These performances were part of the Performance Compost event at Kiasma theatre’s /theatre.now – festival. The concept of the event was to investigate how performance and document works together. The event was part of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art’s Reality Bites (2.11.2012-10.3.2013) exhibition. Key questions published for the whole event were: “Can performances be institutionalised, and if so, how? In what types of documents can a performance be encapsulated? What is the role of documents in performance art? Can performance documentation serve as material for new performances? How can the boundary between fact and fiction be blurred in a performance?”
Another important aspect of the Performance Compost was that it happened in a gallery space and therefore partly took the form of visual art. The changes of the artists and pieces were rapid. During one month around 30 artists invaded three rooms of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. During the same day, in the same space, many things happened – performances, lectures, presentations, installations, gigs and exercises. Alongside this, documentations of old performances in the Kiasma Theatre were also on show.
My slot was two hours long on the Thursday and three hours long on the Saturday. The time slots included setting up before the performance and tidying away afterwards. The idea for my performance was based on two questions: how to use archive and historical material as a background for a performance, and what can the painterly mean in the context of performance art? The title An Attempt for Making of referred to the attitude I had towards the whole Performance Compost event, as well as to my piece within it. I was testing a new idea, putting something in the compost to ferment, hoping it would work as a background for something; that ‘something’ I also wanted to keep open. I have also named some of my earlier pieces with the word ‘an attempt’. I like how a title which includes the word ‘attempt’ refers to potential, to something which might happen, to something which in its nature is performative. The other part of the title – i.e. ‘Making of’ – comes from Gwen John’s notes, as she had written a list ‘Making of the portrait’ in her notebook. About a month before the event at Kiasma I had made a performance in Sweden which borrowed its title from one of John’s lists and was based on the main idea of that list: being a model. An Attempt for Making of was kind of a sister piece for the Making of the Portrait.
The following is the information leaflet (as indicated between asterisks below) that was given to the audience:
An Attempt for Making of
How to use archive and historical material as a background for a performance? Or what can the painterly mean in the context of performance art?
In Gwen John’s paintings the models (often females) are usually situated in the corner of the room.
This performance is an attempt to fit a woman into a corner. She is taking the role of the model in front of the camera lens and is trying to be still in an awkward position for as long as she can.
This piece is an homage to Gwen John, who used to sit as a model for many fellow artists in her own time (including her lover Auguste Rodin), and for all artist’s models.
The list read during this performance is from Gwen John’s notebook.
We do not know why and what she meant by this list. We can only guess.
This performance is based on another list from Gwen John’s notebooks. She wrote several notes for a painting that would have white roses in it. I am using the latest one of those, where the subject is not mentioned at all.
Thank you: Mikko Kuorinki (the photographer), Ida Pimenoff, Ian Stonehouse, Kati Kivinen & Kiasman mestarit, Finnish Cultural Foundation, curators of the Performance Compost and the whole team of Kiasma-theatre.
Bibliography: Roe, Sue (2002). Gwen John. A Life. Vintage, London.
An Attempt for Making of Part II
The key question of An Attempt for Making of Part II was how to document something that is already gone? The questions within Part II developed questions for the whole piece – how to use archive and historical material as a background for a performance and what can the painterly mean in the context of performance art? I made several attempts which took the form of the (performance) installation.
For Part II I again had an information leaflet for the audience to read. Here is the leaflet plus the concrete description of what happened. (Text in italics from the programme.)
“To bring a documentation of the performance to the same space where the performance on the video happened. (x 2)”
I had video documentations/video performances from Part I installed in the same location where they took place. The performance which I made first in Part I (the one where I am in an awkward position in the corner) was on a TV monitor in front of the same corner where the performance happened. The performance where I read the list under the fake corner was projected on the wall of the gallery space with the sound.
“To bring to this place a video performance which happened first in another place and was the original performance of the performance that took place in this room two days ago.”
The first performance performed in Part I was based on a video performance I made some months before this event. In Part I I made the same actions, wearing the same clothes as I had done before. In Part II, this original video performance, made in this Kiasma space, was installed on two monitors, one on top of the other.
“To bring a documentation and the props of the performance to the same room where the filming of the performance took place.”
I placed the fake corner, which now had the drooping rose, and the marks of the colours and the tubes dried and glued onto the corner’s surface, to the gallery space. The place was not exactly the same place as where the corner was on Part I (this was due to Part II installation technical needs). On the background of the fake corner was projected the video documentation of the Part I performance with the rose and the colour.
“According to Gwen John’s biographer Sue Roe, Paris smelled in John’s time of iodoform, pommes frites – and fear, if we believe Rilke’s notes. (Roe, Sue (2002). Gwen John. A Life. Vintage, London. p.47) This installation is an attempt to bring those smells to the here and now. For the smell of fear, please have a smell of the armpits of the dress I was wearing two days ago when performing in this same space.”
I put the unwashed dress to hang on to the wall with drawing pins. The brown paper bag full of French fries was placed on to the floor below the dress. I had a white plastic bottle with disinfectant liquid and during the installation I squirted this liquid onto the floor near the chips. The disinfectant had quite distinctive smell but it evaporated quickly.
 Placing the rose on the corner wall was reminiscent of the action of leaving a flower for someone who has passed away. This performance fits other pieces made during the research process because of its reference to the memory, remembering, something lost – and in general to an attempt to return to somewhere that is already gone, which was the Part II key question.