Our Prime Property (OPP) asks artists to consider where a work can exist in perpetuity. When asked to curate, I decided to select a series of performances knowing that location, a central idea in OPP’s project, is a fundamental but sometimes controversial component for performance art. In this collection of four works, I look at location where performances occur and where they then can be ‘stored’ or archived.
Location can encourage, determine, and/or undermine a work. It provides an aesthetic quality situated within material constraints. It articulates political and social conditions, both explicitly and implicitly. It can pose physical danger to the artist and/or threaten to silence her expression. Choosing a location is integral to the performance process because it helps to shape the work itself. That is to say, artists are always considering where a performance is to be shown but the location itself is never ideal, nor does it need to be. The location needs to provide an environment where an idea can unfold, where the space and the work are in dialogue.
And then there is the question of where a work of performance should be ‘stored’ or ‘archived. Art historians wrangle with how to document a performance. Videos or photographs do little to convey the immediacy of a work and yet those media and ephemera are the only objects that can serve as testament to an event that had a discrete beginning, middle, and end. But even if those pieces could be pulled together to re-perform the work, is it the same work at all?
So, If OPPs’ objective is to articulate ideal locations, performance poses a problem because a performance does not rely on an ideal condition and a performance cannot be stored and then duplicated in the future.
What then of this collection of works, subtitled “Between Present and Future?” They demonstrate ways in which location informs a work and how the suitability of location might or might be ideal for current or future performances.
Larysa Bauge’s DONA is a series of works whose resonance is amplified by location. Performed in four sections, DONA takes place in a posh neighborhood in The Hague (The Netherlands) where Bauge takes advantage of quiet streetscapes and canals. The work named for the dona nobis pacem (grant us peace) from the Agnus Dei points less to a religious beckoning and more to a yearning for acknowledgement and comfort as Bauge performs her site specific actions in both the presence and absence of the people around her. Curator’s essay. Project Page.
“PLEASE pay in-attention PLEASE”
Giorgia de Santi asked the organizers of Italia Drag Queen contest at Pride Village Padova if she could be a contestant. She was denied participation because the rules required contestants be male. PLEASE pay in-attention PLEASE is an action that responds to Italia Drag Queen’s regulations and broader ideas of gender identity and inclusion. Curator’s essay. Project Page.
“Constant State of Emergency”
In this multi-day performance, Mrovlje moved from place to place, assuming the role of a beggar. Paradoxically, location becomes both an essential and arbitrary component to the performance. While the location determines what kind and how many people will see her work, her desire to transform spaces, to devolve them to something previous, is not contingent upon any particular place. Curator’s essay. Project Page.
“This is where I could cook you dinner”
This is where I would cook you dinner was chosen as part of this show because it is a performance that occurs in a non-place, a home under construction. Buildings under construction exist in a constant state of physical becoming and a state of emotional anticipation. As the house is being built, the owner sees what will be completed, not the framing, exposed plumbing lines and gaps where windows will be installed. The site of construction is never identified as a true location until its owner walks across the threshold to create her memories within it. Curator’s essay. Project Page.