—4bid gallery – Critical Writing in Performance from the audience of Highs & Lows – Critical Writing in Performance at 4bid
The 11th edition of Highs&Lows at 4bid Gallery was all about shoes. The desire to show how it feels to be in my shoes. The anxiety of not filling someone else’s shoes. Or mine, for that matter. The shoe as something very material and very conceptual at the same time.
The art of Transformation by Judith Siemons
A girl is sitting on a chair, wearing a marine cap, with a man standing behind her, caressing her aura. Why am I thinking it is a marine cap? It is white for sure. A cap with authority. A cap with playfulness. Oh boy, that healing energy is going to have a hard time finding its way to the crown chakra through that cap. But then I remind myself that I am watching a performance: maybe neither the cap, nor the routines of energy healing are signifiers. Maybe the purpose of their presence in the space is to remind us of the body. The body that needs to be dressed, taken care of, a body that is positioned to the side of the room, yet even in its immobile state it is very much present.
The immobile state of the body is essential for dreams. While the shamanistic practices often channel the act of attuning to higher consciousness through the movement of the body in space, dreams and the descent to the subconscious require an inert state. Projected onto the wall behind the sitting girl is a sequence of images: dreams operate with projections. Presentation and representation intertwine; a disembodied voice narrates the images. Narration is an imperfect word here, since the images are not merely representing the memory of the performer’s dream, rather they are trying to transform the volatile experience of the dream into something tangible. On the level of the story or the subject of the dream the same act of transformation is taking place. Something as precious as one’s self gets transformed, even mapped into pictures and it is a struggle to keep those images above the surface of the ocean of consciousness.
Then I woke up and now I go back to sleep. I notice that the performance of the aura caressing has stopped. It has stopped for a while now. How could I have noticed it when I was lost in the projection in front of me? How could I have seen without looking? I share this experience of awareness with Siemons, we are both (re)living it and reflecting on it at the same time. For that time of fleeting images I was walking in the shoes of her persona.
Microcosm by Danai Pappa
During the brief two minutes this video performance lasts the first thing I remark is a pair of legs in a pair of shoes dangling in a such way that reminds me…of an image from Judith Siemons’ video. Interestingly enough, both young women are fighting against a restraining force in connection with their legs: Siemons’ narrator struggles to escape the material in which her feet got tangled underwater while Pappa’s performer struggles in the confines of a social predicament that is not only present in the high heels she is wearing but also in the way she has to bend her knee in order to fit a space predefined by
others. Utterly social and yet very much individual; the close-ups cut up the body of the performer, decontextualizing its individual features. This act of alienation, however, turns into its opposite: since the fragments of body images do not belong to anyone, they could belong to me.
The performance pressure becomes literal in Pappa’s work. The office setting as the space of this pressure is a curious choice. It is immediately recognizable and real which invites the spectator to think about the revolt that fails to take place. Instead of trying to fill someone else’s shoes and space, could the performer escape? Or is the idea of a ‘space of my own’ can only ever be realized within an already existing system?
A little bit too autobiographic by Valerio Leftarm Bellini
At first, there was nothing. And then there was the shoe. With the projection of a cosmic equilibrium in the background, a pair of shoes materializes in the spotlight. A piece of space waiting to be filled. The performer, Bellini cautiously descends from the ladder where he was standing, as if testing whether that allocated space on the ground would suit him. What if the shoes are too big for him? The moment he puts them on he loses his transcendent position, time accelerates, and existence becomes material. A little bit too material, manifesting in projections of objects one can strive to acquire. In the midst of corporate logos and images of material wealth Bellini enlists an atypical icon: the barking dog of Keith Haring. An inherent fault in our overly material thinking or a gesture of self-irony? After all, Haring’s iconography became as mainstream as a pair of Converse shoes. What could possibly be the meeting point of materiality and artistic expression?
Bellini’s response is the body itself and what it conveys through dance. Those shoes are made for dancing. The street smart of hip hop meets the conceptual nature of contemporary dance to achieve something ancient and ritual: to tell a story. Dance and projection merge into each other, complementing each other and opening up the space into an almost infinite dimension. Bellini’s performance as a dancer is completed by his presence as an actor. It is very refreshing to see such delicate movements and strong emotional reality in the realm of a casual dancing style. By the end of this coming-of-age story the performer managed to fill the shoes that were presented to him. Others are invited to follow in the footsteps left behind those shoes.