Are We Bodies?

Featuring (in order of appearance):

Frederique Pisuisse (NL), Phillip Reeeves (UK), Adam Hines-Green (UK), Dylan Spencer Davidson (CH), Sophie Jung (CH) & Libita Clayton (UK)

Curator: Vlada Maria Tcharyeva

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.


Mirroring historical premises that have been raised within the walls of Cabaret Voltaire, Frederique Pisuisse exposes a site-specific performance with a focus on the elementary features of cabaret or theater. Unfolding a bodily interplay between performer, backdrop and audience, Pisuisse evokes a tactile audience participation by building a relation between audience members and materials used on stage.

The props - built by the audience - form the set for a mysterious saga which takes part on a volcanic island within the ocean. What comes from within this island, emits radiation. Phone signals interfere with the soundtrack, visualising the knitted web of an audience that is normally hidden. Meanwhile, the storyteller takes the viewer on a journey into the core of the earth and back.

‘Sausages’ uses exaggeration of both body parts and costume, aiming to examine grandiose delusions of antiquated hierarchies within the labour force.

The audience is invited to witness a tense culinary spectacle, of multicoloured, floppy, phallic, intestinal edifices. Presented to the viewer is the ongoing and faltering performance of a chef who manually operates a sausage-stuffing machine, creating residual entrails of the performance across the stage. Sausages are festooned overhead and from the walls like strange, horrific bunting and widely distributed across the stage.

The performance will be a continuation of themes explored in A Digestive Tract (2017), an interactive performance delivered in the former science classroom of a disused school building in the village of Gorna Lipnitsa, Bulgaria. This charted a journey through the anatomy of the digestive tract from mouth to anus using found props, furniture, and the architecture of the classroom. X-rays of a variety of pathological conditions preventing progress through the digestive tract were also discussed. Photographs found in the school depicting military and industrial exercises in Bulgaria from the 60s and 70s were included on the walls but never explicitly discussed. The artist exits through the anus/first floor window to conclude the piece.

Spencer-Davidson will develop a site specific performance, working with performance, music and video. His practice is concerned with the mediation of affect, desire and embodiment in interpersonal communication. His performances are the result of research processes into psychological and physical therapies. In Spencer-Davidson's work, physical movement is used as a strategy to bypass the conscious, ever-rationalising mind, and access embodied vocabularies that productively challenge the dominant doctrines of our time.

Sophie Jung performances are interplays between 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.

«Are We Bodies?» Curator

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.

«Are We Bodies?» Artists 2019

Frederique Pisuisse (NL)

Frederique Pisuisse (1986, NL) lives and works in Europe. graduated from Goldsmiths London in 2016 and from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2013. She is the co-founder of Cosmocarl, an online platform hosting hyperlinks to projects by artists, writers, thinkers and curators.

The work of Frederique Pisuisse explores the infrastructures of the art world. She is particularly interested in the construction of the network of people and objects that constitute an art scene; from intern to freeport, from backroom to dirty shipper. By questioning the deep-rooted habits she interrogates different socio-political identities and hierarchies in an era that is dominated by omnipresent forces of neoliberalism.

Recent exhibitions include Let’s (L)Arp at Arp Museum (Germany, 2018), This Site is Under Revolution at Moscow Biennale for Young Art (2018), What Happens in Bond, Stays in Bond at Art Rotterdam (2018), Bond-Ware at UNSEEN (Amsterdam, 2018), Quasi Commons at ICA London (2017), The Artist Talk at South London Gallery (2017). Pisuisse took part in group and duo exhibitions at London (2016), At7 Amsterdam (2017), Margate Festival (2016), P/////akt Amsterdam (2014), Kim? Riga (2014), Galerie Fons Welters (2013).

Phillip Reeves (UK)

is a recent graduate of the Goldsmiths MFA programme (2015 - 2018) and has been nominated for the ARTIQ Graduate Art Prize. Also in 2018, Reeves won the Wytham Hall Painting Prize and The Jealous Art Prize, which will see his work incorporated into the Victorian and Albert Museum’s permanent collection in 2019. Prior to Goldsmiths, in 2015 Reeves completed a non-accredited student led art education course at The School of The Damned in London. Further back, in 2014 Reeves gained a scholarship from The Canton of Geneva to undertake a residency at The Embassy of Foreign Artists, Geneva. In 2012, Reeves was awarded The Elizabeth V. Sullivan Scholarship by The Arts Students League of New York to be artist in residence at the Vytlacil Campus. Reeves has participated in many group shows in globally, and solo exhibitions include ‘Sausage Pile Up’ (2017) Vess Gallery, Copenhagen, Paper Walls (2014) Le Salon Vert, Geneva and ‘Abandoned Land: Sharp Continent’ (2014) Vitrine Gallery, London. As of November 2018 Reeves starts an 8-month studio programme at Husk Project Space in London which will culminate in a solo exhibition in June 2019.

Adam Hines-Green (UK)

is an artist and writer based in London. He graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Sculpture in 2018, and has degrees in Medicine from University College London and Medical Sciences and History of Art from the University of Cambridge. Recent exhibitions and performances include Meantime, Kilburn Arches, London; The Sky Has No Surface, Berwick Fringe, Berwick-upon-Tweed; Too Much Information, Seventeen Gallery, London; On Describing Surface Features, Filet, London; Situation 3, 26b, London; Critical Cartographies, Filet, London (all 2018). His writing has been awarded the Michael O’Pray Prize 2018 and was published by Art Monthly, and he was recently shortlisted for the International Awards for Art Criticism and the Burlington Contemporary Art Writing Prize.

Dylan Spencer Davidson (US)

lives and works in Berlin and London. In 2012 Spencer graduates in Master of Fine Arts at the Royal College of Art in London after completing his Bachelor in Literature at the University of Cambridge in 2010. His recent performances have been presented at FS, Liverpool (2018); Haus N, Athens (2018); OUTPOST, Norwich (2018), Ashley, Berlin (2017); Evening Class, London (2017); Studio Voltaire, London (2017); V&A, London (2017); Guest Projects, London (2017); Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2016). He completed a BA in Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge and an MA in Communication Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, London.

Sophie Jung (CH)

lives and works in London) received her BFA from the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam and her MFA from Goldsmiths, London. Recent projects and exhibitions include Äppärät at Ballroom Marfa, Eh, co? Nah cis. Us! at Kunsthalle Basel for Jungs, Hier Kommt der Masterplan, Uncanny Valley at Wysing Art Centre, Cambridge, UK, Tarantallegra at Hester, NY as well as Unmittelbare Konsequenzen at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen. She is currently working on a body of sculpture & performance for her upcoming solo exhibition at Kunstraum London as well as finishing a new piece of writing for The White Review. In 2015 Sophie has spent 6 months in New York at ISCP, courtesy of the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg and in 2016 she won the Swiss Art Award. Recent solo shows include The Bigger Sleep (Manor Kunstpreis) at The museum of contemporay art in Basel (CH) in November 2018, as well as Come Fresh Hell or Fresh High Water, Blain Southern, London, UK and It's Not What It Looks Like, Sophie Tappeiner, Vienna, AT and Producing My Credentials, Kunstraum London, UK in 2017.

Libita Clayton (UK)

is a UK based artist. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in Print & Digital Media from Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London in 2009. Recent exhibitions and performances include: This is the Gallery , the Gallery is Many Things X, Eastside Projects, Birmingham; 4717, RCA/LUX, Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art, London; Memento Mori, Kalashnikovv 3.0, Johannesburg, (2018); DEBUNK, Arnolfini, Bristol; Going Along Without a Body, Iklectik, London; History Lessons: Fluid Records, South London Gallery, Iniva, London; Lexis Over Land – Towards a Feminist Geography, Tremenheere Sculpture Gallery, Cornwall; Diaspora Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale; (all 2017); Gal-Dem WOC friday late, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Beyond words, Book Works, Central Library, Hull; and Hard Copy, Home.alone, Clermont – Ferrand (all 2016).