Category Archives: Spectacle

VALIE EXPORT/Peter Weibel, Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (From the Portfolio of Doggedness) (1968)

“VALIE EXPORT/Peter Weibel, Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (From the Portfolio of Doggedness), (1968)
Documentation of the action 5 black-and-white photographs, vintage prints, 40.3 x 50.3 cm / 50 x 40.3 cm each, framed between 2 glass plates, flush 40.3 x 50.3 cm / 50 x 40.3 cm each, fixed with black textile adhesive tape Photographer: Josef Tandl

Five black and white photographs document the action From the Portfolio of Doggedness, which VALIE EXPORT and Peter Weibel carried out in Vienna in February 1968. EXPORT took her fellow artist for a walk—he crawled behind her on all fours on a leash—along the Kärntner Strasse in Vienna, one of the central streets and main shopping areas. This “sociological and behavioral case study” (EXPORT) belongs to the actionistic tradition. “Here the convention of humanizing animals in cartoons is turned around and transferred into reality: Man is animalized—the critique of society as a state of nature” (Weibel). Turning around a piece of normal social behavior makes transparent a particular symbolic order—that of gender specifics—and subjects it to criticism. Here, an active woman leads a passive man on a leash. Crawling, a form of animal behavior, is not, however, a reference to liberation from moral and political discipline or a “better” system. Rather, it points out the necessity of restructuring the social order that has been handed down to us. Photography has a documentary function here, it acts as an “ethno-graphical” study and shows particular communication processes in the observable reactions of the onlookers. The structures of the gazes disclose social behavior and contrast with the action. (Claudia Slanar)” (credit)

Daniel Crooks, On Perspective and Motion – Part II (2006)

On Perspective and Motion – Part II from Daniel Crooks on Vimeo.

video still of people walking in a warped reflection

“I Love walking, particularly as a flaneur getting Lost in the back streets of foreign cities. I also spend a Lot of time watching and filming people walking in cities. It might have something to do with my training as an animator analysing people’s ‘walk cycles’.

There is something about the speed of walking; that rate of movement with a particularly human scale – not too fast, not too slow – the Goldilocks point for objects moving through a frame. And walking is not only a Linear movement through space, it also contains the internal pendulum cycles of swinging arms and Legs, the sine wave bobbing of the head, the Last-second infinitesimal raise of the toes.

As a subject for exploring normally unseen temporal structures, walking is almost perfect. There is a fundamental familiarity to it that offers the viewer a thread or a bridge between the known experience of the everyday and the abstract objects of our imagination.” (credit)

Hiwa K, Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) (2017)

Single channel HD video, 17:40 mins

“Work Description

Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) re-traces a journey undertaken on foot by Hiwa when he fled Iraqi Kurdistan in the mid-1990s. This long and often dangerous journey — lasting five months and two days and passing through Iran, Turkey, Greece, France and Italy — was an “experience of space and time” and a “fracturing of spatial and cultural experiences.” Each point along the way, whether a city or town, was experienced fractally, and always from below — with no overview.

In this work, the artist uses an adapted balancing device, equipped with motorcycle mirrors, to re-create the disorienting experience of space and time experienced by so many making similar journeys. One mirror reflects what is ahead, another behind, while the others reflect the artist and his immediate surroundings. To walk forward he must balance and control the device, alluding to the effort needed to keep moving and recalibrate oneself to new contexts.

Artist Biography

Hiwa K (b. 1975) Lives and works between Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Berlin, Germany.Working across video, performance and installation, Hiwa’s work draws from personal experiences, including family anecdotes, his path through arts education, and daily encounters and occurrences.

Hiwa K’s works have been included in group exhibitions including Documenta 14, Kassel (2017); 56th Venice Biennial curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015); Asian Art Biennial, Taipei (2019); 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil, Sao Paulo (2019); Anren Biennale, Sichuan (2019); Yinchuan Biennale (2018); and MOMA Ps1, New York (2019).

Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunsthalle Mannheim (2019); S.M.A.K. Museum, Ghent (2018); KW Institute of Contemporary Art (2017) and KOW Gallery, Berlin (2016). His work has been awarded the 2019 Hector Preis and in 2016, both the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award.” (credit)

Marina Abromović, Shoes for Departure (1991)

“Shoes for Departure”, an art piece by Marina Abramovic (1991). In her artist statement she says, “Then I have crystal shoes. I have instructions for the public to take off your shoes and, with naked feet, put on the two crystal shoes, close your eyes, don’t move, and make your departure. I’m talking about a mental, not physical, departure. So the public can enter certain states of mind helped by the material itself. Material is very important for me. I use crystals, human hair, copper, iron. The materials already have a certain energy. ” (credit)

Lucia Monge, Plantón Móvil (2010-)

Lucia Monge (1983-)

“Lucia Monge started bringing people and plants together as Plantón Móvil in Lima, Peru. This is a participatory, walking forest performance that occurs annually and leads to the creation of public green areas.

“Plantón” is the word in Spanish for a sapling, a young tree that is ready to be planted into the ground. It is also the word for a sit-in. This project takes on both: the green to be planted and the peaceful protest. It is about giving plants and trees the opportunity to “walk” down the streets of a city that is also theirs. This walking forest performance culminates with the creation of a public green area.

Plantón Móvil started in 2010 while I was walking around Lima, my hometown, and noticing how many trees and plants had their leaves blackened with smog, were being treated as trash cans, or even used as bathrooms. I started to put myself in their place, and thought I would have left town a long time ago. Instead they are sort of forced to sit there and accept this abuse because of their planted “immobile” state. I wondered what it would be like to encounter a walking forest that had taken to the streets like any other group of people would do, demanding respect.

Plantón Móvil, however, is not a group of people carrying plants: at least for that time being we are the forest. I find it important to make this distinction because it changes the nature of the gesture. This is about lending our mobility to plants so that they can benefit from the speed and scale that draws people’s attention. In return; we may momentarily borrow some of their slowness. Essentially, it is about moving-with as a form of solidarity.” (credit)

Sebastián Díaz Morales, Pasajes IV (2013)

“Sebastián Díaz Morales (1975-), Pasajes IV, Digital video / HD format / 22’40 min on 5:30 hs loop / 2013, 32’’ monitor; Character: Maya Watanabe

This idea follows the same narrative, concept and structure as of former Pasajes video series.
In the so far three Pasajes video works a similar formula repeats on different backdrops: a character unites places through gateways, doors, stairs and roads which would be naturally disconnected from each other. This is the geography of a story expressed in an alteration to the normal, which so far aroused from a montage of urban spaces.

In this proposed formulation of Pasajes the video explores the landscape of Patagonia.
Crisscrossing this territory in the search of the differences on the landscape, a character as a guide, unites different territories disconnected in its geography, as essential pieces of a puzzle to understand this region’s present.” (credit)

Alana Bartol, Sight Unseen: An Un-camouflaging for Guildwood (2014)

“The ghillie suit is traditionally used by military snipers and hunters to camouflage the human body, allowing the wearer to blend into various natural landscapes. Sight Unseen: An Un-camouflaging at Guildwood was part of a series that repositioned the ghillie suit in the open air of suburban space and areas slated for development.

For Restless Precinct, I created a series of “un-camouflagings” in Guildwood Park in partnership with the Community Arts Guild Youth Theatre Troupe, an offshoot of Jumblies Theatre. The project evolved over six weeks, exploring concepts of visibility and belonging through our relationship and engagements with nature and each other. Participants learned how to create their ghillie suits, and together we developed movements in response to the site. Guildwood Park (now Guild Park and Gardens) contains over seventy architectural fragments and edifices. The research revealed that the park was once the location of Bytown II, a military training base for radio operators in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during World War II. A custom camouflage headpiece was created for a sculpture entitled Musidora (artist unknown) and installed for the duration of the exhibition. This work was a gesture toward acknowledging the invisibility of bodies, histories and contributions at Guildwood Park, including a site specific
work created by Ana Mendieta. The culminating performance took place as part of Restless Precinct’s opening events.”

Diane Borsato, Your Temper, My Weather (2013)

“One hundred amateur and professional beekeepers performed periods of guided meditation and slow walking together in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court. While exploring the tangible effect of collective stillness, the work created a platform upon which to
reflect on the health and temper of bees and their keepers, and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our shared future. The work was performed for five hours for Nuit Blanche at the Art Gallery of Ontario.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 134.

Hélio Oiticica, Paranglolés (1964-1980)

“Oiticica’s most iconic artworks: parangolés, or wearable, experiential garments that he initiated in 1964 and continued working with for the rest of his career. Parangolés are capes, or cloak-like layers of different materials that were intended to be worn by moving and dancing participants. They were made of colored and painted fabrics, as well as nylon, burlap, and gauze. Some contained political or poetic texts, photographs, or painted images, along with bags of pebbles, sand, straw, or shells. They also sometimes took the form of flags, banners, or tents.

It was through learning to dance the samba that Oiticica developed the parangolé. He said that dancing freed him from art’s “excessive intellectualization.”[1] He learned about samba through his contact with the community of Mangueira, a favela (Brazilian slum) located on the outskirts of his hometown of Rio de Janeiro. He began visiting the favela in an attempt to escape what he perceived as the constraints of Rio de Janeiro’s art scene. Oiticica was white, middle class, and educated, while the favela’s inhabitants were mainly Black, poor, and uneducated. Despite the significance of this disparity, Oiticica developed friendships with a number of residents and was eventually accepted by the community. He learned to samba and even became a passista (a highly skilled dancer who performs in Brazilian Carnival) in the Mangueira samba school (a club for dancing and playing samba in the annual Carnival parade).

Oiticica asserted that the favela made him more aware of social inequities. As a result, the concept of “marginalization” became fundamental to him, especially as a gay man. He began to associate the marginalized position of the artist in society with the marginalization of favela communities. This was thrown into sharp relief when Oiticica invited some friends from Mangueira to help him inaugurate the parangolés by dancing in them in their first public presentation at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro for the opening of the exhibition Opinião 65 (Opinion 65). The dancers were refused entry into the building, revealing the institutionalized racism and classism pervading Rio de Janeiro at the time. Even the word “parangolé” (meaning a sudden agitation, an unexpected situation, or a dance party) was rooted in marginalization: he adopted the term when he saw a piece of cloth with the word on it hung by a beggar on the street. Oiticica’s experience of the marginality of Rio de Janeiro’s most impoverished inhabitants awakened him to the social and ethical implications of art.

From participatory art to political resistance

The same year that Oiticica developed the parangolé, the Brazilian military (with U.S. support) launched a  coup d’etat, initiating a twenty-one year military dictatorship. It was against the backdrop of increasing political repression that Oiticica began engaging the spectator as a participant in his works, an approach known today as participatory art. This approach to art engages the audience in the creative process so that they become collaborators in the work. A common interpretation of the parangolés is that they were intended to liberate their wearers from the repressive military regime by enabling them to become aware of their capacity to rebel.

Some parangolés even included political statements such as “Of Adversity We Live” (1965) or “I Embody Revolt” (1967). Such statements went unobserved by authorities because state-sponsored censorship initially focused more on the press and pop music than on visual art. More widespread censorship gained momentum only after 1968, when the dictatorship enacted the Institutional Act Number 5, leading to the imprisonment and torture of dissidents. Many artists, including Oiticica, left Brazil due to the increasing oppression. He travelled to London to mount his solo exhibition The Whitechapel Experiment at Whitechapel Gallery in 1969.

Parangolés in New York and beyond

Oiticica came to New York in 1970 to participate in Information, a group exhibition of conceptual art at The Museum of Modern Art. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship the same year, he stayed in exile in the city for the next eight years. In 1973, he organized an excursion with some friends into the subway system in order to invite riders to try out the parangolés.[3] The interactive encounter represented a continuation of his exploration of the intersections of art and life and his interest in engaging non-art audiences. Much like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in the 1970s New York’s heavily-graffitied subway had the reputation of being a site of criminal activity, its denizens thought to be beggars, drug addicts, and gang members. Bringing the parangolé into that space attested to Oiticica’s continued socio-political commitment to engaging marginalized people through liberating experiences. He would continue to play and experiment with his parangolés until his untimely death in Rio de Janeiro in 1980 at the age of forty-two.

Parangolés demand to be worn and moved in, not observed as lifeless objects hung on a wall for display. Today, they are usually only seen in documentary photographs and films, rather than worn by the spectator. When samples are available to try on in exhibitions, they rarely match the lively energy they once inspired. Even so, they continue to have a lasting impact on participatory and socially engaged art practices.

Notes:

[1] Hélio Oiticica, “A Dança na minha experiência,” November 12, 1965, in Renato Rodrigues da Silva, “Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolé or the Art of Transgression,” Third Text vol. 19, no. 3 (2005): p. 214.

[3] Despite image captions that indicate the subway excursion occurred in 1972, the Projeto Hélio Oiticica affirms it took place in February 1973. See “Biography,” Projeto Hélio Oiticica.” (credit)

Lygia Pape, Divisor (Divider) (1968)

Lygia Pape, Divisor from Para Site on Vimeo.

Lygia Pape (1927-2004, Brazil)

Lygia Pape was part of the generation of artists who founded the Neoconcrete movement in Brazil, an experimental moment of constructivism and geometric abstract art, which manifested in South America in the late 1950s. Neoconcretist artists like Pape sought to explore ideas of colour and form in relation to the sensorial cartography of the individual and the collective.

The work Divisor was originally performed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 1968. It is composed of an immense white fabric, which can be seen as a large scale white monochrome and is activated by a participative audience. The only visible part of each participant is their head, piercing through the fabric, whilst their hidden bodies jointly move along public space. The amorphous mutant forms created throughout the piece reflect the subjectivity of the participants who struggle between individualism and solidarity with the collective experience.” (credit)