Liminoid and Walls Against the Multitude (on PSi #23, Part 2 of 3)

Considering the abundance of sessions offered in the conference I became aware of the limitations of reporting on the whole conference which was organized by Amelie Deuflhard, Gabriele Klein, Martin Jörg Schäfer and Wolfgang Sting and managed by Marc Wagenbach. So I decided to write about a few thoughts and ideas that came up in conversations and dialogues as well as moments of relaxation shared with other participants. Many of the terms and themes have already been discussed at other PSi-conferences and in Performance Research. This reappearance of themes can be seen as a golden thread which not only helps to get out of a labyrinth built by artists but also helps to catch the clue to a complexly woven pattern.

Liminal and Liminoid

Amongst the many metaphors and concrete forms of flow and overflow ‘liminal’ seems to be a revue of an old one. After Richard Schechner (one of the founders of PSi) one did not hear this reference for quite a while. It was introduced by Arnold van Gennep and redefined by Victor Turner. Thomas Isaacs brought it up again to understand the self-torturous actions of Marina Abramovic in “Lips of Thomas” . Although it was done in 1974 it seems that it has not been fully understood. Why can it be useful or even necessary to perform painful acts? If we follow Turner, we have to ask again, whether there is any reason to transfer rituals and initiations from agricultural to complex contemporary societies? Does it make sense to use this term and to understand pain in terms of a contemporary ritual? Kieran Sellars also asked such questions with regard to the performances of Martin O’Brian, which for him are part of a personal method of struggling against his disease and help him to ease pain.[1] Perhaps we have to revise the idea of transgression today. While in the 1960s and 70s it meant breaking down the limits between art and life as well as between the private and the public, today the setup of limits is being discussed again. It seems that ‘liminal’ defines the use of thresholds – seen as a beam of plank at the entrance of a house – against excess.

New Limits? (degression)

The etymology of liminal is connected to the motto ‘overflow’, considering, that thresholds, the literary meaning of which can be defined as a board holding the abundance of a rich crop like cereal. Here liminal means banning or protecting the overflow and being able to share a crop over a period of time. This seems to be the direction in which the impetus of performance art has been changing over the decades at least in the Americas, Europe and Japan. Beginning as a revolutionary act in art, politics and life, which intended to tear away any limitation set by traditions, rules or conventions. This tendency was partly reversed by accademisation, when new museums were built in the 1970s and universities expanded faculties in the 1980s. Parallel to that the private TV-channels expanded by streaming 24 hours adds and news accompanied by permanent stock-market-tickers and there was the fall of the iron curtain. Things speeded up and the internet provided digital communication to almost everybody. This led to the desire to set up new limits or strengthen the old ones by moral and religious taboos. Actually even in countries with free access to internet like in Germany limitations of free speech as sanctions on hate-speech are being discussed.

This emphasizes the taming of uncontrolled powers of violence, of overwhelming feelings as well as pain. Could it also mean to a society that it looks for ways to control aggressive youngsters, powerful intellectuals and physical fighters instead of unleashing them? There is an obligation to protect the weak and if we look at the changing of the liminal in Performance Art it finally could mean the compliance of the arts by reconciling struggle, taming violence, preventing fighting and overcoming pain in a classical way. Already now sports, arts and cultural policy provide multiple space and time in media, arenas, theatres, cinemas etc. to compensate for phenomena of the liminoid. The numbers of artists who are pushing the limits are few. They are still acting in countries, where the limits for making money are wide and for artistic expression are tight. A good example is Pjotr Pawlenski in Russia. Actually numerous biennals, documenta and art fairs have been established on the base of what was achieved by the widening of limits and providing open spaces. Now we see a tendency that these multiple spaces are excessively filled with artefacts and material. It seems that the challenge of contemporary artists consists in stuffing up places for exhibitions and gathering matter and things in panic-like efforts

The Permanence of a Construction-Site as Happening

The new project of Rimini Protokoll “Staat 1-4” approaches such implications of overflow which are provided by big construction sites. As Immanuel Schipper presented, there is a trend which can be publicly observed: The generation of problems that are raising costs and cause constant delays, which enable the prolongation of construction sites deploying more and more opportunities to earn money for companies and lawyers. “Gesellschaftsmodell Großbaustelle (Staat 2)” is inspired by the logic and the logistics of a mega-construction site forming a role model for a society. The virtual set reminds me of the compartmented structure of a Happening like for example „18 Happenings in 6 Parts”. Instead of using the theatrical frame the project provides guided tours for 5 groups of visitors taking place at the same time in the same space at different parts of the site.
At the same time the “real” reality and real estate like the construction sites at the Berlin Airport (BER), will probably never be finished. Examining this from an artistic point of view this kind of reality appears like a permanent Happening, which is not dropped from the program for years like a successful musical. Is the latest and unexpected version of blurring the boundaries between art and life.

Independent Film in Hamburg

A surprisingly detailed paper was presented by Megan Hoetger from L.A. who researched “underground” film making in Hamburg in 1969 + 1973. She came close to the iconoclastic qualities of that independent experiment, which existed for a very short period of time. The film-maker-cooperative at Hamburg’s Brüderstraße was radically staying away from film- and TV-productions. Its members were also resisting paths which were chosen in local film-festivals in Germany and abroad.

[1] “Martin’s work considers existence with a severe chronic illness within our contemporary situation. Martin suffers from cystic fibrosis and his practice uses physical endurance, hardship and pain based practices to challenge common representations of illness and examine what it means to be born with a life threatening disease. His work is an act of resistance to illness, an attempt at claiming agency and a celebration of his body. Martin loves his body and his work is a form of sufferance in order to survive.”


Art-Mama of Life-Art died

One of the longest experiments Life-Art came to an end Thursday, May 25th 2017. Odai Orimoto, better known as “Art-Mama”, died at the age of 98 in Kawasaki-City. She has become part of the art-world, since Japanese Fluxus-Artist Tatsumi Orimoto included her in his Life-Art in 1996 and launched photoprints of “Tire-Tube-Communication” showing Odai with neighbors in her garden and in her living room.[1] It seemed slightly disturbing to the audience, to see three old ladies with tires as necklaces, and later also “Art-Mama”

Small Mama + Big Shoes, Kawasaki 1997, Courtesy of the artist

with gigantic custom-made shoes. But Orimoto’s work is about the burden of getting old and feeling one’s body as a weight, which becomes heavier and heavier every year. These aspects of the mature body, which have never been reflected by Body Art were introduced by Tatsumi Orimoto for the first time in art history. He started this unique artistic collaboration with his mother who was suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s disease and it lasted for 21 years. The whole artistic production of that period was labelled “Art-Mama” and focuses on the aesthetic implications of the growing number of elderly people in many contemporary societies. Beside the physical self-awareness it deals with the shrinking field of vision, deteriorated hearing and haptic sensations.

The last time, that Odai appeared in a public performance, was at a lunch for 50 grandmas in the Kawasaki-City-Museum in 2006. After that Orimoto spent more and more time taking care for his mother. Nevertheless he travelled in Japan and abroad, to show his new work (see several articles in this blog – just tick on Orimoto, Art-Mama and other key-words of this article like artist’s mothers) which he produced at home including his mother as usual and experimenting with new objects and tools related to his care-taking like diapers and wheelchairs.

The Stress with the Wheelchair, Kawasaki-City 2012, courtesy of the artist

Last year Orimoto appeared as a woman’s drag as “Art-Mama” by himself. Here he investigates the field of similarity and imitation not only of facial expression but also on body-language and habits as a topic in the arts.

[1] The first European shows of this series was realized by Aktionsgalerie in Berlin in 1999 and Fotogalerie Wien in April 2000 (Catalogue # 160, Vienna 2000)

Anziehungskräfte. Das Weiterwirken der Body-Art

Die Ausstellung „OWL4 – Gegenspieler“ ist noch bis zum 1. Nov. im Marta Herford zu sehen.

Die Ausstellung, die im Titel zufällig auch ein Stück des Namen meines Blogs trägt, doch in Herford den Kulturraum Ost-Westfalen-Lippe (OWL) meint, ist mir ein Anlass über zwei wichtige Protagonisten der intermediären Kunst aus verschiedenen Generationen zu schreiben.

In den 1960er Jahren, als die Begriffe Intermedia und Body-Art in Deutschland nur geringe Resonanz fanden, war es eine gute Idee in die USA auszuwandern. Der in Herford 1935 geborene Hans Breder tat das, um seine Interessen nach dem Studium an der HFBK in Hamburg in New York zu realisieren. Als Assistent von George Rickey fand er seine eigene Interpretation des erweiterten Kunstbegriffs und prägte unabhängig von Dick Higgins den Begriff „Intermedia“ mit einem von Anthropologie und Körperkunst bestimmten Akzent.

Hans Breder: Body/Sculpture 6. Cuilapan Mexico, 1973, Vintage Silbergelatineabzug 19x19, Courtesy Hachmeister Galerie, Münster (c) Der Künstler

Hans Breder: Body/Sculpture 6. Cuilapan Mexico, 1973, Vintage Silbergelatineabzug 19×19, Courtesy Hachmeister Galerie, Münster (c) Der Künstler

Fotografien, die er „Body/Sculpture“ nannte, sind in der Ausstellung „Gegenspieler“ in seinem Geburtsort  zu sehen und bezeugen sein Interesse an surrealen Motiven. Die Arkaden, vor denen sich weibliche Schenkel und Hintern stapeln, verraten den Einfluss Giorgio de Chiricos und der Figuren von Hans Bellmer. Wo letzter durch Gelenke Schenkel, Hinterteile und Beine durch Gelenke grotesk verrenken konnte, verdoppelte Breder die Extremitäten durch Spiegel, die so geschickt in die Landschaften oder vor Fassaden mit Körpern arrangiert wurden, dass die gesichts- und rumpflosen  Wesen zu Vielbeinern und -füßern mutieren. Diese in Mexiko realisierten Fotoserien trafen den Geist der Zeit, so dass Breder, der 1970 das „Center for Performing Arts“ an der staatlichen Universität von Iowa mitbegründete, später dessen Direktor wurde. Berühmte Schüler waren Ana Mendietta und Charles Ray. Gut, dass Breder durch seine Verbindung mit der Universität Dortmund seine Auffassung der Körperkunst, wenn auch spät, schließlich in Deutschland propagieren konnte.

Isabelle Wenzel, Installation mit Fotos in der Ausstellung, Foto: johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst

Isabelle Wenzel, Installation mit Fotos in der Ausstellung, Foto: johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst

Eine weitere Künstlerin fiel im Rahmen der Ausstellung sowohl durch die Posen der abgebildeten Körper wie auch durch den zur Präsentation der unterschiedlich großen Fotos gebauten Käfig auf. Die Fotos von Isabelle Wenzel (Jg. 1982) waren außen – potentiell auswechselbar – an dem frei im Raum stehenden Körper angebracht. Die Gesten der Modelle und oft auch der Künstlerin selbst sind in ihrer Festigkeit beeindruckend. Das gilt besonders, wenn man weiß, dass die Künstlerin oft ihr eigenes Modell ist. Sie entwickelt für eine bestimmte Orte eine Bildidee, richtet die Kamera ein und muss dann die abgebildeten Posen in den wenigen Sekunden einnehmen, in denen der Selbstauslöser der Kamera läuft. Die Gesten und Posen beeindrucken wegen ihrer Originalität, die nicht den Vorgaben aus Mode und Werbung entsprechen. Eher erinnern sie an barocke Figuren und Bauplastik, die man weit oben an den Fassaden, unter Gebäudedecken oder hinter Altären aus ungewohnten Blickwinkeln zu Gesicht bekommen kann. Die Eigenheiten der Körpersprache könnte man auch von der besonderen Beziehung der Körper zur Gravitation her verstehen und beschreiben. Die Künstlerin hätte dann die Erdschwere als Antagonisten gewählt, dem sie sich hingibt, um die zeitgenössischen Einwirkungen von Maschinen und Verkehrsmitteln auf den Körper zu ignorieren. Sie verhält sich so, als würde man mit dem durch Body Art geprägten Blick die Schwere von Menschen fotografieren, die ohne maschinelle Hilfsmittel in Industrie und Landwirtschaft arbeiten.

Isabelle Wenzel: Field Studies - Wuppertal 2, 2015, Inkjet Fine Art Print, 100x133, (c) Die Künstlerin

Isabelle Wenzel: Field Studies – Wuppertal 2, 2015, Inkjet Fine Art Print, 100×133, (c) Die Künstlerin

Nicht, dass ich die Arbeiten der anderen Künstler übergehen wollte, die wie die Fotos und Videos von Jacqueline Doyen mit den an von ihr selbst entworfenen Geräten turnenden Modellen, einen Einblick in das Weiterwirken der Body Art geben, beschränke ich mich doch auf die genannten Beispiele. Weitere Künstler in der Ausstellung sind Renke Brandt, Andrea Grützner, Seha Ritter, Britta Thie, Michael Weißköppel und Suse Wiegand

(c) Johannes Lothar Schröder