In times of internet and social media, it is very difficult to differentiate reality from fiction. In Instagram or Facebook, people upload a representation of their lives instead of presentation of it. Everything is produced and announced in order to control its reception. Today’s world seems to be one of directed experiences. We are basically told (without us knowing it, each time it happens) how to experience life. That might be the reason why Marina Abramovic’s performances (and performance art, in general) became, almost overnight, ubiquitous and people were so moved by her ‘calmness’. They were instructed how to get moved.
The problem with represented life is that it is not life. When falling into drug addiction, I remember that specific moment when I sensed that my life detached itself from my experience. Life became something like a videogame. A very dangerous moment indeed that raised healthy alarm anti-bodies in my psyche because it was the beginning of acting in the real world without a sense of responsibility. One can kill only to realised that he did so after it is done. Scary.
Yesterday, actor Shia LaBeouf has revealed that he was raped by a woman in a gallery on Valentine’s Day this year. He made the revelation in a series of emails between him and journalist from Dazed magazine. The event reportedly took place during his #IAMSORRY event in Los Angeles. At the event, Shia sat in a gallery for five days with a paper bag over his head while members of the public could come by and spend personal time with him. Not everyone was respectful. According to the actor/artist: “One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for 10 minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me,” said LaBeouf in an email to the Dazed journalist.
The difference between this performance and that of Marina Abramovic in Naples when a man tried to hurt her is that in the latter, the man was, obviously, stopped while for Shia LaBoeuf, art neither suspends disbelief nor proves a point but is, something, a bit more pornographic. Art, for LaBoeuf is a representational bubble of realness or ‘authentic reality’. The real, according to him, cannot be stopped because, how to say it, the show must go on. But a show is a show and not real. Therefore art does not make a conceptual point but creates a directed way of experiencing things: ‘no matter what, you won’t move’. One Direction.
Yesterday I went to see the new video works by Pipilotti Rist at Hauser & Wirth Saville Row where the gallery was transformed into ‘a fully immersive, sensory environment. Projected against two walls, ‘Worry Will Vanish Horizon’ (2014) is a journey inside the human body, based on a three-dimensional animation’. Rist seems to find delight in patterns created by manipulating creases of skin, caressing, pushing and pulling to depict the varied textures of human flesh. These corporeal images periodically overlap with close-up fragments from nature as Rist blurs the boundaries between the self and organic structures. She explores the relationship between internal and external, how individuals are linked to the tissues and blood vessels of other organisms, and in so doing, she suggests relationships with the universe at large. This is all ok but the viewer has to watch the video barefoot and lying down in the dark. I found it difficult to move or just leave. It was as if I was being told how to experience an experience. Like LaBoeuf, I was supposed not to move.
I find this interesting because both LaBoeuf’s ‘rape’ (although by deciding not to move, he consented it so it can hardly be qualified as rape) and Rist’s immersive experience have one thing in common which that they aim at limiting the freedom of the perception of the experience. LaBoeuf even limits the memory of it by qualifying it as rape but not reacting to it as rape. There was a time when art used to be the realm of the ambivalent where the viewer could get to his own conclusions. Now it is as if there is not margin for freedom of thought, much less to be free to experience. It is as if this commodification of art as sheer experience (or entertainment) has become an allegory of a time where life cannot be lived but only staged. J A T
WATCH MY REVIEW OF MARINA ABRAMOVIC AT THE SERPENTINE GALLERY