As an audience begins to enter the gallery itself after registering the window display, the previous evening’s all-purpose platform or podium is now set up at the far end of the gallery, the end furthest from the window and the entrance. There is a table on the raised surface, and there is a Polaroid camera and various other paraphernalia on that table. There is in fact a theatrical set, waiting for the performer.
The performer’s name is Norbert Klassen, who makes himself comfortable and then dons a black mask covering all but his eyes. He then proceeds to stick acupuncture needles through the mask - talking a self-Polaroid for each needle. He creates quite a mask by inserting at least several needles. Then he pulls off the mask and begins inserting smaller needles into the sides of his face. He retrieves the needles and collects them into a relatively small plastic container.
But then he begins to talk directly to his audience. He asks what might art be, and cites Warhol’s definition as the only credible definition. Warhol of course defined art as what sells. So Norbert puts art-objects up for sale. Like many performance artists, there is a delightful ambiguity as to whether it is the performer‘s residue or the performer his/herself which/who is the commodity. Norbert Klassen, for his part, played auctioneer, placing not one but three boxed editions of his instruments and their by-products up on the market. Despite their instant sales for very low prices indeed, I could easily imagine Damien Hirst himself smiling approvingly, as well as Warhol. Bypassing the dealers and selling directly to “the public” is both anarchic and hyper-capitalist.
The festival’s second night offered another downstairs performance, down in that eternally ripe basement. Risa Kusumoto presented a half-hour performance titled Forget Me Not. Her performance was indeed unforgettable - it was visually striking well before she herself entered the frame. Kusumoto had designed a haunting set with extremely thin strings hanging from the ceiling and surrounding what appeared to be a furnace-like structure covered with gaffer tape. There was also a telephone at the right (audience left) down stage.
The column was beginning to shrink, and it became clear that it was a construction of green plastic garbage bags. The size of the bag sculpture shrank as its tangible contents also shrank. What initially seemed there really wasn’t there. But the bag swelled up again. Memories are memories because they come and go and then return.