Arse performance

Last Saturday, Nicolas Bourriaud and Carlsten Höller met at Tate Britain to discuss the artist’s new interest in exploring the unknown, shamed-by-all and actively forgotten African country, the Republic of Congo. He showed us a couple of beer adverts demonstrating his love of Congolese music (‘the new hip-hop’ apparently?) and the mysterious triangle of ‘beer, music and politics’ operating in Kinshasa. As Nicolas Bourriaud was struggling to make the connection between Holler’s current practice and his new direction of ‘travel’, he got rudely interrupted by Russian performance artist Alexander Brener and Austrian self-coined ‘revolutionary activist’ Barbara Schurz who jumped on stage, stole the show and wiggled their arses while shouting incomprehensible, violent protest ranting.

Did they aim at Höller-the-naive Westerner doing a Gauguin-esque attempt at bringing the African Otherness to an ignorant London audience? Did they know about Holler’s new ‘cultural’ enterprise and carefully plan to ridicule him or were they simply protesting against Tate and the art establishment? The discussion that ensues with members of the audience raised more questions that it answered. The issues and criticisms around Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the post-colonialist trauma remain deeply anchored in our 21st century contemporary psyche. It seemed foolish to dismiss it under artistic licence and to focus on the surface of things, however positive the effects such an enterprise could foster on Congo’s economy and society. Nicolas Bourriaud’s proposal of the apparent disappearance of ‘terra incognita’ is to be questioned again in the light of this. As to the violent shock tactics of Brener and Schutz, I am still debating with my own contradictory reactions to them.

By way of concluding the show, Bourriaud received a text by Fluxus artist Jonas Mekas asking if Höller enjoyed the experience. The answer was a sad ‘no, I don’t think I did’. For the rest of us, it was surely an enlightening one. In terms of Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics discourse, I wonder if it proved a success.


~ by lavivette on October 20, 2008.

One Response to “Arse performance”

  1. The contemporary art world needs more arses. Good work.

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