Measuring pulse for Hongkong in Hannover

Festival OPEN hosted in Hannover

Lai Chun Ling from Hongkong told the audience the story of a shirt he fetched out of his backpack. It was a gift of his grandmother, who believed that it would help him to resist difficulties and to avoid trouble. So he took off his T-shirt to get dressed in the heirloom. Forcing an atmosphere of magic, he lighted joss sticks, to breaks the peaceful atmosphere by the projection of the image of a man aiming with a gun for tear gas or rubber bullets. Taking the beamer to move the projection of the image in a 360 degree angle into the audience he simulates that trouble is close. After putting the projector down on a stand, The artist lights more joss sticks, and fixed some of them in front of the mouth of the gun. Here he collected the ash they produced in a heavy metal bowl. Some time passed silently until he fetched a haircutting-machine from his back-pack to shave his head.

Lai Chun Ling during his performances at OPEN 20, Hannover. Pavillion, August 19, 2019, photo: (c) johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

When he started to fix double stick tape on the projection of the bold-headed police man it became clear that he intended to lend his hair to the warrior to make him appear more civil. This act of assistance, which was executed in calm but distinct movements and in a peaceful mood made clear that it was the artist’s wish to include the man into the civil society, but unfortunately he himself had a bold head now.

In this solemn atmosphere every spectator realized that the situation is still precarious, especially as the 20th edition of the Festival OPEN had to take place in exile. Even after 19 years the authorities did not allow the festival to take place in the PRChina this year. The cooperation with Ilka Theurich made it possible in Hannover.

How to boil eggs with matches

The other performance was presented by Chen Jin, the founder of OPEN. He lighted hundreds of long-seize matches fixed on several apples as well as between his fingers surrounding three eggs on top of three bar-chairs. Can there be hope that the lighters fry eggs or do they only burn the fingers of the performer? Is it a metaphor of the situation in China?

Chen Jin during his performances at OPEN 20, Hannover. Pavillion August 19, 2019, photo: (c) johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

Although the situation in the Peoples Republic is unique it is hard to compare, we should remember that performance-art and Fluxus-events, which took place in West-Germany since the 1960s expressed hope of a revolutionary development of the society. However the happenings where not welcomed by the technocratic sector of a society, which does not care about the freedom of expression and art and tried to obstruct artists. Some of the events were policed or stopped. The situation changed not earlier than 20 years later with a new generation of curators; however the open promotion of performance-art was rare until the 1990s, when it became obvious, that performances could raise attention for museums, galleries, exhibitions and art-institutions.

Nowadays all types of events are welcome and the early impulse of liberating the visual arts has generated a blooming competition amongst artists and festivals. Artists also take advantage of the growing army of precarious workers. This year four Lithuanian artists hired human workforce and presented them in a way that we have not seen since the shows of aborigines in European circuses and zoos between the 18th and 20th century. This kind of post-humanist art is a result of total art under the regime of growing tourism and block-buster art-events. From the internal view of the jury the show of humans on sand was prized by the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale 2019. The title of the international part of the exhibition: “May You Live In Interesting Times” sounds sarcastic for those, who work and fight for survival and for those who are under fire and extinguish fire.

An interesting fact to me is, that the Chinese artists in Hannover presented performances of magic and superstition, which probably seems to be a proper way to reflect a situation in which the taste of a mass society is completely devoted to Kitsch to produce “false feelings” in compensation for the stereotypes of consumer-culture and control of everything and everybody.

The participatory performances of To Yeuk from Hongkong in the corridor of the theatre offered measuring pulse and those who took part in it devoted their wishes to the people of Hongkong.

To Yeuk during a performances at OPEN 20, Hannover. Pavillion, August 19, 2019, photo: (c)johnicon VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

“It is very boring, if someone wants to listen to all year talking.” Tehching Hsieh

Talk with Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh at the occasion of “One Year Performance 1983 – 1984”, February 13th, 1984, in 111 Hudson Street, Manhattan, N.Y.

deutsche Fassung weiter unten

Tehching: The piece is not an object, just idea with action. Either we have document, but that is no meaning.
Because many people they want to see this kind of document, (so that) they can imagine (the piece) even they are far away (not here). They can think about the piece, which is their own experience for understanding. We give idea when we really do it.

Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh at “One Year Performance 1983 – 1984”, Feb 13th, 1984, in 111 Hudson Street, N.Y.C., johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst 2019

Experience has more power to touch their heart. Feel something is more important than objects.

Linda: The document is a way to practice consciousness. If we turn this on, (She points at the cassette-recording-device.) it’s doing something to synopsis in the brain. It is reminding to come out of the mind into reality.

Johannes: If you hear them (the tapes) again, do you imagine what was happening?

Linda: We never listen! It is just the action of turning it on. It is an action that is willed, and so it is an action, that is conscious. And this is more self-awareness.

Tehching: This is conversation, talking. So that’s what many people are thinking about talking. We only talk for communication. Different how we (do) communication.  That is the sense in here. (He points at the shelves at the wall which store the collection of hundreds of tapes.)

You would not ever like to listen. It is very boring, if someone wants to listen to all year talking. So it is not necessary. We give the idea to people about the piece by a lot of communication. Now we are talking and that is important.

Johannes: So will it be available to the public or is it just documentation as a series of tapes?

Tehching: We put a seal. It becomes an installation on the wall. That is it, what people can read. What tapes (there are)…

Linda: … (and) how many tapes we have talked.

Tehching:  … than people can think (about) their own experience, to understand about this. They have to know: What we are talking about is not important. So I feel, that we give (the) idea is more important except that we do it, really do it.

Linda: It excites everyones archtypes – because mothers have a particular relationship to this piece.


„Was wirklich in diesem Stück erfahren wird …“
Dt. vom Autor

Johannes: Du sagtest „Gemüt-Skulptur“. Das bedeutet, Du skulptierst das Gemüt. Dieser Prozess repräsentiert nichts. Dieser Prozess erzeugt keine Objekte. Oder?

Linda: Hoffentlich nicht. Allerdings Dokumente.

Tehching: Erfahrung ist sehr wichtig. Man kann das Stück nicht sehen. Man kann es fühlen, weil wir es nicht wiederholen können. Es gibt nur die Erfahrung, um dieses Stück zu verstehen. Wir können die Erfahrung nicht erklären, wir können sie den Leuten mitteilen (communicate), was wirklich in diesem Stück erfahren wird, weil im Leben jeder versucht zu überleben. Auf diese Weise benutzen sie ihre eigene Erfahrung, um das Stück zu verstehen. Aber wie ich schon zuvor sagte…

Linda: Es gibt kein Produkt.

Tehching: Ja richtig. Ich spreche über Medien. Wenn die Zuschauer/Besucher über das Stück genug nachdenken, gibt ihnen das Denken Einsichten über die Menschen. …

Linda: Die Veränderungen in dieser/m besonderen Skulptur/Stück ist alles, was ich verlangt habe. Die Veränderungen in dieser einzigartigen Skulptur und dann auch die (ihre) Ausstrahlung ist etwas, das ich verkünden kann. Und es ist immer notwendiger, so einfach wie möglich zu sein.

Tehching: Idee und Handlung. Das Stück ist kein Objekt, lediglich Idee mit Handlung. Und dann haben wir noch Dokumente. Obwohl das Gegenstände sind, ist es notwendig, weil viele Menschen diese Art von Dokumenten sehen wollen. Sie können sich Vorstellungen machen, auch wenn sie weit entfernt leben. Erfahrung ist wirksamer, um ihr Herz zu erreichen, damit sie etwas empfinden. Das ist wichtiger als Gegenstände.

Linda: Das Dokument ist eine Möglichkeit, das Bewusstsein zu praktizieren, wenn wir das (sie zeigt auf die Tonbandkassettenrekorder) einschalten. Es bewirkt etwas Synoptisches im Gehirn, das erinnert an etwas, was aus dem Gedächtnis in die Wirklichkeit kommt.

Johannes: Wenn Ihr es wieder hört, stellt ihr euch dann wieder vor, was sich ereignete?

Linda: Wir hören es uns nicht an. Es geht nur um das Einschalten, es ist eine willentliche Handlung, sie ist bewusst und führt zu höherer Aufmerksamkeit.

Tehching: Dies ist ein Gespräch, Sprechen. Genauso wie sich die meisten Leute Sprechen vorstellen. Wir teilen uns sprechend lediglich mit. Wenn man die Ton-Dokumente (Linda und Tehching zeigen auf das Regal an der Wand mit den meterlang aufgereihten Audiokassetten.) anhören würde, wäre das ganz was anderes als Kommunikation. Es wäre außerdem sehr langweilig. Wenn man das Sprechen von einem ganzen Jahr anhören würde, wäre das sehr langweilig, also nicht notwendig. Es ist viel kommunikativer, dass wir den Leuten die Idee des Stückes vermitteln. Es ist viel wichtiger, dass wir jetzt miteinander sprechen.

Johannes: Ist also die Sammlung der Bänder zugänglich oder benutzbar, oder wird es lediglich eine Serie bespielter Bänder sein?

Tehching: Wir werden sie versiegeln. Es wird eine Wandinstallation. Die Leute können dann lesen, um welche Bänder es sich handelt.

Linda (dazwischen): Auf wie viele Bänder gesprochen wurde.

Tehching: Dann können die Leute über ihre eigenen Erfahrungen nachdenken, um dies hier zu verstehen.


From Carrying to Caring

PAST & NOW – a retrospective of Tatsumi Orimoto

PAST & NOW is the title of the retrospective of Tatsumi Orimoto organized by the Onomichi City Museum of Art (Hiroshima) from August 4th to September 16th. It honors one of the most active performance artists of Japan who has been traveling and showing his work in four continents since 1982.

The curators of the show and authors of the catalogue Noritoshi Motoda and Shinji Umebajashi enrol Orimoto’s work in 6 chapters.

The earliest works consisted of metal-bracelets and -tags which Orimoto attached to arms and clipped to ears of people – single or groups – he photographed in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and Japan.


In the 1980s Orimoto attracted attention by carrying-events, in which he carried bread, carton-boxes, a chimney, a tire-tube and other things alone or with somebody in various ways. This type of performance is still going on until today, when he carries a rabbit, a duck or a baby-pig, which are part of his performances with animals.

Tatsumi Orimoto: Carrying a Baby Pig on my Back, Juni 13, 2012, Poster (c) ART-MAMA Foundation

Bread-Man, which made him famous worldwide, developed out of carrying bread. Without a container Orimoto attached a loaf of bread or a number of different types of bread onto his face or around his head. Covered by this strange type of mask he performed not only in museums, but also in hospitals, stations and even in trains and boats. In public places and streets he often gathered large groups of people who formed surreal processions.


His father’s death forced Orimoto to take care of his mother who suffered from depression and Alzheimer. From 1996 on he created and documented numerous performances and events including “Art-Mama” as well as neighbors and friends within the domestic situation. After participating in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 he took the chance to expand these events with public lunches and gatherings of up to 500 grandmothers (Convent of Sao Bento de Castris, Evora, Portugal) in international locations and museums from Brazil to Denmark.

Last but not least the exhibition presented hundreds of his watercolors and pencil-drawings, which he created alongside of his performances especially while planning art-events, traveling and having his beer in the evening.

Everybody who likes the work of Orimoto or looks for an opportunity to get in touch with it should not miss this catalogue. Thoughtfully chosen examples of his work and shoots from the exhibition give an excellent overview on his work.

The catalogue is available at the ONOMICHI CITY MUSEUM OF ART, 17-19 Nishitsuchido-Cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima 722-0032, Japan; please call for details!  Tel: 0081 (0) 849-23-2281 Fax: 0081 (0) 849-20-1682