It occurred to me, as I found myself in the middle of it, how the performance is capable of growing all the time, swallowing gestures like ingredients for a soup; they are just enveloped into that metaphysical mass of doing.


In this text I want to discuss the exhibition RIGID ROOM, which I staged in February 2022 in Malmö, and use it as a starting point to speak about the materiality of performance. The exhibition worked with performance on several levels, and my hope is to use the gestures as a prism to discuss the role of art within the situation of an exhibition: how it can create dialogue between the artist and the audience, and how art can disturb and distort the order at stake in society.


To examine the exhibition, I will first attempt to establish a definition and understanding of performance as a medium, leading towards the idea that it exists as something other than a finished piece (product) to be seen by an audience. After establishing the shape of the medium, I will talk about the “spectacle” of art and reconsider the artist’s role within that process. I will then tie the medium of performance together with queer theory in order to assess how the medium can be seen as queer and subversive, and, as an extension of this, how it challenge the way we as people within a set society navigate the world.


Parallel to this more theoretical discussion, I will bring forth examples from my own practice, and how previous works have evolved in relation to my coming to understand the notions of performance better. This then leads into a discussion about the nature of performance and the spectacle as a tool and way of engaging with the world.


As we dive into the soup of signs and gestures that is the exhibition’s picture plane, will we be able to return without at least feeling wet?


A Rigid Room ~

For the exhibition RIGID ROOM, I staged an exhibition as an ongoing performance, which developed every day as visitors entered the space and came into dialogue with the works inside and thus also with me.


After entering the space, on your left hand side, above a black rail, you would find a text painted with red letters on the wall. The text first showed an indecipherable equation with the title of the show. Beneath was a list of numbers from 1 to 9 and then 0, each containing a sentence with a figure doing an action, and beside the sentence was an A paired with itself or another set of symbols in brackets: (A=A) (A->B) (A-A-A-A), and so on. Moving on, you would be met by a host who would tell you the fact that:


Everything has two sides,

You can touch everything within the space,

And everything can be moved.


Somewhere in the space, a red table was positioned with a green stool next to it. On the table was a computer, with an open document with red letters in the midst of being written. Next to it sat a tablet connected to a stereo setup with a long wire. On the tablet, an open programme showed a variety of instruments, and a vertical line moved according to the music being played within the space.


The outline of the space was a colourful spectacle: in yellow, green, red, blue, and pink. The main gesture was an exhibition with large-scale figures—an EYE, a SUN, a MOON, a HAND, a HEART, a WAVE, and a HORSE—and nine playing cards each with a drawn illustration on one side and a symbol on the other. All were displayed and moved around on a number of wall-based steel hooks dispersed throughout the space. There were also smaller pedestals with wheels: one held the hand, one held the wave, and one was used as a tool for moving the playing cards. The floor was painted yellow; eleven green curtains extended by a Z-shaped steel wire divided the room; and a line of red tape went, horizon-like, around the circumference. Pieces of green tape were stuck in rather organic, bendy ways around the entire space, without an obvious system to make sense of it.


The light in the space was staged in four zones, beaming through coloured filters. As you entered, it was green, going to normal white light, then turning into red. At the opposite end of the yellow-floored space, you would find a smaller room, with light filters turning it dark and blue. In this space, the works were placed as if in a storage room: clothes hung from hooks on the wall, on which a looped projection showed a conversation between a red and green square. The two squares were silently arguing about the entire situation.


The space was constantly in motion through an alternating sound loop, played through four stereo speakers situated in each corner of the room, alongside two open microphones, which were positioned at either end, one in the green end and one in the red end, but facing each other. Beside each microphone a note stand held printed texts perhaps left behind from previous performances, and a third stand was positioned next to the exhibition’s entrance. This third one held a printed programme for the two weeks of the exhibition, and upon reading it you could see that, alongside an opening gesture and closing performance, the space was meant to host screenings, workshops, a critique event, and a performative reading.


On a shelf in the middle of the room, a sound mixer stood next to a messy pile of books, and in the corner a tripod with a camera fastened on top was ready to film. Placed randomly around, one would find black fold-out stools, some leaning against a pillar where diary-like texts had been printed out and displayed in a grid. Upon reading the diary, one would find different scenes and lines from the previous days within the space.


The Space and Its Double ~

A main attempt in RIGID ROOM was to horizontalise the artistic process to a field where the spectators became enabled to play as actors experiencing the work through whatever actions they put into the space. The exhibition was staged as afixed landscape, and thus changes had to happen for the work to stay alive.


The show’s nature balanced between being an exhibition and being a stage with a moving set. This doubling also altered the relationship between the artist in the space and the spectators clothed in a role that imitates the artist’s. When given autonomy towards the works, the audience has to make unplanned happenings themselves. In assigning them a possibility of action, how would they perceive the work when they were able to alter it? The physical and social aspects of the show suddenly emerged as this soup of action, medium, and gesture.


What happens to an audience—or to me—if we reverse the rules and open up the process? Progression in the show is reached by changing the usual mode of being in an exhibition. The outcome is achieved through the means of a spectacle and not because of it. The space imitates a structure that we know, but acts differently when we enter it. Understanding our expectations of a spectacle seems to be key for how we understand the act of performing.


If performance in this structure is the tool we use for change, then how is that tool shaped? Trying to define the features of the medium seems impossible, because every time performance acts, it is new, reused, upcycled. For every motion, every object, for every particular present, the past has been accumulated and dispersed, by gazing into the future. As such, performance as a medium always stages itself as a reaction and effect—but how do we make it tangible? How can we speak of something invisible that we cannot grab hold of?

[1] Richard Schechner, quoted in Georgia Sagri, “Performance Is a Medium,” in Stage of Recovery (Brussels: DIVIDED, 2021), 76.

[2] RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, 3rd ed. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2011), 7.

[3] Goldberg, Performance Art, 7.

[4] Goldberg, Performance Art, 9.

[5] Goldberg, Performance Art, 9.

[6] Goldberg, Performance Art, 7–9.

[7] Sagri, “Performance Is a Medium,” 76.

[8] Sagri, “Performance Is a Medium,” 77.

[9] Oskar Schlemmer (1888–1943) was a German painter, sculptor, designer, and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school. In 1923, he was hired as master of form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop. He is known for his abstract yet precise paintings of the human form as well as for his avant-garde ballet productions.

[10] Inspired by philosopher Friedrich Nietszche’s theory presented in The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (1872).

[11] RAINBOW_SNAKE was a part of SEXY BYDEL, Oslo Kulturnatt, curated by Jussi Anderson and Alice Slyngstad, September 2017.

[12] GARDEN_STAGE was part of the performance tour Every Breath You Take as a outcome of the course “Material!?,” led by Yorgos Sapountzis at Salzburg Summer Academy, August 2018.

[13] Mario Mieli, “Homosexual Desire Is Universal,” in Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique, trans. David Fernbach (London: Gay Men’s Press. 1980), 21–52. “Transness” is here used as in a capability to transcend and transform ourselves, containing the entire spectrum of gender, no matter what physical body we are born with, as well as how we are able to transform how we see and define the world around us.

[14] I would’ve loved to have had space in this text to explore the ideas of communist thinker Alexandra Kollontai. If you are further interested in the matter, I recommend you read her text Make Way for Winged Eros: A Letter to the Working Youth (1923)

[15] Conversation Piece was a staged dialogue between Evelin Sillén, Kjetil Detroit Kristensen, Kim Svensson, and Niels Munk Plum as a part of the seminar “Sensing Time: On Ephemerality, Rhythms and Memories,” led by Saskia Holmkvist and Rike Frank at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. It manifested as a group show with several collective works at Kunstnernes Hus in the spring semester of 2018.

[16] Dora García, “We Have to Create Another Fiction to Hold This Reality,” YouTube video, 09:04, posted by BoCA Bienal, 11 December 2020, 

[17] García, “We Have to Create Another Fiction.”

[18] Sagri, “Performance Is a Medium,” 79.

[19] 3 COLOURS, with Oda Bjørholm and Sebastian Biong, was part of the exhibition Destiny’s Gratinée, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, January–February 2019.

[20] Jack Smith, “The Perfect Filmic Appositeness of Maria Montez,” in Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool: The Writings of Jack Smith, ed. J. Hoberman and Edward Leffingwell (New York: High Risk Books, 1997), 25–35.

[21] I give credit to Dora García urging everybody, via email, to go see the documentary Escape from the Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith (2017) by Jerry Tartaglia as part of The Dream That Kicks programme at Cinemateket in Oslo, which is what let me to find this amazing and rich practice. The Dream That Kicks is a monthly experimental film programme curated monthly by Gregory Pope.

[22] Appositeness: the quality or state of being especially suitable or fitting.

[23] Smith, “Perfect Filmic Appositeness,” 34.

[24] Smith, “Perfect Filmic Appositeness,” 26.

[25] J. Hoberman, “Jack Smith: Bagdada and Lobsterrealism,” in Smith, Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool, 23.

[26] Smith, “Perfect Filmic Appositeness,” 26, 27.

[27] Camp: to be ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate; pertaining to, characteristic of, homosexuals … Smith himself addressed his style as being “baroque” in Remarks on Art and the Theatre from 1988. (It’s hard to define yourself as camp.)

[28] Mise en scéne (English: “placing on stage” or “what is put into the scene”): the stage design and arrangement of actors in scenes for a theatre or film production, both in visual arts through storyboarding, visual theme, and cinematography, and in narrative storytelling through direction.

[29] Antonin Artaud, “VIII. The Theatre of Cruelty (First Manifesto),” in The Theater and Its Double, trans. Mary Caroline Richards (New York: Grove Weidenfeld 1958), 90. Onomatopoeia: the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz, hiss) or the use of words whose sound suggests the sense.

[30] Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty,” 91. Precipitation: any meteorological phenomenon featuring water falling from the clouds, such as rain, snow, and hail. Subjugate: to bring under complete control or subjection; conquer; master.

[31] Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty,” 99.

[32] Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave,” in Is the Rectum a Grave?: And Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 18.

[33] Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave,” 19.

[34] Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave,” 29.

[35] Mieli, “Heterosexual Men or Rather Closet Queens,” in Homosexuality and Liberation, 139.

[36] The full list of texts read in RIGID ROOM is included as an appendix to this essay.

[37] Ursula K. Le Guin “She Unnames Them,” New Yorker, 13 January 1985

[38] Le Guin, “She Unnames Them.”

[39] Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (London: Ignota Books, 2019).

Performance as a Medium ~

In the text “Performance Is a Medium,” professor of performing arts Georgia Sagri addresses the materiality of performance art in a way that struck ore within me the first time I read it. She names the medium’s main materiality to be that of connectivity, as in a glue that binds everything together and makes objects and people relate to one another. She quotes director, art historian, and anthropologist Richard Schechner, who defines performance art as:


Everything that exists but specifically everything that exists and does something, not just human beings but any living organism that moves, produces action, that is performance. If you exist and do something and you present it, if you show what you do, that is performance. If you do something with a purpose, for example to make someone laugh then you do a performance. When you cross the street this is something that you normally do, but if you cross the road and someone is filming you this movement which is usually a simple move has an extra responsibility and purpose, that is to make a few seconds of film, therefore you are performing.1


Addressing performance as “everything that exists that produces action” seems overwhelming, but somehow also fitting. If performance is within everything that exists, then why do we connect performance with such a specific work mode within the fine arts? Whenever I tell people I work with performance, they expect me to work as an actor on stage. Sometimes people even come to my exhibitions and sit themselves down somewhere, waiting for me to enter and perform for them. This makes me think: Why are the positions of the artist and spectator roles so firmly assigned when creating a performative work? In recent years, I tried to harness my work through strategies that also expect action from the people coming to see the work. It’s been hard to shake things up. Even shaking my own understanding of what I can do within a set frame has been hard.


To understand what I can do, I have been turning towards what has already been done—the history of the medium of performance art—in order to enter the discourse in a more profound way.

Sagri suggests that the current definition of the word “performance” is a product of industrialisation. “Performance” used to describe how well a machine operates or the execution of work performed by a labourer. Schechner’s definition speaks of execution, but it applies the awareness of performing to everything that is being done. As everything exists, it is performing its role within a greater scheme of things. It was only in the 1970s that art historian RoseLee Goldberg coined the term within art. In that time, “live action” works were becoming an established part of the field of art, and a distinct need was arising for the genre to be named and put into an art historical context. Goldberg at the time was working as a curator at the Kitchen in New York, which was then perceived as an epicentre for the rising movement of live gesture and body art. Goldberg developed the name “performance art” for these types of works, which all seemed to use the human body as their primary medium. Collecting the works under the term, including in a book Goldberg wrote in 1979, made an immaterial way of handling art accessible for both the public and the market, and hence malleable for a more consumerist framework.


Goldberg’s account of the history of the medium offers a good entry into the discourse of its materiality. In the foreword to Performance Art: From Futurism to Present, she writes: “Performance has been considered as a way of bringing to life the many formal and conceptual ideas on which the making of art is based. Live gestures have constantly been used as a weapon against the conventions of established art.”2 She states that the medium has acted as a catalyst for progress whenever schools such as cubism, minimalism, and conceptual art have reached impasses: “Artists have turned to performance to break down the categories and indicate new directions.”3


She underscores that when looking back on movements within art history, we tend to examine the objects of the period first, which gives us a distorted picture of the actual process. Many artists begin their careers while young—in their twenties and thirties—and, to start with, their ways of working tended to be more action based. First their ideas gathered in the form of great display actions (such as, for example, Dada’s great momentum in Zurich’s iconic Cabaret Voltaire in 1916) before then expressing the ideas in elaborate material oeuvres, which the artists eventually became famous for.


Goldberg then moves on to describe how the medium’s history is permissive and open-ended, with endless variables: “Executed by artists impatient with the limitations of more established forms, and determined to take their art directly to the public.”4 She states that performance’s form is anarchic, autonomous, and definition defying, “since each [performer] makes his or her own [definition] in the very process and manner of execution.”5 Hence Goldberg defines something: that the medium is used to break free from the mould of tradition to emphasise change and break downbarriers between high art and popular culture. She offers three important ways to describe the medium:


               1) Through its alternate relation with the audience.

                  2) Through its resistance to definition.

                     3) By its way of opposing the set structures.6


Goldberg’s account of performance art gave the medium a body and a history. It is in great service of the medium to collect the stories it produces, as they often present themselves as ephemeral and easily forgotten. In reading this history, I found myself surprised and humbled several times by the ideas that have already been set out into the world. It was striking to learn how I have been using strategies and approaches to colours, scores, and space that have already been put into practice.


However, while Goldberg’s description is useful, during the course of the book she struggles in parts to portray the more elastic nature of performance art. This is a critique Sagri also makes in “Performance Is a Medium”:


This art historical account limits our understanding of what performance is, how a performance can be prepared, and what distinguishes it from a theatrical, musical or dance performance. Furthermore, Goldberg’s definition is product based, failing to give accountability to the process of what it means to create artworks whose core medium is performance.7


Sagri then scolds Goldberg for putting emphasis only on the “heroic acts” of live gesture and the products of the performance. This is a problem since it remains unclear what makes the medium equal to other artistic expressions. One of Sagri’s main points is that neither Goldberg nor Schechner manages to allow us to understand performance as a medium, because performance naturally fails to settle directly into a framework of physical production, since its engagement, to the contrary, lies within notions of transformation—especially in terms of how production is transformed within an artist’s practice. She describes how, as a medium, performance “hovers,” and how “it’s production takes shape inside the changes of how we experience the world, and how we want to live in it.”8


Within Sagri’s definition of “connectivity,” she implies that performance acts like glue with other mediums as well as other arts and sciences. Performance gathers, mutates, and produces new terms and ways we can make and take part in the world. It does not need a studio but rather can happen in any space; therefore, it has openness and flexibility towards constant practise, towards play, as well as devotions to different rhythms, to time—and to care. Performance provides us with time to study those immaterial notions and create works of art and gestures for a community from that point of view. Taking care of yourself and others is a practice that becomes possible within performance’s hybrid nature, as the glue nourishes and creates connectivity in those places where a gap exists. The performance proposes these various ways of making art and organising through which artists can present, reconstruct, document, and preserve their works. It appropriates institutional gaps in favour of the public, instead of letting these gaps become a tool of leverage. This last application of the medium marks a site where performance differs from the performing arts, which conventionally take action for the sake of presentation only and whose work is directed towards a final production—the status quo—since its framework is created by the existing power structures (that is, the institution) and therefore cannot be changed.


Parallel with reading Goldberg’s account of the history of performance art, I participated in an online seminar with Paris-based curator and critic Marie Muracciole. The course was titled “The Weight of Vision—Choreographing the Gaze.”Following the two months of sessions, the course ended up manifesting, for me, an art historical injection I did not know I had been craving for the duration of my education.


It has been interesting reading Goldberg’s Performance Art: From Futurism to Present while receiving almost the same history through Muracciole’s “The Weight of Vision.” Whereas Goldberg narrates the story of “performance art,”Muracciole’s setup instead circled around the history of “live gesture.” A vital blurring of the lines occurs when using live gesture as an expression instead of performance art. It seems impossible for the medium to mirror itself only in the fine arts and not also in the performing arts. Set on a polarised spectrum, we might perceive the two—Fine Arts and Performing Arts—at either end of what we call “the Arts”; however, they both materialise as “high art”: as being for the elite, as grand spectacles and big, physical displays of time and work. That is, these both sit on the “high end” of the spectrum of the arts at large. Goldberg goes on to say that performance art has the potential to blur the lines between high culture and popular art, but, in extending that idea, Sagri defines an additional opposition as being folk art. Folk art is not an elitist form, as it is designed for a community and often enabled through rituals or social events, and as such it allows community members to take part in producing art themselves. Hence, on the “low end” of the spectrum we find the notion of a horizontal, collective modus. To conclude this trail of thought, it becomes fitting to address the entire field using “live gesture” as the umbrella term that gathers the different traditions.


As a tool in “The Weight of Vision,” our class applied the artist Oskar Schlemmer’s9 theory of Apollo and Dionysus10 when looking at the history of live gesture. Apollo represents the intellect, and Dionysus practice. We would map out terms within the entire range of live gesture through these two opposing figures. It is of course somewhat of a binary tool for trying to make order amid the soup of notions that exists in between performance art and the performing arts. Apollo assigns to the notion of high art qualities like being on stage, performing a spectacle, choreography, and the division of an audience looking at the performer(s) enacting a narrative or representing an idea. Under Dionysus, we find the idea of space and working collectively through experimentation as a public taking part in an event. Apollo is the separation of the body and the mind, representing the vertical—the ballet dancer jumping, seemingly flying in the air. Dionysus, on the other hand, is the horizontal—the performer falling, grounded, the mind melting and oozing, becoming one with the rhythmic heartbeat through gravity and ecstasy.

To Unlearn and Distribute ~

Within the trajectory of my own practice, I can see now that in that beginning I was leaning on a more conventional idea of what it means to “perform.” That is to say, my works manifested as Apollonistic. In LEMONADE (2017), I staged a total installation, calling it “an exhibition” because I wanted to practice doing a performance. For RAINBOW_SNAKE(2017), I memorised a fifteen-minute poem and choreographed it with changing coloured stage lights and a musical score in a underground car park as a part of a performance tour.11 What occurred to me after doing GARDEN_STAGE (2018)12 was that I now had done the same kind of performative gesture several times in a row, appearing as a poetic narrator, almost guru-like, and performing texts on how to unfix yourself from your daily patterns or understandings of the world. Meanwhile, I was hypocritically assigning myself a fixed mode of work, using a set framework for creating “successful” performances that the audience would find exciting and sexy—however, not at all being able to recall anything I had said during the act.


I wanted to confront and evolve my own, very fixed ideas of what a performance should and could be—reaching for a pair of scissors, I wanted to cut my method into two, and disconnect it from the idea of me always being the main performer, doing a monologue. Scissors cutting everything in half could be perceived as antagonistic to the glue that performance is; however, it also could be seen as two sides of the same coin. This oppositional coupling may be connected through performance, always linking gestures and grabbing hold, making them belong together. After something is unfixed or detached, it can then be reapplied, recollected, or reused—upcycling a former logic into a new understanding, pulling the strings between past logics in new ways. Just as if putting into words Piero Manzoni’s Base del mondo (Base of the world, 1961), a sculpture pedestal turned upside-down to hold the entire world. Thus our gaze and feeling of weight of the same becomes reversed.


Cutting things in half and unfixing them likewise arose as a response to what playwright, activist, and drag queen Mario Mieli describes as “unlearning” in Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique. The reversed pedestal here manifests as the reaction towards our society that has “educastratred” us as free people, from childhood, by raising us to fit into a normative scheme. Mieli challenges the status quo by calling out how we all have been “educationally castrated”of our “transness.”13 Through this amazingly visceral image, Mieli proposes a method of unlearning and contends that we must unfix ourselves from our rehearsed roles to be able to reattach ourselves to a society in which we can be free and equal, and as a result show care and compassion towards one another.14 His arguments are of very much the same nature as Sagri’s definition of “connectivity.”


Mieli’s manifestation towards a gay liberation takes shape as communistic love. However, if we look beyond the words, the act is to horizontally rebalance—by unfixing ourselves from the vertical. Then there is the body falling, landing, and relocating on the ground, realising that under the restrictions of gravity it shares the same plane called Earth with other human beings just like itself.


A new Base del mundo for me was when I was part of a group that staged Conversation Piece (2018).15 In the piece, we four had a conversation in which we could only repeat one or two predefined lines each. Manifesting as a durational conversation in the “framework of brainstorming”—we staged the process of talking about “how to make a work of art.” This staging of “the process as the product” was entirely new for me, and became defining for how I later approached developing works. Furthermore, working in a group situation confronted my previous monologue-esque approach to performance, becoming that very pair of scissors I could use to unfix myself from my previous work mode.


~ ~ ~ ~


It was some months later, when I met Dora García and became familiar with her practice, during the  final year of my BFA in Oslo, that I finally became able to transform my works and put them onto a more elaborate trajectory. Garcíaopened my eyes to the fact that performance equally can be realised as a part of an artistic process and in close contact with other artists and members of the audience or public. For The Romeos (2018), García hired a number of men to appear and be present at her exhibition, approaching the other visitors no matter their gender or age and starting conversations with them. The work set itself out to prove that notions of fondness and care can be created and exist even if the other person in the relationship has entered it as part of a contract or as a job. In another work, the film Segunda Vez (Second time around, 2018), she restages several of Oscar Masotta’s performances, which he produced in Buenos Aires in the 1960s, as a trigger to speak about contemporary art and our current political society. For The Artist without Works (2014), García created a guided tour of an exhibition, staging a narrative around an artist who does not—as the title suggests—produce physical works. The narrative posits that unproductiveness is the ultimate form of resistance. All these projects included other people as actors, worked with alternative ways of facing an audience, and reversed the relationship of what it means to have a process versus producing a work. In her practice, García defines the artist’s role as that of an “initiator,” one who starts a process, and she acknowledges the importance of actors, music, and theatre as scores and tools to work with but does not let these structures carry the meaning of the entire work. We see this in Segunda Vez as a multidisciplinary project requiring help from different performers, forms of art, and non-art partners in order for the initiated discussions to succeed.


García shapes and uses these different methods as separate actions through which we can reconstruct reality and reconsider what stories of truth are harnessed by our current society. In an interview from 2020, the artist spoke about how the roles of reality and fiction can be reversed:


I do not think that we are really able to apprehend reality without fiction. So fiction is rather a tool that we use to understand reality with. In fact, we have no means to understand reality without the use of fiction. This fiction can be shared with people or be completely personal. When it is shared with people, then we say, “Well ,this is reality,” when—in fact—it is not. It is a fiction as well.16


As an example, García pointed to how suddenly the COVID-19 pandemic entered global society, introducing the Lacanian idea of the “eruption of the real”—whereby the “real” is able to disrupt anything we do, that fictional plan and system that we have built around life so as to continue our daily lives. García continued: “In that sense, the fiction that we have created and shared bumps against reality and we quickly have to create a new fiction to hold this new reality with.”17


This reversal of the ideas of fiction and reality has proved very useful for my process of understanding what performance can do as a material. The presented idea of psychiatrist Jacques Lacan goes well with Schechner’s definition of “everything performing all the time”: somehow, our ways of performing “being” constantly stage reality through everything that we do. But can we then speak about being aware of when one does something, and how aware of the “being” “performing” is this awareness, according to oneself? How can we realise how to do something in a mode of performing, which Sagri describes as “an intervention, like a pharmakon, that radically modifies the functioning of the body”?18


Like metaphysically going into drag, your body enters a condition through which you can use yourself as a vehicle to create new order and meaning, rather than turning to a proxy material to carry the ideas. Instead, the ideas ooze out of your own organs—in situ—creating direct links with everyone stuck in that same situation in which you are performing. Through becoming aware of your performance, you can use yourself to bump into reality.




My work 3 COLOURS (2019)19 tried to bump into reality through the use of performance. It was a staged conversation leading nowhere and where disagreements became part of the poetic gesture. I wrote a script for three performers, setting us up to stage a seemingly poetic text—but, quickly, the three characters start arguing about what words to use and how the poetic text should be made. All of this was planned, and the text repeated itself in seven circles that varied slightly—the same words and sentences repeating and rearranging in a way intended to make it very hard to memorise the script as a whole. The agreement among us three performers was to improvise, to go to the physical text and start reading aloud if needed, and to re-rehearse it during the performance. The script was gone through twice. The second round emphasised the fiction of the situation; nevertheless, reality would erupt as mistakes interweaving with the already layered, meta, self-aware lines staging an artistic process, and as such the gestures intertwined and connected with the present situation. The attention of those performing linked the entirety of the performance together—the same attention should be applied for an audience in order to manoeuvre around what is being said versus what is being done. This attention is the glue that artist Jack Smith describes as “turning the trash into jewels.”20 It’s that alchemical state of carrying something from the realm of ideas directly into the present time, manifesting it within the moment, within the emerging performance that becomes the work.


3 COLOURS became an expanded, rewritten version of Conversation Piece. I reused the gestures of “staged conversation” and “endless talk leading nowhere” within a more aesthetic framework and script: we performers dressed in colours and moved around the space, and the text was heavier in its dramatisation and use of pictures. It was a mix of the still present desires to perform and to make a show for an audience. On the other hand, 3 COLOURS examined the situation of working together, in which having a conversation is a requirement. The spectacle was used as a process in itself, as we restaged the performance three times over three weeks, with new agreements between us three changing the outcome every time. It became a tool to activate this dialectical form that an artwork is situated in, being both an aesthetic gesture and a social form.

The Spectacle is a Tool ~

Turning to a work mode of initiation and combining it with my existing method of staging poetic gestures, the framework of the spectacle became malleable as a tool rather than as a product.


An opening for me to realise that the “idea of perfect execution” could not and should not be the goal was through the practice of Jack Smith.21 Upon reading the 1962 book The Perfect Filmic Appositeness of Maria Montez,22 Smith comes to the clear conviction that “the more rules broken the more enriched becomes the activity!”23


In Smith’s line of argument, the actress Maria Montez floats as an icon for turning trash into treasure—not through her acting skills but rather through her believing in her own star quality and the fantasy of everything she did, being the “Siren” or “Cobra Woman.” In her roles, Montez delivered pastiche phrases in such a way that you could tell that, right beneath, a real person was emerging.


“Geef me that Coparah chewel!”

“Geef me that Coparah chewel!”24


Her phantasmic lines were carried out unconvincingly, again making the real erupt—Montez’s self oozing out of her performing shell. We thus find her in the drag-persona mode: she is performing, she is staging this for us; but all of us know that it’s a fantasy. Hence why we love it.

About Smith’s performance methods, the film critic J. Hoberman writes: “Thinking on stage was interesting, whereas ‘memorized speech’ (was) possibly the least dramatic thing that could happen on stage or anywhere.”25 Smith argues in favour of Montez’s legacy, levelling her case to a general fact about life:


And in a crazy way it’s true for all of us because she is one of us. Is it invalid of her to be the way she is? If so, none of us are valid. … If you think you are invalid you may be the person who ridicules Maria Montez movies. …


… Trash is true of Maria Montez-flix but so are jewels.26




Smith has been of great importance to my work, especially his animated but honest way of saying things. The way he is hysterically mad and funny but smart at the same time, and how he seemed to thrive on rejection, is something I look up to. Additionally, not a lot of people champion the imperfect, the illogical, and the grande fantasy. His work is, in essence, camp,27 in its heavily clothed aesthetics and its seriousness about its own “bad” taste. Simultaneously, it is a direct critique of conventionalism. His being able to take those liberties in creating great sets for plays and narratives—often incohesive, saturated, and thoroughly, badly, or spontaneously performed—has been a key for letting myself know: “I can do what I want. If everything goes wrong, it’s still an amazing gift to everyone. Something happened, something was made!” ~ RIGID ROOM is a clear example of confining this urge but also of trying to open up the exact same process for other people.


Having a performative practice, I have seldom received invitations from galleries where they want me to make physical work. I suppose this is a thumbs up towards my immaterial discourse, but it also means that whenever I do make a physical show, it’s an opportunity I have given to myself. Working around the grande fantasy of an exhibition, creating a spectacle for the audience to become part of, always becomes commentary on how we position ourselves as bodies in a visual, material discourse.


Previously in the text, I told you about how I staged physical sets reminiscent of exhibitions, which were merely there for me to perform inside of. Trying to advance from that place, I staged As I Breeze into the Next Minute (2018) in collaboration with Zishi Han. Our intention for the show was to make a physical exhibition that included a performative plan that could only happen through receiving help from the public to activate the work and space. I would try and initiate movement by asking audience members to help me with reading a text aloud into an open microphone positioned in the space. Zishi worked with different materials such as steel, textiles, foam, and plaster, spreading spontaneous sculptural works across the space. Onto three curtains, I had printed different collages of notes and screenshots from my studio process, then mounted them onto at steel wire that intersected the room. The show was only to be open for three hours, and upon opening a sound piece was designed to develop and thus change the space. The unknown performers’ readings of the space’s seven chapters were to be timed according to the sound, and the same with the constellation of lights and the curtains in the space. It was when the sound changed that specific members were to stage the text, if invited to do so. In its being, As I Breeze allowed me to finally become part of a show where my role was something other than speaking into a microphone. This time, someone else received that experience, while I positioned myself as the initiator of the plan.


Through this work, I came to realise that I had never let things speak for themselves—I always was next to them, ready to perform on their behalf. Truth is, I have been quite anxious about not being there on behalf of my physical works, thinking: “What—are people supposed to just go around the room and look at the stuff? What kind of show is that?!”


A fear I have is that the clarity of an exhibition might easily become murky when multiple mediums are layered to construct a whole through which a narrative is built. However, it is through this soup of gesture that the spectacle connects with an audience, as the performance of the different elements glues the picture plane together.




In 1932, surrealist writer and theatre director Antonin Artaud wrote precisely about the magic of theatre as a metaphysical language, transcending words and instead using objects, movements, attitudes, and gestures to assign a certain lyricism or poetical dimension. He worked towards repositioning the spectacle on stage and into space. He believed the mise en scène28 sharing common ground with the audience would speak directly to his project of inverting language, pointing away from logic: “Once aware of this language in space, language of sounds, cries, lights, onomatopoeia, the theatre must organize it into veritable hieroglyphs, with the help of characters and objects, and make use of their symbolism and interconnections in relation to all organs on all levels.”29


Artaud’s idea assigns the entirety of the spectacle to one central expression and summons the connectivity between mediums and people that Sagri speaks of today. His famous 1932 essay “The Theatre of Cruelty” is highly idealistic, as Artaud opposes any division between the arts, rather making them all merge into one. It’s translation into English changed the landscape of performance art in the 1960s, inspiring works such as Meat Joy (1964) by Carolee Schneemann, and the great, Wagnerian-scale, twelve-hour performances of Richard Foreman and Robert Wilson in the late 1960s and into the ’70s.


Working with the entirety of a show is a Dionysian approach, as the melting of mediums advocates against the standard of using logic to read an artwork. On the contrary, it turns to deciphering the spectacle through the audience’s sensibility. Artaud writes:


This objective and concrete language of the theatre can fascinate and ensnare organs. It flows into the sensibility. Abandoning occidental usages of speech, it turns words into incantations. It extends the voice. It utilizes the vibrations and qualities of the voice. … It liberates a new lyricism of gesture which, by its precipitation or its amplitude in the air, ends by surpassing the lyricism of words. It ultimately breaks away from the intellectual subjugation of language, by conveying the sense of a new deeper intellectuality which hides itself beneath the gestures and signs, raised to the dignity of particular exorcisms.30


It is through this definition—in seeing the show as a whole, believing in the lyricism of gesture speaking to a sensibilitywithin the body, beyond language—that I intend my physical works to be seen. By using the space, the work is staged as a new common ground for spectators to enter and navigate in. Not with the goal of “understanding what the art means,” but through being present in space as a body, with other bodies, receiving an experience one would not receive from everyday life otherwise. The performance as a fiction is used to bump into the spectator, thus becoming reality—the attention demanding the viewer’s presence in way that nothing or nobody else would.


In using what I learned working with space in As I Breeze, a lot of the same gestures ventured into RIGID ROOM. In a very literal way, I saw the symbols in RIGID ROOM as hieroglyphs: clearly images of something, but esoteric and untranslatable in their presence, the purpose of their visual existence having yet to be confirmed. Moving forward, though, I realised I had not considered the other gestures in the same manner—the actions, the sounds, and the performative works as actually being hieroglyphic in nature as well. This new way of understanding and rebalancing gestures proves art’s potential to “queer the gaze”—art being uncanny, like something very familiar but very alien at the same time. This queerness transforms everything in the room into equal notions that can be read like hieroglyphs. When placed on even ground, all gestures share an important role in the entirety of the spectacle.


An underlining thought in “The Theatre of Cruelty” is that “without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, the theatre is not possible. In our present state of degeneration it is through the skin that metaphysics must be able to re-enter our minds.”31 For Artaud, the cruelty manifests when one does an action: it’s an act of consciousness, with determination. In the case of RIGID ROOM, the cruelty appears even before the work is loosened and repositioned. Even having the choice—whereby the spectator has to navigate the space, with the option to change the picture plane or even alter the existing rules that confine the objects—is where the cruelty appears: suddenly you are being asked to unfix those structures from the mounts upon which they were positioned to begin with. If the hieroglyphs are there to be interpreted, but can be anything, without a clear answer, then it is a cruel act towards an audience seeking meaning and translation within logic. Through establishing a relation to the work on site, the audience become actors who achieve Jack Smith’s process of turning trash into treasure—defying the perfect and planned. The sensibility must take over to connect the pieces; being conscious of ourselves next to the work, it is no longer nothing, but something.

Reversing the Pedestal ~

The floor is painted yellow. The base from which we move is altered and has become a hieroglyph inside the spectacle. The spectator must now enter into the picture, if they want to see the show. The floor proposes a border and becomes a threshold to be crossed in entering the space. This is a feeling hard to explain, but it acts like a contract without words—you will somehow know that you are now entering someplace else.


Defying the language of logic through bodily sensibility, as Artaud’s mise en scène does, is very much the same feeling that literary and queer theorist Leo Bersani describes in “Is the Rectum a Grave?”: “Women and gay men spread their legs with an unquenchable appetite for destruction.32 The body is here placed as the central site of destruction for phallocentric logic. In Bersani’s text, this is described as “repositioning”: the one in the role of receiver realises the power of receiving. To trespass into a new area, one must either agree with the thing that is going on or surrender to the new laws governing the territory. One must trespass into that territory where you submit to the work, letting it overwhelm you. At first it may seem unnatural, as we are taught that to define and to be in control is to succeed. To submit and trespass is to unlearn that position. Bersani defines the existing hierarchy in this way: There is a legal and moral incompatibility between sexual passivity and civic authority. The only ‘honourable’ sexual behaviour ‘consists in being active, in dominating, in penetrating, and in thereby exercising one’s authority’. … To be penetrated is to abdicate power.”33


The idea of letting the spectacle overthrow us and speak to our sensibilities is to break boundaries, as we are used to the successful reading of art being the interpretation of what the work is and does. If we are able to define it as something, then we can safely construct our opinions—our fiction—around it. The repositioning that Bersani uses as a tool is the same as Mieli’s unlearning, which goes hand in hand with the connectivity of Sagri.


We break a boundary first by stepping onto the yellow floor, thus becoming part of the stage, the work, the picture plane. We must now rearrange ourselves within this awareness of taking part of the narrative.


Bersani, in “Is the Rectum a Grave?,” is fighting for a freer sexuality and remains firm on the assertion that gay men and women must fight the violence of limitations directed at them together, and collectively narrate a new story that subverts the dominant culture’s fiction around sexuality. He writes:


But what if we said, for example, not that it is so wrong to think of so-called passive sex as “demeaning” but rather that the value of sexuality itself is to demean the seriousness of efforts to redeem it? … If the rectum is the grave in which the masculine ideal (an ideal shared—differently—by men and women) of proud subjectivity is buried, then it should be celebrated for its very potential for death34


In other words, the site of the reversal should become a sanctum. The rectum, in this case, acts as the site where consciousness has been awoken in the position of receiving. We find that there actually is an enjoyment in the act of performing as a vessel, being filled up and learning, and growing from gathering new experiences instead of penetrating the world with predefined meaning. The cruelty of the theatre that Artaud refers to—the realisation through your flesh—is by Bersani being harnessed to go against the patriarchal ideal of power.


I here turn to arguments of sex and sexuality to extend Smith’s discourse of restaging art as elaborate fantasies and critiques of society because it’s latent within my own discourse to speak about “coming out” as a process manifesting visually, physically, and socially. The coming-out process is exactly a site of reversal, unlearning, and new manifestation. Within my practice, I use my own experience of coming out as an engine. It has become a lens of consciousness to reorganise the world with. One’s sexuality is a personal reality inside the body that often bumps into the fiction of society. If your intimate truth does not correlate with the consensus of truth that society claims exists, then that fiction is torn into. Those tears are the reckoning of you having to come out, once the fabric of the established reality is so shredded that you cannot fit inside it anymore.


All my earliest works—pre–art academy—whirled around the act of coming out to my parents and not feeling able to do so in angst towards the structure that craves that situation where the deviant must call themselves “different.” I am privileged enough to never have feared rejection from my parents; I knew they would be supportive. More so, it was the act of turning something I deemed obvious into a big thing—“straight people never have to come out as straight!” being a classic queer argument against the coming-out framework. However, once it was done, and after having some time to contemplate my own, now free, sexuality, I thought about the whole situation in reverse: “What if I could make artistic work that could help give a coming-out process to those people who have never been forced to do so themselves?” A pair of scissors to help people start tearing into their own fictions.


I think of this as one of the main engines of my practice. Not trying to pull the rug out from under an audience, but rather offering them new tools to bump into reality with, giving them a thought process that might not have been within their reach before now. I hold a firm belief that this intention for my work can result in more generous projects, like providing means for people to restructure with, alternative lenses through which to see the world, or new tools to reconsider situations (including outside art) and power structures that we take for granted. My works take part in redefining the function of art, of what we use art for, including through dismissing its commercial value as a product for sale on the market.




“The point is, that if you get fucked, if you know what tremendous enjoyment is to be had from anal intercourse, then you necessarily become different from the ‘normal’ run of people with a frigid arse. You know yourself more deeply.” 35


The above is such a good quote from Mario Mieli because it talks about the reversal of roles in such a tangible way—the classic demeaning state of “being fucked” is turned into a celebratory act of the potential death of the normative hierarchy. It’s the reversal, finally the men being penetrated, the femme anti-antagonists being noticed; in being dominated, they have reversed the normative, given roles. Or, if we were to take it beyond power play—beyond gender—it’s about reordering the fiction of the universe, unlearning what logic the phallocentric past has taught us. To transform the narrative of Apollo, with the actor at centre stage, to one of a shared plane, to the dance floor of Dionysus, where everyone meets and moves equally.


The yellow floor is that horizontal plane on which we all can move, that celebrates every time you do something against convention, hoping that a tiny part of you will unfix itself.

Unfix a Word a Work a World ~

RIGID ROOM was something between a stage and an exhibition. The space was used as a tool for different activities, and as such it did not exist as just one thing, as one single image standing there for people to enter and understand. Entering the space had nothing to do with understanding it; the key, rather, was taking part in it, moving around in it, and accessing the mediums, artworks, texts, films, and performances that were part of it. Through this intention, to enter the RIGID ROOM was to enter a conversation I have been having with myself for the past six years.


The space was a reaction, trying to transform the artworks through the medium of performance, to unfix conventions from their shell. The conversation was in disagreement with itself; as in 3 COLOURS, several voices wanted to be heard, but there was time and space enough for all of them to have their moment.


An entire programme of texts opened RIGID ROOM in a three-hour gesture.[i] I had asked several of my friends and colleagues to help me stage the programme, with the intention of serving the space with the voices of others before filling it up with my own for two weeks. One of the texts read aloud was “She Unnames Them” by sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a short fiction about a woman reclaiming and gathering all the names from all the animals in the world, with the argument that they do not actually need their names. As Woman completes the task, she goes to Man to return her own name: “You and your father lent me this, gave it to me, actually. It’s been really useful, but it doesn’t exactly seem to fit very well lately. But thanks very much! It’s really been very useful.”[ii] Man is busy doings other things and does not take any further notice of the returning gesture. He remains busy with his own doings as Woman ventures out onto a road, leaving him behind.


In her practice, Le Guin uses storytelling as a powerful tool for transformation. This story is evidently a paraphrase of a biblical story (Genesis 2:20) in which Adam gives the names to the animals, and in its mirror image, “She Unnames Them” seems eschatological, or like an attempt to redefine a new age with new stories. As Woman removes the names, she describes what it’s like to detach borders:


They seemed far closer than when their names had stood between myself and them like a clear barrier: so close that my fear of them and their fear of me became one same fear. And the attraction that many of us felt, the desire to feel or rub or caress one another’s scales or skin or feathers or fur, taste one another’s blood or flesh, keep one another warm—that attraction was now all one with the fear, and the hunter could not be told from the hunted, nor the eater from the food.[iii]


Unfixing the names of the animals leads to the detachment of their assigned characters, their roles, and the performance they have been set in the world to do (see Schechner). Unfixing the words loosens up the tight structure of one’s being, lets you ooze and melt together with your surroundings, because if nothing has a name—how do we define a difference?


In reversing Adam’s work, Woman takes back what Man has penetrated the world with, which comes off as a silent, non-violent protest, in which the queerness is evident. Woman is spreading her legs with an unquenchable appetite for destruction, and she does not stop until she has finished what she’s started.


The act of unnaming things has been an act close to my heart in the process of making my MFA exhibition. In wanting the objects to be movable and unfixed, they were supposed to be easily identified, so that the process would be imbedded not within a translation of what the object is but more so in a transformation of what it could become. If the objects could be something else, what would they be? Or, how could they exist and relate with the other objects in the landscape proposed as the exhibition?


The way Le Guin applies fiction as a method for telling stories parallel to those of our society: she “gathers narratives”[iv]not to design them into conclusions but rather to present them as research into how different small changes within our society can radically alter our ways. This method is mirrored in Smith’s fantastic stagings. The dogma of performance art and writing science fiction is of course different, but the intention is the same. In both cases, fiction is used against the system of society, meant to help us bump into the reality we sit in and reconsider our positions. Fiction thus proposes a site outside the body—besides our sexuality, which I previously proposed as such a site—for reversing reality and making it erupt.


To use art as such a site, as a proposition for a fiction parallel to our society but still mirroring it, is right at hand. Extending an artwork’s nature as a queer object, in need of deciphering by a public, transforms it from being an object to being a conversation—an active modus set between people, a metaphysical tool with which we can rephrase the world. A work of art is never just a window into another world, as it was perceived in the days of salon exhibitions. There is always a sender and a receiver to add to the score, and as such there is always a triangle of positions to consider the work from: the sender—the situation—the receiver ~


Thus we can add a third element to the Apollo/Dionysus binary: Hermes, who could be a tertiary character alternating the opposition between the two. Hermes is the messenger of the skies, a psychopomp able to travel between the divine and earthly planes, the dimensions of realities. In his hovering queer being, Hermes traverses between characters, making the narrative happen. It could be interesting to consider his role on the map (the tool we used to map out the notions of “live gestures” in “The Weight of Vision” course) as something mirroring the role of the initiator that I encountered through the practice of Dora García, who is likewise a key figure in making things happen, but she herself is seldom an actor within her performative works.


Deciphering RIGID ROOM involved a guiding encounter with Hermes, who was present in some of the works and was personified using my appearance in one of the drawings. Basically, these clues in the drawings were gestures linking the mythological character to the role of the artist, mirroring me as the host, who had initiated the space.


Hermes constructs another way of perceiving the work and the world. Gazing down from above gives us an overview and assigns us with a clarity as to what gestures exist in the landscape. If this is translated into the role of the artist, it can offer us the choice of altering the narrative, from the A à B trajectory to instead implementing ways to hold on to the soup of gestures as a map to navigate with, but also as an archive, being able to apply the right tools when needed. It is another way of approaching the totality of the work as a context, providing space for the different elements and to enable people to appear and share their own truths within the trajectory.


The landscape that I have defined RIGID ROOM to be is a container of this fiction, of these different lines of thought that were rehearsed and tried out through my previous works. The monologue in RAINBOW_SNAKE still exists as a poetic narrative, although shared with co-performers, just as if 3 COLOURS had been enacted within the situation of As I Breeze into the Next Minute. The change of gestures is that, this time, the space was staged more heavily, having a clear concept on its own for those who enter, and was not so much powered by me performing within it. RIGID ROOM, in many ways, was asking me the same questions as it did the other visitors when they tried to manoeuvre around the scene. Their questions created a double, their image of the work bumping into mine, and as such the fiction within the space was constantly rewritten through the social gestures.


The soup of gesture, then, becomes the entirety addressing the potential of the space, creating connectivity and postulations towards what else an exhibition could be, when brewed with an intention of oozing, being non-linear and spiralling, repositioning the vertical hierarchy into a horizontal plane. The exhibition was subversive research into how it, as a grand spectacle, was “obviously” going to be (with big art pieces, a lot of work and effort accumulated within a visual show). The reversed soup saying: “Yes, but what if?”


The murkiness that I was previously scared of became a factor activating the sensibility of the visitors to begin with, to help them navigate through. If they “cared enough” for the landscape, then they would try and translate their way through it. My hope was that their act of deciphering the works as hieroglyphs would become that reversing act of showing them an alternate route of play and communication.


For the spectators, the deciphering of the situation was powered by the attention with which they became able to tear into the fabric of fiction. Their presence used reality to read the discourse. When trespassing into the yellow territory, you became the actor in that moment, with whatever cruelty it takes to unfix things and act autonomously—with consciousness. Reality erupted against both fictions: the one staged by the exhibition, and the other holding the visitor within our society’s reality of reason.




Inserting a staged conversation as a part of RIGID ROOM, in the blue room, gave the people reading it an occasion to join in and relate to the work’s nature of having two voices disagreeing on a wall. As a gesture, it was an opening both towards an individual viewer having conversation with themselves in the space and towards the two voices within the work portraying the ambiguity of the exhibition to the spectator. On a bigger scale, the two spaces in the exhibition also were having a dialogue, the larger yellow space being bright and active and the smaller blue one being passive. There was a site for action and one for contemplation. The host, having already met the spectators and telling them the three truths when entering, would also thus be easier to approach, as a meeting had already been established within the space. Conversation then was enacted as the main ingredient, when the visitors moved the objects and images around: I would ask them about what they were doing and tell them if they were doing something that had not happened before. The movement of the works, their activation, and their decipherment acted as a catalyst for an expanded meeting and discussion about our relationship with art, what the gestures within an exhibition manifest as, and how the situation created connections between us and the works through putting an emphasis on performing within the space.


That was the real sense of the work: to meet and establish conversations, through the use of the spectacle. Could I have done it with less? Yes, maybe so. But, on the other hand, the strategy to create this grand gesture of a spectacle as a luring landscape for people to enter into a critical discourse I find really interesting. The colours and easy-going nature of the works, their movability, that they were hand drawn and hand painted and not cut out perfectly and so on—all this gave the space this horizontal feel of being approachable. Upon seeing that the works were on wheels, it became daunting for a lot of spectators to not just start moving them around on their own. But exactly that was the intention: the object wants to be moved around, please help it! It was supposed to be very fun, but also very serious.


I’m not saying it worked on everyone; some visitors were good at deciphering the situation in a way where they definitely were not going to touch anything—as if they had then avoided giving in to my cheap tricks. However, it was never the point of the show to have everybody moving everything around. It was, rather, an open invitation to do something yourself. If one did not want to touch the elements, this was also an active choice in the space. When stepping onto the yellow floor and meeting someone “native” to the space, who then invited you to do something, and then you chose not to do anything—that, too, was a very active gesture. Those people were still able to experience the work and its potentiality for movement, wading around in the spectacular soup.


In the end, every visit was noted in the logbook, and each became part of the narrative of the space, its fiction and its research. Each visitor was someone together with all the other people who rolled things around on wheels, put pictures up the wrong way, read personal poems into the microphones, or took selfies in the coloured lights. You did not have to say words to be part of the conversation.


Through its alternate relation with the audience, performance acts like glue, gathering people and gestures, unfixing works from their pedestals. Through performance’s resistance to definition, the words start to ooze and loosen, secondary in their nature, hovering above the field as signs, leading us in different directions. Through its way of opposing set structures, performance as a medium can unfix the world we live in and challenge the ways we as individuals but also as a society use logic to set things in stone, replacing those defining gestures with connectivity, repositioning things on a common ground.


The Base del Mundo carries the weight of the entire world; it makes the globe a whole, a scene for a spectacle to happen. Hermes flies through the skies, looks at the landscape below him. As he opens his legs, it occurs to me …


I find myself on the shore, my return wet from the soup of signs and gestures. As a picture, I can create open-ended connections between us as bodies in an electric present. A condition of transformation, changes, beats in a rhythm to the shore as if it were the waves. Reality immerses in that fictional soup; it appears to be an unfixed trajectory, but manifests itself brand new, cutting the landscape in half—as a word, a work, a world.


List of References ~ ~ ~


Artaud, Antonin.                       “VIII. The Theatre of Cruelty (First Manifesto)”in The Theater and Its

                                                 Double. Translated by Mary Caroline Richards,

                                                  New York, Grove Weidenfeld, 1958


Bersani, Leo                         Is the Rectum a Grave?: And Other Essays

                                             Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 2010


Boal, Augusto                    Theatre of the Oppressed

                                           Translated by Charles A. and Maria-Odilia Leal Mcbride and Emily Fryer,  

                                           London, Pluto Press, 1979


García, Dora               “We have to create another fiction to hold this reality”

                                  Interview by BoCA Bienal, BoCA SUMMER SCHOOL 2020, December 11, 2020,

                                            video, 09min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBTfFN58jEA


Goldberg, RoseLee         Performance Art—From Futurism to the Present

                                           London, Thames & Hudson, Third Edition 2011


Le Guin, Ursula K.             “She Unnames Them”

                                             The New Yorker, January 13, 1985,  



                                               The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

                                                  London, Ignota Books, 2019


Kester, Grant                    “Conversation pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art”

                                           From Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985 edited by Zoya Kucor and

                                                                                                                  Simon Leung, Blackwell, 2005


Kollontai, Alexandra                   “Make Way for Winged Eros—A Letter to the Working Youth”

                                                       From A Great love: Selected Writings.

                                                       Translated with an introduction and commentaries by

                                                                                            Alix Holt. London: Allison and Busby, 1977


Mieli, Mario                                      Homosexuality & Liberation—Elements of a Gay Critique

                                                             translated by David Fernbach, London, Gay Men’s Press, 1980


Muracciole, Marie                       “The Weight of Vision—Choreographing the Gaze”

                                                         Seminar at Malmö Art Academy, Fall Semester 2021


O’Doherty, Brian                          Inside the White Cube—The Ideology of the Gallery Space

                                                            San Fransisco, The Lapis Press 1986


Sagri, Georgia                                “Performance is a Medium”

                                                           in Stage of Recovery, Brussels, DIVIDED, 2021


Smith, Jack                          Wait For Me at the Bottom of the Pool—The writings of Jack Smith

                                             edited by J. Hoberman and Edward Leffingwell,

                                               New York / London, High Risk Books, 1997


                                           “Remarks on Art & the Theater”

                                               in Historical Treasures, Madras & NewYork, Hanuman Books, 1990


Tartaglia, Jerry                       “Escape from the Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith”

                                                  Light Cone, Film Essay, 2017, 88min,







RIGID ROOM: Reading and Screening Programme ~

In order of appearance


Tablet IV

from Gilgamesh 2100~1200 BC, Danish translation from Acadian

by Morten Søndergård & Sophus Helle, 2019


A Little Fable                                  

from Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer by Franz Kafka, 1931 (~1920)


Text of the Sounds & Let’s Speak English pt. 1 & 2

from English Course, Linguaphone Institute Ltd, 1970


She Unnames Them                  

Ursula K. Le Guin, The New Yorker, January 21, 1985


Performance is a Medium    

from Stage of Recovery by Georgia Sagri, 2021


The Miracle of the Rose         

from The Wild Boys—A Book of the Dead by William S. Burroughs, 1972


Remarks on Art & the Theatre

Jack Smith, The Artist versus the Hippopotamus, The First True Comedy Symposion w. William Niederkorn,

held August 15, 1988 at the True Comedy Theatre Company, New York


Twelfth Night                                                                

from A Sand Book by Ariana Reines, 2019


At Land                               

by Maya Deren (1944)


Flaming Creatures                     

by Jack Smith (1963)



by Inger Christensen with Hotel Proforma, 1986


A Family Finds Entertainment                             

by Ryan Trecartin, (2004)


Pools, Pond and Waterfall & Stone Circles                                                                 

by Barbara Hammer, 1981, 1982 & 1983


Reading Friday 04–22/02: Billie Meiniche, Christine Dahlerup, Karin Hald, Filip Vest & Stacey de Voe

Reading Friday 11–22/02: Maria Nadia Nielsen, Freja Rosenlund, Ingrid Långström & Niels Munk Plum

Performing Saturday 19–22/02: Freja Rosenlund & Niels Munk Plum



by niels munk plum

// MARCH 2018