WHAT | Ritual Body – Political Body. II VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK
‘Calling a meeting is a political act in itself’
The ritual is not a practice that belongs exclusively to the history of primitive man, but it is part of the daily life of the modern man. It is understood as a way of organising, or rather, reorganising social behaviours in specific models. It leads to a transformation through action strategies and behaviours. For VestAndPage, curators of the project, ‘Life is the art of meeting and encounter, which, since ever, carries within various forms of personal and collective rituals and ritualities’. Political is ‘a space of possible, civil negotiation between artists and audience in order to analyse, debate on, overcome and transform schemes, rules, conventions and barriers, socially and culturally. The role of performance practice is to reveal hidden cultural patterns of society itself and lead the viewer to think. Through symbolic languages, the artist-shaman attempts a redefinition of reality through an active communication with his or her audience.
The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK is conceived as a ‘reunion, a space for confrontation and exchange’, this becomes a sort of laboratory where everyone is asked to contribute. This year concept, Ritual Body – Political Body, aims to investigate a wide range of topics such as interconnectivity, political confrontation between individuals, art as a space for civil negotiation and how the self relates to individual conflicts and responsibilities.
When | PROGRAMME
The 2nd edition of VENICE INTERNATION PERFORMANCE ART WEEK will open today, Saturday 13 December until 20 December. The programme consists of a vibrant series of 11 durational and 18 evening live performances, conferences, daily round tables talks with participating artists, curators and researchers; installations, documentations, a Study Room and a Movie Room. Three performances by Gianni Emilio Simonetti, Andrigo & Aliprandi and Olivier De Sagazan will be presented this evening along with the live art exhibition project, which will showcase works by over 50 international performance artists.
Where | VENUE
‘After the first edition took place successfully at the premises of Palazzo Bembo, this year the Art Week will take place in the enchanting Palazzo Mora on Strada Nova, a place that with its three floors offers an infinite variety of possibilities in terms of exhibition display and performances’.
The Art Week is conceived as an ‘openly accessible’ project: ‘this means that in the process of forming the team and in the event itself there are no closed doors. All doors of the Palazzo will be open anytime and to anybody during the week, there are no VIP – or waiting lists (except for the few one-to-one performances of course that have lists to sign up at the door), and visitors can freely go through the various rooms to discover what is happening, and move on or exit and come back whenever they want. They might find a performance going on, a screening, or an artist setting up for the evening performance. It is a live art factory, where, beside the static exhibition, everything else is in a continuous process of making. Doors shall always be open as long as a room can hold people. Art is to be shared, that is why we are doing it.’
How | FORMAT
‘As a development from the first edition where the artists who performed live also formed the exhibition, this time the exhibition section and the live performance program will present distinct artists, to offer an even wider range of global tendencies. In this second edition we have placed a much stronger focus on historical influences with some prominent ground-breaking pioneer performance artist’s works on display, while in the first edition our concept aimed at presenting only artists who are still alive’.
‘We will not present any individual artists talks in the morning, but instead organizing collective roundtable encounters, in which each day three to four artists together with the moderator and audience will place their work into a specific context. This is to incentivise dialogue instead of monologue, as politics and rituals are made together and we believe in sharing.
The educational part of the ART WEEK has also evolved significantly: thanks to the Live Art Development Agency, we are very glad to present this year a Study Room, an open accessible resource area where visitors during the week can enquire more deeply by reading selected publication on the topic in the live art. A theoretical study program will also take place in collaboration with PAS Performance Art Studies, in which international students will research performance art issues, assisting the program of the entire week, plus we’ll be offering guided tours for local schools’.
‘The exhibition in this second edition is more seminal, so to say, and serves as a reminder of the determinant experiences already done, where certain tendencies come from, where we are heading and where we are today. We do not claim to re-create an archive; it would be impossible, rather we have required the kind collaboration of existing archives of international prestige, such as EAI New York, LIMA Amsterdam, Video Out (Vancouver), and ASAC (Biennale of Venice), among others. This to have the chance to re-present works of artists that we admire, who have inspired us in our artistic path, and which adhere to the theme of this year. To do this, by using a metaphor, our approach has been like moving in the way of the Angel of Walter Benjamin: looking at the past while heading towards the future’.
Why | GESAMTKUNSTWERK
‘The motivation is linked to a common vision of the Gesamtkunstwerk as if it were in the spirit of Joseph Beuys: only by being together we can step beyond our limitations and make the seemingly impossible possible as a matter of pure Begeisterung.
This is at the same time the strength and the fragility of the project, hence its beauty: it is an independent, international volunteer-lead people-project. Here people are working together, with heart and sweat, not with and not for money. And still, listen, something is changing.’
Who | TEAM
‘Most of our international collaborators are new, and we are very much looking forward to their contributions, which will significantly make up and shape the event. Some team members are new, and we welcome them heartedly, though we are also glad that many of last edition’s team returned to be part of it, and continue this journey together with us. The growing relationship with the main and most prestigious cultural institutions in Venice: the Foundation of Musei Civici di Venezia offered us the possibility to realize an one evening special event at Museum Ca’ Pesaro; the IUAV University showed its interest to host lectures of some prominent invited artists; ASAC, the Archive of the Venice Biennale, granted us with the loan of the videos “Indirect Approaches” by Vito Acconci, “Turgescent Sex” by Terry Fox, and “Identification” by Gerry Schum’.
‘We also invited co-curators to join the project as we knew their expertise on their specific cultural areas. In art, what one presents will always be partial, a fragmentary insight given into a splinter of time and in a particle of space. […] And in many cases, the artists that will be presented are their very own curators, and many of them have worked very tightly and continuously with us through the last years for selecting and preparing their work that will be presented in Venice, and to question the notions and importance of the ritual and political body’.
WILL THERE BE OTHERS?
‘As happens for some other VestAndPage projects, we work in cycles, likewise for our movies and live performances. Bearing clearly in mind the words that Jorge Michell spent after having seen a performance of ours in Santiago of Chile: The artistic representation on a support is out-dated, now the image comes to life and leaves for the world. Now it is directly inscribed on the bodies of those who watch over the living flesh, we have conceived the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK from the start in form of a trilogy, to scout and investigate the human body (physically, mentally, spiritually) as prime form of creativity and expression and to concretise a vision of ensemble, which could only be possible operating in the name of togetherness’.
‘There will be a third edition, after that, well, we cannot read the future, and neither would we want to’.
These quotes were taken from an extended interview with VestAndPage. Full interview is available upon request.
Celeste Ricci in collaboration with VestAndPage
The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK is an independent, nonprofit, non funded and noncommercial live art exhibition project curated by artist duo VestAndPage and realized by Studio Contemporaneo nonprofit Cultural Association of Venice, in 2014 in collaboration with Venice Open Gates, We Exhibit and Global Art Affairs Foundation. The event is made possible thanks to the cooperation and logistic support of local enterprises such as ConCaVe and Riviera, among others. Under the patronage of the Regione Veneto, Provincia di Venezia and Comune di Venezia.
cover image: Zhang Huan “To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond” (Beijing, 1997) © Zhang Huan Studio