Kuratorin: Vlada Maria Tcharyeva (CH)
After finishing her MA in 'Art & Politics' at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2011, Tcharyeva worked as Assistant Curator at Vitrine, London (UK), where she curated group exhibitions with work by Athena Papadopoulos, Nicholas Brooks, Samara Scott, Phillip Reeves and many more. Her most recent project was a site-specific two-person installation with Adam Hines-Green and JJ Lincoln at the Maygrove Arches for the ArtLicks weekend in October 2018. For the last three years, Tcharyeva has developed a deep interest into human bodies and physical vigour, which intersects with her activity as yoga instructor and art technician across various sites and institutions in London. Tcharyeva also runs a female-dominated technician group called “Space Babes” and is a singing member of ‘f*choir’, which is musically directed by performance artist Jenny Moore. ‘f*choir’ is a collective, intersectional feminist choirthat considers the voice as a way of creating resistance and the body as a living archive of the songs they sing. For 2019, Tcharyeva will be curating a program centred around the human body which she raises as the open question ‘Are we bodies?’ wihtin the premises of Cabaret Voltaire.
Dismantled by gender questions and defeated by commercialism, contemporary art’s urgency to reinvent the human body has come to a vivid point. Retrospectively speaking, a variety of absorptions regarding human physique have influenced, if not driven the critical transitions of art-historical periods. The aim of «Are we bodies?» is to foster these periods with performances that are appropriated to the time we’re living in now.
An essential aspect of the program is to keep the curatorial direction as an open question rather than compartments which attempt to define the various categories of the human body in performance art. In the tradition of experiment and improvisation, the program includes contributions that unfold new realities of performative gestures, perhaps deepening earlier raised ideas into a new gaze or form.
As figure and expression have shooked hands with each other as subject matter in the ancient period, so have artists with the usage of the human body in modern and more recent works. Drugged perhaps, by a slightly more rebellious approach, the Avantgarde pioneers in the 19th century have started to use their bodies as an autonomous way to «combat all historical reconstructions and traditional stage sets» as stated in Pratella’s manifesto of futurism musicians. What’s more is that Ball’s dada manifesto intersects poetry and language with quite a literal anatomy of terms: «Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh.». This statement connects «Are we bodies?» to the historical significance of the hosting institution Cabaret Voltaire.
The intersection of language and body will be a first subsequence of the question, presenting performances that elaborate the status of the human body within the peripheries of linguistic play. Take Sophie Jung’s interplay with poetry, objects and costumes. Her associative word chains are running and dancing, ebbing and flowing, entering and leaving her body. It’s as if each object and its according articulation, produces a new layer of physical embodiment, which Sophie weaves into a lingual anatomy of her own.
A second notion within «Are we bodies?» is to raise questions about political agency, gender normativity and race. By critically spinning the so-called «ghost» of the Avante Garde away from the white «bad boy» image of the male-dominated Avante Garde, the aim is to move towards a more transgressive and feminine orientation. A major influence is the American civil rights movement and second wave feminism, considering the body as essentially political. It is in this sense that the practice of political and physical collapse is driving Libita Clayton forward. Sites are responded to physically: walls are wormholes with feelings, bodies map as what Clayton refers to as «historically-bumpy» landscapes, considering performance as a means of resistance to dominant and linear narratives that have to be reconsidered and socially authenticated.
Lastly, and as the third section, the focus in «Are we bodies?» aims to expose ideas entailing anatomical elaborations of the human body and the embodiment of objects in human bodies, in a way that there is a sense of detail or accuracy in their presentation. Although this is not limited to performances that have resemblances with medical studies, it is worth pointing at Adam Hines-Green’s performance «A Digestive Tract», an interactive performance delivered in the former science classroom of a disused school building in the village of Gorna Lipnitsa, Bulgaria in 2017. This charted a journey through the anatomy of the digestive tract from mouth to anus using found props, furniture, and the surrounding architecture. A reenactment or continuation of the same performance will be held at Cabaret Voltaire.
In closing, «Are we bodies?» will present a series of performances examining linguistic elements, gender-criticism, the political, human anatomy and physical embodiment in contemporary performance art.