Ernst Fischer writes in the context of his invitation at International Performance Art Giswil about the performances of the festival on Saturday, 14.9.2019 in Giswil.
These texts were written between one and several days after the FULL MOON EDITION, International Performance Art event on 14. September 2019, in Giswil, Switzerland. They are neither reviews nor descriptions, but personal responses; as such, they do not express the author’s opinions, but rather his perception of what each performance was ‘saying’. They compliment and, in parts, reiterate the writing in a series of textual graphics that were produced in immediate response to each performance. The texts should be read aloud with piano accompaniment.
Jacques & Sofie Berchtold, Dario Camenzind, Lars Kiser, Laurin Leuthold, Fajar & Zainab Ameer Zaman (Giswil) from the workshop «Hören Spielen / Listening Playing» with Misha Andries, Martina Gmür & Andrea Kramer (Basel)
As opposed to private play, in which they engage without a shred of self-consciousness, children display an uneasy awkwardness in public performance that makes them ideal models for performance artists. It’s precisely in the gap between instructions and their less than perfect execution, in the pushing and shoving, the shuffling of feet, the embarrassed gaze, the turned head, the search for support and encouragement, that we learn much about each child as a person. Close your eyes. Can you hear me? «Hello, can you hear me?» Thrum… thrum… plunk… jingle… jingle… thrum. It’s good to communicate. Wordlessly (for once). In a crystalline forest.
Brian Patterson (Belfast), «Outside in, Inside out»
During my visit to Giswil I suffered from some undiagnosed, but pretty severe pain in my left knee. The following text (1.) is a more carefully crafted version of one I wrote on 13. September, on my way to observe the performers’ technical rehearsals. The original, which forms part of the ‘Graphic Collection’, was written on a sheet of paper, which I had crunched up into a ball. After writing, the paper was smoothed out flat again.
Pain slows my journey along the brook (from Hotel Bahnhof to Turbinenhalle), and forces me to take regular breaks. While I sit (on benches, a stack of wooden pallets, a disk of concrete), waiting for it to abate, I look around and listen, but see and hear only the throbbing of my knee. Pain slows down time itself, hardening it into an eternal presence. There is neither past nor future, no before or after, no in or out, only this limited and sealed space of physical sensation in which I lie curled like a stone, only the certainty of suffering.
When the pain dissolves, I unfurl myself and move on – determined and hopeful – to my next resting place.
The first impression is of darkness, despite the fingers of sunlight caressing the concrete floor: a man dressed in black, sitting on a black chair, flanked by two slate-grey, round boulders.
Nothing has to.
Now the man shifts his position, apparently mimicking the stance of an onlooker. And again… and again. His fingers tap his chin… intertwine… rest on his knees… grip the seat.
Slowly, the body begins to lean to the left, clockwise. At «three o’clock» the man falls to the floor, his head coming to rest next to one of the boulders. Stone rolls and grates across concrete; nails scratch, fingers claw, palms slap and rub the shiny surfaces of the plastic chair. Sunlight dances. A clock turns against itself. A carousel, it’s only seat empty, swings into action. A giant black beetle lies on its back, it’s legs scrabbling for purchase in the void. In this upside-down world, chair sits on man, inviting you to occupy its point of view.
Catherine Hoffmann (Folkestone), «6 Songs for Broken Times»
A third-rate music hall Boadicea in a makeshift dress and gold coloured party helmet enters the arena, her shopping-trolley-chariot pulled by a tired old nag (me). «Where do we belong?», she quavers, while getting lost, lost, getting lost on her way, on the way to her microphone and loop pedal. Layers: of words, pi-pa-pa-po-po-potential words, sounds, keenings, potent, sounds, mean, words, sound, meanings. A multi-vocal lament about miscommunication, isolation and greed. There are mstakes and uncertain beginnings. There’s a titillating moment of self-flagellation, a saucy giddy-up: «Come on, you can do it!» Or an invitation: «Come and get it! Come and get it (your pound of flesh)!» The news proclaimed by pale haunches and blushing buttocks, followed by a tap dance routine without passion, the pitter-patter of bare feet muffled by money and red tape. Situation reports from the psyche of a troubled nation. A very British coup: out of place, but successful despite itself. «I’m gutted! … Yeah!»
Bruno Jakob & Hans Witschi, «Smooth 4»
The first text (1.), again, is a more considered version of one I wrote in immediate response to the performance by scoring the paper with one of my fingernails. Another text was written with white ink (on white paper); both are part of the Graphic Collection. The passage below, therefore, does not refer to the performance itself, but is a play of words – which only works in German – inspired by the ‘whiteness’ of the writing.
Ich weiss schon warum Weiss zugleich Unschuld und Weisheit heisst – die weissen Haare des Philosophen, das weisse Kleid der Jungfrau. Wissenschaftler und Ärzte tragen weisse Kittel und die Ehrlichkeit kann eine weisse Weste vorzeigen. Auch Schönheit und Reichtum sind weiss, weil Weiss Macht bedeutet in unserer heutigen hellhäutigen Welt. Doch die Wahrheit verkündigt sich Schwarz auf Weiss. Deshalb ziehen Priester und Künstler – wie alle Diener – dunkle Farben vor.
Is this a mass? A tall, thin, darkly clad man, like a grey stick insect (ein Gottesanbeter), waves his arms in the air. Gripping a brush in one hand, and a small camera in the other, he may be dispensing blessings or weaving spells, while a second man, hunched tightly over a Grand Piano, spins strands of music that begin to fill – or, rather, construct – the space in which the first one operates. He – increasingly caught in this invisible acoustic net – continues to gesture with tools that imply the visible: conjuring possibilities, tracing memories? Is he struggling to break free? Is he signalling for help? Or is he indeed conducting the erection of a scaffolding that will both anchor and support his immaterial creations? In any case, it seems like a stately dance, a Pavane for one person, mourning what might have been, dreaming an impossible future. This is a mass. A celebration of futility and impermanence.
Anne Rochat & Sarah Anthony, «Pluteus»
Another boulder! More pain! How much does my own condition influence these interpretations and responses? But I know this must hurt. I’m certain this woman is hanging onto herself for dear life, holding it together: «I will not fall on my arse! I will not scream (at least not aloud)! I will not roll over and crawl away in shame! I will endure!»
But let’s start at the beginning. Let’s begin with a naked young woman walking into the space and hunkering down. She squats, feet firmly planted on the cold floor, but her buttocks lifted off it, arms wrapped around her shins, head down. Listening to herself, to the droning in her head, to her voice that, seemingly from far away, cajoles, encourages, comforts, distracts and pleads. As time goes by, the droning grows louder, the voice more desperate, words turn into gibberish, decibels punch and prick eardrums. Around me, people clap hands to their heads, or move away, grimacing in discomfort. On the edge of bearable, it is over: the naked woman rises and walks off, droning and voice subside. All’s well. Until next time.
Stuart Brisley (London), «Sound Bite/Acid Rain»
Vocal weather conditions. Mist rises from the sea, icy rain falls on a desert of shingle and rock. Acid rain: destroying while nourishing. Moans and shouts, like thunderclaps and lightning flashes, rent the darkening sky. The wind murmurs and whistles, whispers and roars. Syllables bounce off each other, vowels burst and splatter, consonants slide into oblivion. Night approaches. Winter is near. A 86 year old man walks the border land between Diesseits und Jenseits, between here and beyond, but stops well short of crossing the line. It’s still «all the same», no distant light beckons, no need to continue the search. Time to go home!
Glynis Ackerman (Basel), «Sacred Relationship»
Digital images of lapping waves and waving fronds, of long-dead gods and masked initiates chase each other across the white-washed wall. In their lurid light, a tourist, leeched by the sun, wearing bikini bottoms and a muslin shawl, strikes poses reminiscent of shamanic rites and exotic temple worships. They are as ‘authentic’ as the ‘nature’ that colours her skin and distorts her features. All is surface, and surface is all (and we’d rather surf the worldwide web than the Seven Seas).
Our relationship to nature? Increasingly vicarious. Did we really, by becoming human, become something ‘unnatural’? Do we really, since that unfortunate incident with the apple, no longer have a clue? Expelled from the Garden, we are now determined to – at worst – exploit and destroy, and – at best – belittle and patronise it. ‘Let’s do a little ritual! Let’s hold hands and adopt a leaf! Let’s sing a hymn in praise of the artificial! Let’s at least pretend!’ Cool!
Lysann König (Basel) with Simon Sauerkraut, Roland Bürki, Meta Hammel, «Lay Down»
Artifice here too, but no pretence, only unashamed make-believe. The live shoot of a music video clip. A slick song, a DIY set, a sophisticated outfit, a low budget. For a moment all goes well, movement, lip sync and music, camera transitions and lighting changes combine to what might become an amusing persiflage of the music industry’s nefarious … THE END.
Culinary Moments/Kulinarische Momente
The following text is a collage of various fragments (from publicity material, advertising signs, a newspaper review, as well as ‘overheard and misremembered conversations’) I jotted down during the three-day festival.
Full Moon Edition
«Wie fanden Sie das?»
«I was not aware!»
«But are you in contact,
can he get in touch with you,
wir fangen Forellen!?»
«Mir ist mal eine kleine Gräte im Hals stecken geblieben,
it was there for days.»
«What is the schedule for tomorrow?»
«In Northern Ireland, the language is very sort of rough,
that’s because of the landscape.»
«Because of the beer!»
«Well ok, the beer and the landscape!»
«Schrecklich, dieser ständige Druck auf den Kehlkopf!»
«It’s really about the relationship
between us and nature,
I don’t know if that helps?!»
«Yeah, you think your hand reaches for a piece of cake,
but it’s really the bacteria inside you.
There are millions of them,
all with their own DNA.»
«There’s always something!»
«Of all the philosophers you could have chosen,
If you want to remember your dreams
eat some cheese before going to bed.»
«It’s amazing what’s going on!»
«Just the scale of it!»
«And it’s more sensuous when you touch it with your fingers.»
«Hast schon mal Murmeltier gessen?»
«They shoot them in the dark, the poor things!»
«The children didn’t know where their food comes from,
they were completely traumatised.»
«Sie machten es besser als manche der Erwachsenen.»