Interview with a Performance Artist

JAŠA at the Folkestone Triennial

/ by Noah Charney

Conceptual artist JAŠA, one of our current columnists, is just back from headlining the Folkestone Triennial in England, during which he occupied an entire house, and welcomed visitors over the course of many days. In the course of interviewing him for an article on how performance artists think before, during and after a performance, I present his extended thoughts throughout his latest performance, entitled “At the Dawn of Yet Another Age of Absurdity, Composition No. 2.”

 

1. Pre-Phase

 

“Studio. Skype conferences. Sketches, drawings, performance preparations, tree intervention, equipment. Feeling that I have everything under control, but still time starts running slim. Besides the production hustle, there is this well-known excitement and calm, looking towards a new voyage, turning a whole house into an artwork for 7 days. My main concern still lies in how to tackle with UK's specific climate, especially the suffocating grip of Brexit within the general context of the overwhelming feeling of insecurity and anxiety, within an artwork that will breathe with its own identity and autonomy.”

 

2. Travels

 

“Car. Plane. Train. All the so un-human situations that somehow we just adopted (airports especially), hit the city of London and the canal between Europe and UK for the first time, Folkestone. We took the remains of the day to tune in, meet the crew and feel the city. Blown away by the cliffs and green, yes that famous green. Next day we start, first covering completely the facade with white paper bearing three big black words

 

WOR D

BLAME

HATE

 

“With this action, I sealed the house into an unescapable situation for us and the visitors. Then we proceed with the ground floor installation, all the way through first floor's kitchen and studio, plus one bedroom and bathroom. They all become part of the work. We excluded one bedroom, where Nina (Shien-Poblete), Tomas (Poblete) and Rolex (their huge Victorian bulldog), the Founders OF hop Projects, where sleeping, along with everything else that was moved from other rooms.

 

“Right before, I take in a deep breath, leave the rush of installing and dealing with all the details, the arrangements, to turn into final push of boiling energy that will melt me with the work. I simply love to disappear within the picture.”

 

3. In the Midst

 

“On the second day, I can barely imagine how I will make till the end. I am holding it in, since I am scared that my worries would demotivate everyone else, now that we have started with such a positive kick. Soon enough, I remind myself that it is not the first time I am in this situation, so I look for all the necessary tools to regenerate and push on. Then the tree-hunting day comes, looking for that perfect first birch (out of a planned 100) that will carry the verse “all in one body we work” (a project we initiated with Meta Grgurevič, as part of Composition no. 2). Then it is the magic of live performances, where you share ephemeral closeness with your material, with others involved, like Rosa (Lux, who made it all happen, again) and Giulio (Peire), who form the whole the third day we created this really powerful combinations and solo action, the support of the production team, and the public, of course. When the switch happens, and you feel people wandering around the house, accept the role of observing intruders, and that it is a circular energy, this notion takes you far, and you take everyone with you.

 

“Right before the last two days, we add two letters on the façade:

 

WORLD

BLAMES

HATE

 

as we get ready for the two final days.”

 

4. After the End

 

“It is hard to say when it is really over, the moment that you know that you have achieved something remarkable, that all the plans were executed to the last detail, with passion and devotion, by everyone included, when surrounded by smiling faces, receiving energetic compliments of pure gratitude and adoration, and you take these moments in, humbly and willingly, accompanied with a blissful smile. On the last day, after you sat for an hour in the kitchen with David (Thorpe), concluding the process with an amazing talk, when after the procession with the tree in the city, you put it in its temporary place. When the silence seems like the only logical conclusion, after a week of actions, sounds, words and constant movement. When, in the middle of the dinner, you disappear with Adelaide (Bannerman) and Ben (a young man who came almost every day), to take a look at the tree, and you strike up a remarkable conversation with a stranger, inspired by the presence of the tree piece. Or when you have overseen a successful de-installation of all the elements that, just hours ago, structured everything we have achieved. Memory is the most delicate material that one can sculpt. So somehow I envy the visitors, because they do not need to see it all coming down.

 

“My body is covered in bums and tiny cuts, due to my constant movement in the house, snap changes and bodily compositions. My head is sore and my eyes hurt. But still, there is amazing beauty in stillness, the notion that it did happen. So packing everything and embracing people, with whom you managed to create something unique, knowing that this is another beginning of a beautiful friendship, warms your own shaken intimacy, this constant tiptoeing on the edge of so many things.”

....
Noah Charney

is a professor of art history and best-selling author of, most recently, The Art of Forgery. You can learn more about his work at www.noahcharney.com or by joining him on Facebook.


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