her wearing a heavy and very long rope of pearls. Innocence, which was white, was premised on 50 kilograms of pearls—Weschler’s age at the time. 
Andree Weschler. Can A First Performance Be Relived? 2003-2015. Photo by Jemima Yong.

In Weschler’s work, there is a tension between the present and a not so distant past—a kind of melancholy nostalgia that acknowledges that what was once there cannot be recaptured. More than any other performance this evening, Weschler’s Can A First Performance Be Relived demonstrated how right Phelan was when she said that performance’s ontology is one of disappearance. The elegant woman who covered herself with red lipstick was Weschler, but twelve years older, her earlier, younger self forever gone. An allegory of vanitas, Weschler’s performance emphasized the impossibility of ever being able to perfectly reprise the past.

Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan Emotional Power and Woman, 2015. Photo by Jemima Yong.

The final performance of the night was also one that was iconic and painterly, involved yet another line. Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan’s performance, Emotional Power and Woman, was a tableau vivant—a living painting, through which Nithipattaraahnan moved. Entering the space of the performance from the right side of the room, Nithipattaraahnan unspooled a brown ribbon that was tied to her neck, creating a boundary between the audience and herself. Garbed in a white dress trimmed with Alonçon lace and stained unevenly with various colors of ink, Nithipattaraahnan stepped on a stool that was covered in lace and placed a pair of scissors in her mouth. Posed in the manner of a medieval Ecce Homo paintings of Christ before the Jews, a flower of black ink appeared on her skirt, reminiscent of menstrual blood, but the wrong color. As the ink spread and pooled on the floor beneath the stool, Nithipattaraahnan began to slowly revolve on the stool, re-spooling the ribbon that she had unfurled. The performance ended with Nithipattaraahnan walking out of the space, trailing a black line behind her from the remains of the ribbon, which had dragged through the ink. Nithipattaraahnan’s performance was aesthetically exquisite—quiet, and yet suggestive of suppressed violence, and sacrifice. Her reticence demonstrates how much power resides in images, and how unnecessary words can be.
Photo by Author

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