5 Bizarre Performance Art Pieces That We're Happy Exist / by Andreas Kopriva

Hello everyone! 

Following up from our first foray into the list-based format of cool things we find online, I am particularly excited to share five performance art pieces that you should really check out. 

Personally, I've gone through many phases regarding art over the past decade starting off at that gloriously misguided point where one's ego is MUCH larger than their knowledge and capability (I thought I could do everything and that everything was easy and all I did was awesome. I was obviously wrong. Very, very  wrong)  and ending up at the point where I can look at things a bit more analytically. The catalyst for this change was the decision to cast that ego aside and try to be a bit more open with different forms of expression.  

Through reading and practicing art I was lead  to understand the inherent difficulty in creating what could be considered a mutually-agreed upon compelling piece of art. That difficulty is not exclusive to the technical requirements of creating (in fact, I'd argue that this is one of the easiest things to tackle; just practice, practice, practice and you WILL get better), but has more to do with the overall vulnerability one goes through when they create something which they then share with the world. A world which is usually quite harshly dismissive and abrasively critically, for it is much easier to judge and dismiss than it is to reflect, create and expose. It's a bit like standing naked on a well lit pedestal, surrounded by throngs of peculiarly angry individuals armed with bags of spiky shit. 

So this post is a celebration of those wonderfully peculiar and interesting individuals who, for whatever reason, brave the shit-flinging, judgmental horde and stand, defiant and exposed (quite literally in some cases) to express an idea, a feeling or simply for the sake of just being. 

A few disclaimers before we get started then. I have not featured Marina Abramovic in this list. The simple reason is that her work is quite prolific and extensive, leading me to want to research her work a bit more and probably dedicate an article exclusively on her in the near future. Secondly, these are not listed in order of preference. 

5. Plop Egg- A Birth of a Picture - by Milo Moire*

*slightly NSFW - contains the naked female form. Crazy right? 

This particular performance was performed at the Cologne Art Festival by Milo Moire and was the very first such performance carried out. It has been heavily criticized as woefully pretentious and quite frankly, silly. The performer's site states that : 

"The idea for “The Plop Egg painting performance” came about through a year-long process. Key, universal symbols include the fertile womb and the egg – the archetype for creation. Routine experiences, such as sitting on a gynaecology chair, the colours of menstruation, losing an egg every month and the moment of creation before tabula rasa provided the impetus, leading to Milo Moiré birthing a picture in the truest sense of the word."

Basically, Milo, quite literally, gives 'birth' to a number of coloured values on a sheet of paper which is later folded to create an interesting symmetrical piece which, personally reminds me of a Rorschach test diagram. And there really is nothing wrong with that nor with the methodology employed. Sure, it's pretty easy to criticize the artist and call this entire thing somewhat pretentious, primarily considering that her full nudity is considered an integral component of the performance, but to me it just seems like an expression of a particular idea. She's giving birth to a piece of art. 

If one considers that pretty much anything created and shared involved a cognitive birthing process, then this is simply a more literal interpretation of that idea. 

Milo has performed additional pieces since then, including The Script System which was inspired by the script theory of cognitive psychology. You can check that out here.

4. A DANCE PRESENTATION BY THE COMPAGNIE MARIE CHOUINARD 

Well. Ok. 

This is labelled as the Weirdest Video I will EVERY see which is as click-baitey as they can get (also unfortunately untrue), but I have included an official sample of the presentation by the Sadler's Wells theater page below as well : 

This is a piece called bODY_rEMIX by the Compagnie Marie Chouinard and is described as follows from their site : 

"In this new work by Marie Chouinard, the company's ten dancers execute variations on the exercise of freedom. Often, the dancers appear on points : on one, two, and even four at a time. In a spectroscopy of the gesture, we also see them using different devices - crutches, rope, prostheses, horizontal bars, and harnesses - which at times liberate their movements, at others fetter it, and at still others create it.

This use of accessories gives rise to unusual bodily shapes and gestural dynamics and opens onto a universe of meticulous and playful explorations in which solos, duos, trios and group work, in their labour, pleasure and invention, echo the human condition"

Now, this is a renown dance group with a large number of performances under its belt, performing this show at a pretty major and old theater. And it's a damn weird show with some borderline horrifying parts which remind me of the grim bondage aesthete of the Silent Hill franchise and the peculiar character design concepts of Zeno Clash. That's likely one of the reasons that, despite it's unconventional and erratic flow, why I kinda like it! 

I end up looking beyond the people carrying out those motions and end up seeing very interesting animated structures traversing the stage. Despite the valid justifications behind the thought process that inspired the performance, I see it also as an experiment in kinesthetics; an elaborate analysis and demonstration of unconventional motion and gesture. 

It also reminds me of the type of exercises that motion capture actors may carry out to nail the animation and behaviour of alien creatures and/or monsters. Such as Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Smaug in the Hobbit 2, or pretty much anything by Andy Serkis. That kinda begs the question of why we may find those type of performances as typically OK, but choose to label something similar, which differs simply because it lacks the animated characters which are actually driven by very similar motions as the 'Weirdest thing you will see'. 

3. Mirror of Origin - Deborah de Robertis

Another act that has been labelled as flagrant exhibitionism but has been justified by the performing artist as follows : 

"If you ignore the context, you could construe this performance as an act of exhibitionism, but what I did was not an impulsive act. There is a gap in art history, the absent point of view of the object of the gaze. In his realist painting, the painter shows the open legs, but the vagina remains closed. He does not reveal the hole, that is to say, the eye. I am not showing my vagina, but I am revealing what we do not see in the painting, the eye of the vagina, the black hole, this concealed eye, this chasm, which, beyond the flesh, refers to infinity, to the origin of the origin."

Now, she was removed from the museum as, apparently, she had not been given consent to carry out said augmentation at the venue which stated even if they would have received a request for authorization that it's not certain they would have accepted it as that "may have upset our visitors". 

Which is a tiny bit hypocritical no? I mean, there is painting of exactly the same thing that Deborah is exhibiting hanging right behind her. Yes, Gustave Courbet's work is a stunningly realized piece of art, yet, due to it's composition qualities and rendering is not considered as offensive as a representation of the real thing? Personally, I don't think any part of the human form should be censored in any way or form and I consider the majority of such acts to be blatantly backwards, yet I find this hypocritical justification as absurd. 

I think the main reason why I find this particular performance as interesting is largely due to this rather revealing dichotomy in terms of opinion and standards when it comes to deeming certain things as offensive or inappropriate. Sure, I can get behind the overall statement that Deborah is trying to make as well, what with the general patriarchical tendencies which are apparent in art history and so forth, but I am more intrigued by the this dichotomy of perception exhibited through the shutting down of her performance. It is the exposure of this discrepancy that makes consider this performance piece as quite interesting. 

 

2. Anxiety by Ibrahim Jawabreh

The above piece is by Ibrahim Jawabreh who has described the piece as follows : 

"ANXIETY talks about exile, geographical siege and the tendencies of humanity that are forbidden by the occupation forces, and controlled by the barriers and the weapons they use. The work talks about the suffering of the Palestinian people within the defined geographic limits imposed by the occupation forces, which also control their conditions of living and life form. , is the daily siege experienced by the Palestinian people, is the internal/external conflict of the Palestinian humanity."

This is pretty much the only politicized performance on this list, but I consider it important to see beyond that, as I understand the potentially risk of reducing the symbolism inherent in the presented situation, to a simple 'us vs them' type of argument. We are all human and as such capable of quite a wide range of emotions, including depression, hopelessness, suffering, frustration and anxiety. 

The piece is aptly named. It is stressful and distressing, particularly the wails interspersed throughout. Then enclosed space further amplifies that feeling of anxiousness; the contortions that the human form is forced into when placed in a container that it does not particularly fit in. It's canned, stressful despair, placed under lights for all to see. 

 

1. Vinaigrette - Andreas Pashias

This performance is part of a visual performance on leaking by a group called, unsurprisingly 'The Leakers'. One of the members of this group is Ida Grimsgaard who states that : 

"Leaking and liquids are physical, our bodies open up and out runs spit, tears, blood and sweat. Nothing is forever and together with the world we are in a constant change. We adjust our positions. In our eternal transformation we leak - something is getting away, something is being released. We work hard to keep together. We swallow our puke, put plasters on our wounds and try to hold back our tears, but our bodies are too small (or our hearts are too big) to keep it all in"

Andreas Pashias is a Cypriot performance artist whose performances once again could be dismissed as silly, or redundantly exhibitionistic, lacking any real artistry. Initially I shared that perspective, but upon revisiting the work and reading up on it a bit - therefore contextualizing the seemingly random actions shown - I have changed my mind. 

There is a commitment to the message put forward, with an absolute absence of embarrassment and shame. There is a metaphor, no matter how crude, about the ephemeral nature of it all and our innate, hopeless tendency to try to contain and keep ourselves whole. To not allow anything to escape the predetermined confines of our corporeal form. 

It is on that note that I want to close our second presentation. I was a critic of performance art in the past with my de facto perspective being an accusatory judgmental view, bordering on anger at the idea that a person pouring balsamic vinegar on the floor falls under the same discipline as a Caravaggio. I think it has more to do with general perceptions and what we are traditionally taught to consider as art - e.g. exquisite marble statues, huge elaborate paintings - while holding a dismissive stance on things that perhaps are not initially apparent. 

I also think that most of us are somewhat afraid to truly consider alternative views in fear of being labelled, or thought to be pretentious, or the contrary, considered to be insensitive or lacking knowledge. Heaven forbid we expose our lack of omniscient omnipotence! I know that's how I've felt in the past - by switching to a confronting, dismissive stance I would protect my ego. Another favorite was shielding it all in the matter of taste. Such expressions are not to my taste for example. 

The problem with the latter stance is that, in the end you're doing a disservice ultimately to yourself as you're not allowing yourself to see what you may or may not like. Our brains have the ability to change over time - our habits, our preferences and our viewpoints. 

The above five performances got me thinking. They got me considering different ideas, to re-evaluate certain long-held beliefs, and to be made aware of preconceptions, new viewpoints, new motions and emotions and to foster a slightly better connection with the world around. It wasn't particularly hard either - instead of simply dismissing them as pretentious, nonsensical, lacklustre displays of exhibitionistic decadence, I looked a tiny bit deeper and thought for a bit. 

That's why I'm thankful for these people who share, in whichever they can/want, their ideas and feelings. 

Till next time, take care and keep exploring!